Archive for September, 2019

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Architecture Monday

September 30, 2019

I found myself a bit miffed in that moment.  We’d walked from downtown Copenhagen and were now standing in front of the ski slope, and yet it was closed.  Gah!  Wait a minute you say… ski slope?  In flat Copenhagen?  In summer?  And you’re surprised?  Well, yes… for this ski slope is on top of a power plant.  Oh, ok… wait, what?

Let me back up.  The Amager Bakke, a waste-to-energy power plant in Copenhagen, was designed so that it forms a ski slope that is usable all year round, along with hiking trails, gardens, and an 85m tall climbing wall.  Turns out the reason I could not walk up its magnificent slope is because it was not yet complete – oops!  But it opens this coming weekend, and so in celebration tonight let’s visit this fantastical creation.

I’d known about the building before going to visit, of course (even if I was unaware that while it is in operation making power the rest of it wasn’t yet open).  What I didn’t realize was how prominent it is on the Copenhagen skyline.  From many places downtown you can see it in the distance, a shining oddity.  Given its visibility it’s great that so much work did go into making it something beautiful rather than something to be confronted with on the horizon.

Up close, the building is a marvel to behold.  Walking up to it was somewhat surreal, for much like my experience with La Grande Arche de la Defence it totally belies its scale until you get up close to it.  No mistake, this building is massive!  The spark for its design came when the architects studied the machinery that needed to be contained within and realized that you could arrange them in a way they could outline a wedge shaped building.  Copenhagen has plenty of cold in the winter, but no hills… why not use these requirements to make something fun for the city?

This is gimmick architecture par extraordinaire (and I don’t mean gimmick in a bad way here at all).   It’s a simple sculptural form, wrapped in a sinuous basket weave skin that gleams in the sunlight and with its white stack sailing upward as though hovering and only lightly tethered to the building.  A stack which, due to the cleanliness of the plant it mostly spits out water vapour, will be topped with a device that will blow out a ring of steam for every tonne of CO2 emitted.  It’s playful all around.

And little is more amusing than seeing the edge of a ski lift on top of a building!

Needless to say, I’m a fan.  This industrial endeavour was needed in the city, and there was no reason it couldn’t pull double duty and become not just a necessity but a boon, providing something great and new for the community while looking great at the same time.  Well done.

The Amager Bakke and Copenhill (the great name they’ve given to the ski slope!), by none other than BIG Architects.

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Storytelling Sunday

September 29, 2019

“It’s what the story required.”  “It’s what the character had to do.”  “It’s the only way it could have gone.”  “It needed to happen.”

If you’re experiences are like mine then you are likely familiar with these types of answers from authors/creators when you ask them about elements in their stories, be it about events, outcomes, or, most often, what the story is about or is trying to say.  I’ve asked numerous authors on numerous occasions these types of questions, and responses in this vein, have always puzzled me.

Because… aren’t you the author?  How is it that it must go his way?  That this is the only way?

As the author, you’re the creator of everything!  From the most basic premise to the context in which things unfurl to the impetus that starts the action to the characters that inhabit the story, and so forth.  It’s all invented.  Tweak one little thing and everything beyond cascades and unfurls in a whole other way (or ways).

Corey Doctorow recently wrote an article about this, and regardless of whether one fully likes where he takes it or the examples he gives the main useful takeaway for me remains shining the spotlight on those seemingly inviolable constraints that force a story down a particular path to a particular ending to see that they are inherently part of the creation.  There is no “must” there.  It’s all (a) setup.

Now, every story contains a series of constraints and contrivances.  I’m not arguing against that.  (Though, and this is in a completely different vein than our main conversation here, but if your story uses a whole flock of vast contrivances and coincidences to move things along then I humbly suggest your story still needs a lot of work.)  What irks me about this type of response is not the mundane or pure logic about things, but rather that the author most likely has made these choices to set up the “inevitable” for a reason, and even if those reasons are hidden from their view by not answering the question they are not taking, or willing to take, ownership of the reasons.

Out of that I begin to wonder if they are trying to hide behind the supposed “objectivity” of things.  That is, they know what their story is conveying or is trying to say, but they are not willing to proudly stand behind it to hold aloft the concepts and explain why they set things up that way (and, by extension, declare what they’re trying to say).

Natch, it is also possible that they don’t know or didn’t think about it, in which case, fine, but still I’d invite that the better answer is “Huh, I don’t know!  That’s interesting, let’s talk about it and see what comes up…”

This is starting to sound a bit rant-y, so let me wrangle things back to say what I myself am trying to create here:  an invitation to look at and engage with your work more fully and recognize there is no inevitable, and to not hide behind feigned neutrality and pure calculus.  If your story conjures something up and you are asked about it, see if it was your intention.  If so, stand behind it and say what your story is saying.  If not, how fascinating!  And use that to further develop your craft.

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Wonder Wednesday

September 25, 2019

In times like these, we all need a little bit of saw music in our lives…

Sweet tunes by the amazing Wintergatan!

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Philosophy Tuesday

September 24, 2019

Tonight in comic form…

Absolutely wonderful.  Pair it with previous posts on Mr Rogers, including what he gave and how deep into our hearts he saw.

Comic by Twistwood, based on a post by Matthew Wisner.

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Architecture Monday

September 23, 2019

Get your travellin’ shoes on… to round out our little library tour tonight we’re going to start in Oslo and then hop on the overnight ferry to Copenhagen for a trio of wonderful book houses.

The main Oslo Public Library starts outside with a classic pediment nestled within a larger, more stripped-down yet still neoclassical edifice.  (And I do like the little string of festive lights!)

Where upon entering you are guided to this large open hall, bathed by an immense skylight and dominated (in a good way) by the expressive mural.  Like the exterior, it’s a great mix of the classical, in the form of colonnaded hall, and the cleaner forms of early modernism (it reminds me in many ways of the work of Adolf Loos, who was active at the time of construction).

I really like how this mix plays out in the antechamber, with the classic ionic columns supporting a mezzanine that overlooks the main book hall, provides access to an exterior balcony, and also has that great serrated desk surrounding the atrium opening.  Wonderful design.  As a fun aside, it is nicknamed the “House of Stairs” in honour of its many, many staircases.

For its counterpart at the Copenhagen Main Library we have this inviting atrium that features these playful seating and reading cubbies that stick out into the four-story high space.  Very nifty.

The Royal Library now consists of two buildings, the older and the new, split by a road yet spanned by bridges.  From the modern entry atrium, you cross through the old archways to enter the historical wing.  (Which, itself, was many years ago the ‘new’ library to replace one that sat where the new-new library wing now sits…)

Not much to say other than lovely!  The smooth white plaster archways are wonderful and also work as a great backdrop for the richness and ornateness of the desks, shelves, windows, and light fixtures, not to mention the classical Corinthian capitals and dark stone.

The new atrium has this great commanding view of the waterfront as you exit.

Lastly, here’s an architecture and design library we stumbled upon!  I’m on an architecture trip; there was no way I was not going to check it out.  A repurposed (adaptive reuse!) warehouse/commercial building along the waterfront, the exposed structure and windows with the hundred little window panes works supremely well.

And there we have it.  As I traveled throughout from country to country I really got the sense that libraries — and books in general, for there were many bookstores as well — hold a high place in people’s minds, being well regarded and considered an important part of the social fabric.  With that reverence comes the desire to make them accessible, available, and to celebrate what they are and what they represent, leading to these great spaces for learning, reading, gathering, and creating community.

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Wonder Wednesday

September 18, 2019

Absolutely beautiful photo of a mangrove forest with a sparseness and contrast and reflections that turns it into a lovely abstract print.  Gorgeous work.

by Alessandra Meniconzi

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Philosophy Tuesday

September 17, 2019

There was a story I heard some years ago about Australia*, and drought.  In that there had been this stretch of years of quite severe drought.  Things were tough, many faced hardship, and it just went on, and on, and on.  Until they found an interesting way to end the drought:  they introduced legislation that said it was not a drought.

Which, admittedly, at first sounds like the ultimate in shenanigans:  It’s a drought, it’s physical, you can’t just paper law it away!  But once you let it sink in, you get that what they were saying was simply this:  “This is not a drought.  This is [the new] NORMAL.”  They weren’t tying to legislate the physical universe.  They were recreating their relationship with said universe.  They were being present and reforming their realities:  “We have been operating under a fantasy, that there is, and should be, more water available to us.  But that is not so.  This is what there is.  Let us now act accordingly.”

And boom, from then on, rather than creating systems, building things, and living life as one might in a water rich place, and then trying desperately to do with less and suffering all the way, they instead could design, create, build, and live in ways that handled, managed, and used the water that was there in reality to its fullest.  They could treat water with the respect it needed.**

We can do the same thing in our lives.  We may have feelings, upsets, barriers, insecurities, and places where we experience failure that keep showing up, causing hindrance and hardship.  And we keep thinking – hoping – that one day it or they will end.  Because that’s how it should be. ***

Yet, there it is, remaining, as persistent as that drought.  And so we can declare for ourselves The [New] Normal, giving us a baseline from which we can stop resisting.  We can let what is be, and in so doing gain freedom.  We stop being controlled by it and instead gain the space to say “Ok, here’s what’s so.  What’s possible?  What’s next?”

From that new frame and with peace of mind we begin our new path, leading us to greener pastures and worlds of abundance.

 

* To which I will be upfront and state that I cannot be sure I’m remembering it right or the interpretation I heard about it was right… and reading the Australian Department of Agriculture’s webpage on drought policy is not entirely helping me determine if it is accurate or not.  The action that took place in 2008 during the National Review of Drought Policy could be it:  “The review found that drought conditions in Australia were likely to occur more often and be more severe. It also recommended that drought assistance programs be restructured to help farmers prepare for drought rather than waiting until they are in crisis to offer assistance.”  That said, whatever the specifics are what I took from the story (as expounded above) is still entirely relevant, and powerful as an entryway to and for transformation.

** And I would say deserved.

*** And it’s not to say those areas can’t be transformed; they most certainly can be.  But sometimes the very attachment we have to it not being there is what gets in the way of us transforming it and allowing it to disappear.