Architecture Monday

I first saw the Strawberry Vale school while I was in university, and I fell in love with it immediately.  There’s a lot of great stuff going on here, an inventive take on the idea of an elementary school that creates an amazing array of spaces that I certainly would have enjoyed the heck out of during my primary school days.  A playground of geometry that, if it seems like it erupted from the ground, it is because, in a way, it did; situated near a rock outcropping, the school follows the forms and contours to organize itself in a nifty way.

The key to the whole composition is in that winding hallway (although it almost feels pejorative to call such a big feature a mere hallway) off which classrooms, libraries, gyms, and more jut out into the landscape.  Full of level changes as it follows the land outside, it’s a visual treat and a logical way to organize a school.

The images speak well for themselves.  Ramps, stairs, corners, and more make for niches and protected alcoves that can be taken over by teachers and classrooms, while at the same time encompassing larger and enclosed spaces for many of the school’s shared functions.

The creative geometry of that central spine also allows for an abundance of light to enter every room, often in multiple ways and from multiple directions.  This is a dynamic building, with all the angles and jungle-gym like structure and the changing light throughout the day.  In addition, there’s a focus towards the woodlands that surround the school, tying nature back into the learning experience.

This is one cool and exciting school.  I don’t doubt the kids here gain a whole lot from the building and their environment as from the teachers themselves, there’s enough here to keep the mind engaged and amused.  Really great stuff.

Strawberry Vale Elementary School by Patkau Architects

Wonder Wednesday

One of the strong elements in Mulan is the mighty score, composed by the late Jerry Goldsmith.  And no part is more powerful than the music that plays during Mulan’s choice, a glorious mix of orchestral sweep morphing (unexpectedly) into a dynamic mix of synth and percussion, perfectly timed with the action on screen.  It’s glorious.

(When I bought the score, I was seriously frustrated that this piece wasn’t included (instead using an alternate version).  As soon as I had my hands on the VHS, I sent the audio to my computer to capture the rightful piece.  Now, in this our years of YouTube, it’s only a quick search away…)

Philosophy Tuesday

Let’s dive deeper into Mr Rogers’ quote from last week… because it’s useful to relate to ourselves as though there are two “yous” within us*.  Or, in Mr Rogers’ terms, two parts.  Rosamund and Benjamin Zander call them your Central self and your Calculating self:

The Calculating Self is all about measurement.  It’s all about survival.  It’s looking out into the world and judging and assessing and positioning itself and looking for conditions of victory and strategizing.  In every moment, it presupposes that everything is a threat, and it looks to see how it can best position itself within a hierarchy.  In every moment, it presupposes that there is nothing but scarcity everywhere.  It’s always on edge, and it is a master at making itself heard – both within our head and out into the greater world.

The Central Self is what lies at the core of our being.  It is the authentic voice that speaks about the truth about who we really are and what we really want.  It is, in the absence of scarcity and threat, the free expression and actions of that which unites us.  Inside the Central Self resides our creativity, generosity, and, above all, our freedom.  The Central Self drinks in the world, surfs on the currents of life, and spews forth vitality and bounty.  It needs no strategies, no automatic patterns, and no identity (or identities), for it is its own pure self-expression.

The Central Self is our Authentic Self, and it is the Self to which Mr Rogers speaks to when he says, “It’s you I like,” for our Central Selves are automatically connected and related.  There, we speak the same language.

When we listen to our thoughts, it can be tough to know which Self is speaking.  Without care, we can cede control of ourselves, and our lives, to the conniving whims of our Calculating Self.  Not that the Calculating Self is bad – it’s a vital part of who we are and of our journey through life.  The key is to keep it being a part of, and not the main – or only – guide in that journey.

The more we are present, and the more we listen out there and in here and over there and everywhere, the more in tune we become with our Central and Authentic Selves.  We gain freedom and choice.  Our experience of life transforms.  And we get to know ourselves, and others, as the radiant beings we can be.

Just as could Mr Rogers.


* Though at times it sure can seem like there’s an entire committee trying to run the show…

Architecture Monday

Here’s a rather remarkable house renovation.  I say remarkable, because without being told I wouldn’t have known that it wasn’t new.  Done, as these things often are, on a budget, it uses a few creative moves to maximum effect, crafting some mighty fine living areas including a sweet roof garden.

Most noticeable of course is the new face to the house.  It’s very cool how just by using a simple repetitive pattern of darkly stained wood, punctuated by a few elements, such as the larger gaps between boards breaks it down into a grid within a grid, or how light comes through certain boards compared to others, makes the whole affair look like a finely crafted jewel box.  I especially like how the trellis punctuates things with it’s difference and its greenery.  The shadow play is also fun, both between all the boards but especially in the little bits such as off the water chain.

Inside, the space has been left largely open, with spaces mostly delineated by thickened cabinetry and shelving.  Lots of carefully crafted light, lots of space to move, lots of places to display books, knick knacks, and more.

It’s an oddly shaped and small site, but both the on-ground landscaping and that roof garden make the most of it.

This is solid work.  Modest comes to mind as a word, but most certainly not in a pejorative sense – there’s no reason why something done without unlimited funds and without grandiosity cannot be both done and done well.  This would be a great house to live in.

The Sparrow House by Samantha Mink