Wonder Wednesday

Tonight is a little different.  It’s about the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado.  And the work they do is beyond wonderful.

Their mission is straightforward:  rescue and provide life-long homes for large, “exotic”, and endangered captive wild animals who are abused, abandoned, or neglected throughout the western hemisphere.  The mission, however, is anything but simple.  It involves thousands of miles of travel, creating large acreage habitats where the animals can roam and act as they would in the wild, and a scores of volunteers and staff who rescue, build, feed, treat, and care for these animals.

At the Sanctuary, you will not find baby animals for you to cuddle with.  You cannot pay money to pose with a tiger.  They do not breed or supply animals for entertainment.  It is about allowing these animals to live a life with dignity and respect.  Even if you visit the sanctuary, you will walk on a boardwalk over 40′ in the air, a path such that it places no stress on the animals.

African lions, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, leopards, wolves, servals, bobcats, foxes, lynx, coyote, coati mundi, raccoon, porcupine, ostrich, emu, camels, alpacas, horses, and our faithful dogs and cats all have a home here.

It is an organization that brings tears to my eyes and grips my heart.  They are doing hard work filled with love and respect.  It’s about expressing the fullness of our humanity.

I happily support them with donations, and I’m inviting you to do the same.  Visit their web page to see many wonderful photos of the beautiful animals they have rescued, watch their videos and documentaries, and, if you choose, donate to help them continue their fine work.

(All photos (c) the Wild Animal Sanctuary)

Philosophy Tuesday

We were in a maze.

We’d discovered the maze while randomly visiting the art projects out in deep playa at Burning Man.  It was no small maze either – made of wood posts and plywood, it measured some 70+ feet to a side, and the walls were 8′ tall.  It was also really tricky.*

It had been eight, maybe twelve, minutes since we’d entered when, from over one of the walls (we had inadvertently split up) my friend shouts out “Hey!  There’s a door here!”

“There are no doors in mazes,” I solidly replied.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them per se – in fact I gave it nary a thought after my proclamation.  It was just… true.  Mazes were things with walls and passageways and dead ends.  Doors did not enter the picture.

By now of course you all can probably guess where this story is going, and what I was about to exclaim not more than a few minutes later:

“Holy crap!  There are doors in this thing!”

And it wasn’t even the same door.

It’s a funny, fluffy example, but I love it as a reminder of just how, when something comes up that doesn’t fit our view, it’s not so much that we don’t believe it, or that we actively resist it, it’s often more that it simply doesn’t even register.  No such possibility exists.  It’s so completely outside the realm of (our personal) reality that before we even become aware of it it’s been dismissed and we’re moving on with our day, acting as before.  Which equally means, quite potentially, staying as constrained as before.

Our life remains the same.

Hence why I like reminding myself with this story.  Who knows what I/we could be missing on the other side.  Who knows what I/we could learn, could do, or could be, with that new piece of information, with that broader view, and with those new possibilities.  Worlds can open up.

Because, while in a maze in the middle of the desert it was a very physical door that I was all too ready to miss, quite often the doors that we dismiss and don’t go through are very much metaphorical, and very much transformative.

 

* Seriously, the maze was killer.  The people who made it did a fabulous job.  Doors, bridges, and more, and it was well laid out in order to obfuscate some of the necessary routes.  My friend and I spent 30 minutes in the maze, escaped out, went back in, came out again, was told a hint or two by people outside who had completed it, went back in a third time, and still were stymied.  So we chose to D&D the heck out of it!  We came back the next day with hand-made graph paper and proceeded to map the sucker out like a dungeon… and thusly discovered a route we’d delightfully missed.  In rather short order, past few more doors, traps, and bridges, we found our way to the exit.  Superbly well done maze!

Architecture Monday

A bit of fun tonight… at DisneySea!

I was excited to visit this park, as it is considered unique among the various Disney parks.  It’s got a bit of a nebulous theme, around the ideas of the “waters of the world/nautical exploration”, and has caricature-inspired areas themed to Mediterranean waterfront, American Docklands, Jungle Rivers, Arabian Gulf, a fortress by the sea, a futuristic port, and a steampunk-inspired central caldera of volcanic goodness.

Overall, architecturally, it is what one might expect from the Disneyfication of the actual cultural building typologies. And, given that, DisneySea is very, very well done. The Imagineers did a stupendous job in the design of the park, with a great attention to detail and richness everywhere that keeps it from appearing tacky, and enough inventiveness to keep it from appearing insensitive and appropriating.

And that caldera, oh my!  It’s a Jules Vern inspired fantasy that is superb, from the giant drill machinery stuck into the cliffside, to the elaborate metalwork, to the riveted construction of the ride vehicles.  (And speaking of the rides, Journey to the Centre of the Earth was fantastic, and I only with it was longer to extend the goodness!)  I could have spent the entire day in there.

Very fun day, very nifty park.  Even when it comes to the buildings to hold our entertainment — or when the building itself is the entertainment — care, craft, and detail always makes a difference in our experience.

Philosophy Tuesday

A work of art

is not a living thing

that walks or runs.

But the making of the life,

that which gives you a reaction;

to somebody’s the wonder of man’s fingers,

to somebody’s the wonder of the mind,

to somebody’s the wonder of technique,

and to some it is how real it is,

to some how transcendent it is.

 

Like the 5th Symphony;

it presents itself with a feeling,

that you know it if you heard it once, and you’ll look for it;

though you know it, you must hear it again,

though you know it, you must hear it again.

– Louis I. Kahn

 

(An excerpt from the movie My Architect, which is a fine documentary worth seeing.)

Architecture Monday

OK, there wasn’t any way I wasn’t going to talk more about Ando’s Church of the Light.  There’s a reason this is one of Ando’s most known buildings.  For one, it was early in his career.  For two, it was done on a very tight budget.*  And for three, it’s such a crazy simple design.  And yet, there’s something about it that is way more powerful than the apparent sum of its parts.

Every little move of that simple design adds to the overall working and feel of the space.  Even something as simple as the joint in the concrete traverses continually all around the entirety of the space, and how the window mullion and the base of the cross all align on that same joint.  It both breaks down the scale of the space while also unifying everything into a whole, drawing your eye down to the apse and the luminous cross.

The angled wall that bisects part of the nave not only provides a functional need of creating a weather break, it also creates a circuitous path that is hidden from the inside, separating the mundane from the sacred.  More crucially, the way it narrows the volume in an offset manner brings yet more motion and expansion to the space that a pure rectangular form wouldn’t.  The wall also hovers below and allows light to wash along the ceiling, creating a hovering effect that seems to lift the ceiling even higher.

All the geometries then play together to create washes of light that change throughout the day.

One thing that was striking to see in person was how tightly packed the church is within its urban site.  The design was as much a response to the physical constraints as it was to the resources of the congregation.  And it masterfully navigated both.

Much less often shown in pictures is the later additions Ando designed for the church, which includes a courtyard, an entry canopy, and a side chapel/classroom/administrative hall/community gathering spot.  He employs much of the same language, including the amazing slippage of concrete and light.  Unique compared to the main church, however, is the rich use of wood.  (I especially enjoy the cross hung from the ubiquitous formwork tie holes.)

Marvelous work, on so many levels.  There’s little that can compare to being there in person;  feeling space around you is a multi-sensory affair which depends greatly on peripheral vision.  However!  There is the next best thing for now… 360 VR.  Click the images below to go to 360 degree views of both the main church and the side chapel.  And if you have Google Cardboard or similar, these should be viewable there for the full VR experience!

* So much so that midway through construction he thought he was going to have to redesign it to not have a roof!  The construction company however, sensing that this had the makings of something wonderful, chose to donate and complete the work.