Architecture Monday

Oh this one’s awesome… (and kinda close to my hometown!)  An over 125 year old romanesque post office brought to new purpose to become a ‘bookless’ library, filled with creative labs and maker spaces and more.  And it’s not just the stately post office building, it’s a new wrap-around glass pavilion that reaches out to engage the adjacent canal and make the whole shebang a part of the community space.

So, yeah, that gallery that hangs out over the river pretty much sells the whole thing.  I mean, the original (and restored) post office is also lovely, with its arched windows, half turrets, towers, steep gable roof, and the brick and stone.  All of that is enhanced with the new glass and steel surround that cantilevers not just once, but twice, hovering first over the water, then above over a patio/deck.  And the undersides of which hasn’t been neglected, with polished aluminum and integrated lighting that speaks towards a future river walk.  It’s dynamic and playful and though a very different language than the original building that contrast enhances each other, even more so when they are reflected off the water whether by day or, glowing like a lantern, at night.

Lots of light, lots of great views to the river and city beyond, and more interplay between the crisp new and the rugged old are what awaits within.  These two languages combine in a culmination in the third floor maker space, inhabiting the cathedral-like space under the old high-pitched roof amongst the old support frames.

For an added bonus, there’s the glass ceiling that looks up into the old clock tower, putting the mechanisms on display!

Very cool project, another example of taking something already existing and, through re-use and a clever set of additions, turning it into something even greater.  Plus public maker spaces/etc are a great addition to a community (I loved the one at the new library in Helsinki).  And if you, like me, still love traditional book-filled libraries, there’s one right across the river.

Ideas Exchange by RDHA

Snowy Rails Thursday

In the mood for a little bit of train porn this evening?  Then this video is perfect, a serene transfer run, starting in the lowlands and moving upwards into the mountain and snow….

And while the whole video is great, this segment here is the climax, in a wonderful mix of sun, bold clouds, icy lakes, white mountains, and snow blowing across the tracks all during a high speed run with the soothing monotony of the engine.  Lovely.

Philosophy Tuesday

“Vermeer celebrated real people.  Doing ordinary things.  He offered the radical idea that you didn’t have to be special, or important, or magical, or legendary to be worth being painted or thought about or remembered.

So it turns out there are two ways of explaining history.  We can be like the early Romans and invent these magical, wonderous, brilliant people who gave everything to us.

Or, we can be like Vermeer.  A bunch of ordinary, everyday people built Stonehenge just by working together and putting time and effort into it.  A bunch of ordinary people make video games by working together very hard for hours and days and years to make it.  A bunch of regular, ordinary people built Rome over the span of a very long time, contributing to what would later be remembered as the exploits of one man.

This way is no where near as magical as we like to imagine put our worlds together.

The truth is often very mundane.

But maybe that’s OK.”

hbomberguy

(from a totally fascinating documentary about the arcade game Dragon’s Lair!)

Architecture Monday

I love adaptive reuse of just about every type, but there’s something extra lovely when old coal-fired power plants or coal storage yards are repurposed into something much less destructive.  It doesn’t hurt that the soaring spaces and muscular structure within lends themselves well to all sorts of great insertions and intricate spatial play.  To that end, here’s a nice new example of the genre, a bit of adaptive reuse in Wisconsin aptly named The Powerhouse.

A set of big brick boxes, built over time, is what defines the old plant, punctuated by strips of tall windows. A new fieldhouse made of polycarbonate panels is a nifty counterpoint, creating a diffuse glow inside by day and a lantern outside at night.  And it’s hard to miss the smokestack as a calling card…

All the space inside is used in fun ways, mixing new levels with old and with the new functions intertwined around old machinery and infrastructure.  The suspended running track is cool, traversing through all three old buildings and the new addition, letting you see the different eras and types of buildings while also interacting with old roof trusses and other bits of the building.  And check out the idea of the climbing walls within the old coal hoppers!  Now that’s a super nifty idea.

Good stuff.  A new life for an old building, saving all the materials and the energy it took to build them, and turning it into a plethora of fun spaces for all sorts of great uses while also tying the waters edge, the city, and the university campus together.  Mighty fine work.

The Beloit College Student Union by Studio Gang

Wonder Wednesday

A couple of Friday’s ago, I went to see the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit up in SF!

I had first learned of this exhibit (or at least something very similar) when it opened in France and it intrigued me immediately: take the paintings of the artist, animate them, and project them so large that it feels like you are walking into and inhabiting them in a wonderful surreal landscape.  And the exhibit very much delivers on that promise. Projected to fill the perimeter of a very large and tall square room — as well as the floor! — you’re surrounded by the colourful shifting patterns.  Sometimes the painterly strokes drew themselves into existence;  sometimes the scene was treated like a pastoral landscape marking the passage of the sun;  sometimes there were Escher-like structures that shifted kaleidoscopically, sometimes it was the petals of flowers blowing on the wind.  Needless to say, the pièce de résistance was the animated nuit étoilée sequences, with shifting aurora, shimmering water reflections, and the twinkling of the stars.

Very cool.  I stayed long enough to see the sequence several times, and it was a sweet experience every time.  While the original setup in France seems like it might have been a tad more immersive, with the projections closer at hand on large square pillars of screen throughout, this still worked great.  I recommend viewing it at least once standing near one wall near the mid-point, looking towards one of the adjacent walls.  This way, the wall you are adjacent to is in your peripheral vision, and as the images flow you really get a sense of movement.

Definitively fits the bill of delicious wonder!  While videos will never do it justice, I did take a few; click here to check them out.  And if you get a chance to see it (whether in SF or wherever it heads to next) I nudge you to do so.

Philosophy Tuesday

There was one bit in Soul that got a big “NOPETY NOPE!” from me: ”Okay, first stop is the Excitable Pavilion. You four. In you go! You five, you’ll be aloof. And you two, why not.”

It’s played off for a joke, as in ha-ha kids these days, so aloof and detached and acting cool.  But, in a movie that is working to create, and illustrate, so many fine things, what this creates is not fine at all.  That we come into this world with a personality or traits already stamped upon our head, already fixed in place?

Gah!  NO!

We are not fixed objects, set in stone.  We are not destined to be a certain way.  Nor are we only a certain way either!  We contain multitudes, and we have the capacity to generate, and be, all sorts of ways.

A huge part of what self-cultivation is about is unlearning all that and recognizing our freedom and choice in creating who we want to be.  It’s all about the art of being.  And the art of the ongoing freedom to choose who we are being, in any moment, under any circumstances.

That’s what gives us power and passion and joy and connection and fulfillment and excitement and compassion and our humanity and oh-so-delicious peace of mind.

There’s plenty to take from soul. But in chasing a (what I consider to be) easy and cheezy joke, they put something out there that’s detrimental and perhaps* even downright harmful.

There are no permanent labels stamped onto our foreheads.  Neither we, nor what we call our personality, are a carved statue.**  We can always get in touch with our Great Before souls, touch our spark, and (re)create ourselves and who we are being.

 

* For a couple of reasons, beyond the way it can keep us from seeking that self-cultivation to alter those ways of behaviour and being that are counterproductive and possibly harmful in our own lives.  For one, it can prevent us from treating others with dignity or possibility, writing people off as incorrigible or destined to be a thief (or whatever) and fostering stereotypes and biases.  For two, relatedly, we can, inadvertently, hem people in and prevent their growth and exploration and their own self-cultivation.  Especially with our kids, hemming them into only the narrow path of life that we see possible.

** As one of the greatest mentors once put it: “Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter.”  Happy May the 4th Be With You!

Last Orbit

Sad news today, hearing that Michael Collins passed away.  He is one of my absolute favourite astronauts; every time I saw him speak, he always radiated an authentic zest for life, mixed serious capability with a twinkle of humour & amusement, and he was profoundly connected with our shared humanity. If you can pardon the pun, he seemed someone who was very down to earth, being humble, earnest, eager, excited, and kind.

If you haven’t seen the documentary “In the Shadow of the Moon” do yourself a favour and check it out.  It’s a wonderful piece that captures the Apollo program through the astronauts own words and, most importantly, their experiences.  Rather than focus on the technical bits and the historical contexts, which, don’t get me wrong, are great and I love that bit too, but this one’s uniquely focused on the astronauts as people and that’s what makes it really special to watch.  And watch Michael Collins, who embodies all I said above.

Rest in Peace, Mr Collins.  You led us to the moon and back, and left our spirits forever looking towards the stars.

Philosophy Tuesday

Wrapping up our Soulful adventure is this little, yet important, bit that lovingly wraps together everything we’ve spoken about so far about milestones and our if/thens and about being present:

We are not worthy by accomplishing some external dream.  There is no milestone to clear.

We are worthy of love and belong just by being alive.

By being present to ourselves and to others, we grant ourselves that freedom and security and love.

By being present to the world around us, we grant ourselves exhilaration and beauty and wonder.

And inside of all that we can engage with life, living every minute of it with gusto, delight, and with our whole hearts.

 

(Also, congrats to Soul and to Pixar for winning the 2021 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature!)