Philosophy Tuesday

There’s that phrase, “couldn’t see the forest for the trees,” which is really kind of a clever description of someone who’s either only considering a small part of a situation and/or who are so focused on the details that they completely miss and don’t appreciate the larger situation and context.  But at the same time, we have the phrase, “stuck in their ivory tower,” or perhaps, “their heads are in the clouds,” which relates to someone who is only seeing things from a thousand meters and are so focused on the ‘big picture’ of the thing that they are completely separated from the facts and requirements and the nuances of the situation and context.

Which points to a spectrum, doesn’t it?  And, even more so, of the value of traveling along that spectrum.

One of the great things I feel fortunate to have learned in becoming an architect is that skill of being able to zoom out and see the whole of the thing, including the form, the environment, the context(s), their interactions, and the possible impacts… and then (have to) zoom all the way into the specific detail of how that piece of wall will connect to the floor.  And everything in between, including function and circulation, codes and safety, space and experience, and etc.  It’s a constant shifting of scales, and a constant game of remembering that what you change at one scale will have an effect and impact the others (and therefore might require changes or adjustment there).

The spectral game is to remain present and mindful of both scales, at the same time.  To see both the forest and the trees and to appreciate both.

Or as this Sufi proverb expresses in an equally clever manner: “Trust in God, but tie up your camel.”

Wonder Wednesday

This is both amazing as well as mesmerizing… the Tokyo Shinkansen train station serving all eastern routes, with a super busy schedule and only four platforms, and the amazing and hyper-precise dance of incoming and leaving trains, nearly once every 4 minutes, with the incoming train often passing the outgoing mere moments after it leaves the station!  Astoundingly well run.

Philosophy Tuesday

I just saw an interview with Stephanie Hsu (and Ke Huy Quan) from Everything Everywhere All At Once, and she expressed something quite cool:

“I’ve always been drawn to films that have sort of big philosophical cores but are really about a small slice of life.”

Which is a great description of EEAAO; it’s got a massive philosophical core and resonance while, at the same time, it is about a very narrow and intimate slice of life.  It is about the places and spaces where we all live, and that is what makes it universal.

Her quote also speaks to something that I absolutely love about exploring ontological philosophy:  just like the film it too explores huge and amazing things, with insights into the being part of human being that are profound and deeply fascinating.  And again, just like the film, all of those grand things are things that are having an impact on us on a moment-by-moment-by-moment basis, touching us and every single aspect of our everyday, “mundane” lives.  The more we unconceal and get, the more our lives can transform.

And in there is a great reminder, for it can be all too easy to get hypnotized by these grand ideas and think we’ve gotten it and that we are especially clever… without ever doing the actual work to bring it into our lives and to have it make the impact in those everyday ways.  In a sense, we can eat the menu while thinking that’s the meal.

Perhaps even more often are the times where we may intellectualize it all and to relate to it only in an abstract manner… in order to avoid looking at ourselves and our lives and to avoid where these insights could reveal things that our calculating selves would rather not look.  All, in the end, to avoid discomfort and to avoid doing the work that will bring us closer to whom we profess we want to be.

Stephanie’s observation about EEAAO is a great one, a reminder that there is always a personal side to being human, even when and especially when we learn and uncover more and more about what it is to be human.  And if we want to create that more perfect experience and expression of who we are, it’s a reminder to bring it down from the lofty clouds and to do the work and to apply it to ourselves, all the way down into those small slices of life.

Architecture Monday

Love this little retreat/cabin in the hills of Mexico.  Small and straightforward, yet delightfully evocative.

For starters, it’s a truncated box, with a patio covered a triangle of canvas as an awning that completes the rectangle from above… with a bonus that the canopy is supported/suspended by a nifty steel beam perched on the cabin’s roof.

The cabin itself rests on a foundation that’s a tad smaller, making it all appear to hover and float off the ground.

Board formed concrete lends a nice texture and scale to the whole thing, left natural within but painted black on the outside — something that I think works really well, creating subtle highlights and a rich ‘charred wood’ look that lets the building fade well into the landscape.

Enclosed on three sides, the last side is slick steel and glass, stretching towards the light and the world.

A small retreated of simple elements designed with care and flair.  Great work.

Bungalow H by

Philosophy Tuesday

It is often said that “change is hard” but… I’m not really sure that’s the accurate or complete picture.

Instead, I’d say that a good chunk is really about our attachments.*  For when we go to change, we often need to chainsaw our attachments, and that is what can be hard.

Except… that’s not exactly accurate either!  For while it feels like we need to break out the chainsaw, instead, once we realize we have an attachment we can choose to just let it go.  We can choose to stop clinging to it.  Then, even attachments become more facile to let go of!

And in letting go of our attachments, we shift from change resistance to one of flow, where we can begin to dance gracefully within the vortices of life.  All while bringing with us mindfulness and practice to continually watch for automatically falling back into habit (something that, compared to change, is really easy to do), interrupt it, create who we want to be, and act.


* The other big chunk is about shame.**

** I might also say our identity, but identity often is a combo of attachments, shame, and habit, not to mention that often what we are trying to ‘change’ is a part of our identity… (though really here it’s more effective through transformation***)

*** Which is what makes transformation so powerful and effective, is that it bypasses these change bits altogether.


Architecture Monday

This is a super posh hotel, so the theatricality is to be expected.  And what stunning theatricality it is, in a kind of ‘walk on water’ sort of way.

In overall form it’s not all that dissimilar from Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, with a row of angular forms creating an axis, highlighted by a water feature, and open to the sea.  Though certainly heightened here by making the entirety of the axis the water feature, and the forms all that more bold (and, at night, colourful!)  Plus the addition of a bird’s nest…

A neat mix of architecture creating spatial art.  I dig it.

Viceroy Los Cabos (formerly Mar Adentro) by Miguel Angel Aragonés

Wonder Wednesday

Was looking for something the other day and came across my old, original, Orchid Righteous 3D video card!

Which was a blast from the past and definitively brought me back some cool vibes.  Back in ’96, the Righteous 3D card was one of the first two mainstream pure 3D video cards, both powered by the 3DFX Voodoo chipset.  They were so pure 3D that you needed a separate “regular” video card to handle anything that wasn’t 3D.  Only when you went into a properly enabled game did the processing shift to the card.  You’d hook monitor cable to the 3DFX card, and a pass-through cable that would route the output of the 2D card through the 3D daughter card when the 3D stuff wasn’t in use.  Though the other of these first 3DFX cards, the Monster 3D, was the more popular of the two, I always preferred the Orchid for its use of a mechanical relay to shift the video output when you went into 3D – the satisfying mechanical “Ka-PING!” when it would engage was most satisfying and let you know THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THE POWER IS BEING UNLEASHED!

Those were wild and woolly days.  Much like the Betamax vs VHS competition, before settling on a standard there were several competing protocols and chipsets that were incompatible with each other, and you had to watch for what your game was able to use.  But it was such an amazing leap forward in terms of its capabilities* at the consumer level that it was an exciting time to get onboard and be wowed and amazed.  I’d get games I wasn’t totally keen on just play them through in god mode so I could wonder at the graphics being produced on the screen.**  Real good times.


* Before its release, I remember discussing with my friends about how some games, like, Wing Commander  would use bitmap/raster graphics that looked gorgeous since they were illustrations, but they were imprecise since they only show the object from the angles from the bitmaps that had been drawn.  So, flying around, ships would ‘pop’ to different orientations as you were in a dogfight.  Other games, like X Wing, used polygons, which were smooth and continual and super accurate, but were flat and featureless and not exactly pretty.  With the 3DFX chipset, these two worlds combined the best of those two ways into a mega-beast of bitmap textured 3D polygon awesomeness.

** One game I played that I played straight  (as in I didn’t play it just to see the pretty graphics) was Mechwarrior 3, and there was one bit in it that totally wowed me graphically in an unexpected way.  Many games began using the hardware-accelerated fog feature to make, well, a fog, to make items recede more convincingly into the distance.  But on a mission set in a swamp, MW3 set the fog plane horizontally, lending to a murky ground haze that fit perfectly with the environment.