Archive for the ‘Daily’ Category

h1

Wonder Wednesday

June 5, 2019

In a lot of ways, it seems very silly and unassuming.  After all, it’s ‘just’ a series of marble trials.  Yet done with such rigour, seriousness, and with completely earnest commentary played totally straight that it is tough not to get sucked in… and even root for your favourite team/country.  Totally fun to watch, and impressive to think of all the work behind the scenes to set it up and have it be so compelling.  Here’s the first event of this year’s competition to get you started!

h1

Philosophy Tuesday

June 4, 2019

I remember when, a few years ago, Warren Buffett let it be known that he pays his secretary $200,000 plus a year.  Moreover, I remember a bunch of the reactions to this.  “Whaaaat?” was one common refrain.  “That’s ridiculous!” and “You can’t pay a secretary that!” were two other accompanying exclamations.

There’s a bunch to unpack here, isn’t there?

First, espoused in the above is the mind trap of thinking that there is some inherent, actual, way things are in this world as though given down from the universe above.  Just as gravity pulls and water flows, so too are salaries of secretaries governed by these unseen forces.  It’s just physics!  (But it isn’t.)

Second, coupled with the above is the notion that things in “the economy” should and do have an absolute or real price/worth to be paid, rather than remembering and engaging with the notion of value.

An employee* is of value to a company.  That is why they are there, working.  If they weren’t of value, they wouldn’t have been hired.**  The last thing a company wants to do is to increase its employee base unless it has to.  And so, without those workers, the company would not be doing as well as it is.  Even the brilliant leader with a brilliant idea*** wouldn’t be sitting on top of a successful (and/or profitable) company if there weren’t the workers generating the thing that is being provided to the market thus bringing in the revenues that leads to the company’s success.  Our architecture firm, no matter how great the principals in charge, would not be able to produce all the work we do and keep all our clients happy so we could charge our fees for our work if all the architects, managers, drafters, and support staff weren’t there doing their jobs.  Disneyland wouldn’t be the happiest place on earth and overflowing with high-paying guests if the janitors weren’t there to keep things remarkably clean and thus ensure a great park-going experience.  Just like the coffee provider listed in movie credits, everyone engaged is a contribution towards the final product.

Which brings us back to Warren Buffett’s secretary.  Given what she provides for Warren in his week to week business life, what she manages and arranges so he doesn’t have to, and what she organizes and delivers affords him the foundation upon which he is able to do what he does.  Without her, he would be less effective.  In other words, she is crucial in the results the company produces.  So why shouldn’t she be compensated commensurate with that value?****

Getting caught up in the norm as reality and listening to “the market” as reality are easy traps to fall in to.  But shake our views clear bit and approaching our lives and interconnectedness with both mindfulness and relatedness allows whole new realms of value, contribution, and civil humanity to open up and invite us to step towards.

 

 

* Employee is being explored here, but of course this applies most poignantly outside of the business world as well, in our personal lives, families, communities…

** OK, natch, there are many companies, especially large ones where people can hide out, where there are employees who are not helping things along and could even be detracting, and yet they remain on the payroll.  These exceptions (as maddening as they can be if we have to deal with it!) do not nullify what’s being espoused.

*** Which itself, this notion of singular geniuses, is mostly overblown, but that’s a whole other topic…

**** I even would make the argument that given Buffett’s income that compensation may well be low (though truthfully we don’t know her exact wage) she should be compensated even more, just as all the employees at Disneyland should be paid a solid living wage and even beyond.  “I pledge to pay employees what I can, not what I can get away with.”

h1

Architecture Monday

June 3, 2019

For many years my friends and I would travel to Toronto to visit, among other things, the few gaming stores to get our fill of RPG materials.  Taking the subway from Scarborough, we’d walk through then from the Eaton’s Centre down Queen Street, and up Spadina Avenue to our main gaming store haunt.  Along the way, we would pass around this amusing oddity, a point where the street flowed around a large island located smack in the centerline of the street.  On that island was a rather stately building that, despite that stateliness, we never could tell what it was used for, or whether it was even use at all.

Well, I needn’t wonder any longer, for the building has been taken and expanded into the new home for the School of Architecture at the University of Toronto!  From the restored front to the landscaped back, the building mixes old and new and emphasizes the juncture between the two, turning that intersection into the primary entryways into the building.  The addition is a box, primarily relying on changes in the roofline and topography to provide some (and I might say just barely enough) articulation and interest.

The best happens inside that box, however, with a plethora of interconnecting spaces radiating off a principal hall that serves multiple duties as auditorium, gallery, and critique space, all culminating at a large graduate studio on the top floor.  With a sculptural ceiling that allows for an abundance of natural, indirect, light, the hall then itself connects through generous circulation to other ancillary spaces allowing the whole affair to come alive in different ways throughout the needs of the school year.  Crits, symposiums, workshops, and extra project space are all well accommodated.

I think my favourite spaces though are the revamped interiors of that stately original, bringing forth much of the character and form of the existing building and rendering it in a nice and new twist with careful touches and with some striking lighting.

Overall, I call this one a win.  The interpenetrating shards of the interior works excellently in providing the varied spaces needed for an architecture school, and there is a nice interplay between the orthographic and grounded original building and the airy, fractal-like new (which in of itself is great for budding architects to experience).  And best of all, it’s brought life and use to a building that was once this odd folly cut off from the city by a busy road and streetcars.  Now it’s a vibrant hub that even makes the detour drive around it curious and new.  Well done.

The Daniels Building by NADAAA

h1

Wonder Wednesday

May 29, 2019

It was 1992.  I was in my first year of university.  And the game Star Control II was released.  It was big, epic, and full of exploration and story and cool starship conflict, and above all else, it had a killer soundtrack.  In the game you spent a lot of time in hyperspace, and fortunately, the music for it was fabulous:

Ahhh, great memories.  There’s a reason this game appears on so many “top games” lists, and the music is certainly one of them.  I even have all the music saved within my music library, ready to pull up for fun times at any time.

Did you play?  If so, I bet you have the theme running gloriously through your head now…

h1

Philosophy Tuesday

May 28, 2019

I have not watched any of the Game of Thrones*, but it has been pretty darn inescapable for the past few weeks as the final season wound towards its finale. And so it was that across my path came this article at Scientific American that piqued my interest, for it delved into realms both rich on a storytelling level but even more so in the philosophical realm. Besides a treatise on the path of the final episodes there’s a great exploration that ties very nicely into the concept and notions of the Path of Least Resistance as well as Systems.

Give it a read. There’s a lot of good stuff in there and where I begin to mine it for insights is here: If we’re not well versed in writing, or even consuming, stories that flow from a sociological level/view verses the individual/psychological level/view, then we’ll likewise not be well versed in seeing how much we all are swept away by the sociological waters we swim in. It therefore becomes more difficult to see the systems and shared identities that shape our views, reactions, and even (T)ruths:

“In sociological storytelling, the characters have personal stories and agency, of course, but those are also greatly shaped by institutions and events around them. The incentives for characters’ behavior come noticeably from these external forces, too, and even strongly influence their inner life.

People then fit their internal narrative to align with their incentives, justifying and rationalizing their behavior along the way. (Thus the famous Upton Sinclair quip: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”)”

It can be tough to swim against a current. It certainly takes effort, especially when it confronts something we’ve made a part of our identity. And so once again we’re pointing towards the path of least resistance. Society, systems, structures are all there, flowing. It becomes easiest to simply go with the flow, no matter whether the outcome is a good or deleterious one, whether for ourselves, others, or the world as a whole.

Even when it is completely against our own self-interest.**

But the effort is worth it. When the already automatic systems are nudging us already almost certain futures that are not working as we’d like them to, it’s most fruitful when we aim to alter the systems rather than exclusively aiming to alter individual(s). When we can divert the flow towards great outcomes, then great outcomes become easy:

“But if we can better understand how and why characters make their choices, we can also think about how to structure our world that encourages better choices for everyone. The alternative is an often futile appeal to the better angels of our nature. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they exist along with baser and lesser motives. The question isn’t to identify the few angels but to make it easier for everyone to make the choices that, collectively, would lead us all to a better place.”

Through a broadening of storytelling to include sociological viewpoints, we can better gain that understanding. And while such stories may not be “out there” yet in great quantities (as this season of GoT apparently showed), we can always practice that storytelling in our own lives with that most important narrator – the one in our head. With mindfulness we can guide our inner commenter to encompass both the psychological and the sociological, gaining broader perspectives from which we can choose, be, and act in service of creating the society we truly want.

 

* As much of a surprise as that might be to many of you…

** And against that which fills our being with fulfillment and satisfaction and is a true self-expression of our central self and who we want to be.

h1

Architecture Monday

May 27, 2019

Pardon me if I indulge here for a moment by posting another adaptive re-use design by Heatherwick studios, this time from South Africa, transforming a building type familiar to many and found throughout the world:  the waterside concrete grain silo.

On the one hand, grain silos are super strong and resilient.  On the other hand, they’re kind of limiting… what is one to do with all that tubular space?  Fortunately, the first hand and the second hand can come together, with the unified strength allowing for massive holes to be cut into the structure without collapse.

And that was the founding point of the design.  Using a leftover kernel of corn that was literally picked up at the base of one of the silos as the template, a massive atrium was cut into the silos to create a grand entry and circulation space.  And hoo boy, grand it is!  Glazed on top and with circular elevators and stairs gliding through the peripheral silos it’s a stunning sight to behold.  And one of detail mastery as well; the skill on display required to cut the concrete in the complex curving forms is amazing.

The adjacent grading tower with its strong boxy form is a nice contrast to the silo tubes.  With jeweled windows that protrude from the strong boxy frame additional galleries, event spaces, and even a hotel are created.  Best of all might be the amazing roof sculpture gardens that not only provide an amazing panoramic view of the area coupled with sculpture, but also the skylights for the atrium upon which you can walk and cavort and dance.  Or the rooftop pool for the hotel…

One of the strict desires/briefs by the client was “No curving galleries!  Art is not round!”  So the majority of the galleries seem to be white boxes that totally belie the silo nature in which they are contained.  This to me is unfortunate; while I get the desire for straight walls, to not find a path that could both celebrate the curvy while maintaining the orthogonal is a bit of a lost opportunity.  But that hardly breaks the project.  As an amazing reuse of a very industrial building this is an exceptional win, delightful to experience and doubly great that African modern artists now have a local home upon which to have their works displayed and celebrated.  Great stuff.

The Zeitz MOCAA by Heatherwick Studios

Bonus video!  Click here:  https://vimeo.com/269008579

h1

Wonder Wednesday

May 22, 2019

A little Watership Down-esque painting…

(to which I am currently mid way through my bi-annual re-read of the novel…)

by Agina