About Me Architecture

Beyond My Fascination with Legos

A good friend of mine works in Chicago at Studio Gang. Azure Magazine just ran an article on an interior project she worked on.  This is the start of the article..  Studio Gang’s Ballroom Blitz

More on Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture thoughts continued from my post a day ago, 1.5.10, Why An Architect…

Venturi’s manifesto makes the case that there are multitudes of reason and problems to figure out in architecture.  ‘Each contains within the whole contrasting scales of movement besides the complex functions.’ He states as certain ‘problems’. The complex form and building, scale and perception could be poor in relation to one scenario, but work significantly well as the whole.  So, here is his case of complexity and contradictions and examples throughout history for the case of working (great) architecture.

I believe Venturi’s reference to ‘modern’ architect means the architect now and I begin to daydream while reading of my own contradictions, tensions and fascinations…

I remember learing about Native American societies in the 3rd grade. Beyond my captivation with Legos, I had never been confronted with such great mazes, built across plains and in mountain sides. I always recalled the Mayan culture in Merida, but in researching my few leads I think I must have seen images from Mesa Verde.  Mesa Verde National Park – The First Pueblos 


Mazes and labyrinths represent a magic journey, an experience, something I enjoy tangling myself in. Looking at them from above they could be a house plan – a plan in which the space will direct the inhabitant. Like a house plan the maze leads people through in sequence to establish a rhythm, one that is parallel to their living.  Some labyrinths are used for meditation, as they were historically sought to.


 A part of architecture is establishing a set of rules which are derived from the intentions of the project. Venturi points out Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, and the structural rule of columns.  The grid is broken by elements necessary to conduct living in the Villa.

Alvar Aalto finds order from necessary elements in his work.  Look at the repetition of his Riola Parish Church. 


Venturi presents rules of structure citing Kahn’s proposal for a Philadelphia Office Tower

and Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.



I am inspired with these thoughts of rules, and breaking the rules to construct living in structures. 

What about mixing Kahn’s wind braced tower with diagonal circulation, similar to Corbusier’s ramp circulation in the Villa Savoye?


Building Inhabitable Objects

In reading past Architectural Records and  furthering my thoughts in discussions over what is an architect…

Architects are building inhabitable objects.  Look at Zaha Hadid Architects with their Wine Shop and Tasting Room in Rioja, Spain. It looks like a section of a wine decanter, and I want to live in it like a genie in a bottle.

 Then there is Morphosis Architect’s Cooper Union Aluminum Rock jutting into the urban scape of New York City.

Joann Gonchar, AIA describes it in her article for Architectural Record ‘It has a sharp and folded perforated-stainless-steel shell with an aggressive gash in its main facade. Performance is part of the rationale behind the dynamic sheath, which cloaks a poured-in-place concrete building with a standard window-wall system, helping mitigate heat gain in summer and retain heat in winter.’

Kengo Kuma & Associates creates a luminous jewel box for Tiffany Ginza in Tokyo.’


Look at how the architect treated lighting the spaces.  In two different situations the rooms are lit at where the ceiling meets the wall, as if we are getting light from the crease of jewel box lid that has been left slightly open.

About Me Architecture

Simplify your Lifestyle

Clean it out~

If you’ve lived in the same house for the past three years or longer it is likely that you have begun to fit newly acquired things in crevices, corners and newly found empty spaces.  I’ve moved about every two years for the last twelve, which has given me the chance to evaluate what I do and don’t use, and what I could get rid of for someone else to get better use of.  If I’m not moving I have to make a conscious effort to purge.

The best advice for dealing with too many things (like too many books on my bookshelf) is to imagine what it  means to be you now. Does my bookshelf define who I am and what I am interested in now? In the case of my closet, have I worn these clothes in the last eight months?  Why so or why not?  Do I use all of these blankets, dishes, these perfumes, read these magazines… I can get a little carried away with all of my things.

When I pare down what I own to what it takes to keep care of myself, to essentially what defines me and my interests, I find I have much less to worry about!

I learned this concept while traveling in Europe my junior year of college.  With only a back sack full of daily needs such as a camera, sketchbook and journal, I was able to spend three months with this bag and a small portable suitcase.  It took me a few months to determine exactly how much shampoo would get me through two weeks (there are stores in Europe!), how much detergent I would need if I were only bringing a weeks worth of socks, etc.  Again, perhaps a little overboard, but what I learned after three months of living like this, with so few things, was that I felt so free not having to be concerned with what I could not pick up and move with me.  It taught me how many things I pamper myself with during my typical daily routine and what I could do without at home.

I talked about the digestive system yesterday, which was spawned by reading an organizational book (to learn more about organizing my home) from author Karen Kingston. It was ‘Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui.’

 It was the first time I heard about Bagua, arranging a grid overtop of your house floor plan that tells you what each space in your home is related to.  I call it the Zen Grid. 

By desiring each entity in my life to be better I have in essence cleaned up most of my spaces to reflect how I utilize them the most – giving me a clearer vision of what I do and what I most enjoy.

Also, an article was featured in the NY Times yesterday about sharing experiences instead of stuff.  ‘In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less’  I learned about a young family jumping in a pink canoe to travel to small islands in the Biscayne Bay.  It was an inspiring little story.


Environmental Book Club Books

2009 Book Selections

February 19th 2009 Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friendman

March 19th 2009 Animal, Vegetable, Mircle by Barbara Kingslover

April 16th 2009 Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollen

May 21st 2009 Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart

June 18th 2009 Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future By Bill McKibben

July 16th 2009 A discussion lead by Rich Sidwell on ‘The Passive House’

August 20th 2009 Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende

September 17th 2009 Gone Tomorrow:The Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers.

October 15th 2009 The Hawk’s Nest Incident: America’s Worst Industrial Disaster by Martin Cherniack

November 19th 2009 Massive Change by Bruce Mau, Jennifer Leonard

December 17th 2009 Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature by James William Gibson


2010 Book Options to be Voted on January 21st

Silent Spring by Rachael Carson

Limits of Growth : The 30 year update  by Donella H. Meadows

Sacred Sea: A Journey to Lake Baikal by Peter Thompson

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James Howard Kunster

The Last American Manby Elizabeth Gilbert

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

My Antonia  by Willa Cather

The Snow Leopard by Peter Mathiessen

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Kingbird Highway: the Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder by Kenn Kauffman

A field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Ceremonyby Leslie Silko

An American Land Ethic by M. Scott Momaday

The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant

Right Relationship, building a whole earth economy  by Peter Brown and Geoffrey Garver

The Green Collar Economy  by Van Jones

Blessed Unrest, how the largest movement in the world came into being and why no one saw it coming  by Paul Hawken

Pedal Power, the quiet rise of the bicycle in American public life by J. Harry Wray

Plan C, community survival strategies for peak oil and climate change by Pat Murphy

Crisis Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture by John E. Ikerd

Biomimicry, innovation inspired by nature  by Janine Benyus

Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything  by Daniel Goleman

The Long Descent: A users’s Guide to the End of the Industurial Age  by John Michael Greer

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl    by Timothy Egan

The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature by David Suzuki

Uncommon Grounds The History of Coffee And How it Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast

Detoxification and Healing: The Key to Optimal Health by Sidney MacDonald Baker

Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect  by David W. Orr

Small is Beautiful: economics as if people mattered  by E.F. Schumacher

The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

When Smoke Ran Like Water : Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution by Devra Lee Davis

In Defense of Food : An Eater’s Manifesto  by Michael Pollan

Real Food; What to Eat and Why  by Nina Planck.

Building Sustainably

Bathroom Renovation

Renovation has begun on the Bathroom! Our house was built in the 30’s and we think the last time the bathroom was renovated was in the 70’s, and that would have been to make the soaking tub into a shower.  We are guessing that by the linoleum yellow floor that was installed beneath the wall partition.

 My fiance and I began the demolition of one small wall a few weeks ago, took off the wallpaper to expose green painted walls, and removed the chair rail to cover the transition of the stucco stippled below the rail to the smooth painted wall above it. 

We decided to cover the entire wall with joint compound to even out the textures and make the walls have a consistent adobe-like feel.


We used the most Green Joint Compound we could find at Lowe’s.        

And applied it using an 11″ trowel and creativity.  It was easier to work with thick blobs, a mixture of compound to a little water, giving the paste a little thicker than cake batter mix consistency.  Thick blobs that occasionally plopped on the floor, with as little as much swiping as possible to give a clean, uniformed stroke look worked best.

In an effort to salvage and reuse most of the demolition material we separated the drywall from the studs, the plastic shower liner from the metal, recycled most and gave the wood away to someone who uses a wood stove to heat their home.  We saved a piece of drywall large enough to fill the two foot by 6″ hole created in the ceiling from taking down the wall.  My fiance did a nice job patching the ceiling and matching the texture with a paint brush.

Taking down the wall and clean up took about two hours for us to work together.  Wallpaper and glue stripping took about 4 hours, and plastering has taken 6 hours so far. 

I am researching a Kilz to use and have found:

Kilz Clean Start zero-VOC water-based primer, sealer, and stainblocker improves, strengthens, and reduces top-coat paint appearance, the maker says. The low-odor product provides a mildew-resistant finish, blocks tannin bleed, and cleans up with soap and water.

We should be able to finish plastering in the next day or so, let it dry, apply a no voc kilz and then a low voc paint from PPG.

Gift Giving

Time to Be a Christmas Example

I am preparing to get married in June.  My now fiance proposed to me last June atop of Mount St. Helen in Washington State.  After a five hour climb, sliding down ash every few steps for the last mile, to look into the face of a volcano, a half cauldron with a blown out side, still steaming, he got down on his knee when my mouth was full of bread, trail mix and water, and proposed with a ruby ring.

At Christmas Time each of us begins to reflect on relationships we hold with our families, friends, coworkers and others who we communicate with by chance of encounter.  The day of Christmas and those leading up to it hold expectations, surprises, the joy of traveling and making an effort to visit. During the preparation time for Christmas a lot of us spend more time outside of the home and spend time at home making cards, baking cookies and cakes. It is busier because we have learned to think of everyone in the pretense of defining them as they might relate to a gift we can present to them and that is sometimes a tough nut to crack.

My fiance and I have had the Christmas gift conversation many times and are in the middle of trying to figure out how to be an example of the one gift Christmas.  This year we exchanged our wedding bands as our gift to one another.  That gift, symbolizing our continuity, our circle of life, family and love means so much to me because I can concentrate on my wedding band.  There is not another gift that could compete or want to.  I’d like to be an example of what Christmas is, not how much it is.  Christmas is a time for giving, for sharing, for expressing, for remembering, for celebrating the relationships we have on earth as they join with the meaning of Jesus. What about exchanging the  time spent debating gifts with time spent making them? This provides a creative focus for the maker and allows the time spent creating something to open our minds to the reason we celebrate.

In preparation to be married my fiance and I are meeting with a young priest to prepare for our unity.  We are the first couple he will be marrying and in our discussions we have talked about being one body, one for one another, and selfless giving.  We have discussed faith in God, faith in one another, trust, love and longevity. Something that has come out of our meeting has been my fiance’s description of how he knew me in the beginning of our friendship. We were debating the ways in which we were Christians and what it meant to be a good person when I realized how much of an outward impression a happy and giving person could make on others as they may try to imitate good deeds. I think with an attitude based on giving and not wanting, we receive more than we asked for when we realize the few and perfect things that are in our presence.

The young priest gave us a few things to take home.  He gave us the prompted discussions that I remember with gladness, the way that the person I am to marry describes and thinks of me.  It was a good reevaluation moment for each of us to see the perfection at which we will join ourselves, the gift of giving ourselves to one another, making each other better in this combination of our two pasts and future. Thoughts of life with a priest at this special time for the world of all prayerful people reminds my fiance and I of the reasons Christians celebrate Jesus’s birth as well as the celebration of preparation for his time to come again.  I had forgotten that since attending religion class.

So, perhaps Christmas is not the time to profess or push the differences in ways of thought between giving, gifts, the amount spent, the time taken, but to be thankful that together we come to celebrate the gifts that are apart of each of us in grace, and look forward to the second coming of Christ together at the end of each year. With many things are in the mix now: gifts, marriage preparation, families, tradition; it’s a time for making things, remembering one another and the reasons we give. Time to be a Christmas example.


Topophilia – Love of Place

I have thought a lot about the word ‘enchanted’ lately.  I helped begin (ready?) The Environmental  Schrader Center of Oglebay’s first environmental book club and we have been meeting with a new book every month since last January 2009.  We are now reading ‘A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New  Kinship with Nature by James Gibson.

I have read the first two parts of the three-part book and am looking forward to reading the third section which is titled ‘Hope Renewed.’

In a one-sentence description the book is about awakening the reader to review their life, the times they have lived, been in awe, awakened by beauty and thankfulness.  Giving such accounts from astronauts watching the earthrise from behind the moon, or ‘looking back on the earth, an image of self-reflection or an out-of-body experience.’
The book has made me compare my own times of enchantment, sleeping by the ocean, lulled to sleep by the ocean waves, the trance of nature held out to me by the forest, the rest of thought abandoning me completely, the fluid movement of tuned sound within the leaves, branches and bird calls.  The time above Portland in the Rose Gardens, free to wanderers, the roses sweet smelling like bath soap and cleanliness.  Crossing the Ohio River on foot, over the suspension bridge, exhilarating as the current below me swept away.
Chapters of ‘..the Greening of Religion’ and ‘The Right-Wing War…’ bring up churned feelings of holy land versus our belief of religious values.  I think the argument is fundamentally a literal interpretation of the bible, that the earth is for human domain and that the only sacred thing to be considered is God.  But, what about respect in what God made?  I do not think of nature as an idol, but as a way of reminding myself of the reverence, holiness and comfort that faith can give someone.  In the solitude of nature I feel my relationship to a greater world shall not impede on another’s life, and so my commitment to nature and the preservation of it serves as the basic understanding of the famous Golden Rule ‘Do unto others as you will have them do unto you .’