Architecture Monday

It’s been ages since I mentioned the Rural Studio, but here’s one of their earliest (and still great!) projects, the Butterfly House.

As with (all?) their projects in Hale County, the Butterfly House was created from found, reused, and plentiful materials, assembled in a bold and enlivening way.  Noticing that the future owners spent much of their time on their porch, the house was designed to be nearly half porch, covered by the striking butterfly roof.  Not only does it create the grand heart of the house – it even comes complete with its own second-floor overlook – the roof also collects rainwater and provides passive cooling for both the porch and the house.

When humble materials meets serious design intention and ingenuity, you get inspired living.

The Butterfly House by Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio

Rockets and Revelations

From a plot perspective, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was a bit of a hot mess.  It’s got planet fathers, strange beasts, gold plated elves, mutinies, murderous sisters, and a universe ending nefarious plan.  All while trying to be funny.

And yet!  It a lovable hot mess.  And not only that, it works.  It’s a solid movie.

The big reason that it works, and that it’s so lovable, is that under all the plot zaniness lies two interconnected things:  developed characters who have character arcs and a strong theme of family* that ties it together (while also driving the character arcs).  In addition, most of the humour felt seamless, arising from the characters’ actions as they moved along those arcs.

In the end, the Guardians franchise introduced the two characters who have the strongest character arcs in all of the MCU, that of Nebula and Rocket, with Rocket’s being especially strong in Vol 2, and one of my favourite scenes in all of the MCU involving the two of them.**

Spoilers for GotG3 ahead! Continue reading

Philosophy Tuesday

“You’re never going to eliminate conflict – you’re just going to manage it.  It’s not a problem to solve, it’s a conundrum to manage.”

  – Adam Savage

This quote hit home with me, as I am someone who really dislikes conflict.  Which, for starters, often has me relate to all sorts of things that aren’t conflict – disagreements, upsets, fraught or heated discussions – and conflate and collapse them with conflict.  In a sense, I turn them into conflict in my mind, which sets off my aversion klaxons, and off I go careening in an unproductive way.  So this is an invitation for me to keep mindful and present and expand my granularity for what constitutes something uncomfortable vs something that is an actual, full blown, conflict.  (And note to self:  very rarely will it ever be the latter.)

It also sparks recognition of wishful thinking, that there is a perfect way to go about life where all “conflicts” will forever be eliminated.  Which, yeah, no.  And again, the attempt at avoidance there can lead to all sorts of unproductive ways of being and acting that could have outcomes that end up being worse than if the “conflict” had been engaged with and, as noted above, managed through interaction, conversation, negotiation, and empathy.  And likely with a good dose of coming from intentions to resolve the issue.

Taken more broadly, this notion can also apply to, well, just about everything, in that kind of ‘don’t let perfect being the enemy of good’-adjacent kind of way.  Also in an ‘everything is spectral’ kind of way.  Or even an ‘80% rule’ kind of way.   If something never happening, or never having to deal with something again, is the goal, well, that’s likely going to lead to disappointment and is as much of a straightjacket as fully avoiding the thing.

But when we choose to dance with it, we gain freedom and options and ease and grace and likely less ‘conflict’ over all, as both things never reach that level and we don’t make that which is minor into conflict in the first place.

Architecture Monday

If you looked at the above and thought “ahh, the Syndey Opera House,” well… fair.  But in this case it is not the famed structure by the harbour, but the equally magnificent Lotus Temple in New Dehli.

A concentric set of three shells are repeated over nine directions, creating an intriguing overlapping set of shells that evoke the building’s flower namesake.  As does the pool in which the building seems to float.  Nine of those shells point outwards to form nine entrance porticos, while the rest point inward to envelop the various spaces within.  Covered in marble, the petals have a sheen that gleam in the sunlight.  (That said, due to air pollution, the marble has been significantly yellowing.)

For me the main hall is even more magical.  With an exposed structural grid with numerous intersecting ribs, the space soars with magnificent interlocking complexity.  An oculus graces the top, occupying the gap left by the unfolding petals.

Very cool work.  The Lotus Temple by Fariborz Sahba.

Philosophy Tuesday

I’ve mentioned before in passing the notion of inherited contexts, that is, views (which, to remind, never occur to us as a view but as reality and The Way Things Are™) that we pick up and take on simply because that’s the ideological waters we’re swimming in as we grow up and move through the world.

And it’s very hard to push back against something that we don’t realize is an ideological force.  When we grow up or exist in a culture* that tells us X, and we end up doing or behaving or believing a certain way that falls in line with X, rarely do we realize we’re making a choice about it.  That we’re consuming an ideology.  We just do what we think people do… and there’s plenty of evidence that it’s “normal” and “right” because, indeed, we see many people around us doing that very thing.  Plus, because it is the dominant ideology, we’re often surrounded by media and messages that further tell us that this is what is so.

So we follow it… even if it doesn’t pan out the way we think it should, or it doesn’t produce the freedom, satisfaction, fulfilment, or peace of mind we want it to.  But what can we do?  This IS the way it is, that is REALITY, so the fault must lie with us, right?  Clearly if it didn’t work, we need a bigger hammer

Except.  Except!  The key here might well be in those unexamined and inherited contexts.  The assumptions of who we are, who others are, and how the world is and operates that we’ve been consuming unconsciously.  Is there something to break out of there?

Chances are, yes, yes there is.  And when we shine the light of our mindfulness there, we gain freedom.  We can choose to keep, modify, or discard the inherited context and create a new, greater, more accurate and empowering context, and begin not only to live into it, but to share it as well.

(Pair this post with a (re)reading this previous post on how “Some of the thoughts you have inside your head aren’t even yours”)


* And that culture includes the culture of our family, our community, our school, our circles of relations, our city, locality, country, and so on.

Architecture Monday

Also excited that, especially as a lover of trains (and, of course, train stations), I got a chance to check out the new Moynihan Train Hall!  The destruction and demolition of Pennsylvania Station in NYC is, by this point, the stuff of legends.*  And what remained of Penn Station was… not great.**

But sitting across the street is the James A Farley building, a post office designed by McKim, Mead & White, the same architects and in a similar Beaux-Arts style to the original station.  It too languished over time, with a central atrium that was later filled in.  Fortunately, as luck (and a lot of hard work) would have it come to pass, the atrium was once again opened up and the building brought into use as a new hall for Penn Station.

It’s a great work of adaptive reuse.  The main trusses that grace the hall have a very expressionist feel of early steel structures, with rivets and small cross-members galore.  But the vaults of glass that span them are decidedly modern, bulbous and leaping away from the trusses to open the sky above.

It’s an open and very inviting space, with all the grandeur that a grand station deserves.  And whether it could ever match the original or not (and to that I have no inkling nor idea), it is still mighty fine.

The Moynihan Train Hall by SOM in a building originally by McKim, Mead & White.


* The short of it is that Pennsylvania Station was an amazing and, from nearly all accounts, beautiful structure, all reduced to rubble to build Madison Square Gardens.  It was an event that catalyzed the development of the historical preservation movement in North America.

** For decades afterwards, the still-active train tracks were nothing more than an 8’ high ceilinged bunker underground.  “One [had] entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat,” was the description given by historian Vincent Scully.