Hi everyone! Out for a bit, back in a couple of weeks!
Lovely little (Canadian) lynx!
(find a whole load of cute photos from the chance encounter by Tim Newton)
Halloween is just around the corner, a time of costumes. A time quite loved for that very fact, the one day everyone is allowed* to put on a costume and play.
Though… it’s not the only time of costumes. In truth, don’t we kinda wear costumes every day?
In many ways, I’d assert, we do.
Natch, they are quite the different kind of costume than that of a ghoul, an anime character, your fishtank, or of a sexy [insert profession/noun here]**. But they are costumes nonetheless. They are the costumes we wear to reinforce the role we want or feel the need to play, and they are the costumes we wear to project a (specific) message to the world.
They are our broadcasting system. Clothing choices, hairstyles, technology, brands, patterns of speech, mannerisms, the accessories we sport, and the vehicles we drive… all crafted and brought together to be our costume we put on (often every day) and go out into the world as “it”.
It’s a great mode of communication. And when the costume comes from a place of authenticity, it can be a glorious self-expression.
When the costume comes from a hope of hiding, of identity, of shouting something we want to feel or be, when a costume is born of external concerns and of uncertainty and self-doubt, it can lead us places we don’t really want to go. A costume can be the personal version of James Howard Kunstler’s description of the banal suburban home: a television broadcasting 24 hours a day the message “I’m normal, I’m normal, I’m normal.” A salve, but one that ultimately leaves no freedom or peace of mind.
As with many things in life, we often pick our costumes by accident. We put them on without knowing it, we inherit them because it’s what we were surrounded by, we get into habits. And often we get quite muddled in trying to figure out if we truly like something, if it is truly authentic… or if it is just our identities telling us we like it as a way of protecting itself.
It could be fun to add another layer to Halloween and use it as a chance to be mindful and examine all the costume choices we’ve made (and we make). Sit back and take stock to see which of them truly serve us, and those we are instead caught in serving for.*** We can even fold in and take a lesson from children, who are wonderfully facile at putting on a costume and playing it to the hilt for twenty two and a half minutes, and, on a dime, change their outfits and get deep into playing something else.
Be clear, create and play on, reveling in the game of knowing we get to be in a costume of our choosing every day.
* That “play” and “costumes” are societally considered (still/by some/most) childish and weird and taboo and incompatible with being an adult is in of itself an interesting avenue to investigate the underpinnings of. Equally interesting is the split in the mind of the avenues of play, such as sports and the surging acceptance of computer games, that are socially OK and are not thought of or siloed into the same category of what may be called play or playtime… ****
** The whole ‘sexy noun’ phenomenon is also a whole other post onto itself…
*** And for that latter group, seeing what’s there and getting onto the work of completing and transforming to create the liberation and possibilities we want.
**** Here’s a TED Radio Hour episode on play.
Continuing on with my experience at the Monterrey Design Conference, another of the speakers was Sou Fujimoto, and it was another great lecture that got me thinking about things in new ways. He started his presentation comparing how the forest and the city were, in certain, ways, quite similar. That seemed almost preposterous as a starting point, but he drew it out nicely – in particular was that in the forest, there are layers upon layers that float overhead (leaves, branches, etc) to form a canopy, and much the same happens in the urban environment (electric lines, signs, awnings, etc). Huh… cool, I can get that. Consider my perception expanded! And looking at his work as it was presented back to back to back, there was this recurring concept and design generator of the repeated, of layers, and of the individual(s) clustering together to create a whole.
House N is one example of how these concepts get expressed, through the idea of a box in a box in a box. Noting how the traditional house in the neighborhood was pushed towards the back of the lot, with a front lawn or garden that was often, in many ways, unused, House N starts by encapsulating the yard in the first of its three, heavily pierced, sensuously smooth white boxes. The many openings in the box let both light in and the trees and garden inside out, creating a small semi-private courtyard that nonetheless can still participate in the streetscape.
Inside this outer box, two more similar boxes (both white, both with many openings) form the house proper…
The net result is a highly intricate collection of planes and openings, forming the proverbial leaf canopy through which you can catch glimpses of other rooms, the garden, and the sky beyond. As you move through the house, these views continually shift, as does the light throughout the day as the sun traces its path across the sky.
Paths within the house align with a porch and chairs in the courtyard. It looks a bit sparse in these photos, but as the trees grow and the foliage becomes thicker, the play of random and green will really sing against the white and rectilinear background of the outer box. At the other end, the Tatami room offers a similar serenity indoors.
It’s a nifty idea, with lots of playfulness and getting every ounce out of its tight lot. Nice work.
Supermarket chalk artists can be amazing!
So there’s this funny* tendency we have, as humans and that is the tendency for one disparaged group to disparage another. For a group, or individual, under duress to all to readily and quickly turn around and perpetrate the same onto another group.
On the one hand, this doesn’t seem to make any sense… surely this group, or individual, knows what it feels like to be disparaged, denigrated, diminished, disowned, and discriminated against, right? The hurt that accompanies it, the feelings of frustration, the harshness it is to exist under… why would they then do likewise to another?
But, on the other hand, it also makes perfect sense – in the same context. This is the world they (we) live in, this is the world that has been modeled, this is the world that has been taught, a world where if you are to have power and agency, you gain it, at least in part, via the act of disparagement. It is what the “powerful” and “well to do” and “respected” and “right” and “normal” people and groups do. They disparage. It is a hierarchical system, a caste. And so, to be, and to demonstrate you are, in “power”, you disparage. It is the path forward, the path to confidence, security, and self-determination.
Except, of course, that it doesn’t really work. Nor is it authentic. And in the end, if we’re honest, doesn’t leave anyone on any side feeling great. It only perpetrates the precarious anxious knife-edge feeling of precariousness, balancing on that “knowledge” that, at any moment, something may happen that will drive us out of favour and perpetrate our rush to the bottom of that ladder.
No matter where on the chain we (currently) sit, there’s no authentic self-confidence there, no peace of mind, and no self-actualization. And , above all, no freedom or self-expression.
There isn’t much more to say other than the invitation play the game of being mindful and present, and be aware of what the actual impetus is when jumping on the disparagement train.
There are plenty of other trains that lead to far more exciting and heartening places. Let’s travel on those.
* Funny in the cosmic sense, though it is also, at the same time, not so funny at all and cosmically unfortunate.
** Years ago I played in my first LARP (Live Action Role-Playing Game). When I got there, a bunch of the regulars were talking, and were fully embroiled in disparaging this other, particular, fandom. “Yeah, those losers are almost at the bottom of the geek hierarchy chart…” one person proudly said. Putting aside the vapidity of such a chart, the illuminating thing was that LARP players are also right near the bottom of that same chart. This person was using a chart that disparages them to disparage someone else… trapped in the downward spiral in hopes of somehow regaining pride and agency. (It didn’t/doesn’t work)
I just got back from the Monterrey Design Conference this past weekend, filled with lectures that not only wowed architecturally or artistically, but also got me examining things and thinking in new ways, which is always very cool. There are a number of projects to share, but tonight I’ll start with this one, because while I may think there are some design aspects that are not quite fully resolved, I really like how it takes the necessities and plays with them hard, springboarding from the constraints to create a multiple series of wins.
The brief for the project by the city was a for a gymnasium, with a community centre. There were requirements for the size and height of the gym, and a max height for the property. The retail/supermarket on the first floor may have been part of the brief (I can’t remember), but other than that, the developers were allowed to add in whatever they chose. Now, for a gym, you need some deep trusses to support the roof (as having columns in the middle of your playing surface is just a drag for everyone). And so the first of the various nifty bits in this project came in coming up with the idea to use the height of those deep trusses and nestle some residential apartments in between them. The space between the trusses would otherwise have been “wasted” – now instead you’ve got 12 new housing units for the city.
The units themselves are quite nicely done, with a courtyard in the middle, a tall living area, and a small loft that opens onto a deck. I especially like how the countertop becomes the landing for the staircase, and even more so how the huge windows at the end of each unit is angled to provide a vista down the street, rather than looking straight into the building across the way.
This sawtooth edge also is used to good effect in the gym, providing indirect natural light in a way that prevents glare and also protects the windows from errant sports balls. The community room nicely sets out from the building slightly as a glass box, and is attached to the gym via a grand staircase & bleachers, letting it be both separate and part of the gym as needed.
Overall the whole design does a lot of its work vertically, nestling and stacking its functions in and around themselves and the structure until everyone wins: a grocery store, a community space and gym, and apartments with plenty of light, interest, and a view onto the world. Good stuff.