Philosophy Tuesday

Wise tiger, that Hobbes!  Our actions are always perfectly correlated with who we are being, and our being arises from who we have created ourselves to be (whether by choice or by defaultic happenstance).

When we let ourselves be present to our own actions, we gain insight into who we are being as a person, no matter what we may say or insist.

When we see with eyes unvarnished our actions in the collective, we gain insight to who we are being as a group/community/nation, no matter what our slogans may be.

by Bill Watterson

Architecture Monday

I love how the craft is so much on display in this building.  Built by local artisans, it’s all the ways the bamboo is used on this project that stands out, whether woven into patterned screens, thatched, or, my favourite, intricately roped together to form attractive columns, beams, and diagonal supports.

The other main building material is mud, a most decidedly local and abundant building material..  Through its amorphous shape it strikes an interesting silhouette while sliding nicely into its surroundings.

The inside is airy and colourful, but the pièce de resistance has got to be the little ‘grottos’ that are carved under a ramp connecting its two levels. What a fun little retreat!

Lovely work.  Expressive, local, and another example of a mighty fine building done without needing an eye-watering budget.  Good design never need be thought of as a luxury.

The Anandaloy Center by  Studio Anna Heringer.  (Also a winner of a World Architects’ Obel Award)

Philosophy Tuesday

I assert that it is time we ceased using the term “unskilled labour.”

For one, I don’t think such a thing really exists in any great capacity.  While there may be certain trades and tasks that take more or less time to grasp and to be able to perform at a bare minimum level, every undertaking done well takes skill.  If you’ve seen a toilet cleaned to the minimum versus a toilet cleaned with skill, you know the difference.  And the same holds all over, be it in service, carpentry, line work, farming, cooking, or any of the like.  In addition, there are things such as communication, attentiveness, or even just being a team player, all of which are skills, developed over time, and which really muck things up when they’re not there.

For two, the term is generally used only to denigrate, equated with unintelligent, unsophisticated, or of lessor importance.  More importantly, the term is used as an excuse, an excuse to treat others poorly in all sorts of ways:  poorly in value, respect, and appreciation; poorly in attention and care; poorly in attitude and politeness; poorly in compensation and wages.  Unappreciated and seen as a cog, whether in the home or in the workforce, the “unskilled” are paid a pittance (be it in terms of regard, respect, and appreciation or be it in terms of actual wages) and regarded as though they should be happy for their miserly sum.

It is a crappy way to treat others.  And one that belies both the value of what they take on and accomplish as well as the skill and hard work it takes to do it well.*

Everything is a skill.  Everything can be learned and improved.  Even seemingly simple things can take a lifetime to master – including the very art of living.

Let’s honour it all.

 

* For the briefest of moments this year we called them what they are:  essential workers.**

** The term “frontline” has now replaced “essential” and it is another obfuscation and denigration: frontline allows the vested interests (who wield the term unskilled like a club) to believe they are the generals, doing the actual important work by leading the incapable masses.  It’s a falsehood and a farce, and I recommend not falling into that trap.

*** Oddly, Walt Disney, who harboured a lot of a type of skilled/unskilled contempt, actually recognized this on some level.  One story in particular can be used as a guide for ourselves:  When Lillian Disney heard Walt wanted to open an amusement park, she said “Why would you want to do that?  They’re so dirty.”  To which Walt replied, “Mine won’t be.”  There it is: the (typically denigrated, ignored, and maltreated) janitors are the key to Disneyland’s success.

 

Architecture Monday

Just a fun jaunt tonight to celebrate the one and only Toronto City Hall!

The conceptual sketch of the city council chamber, which became the centrepiece of the whole design:

And the council chamber UFO itself:

The architect on site, during its construction:

Opening day/night:

By many measures, the city hall has been ultra-successful in being a grand civic centre.  Perhaps it’s no surprise it was designed by a Finnish architect, given what I saw during my Nordic trip last year.   The area enclosed by the elevated walkway… actually, let’s talk about this for a bit, because it’s a well-used piece of design that clearly creates a feeling of enclosure and demarcates this public square from the street all without being an actual barrier.  Once within, you know it and it becomes it’s own realm, one that is very much used by the public it serves, perhaps most famously during the winter, when the water feature becomes a free ice skating rink.

It’s so forward inspiring It’s been used in numerous movies, including this Star Trek Next Gen episode (which I totally remember seeing and being amused seeing it being represented as this futuristic building):

One of my professors in university (the wonderful and irreplaceable Don Westwood) worked on the project when he was just starting out in his architecture career.  He showed the drawings on the screen, including his initials, which he then pretended to be embarrassed at doing.  He worked on details for the scalloped concrete panels along the back half:


I’m loving the new green roof/public gardens on the plinth, gotta check these out next time I visit during the summer:

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square by Viljo Revell

Philosophy Tuesday

When we see someone (including ourselves!) exhibiting hypocrisy, especially that of the jaw-dropping kind, it’s not uncommon to wonder, “Wow.  How can they shift and switch their values and beliefs so drastically?”

But here’s the thing:  they didn’t, and they aren’t.  The truth of it is that they never held that value or belief in the first place.

No matter how much or loudly they professed, no matter how dramatically they thumped on it, no matter how righteous they were about it, no matter how insulted and disgusted they acted, it was all just theatre.  It was all an act, using their words and indignations as weapons all uttered in bad faith as a cover up to their real intent.

There’s an ‘in order to’ happening here, something behind the supposed value or belief that is the actual driving force.  A different value or belief, one that is usually non-virtuous in nature and that does not lead towards possibilities of a just, equitable, and loving world.  Instead it is a value or belief or ‘truth’ that is mired in identity, biases, and in rigidly narrow views about the world and those within it.

And often they themselves may not even be fully aware of it.  Cognitive dissonance, the fact we are rational vs rationalizing creatures, the whole nature of hidden biases (that’s why they’re called hidden, after all), all of these can be in play to keep it obfuscated from everyone involved.*

Of course, some are fully aware of it and just don’t care.  They willingly bear false witness to further their aims, trying to hoodwink everyone into missing their actual intent and harm(s).**

Regardless of its exact flavour, rather than get bogged down in engaging with their current value/belief of convenience we can instead step back and look at what their actions are accomplishing, and through that see what’s really going on.  We can discover what is the actual guiding force.

And then we can engage directly with that.

 

* Which is why it would be so refreshing if they were at least aware and honest about it, especially when it’s trying to justify really shitty behaviour.

** And it might be a combo of being partially aware and partially not – rationalizing it so supremely well for themselves that they feel it right even if they don’t fully realize or fully own what’s actually driving it.  Especially if this clashes with one of their morals that they also wield as a cudgel elsewhere!  Again, it’d be preferable for the pretense to drop and just say what’s actually there and actually going on.

Architecture Monday

There’s this local office building that’s been catching my eye as I’ve driven by it both while it was under construction and now that it is complete.  Finally stopped to take a walk around it!

At its heart it kinda follows the glass box typology, but in so many ways it is very far away from ever just being a box.  For one, it’s not just a box – a good half of it skews diagonally like a parallelogram.  For two, it is split in two – with each half getting a slightly different expression (while still using a similar language of black glass and steel with the addition of integrated sunshade blades) and the area where they meet being sculpturally demarked.  For three, it’s not just a mirrored surface of undifferentiated glass, with the steel frame being nicely detailed and sculpturally handled, using double mullions, different mullion depths, and those aforementioned sun shades to give it nice articulation, playing with composition enhanced by differing shadowlines.  (Similar in the way that the detailing of Mies van der Rohe’s TD or Seagram buildings make them lauded while other generic glass towers can easily be eyesores.)

All that is what caught my eye during the construction phases.  But what really catches the eye now is that remarkable glass artwork that sits prominently on its prow.  Abstract in its leafiness and rendered vibrant due to the black background, it really works well, avoiding feeling like a billboard or just some giant image slapped wantonly onto the building.  (Amusingly it is very much held onto the building like something resembling the support structure for a billboard!)  It’s a bit of art that manages well to feel like it’s a part of the building.

Architecture lives in our communities, and we live in it.  This isn’t what we might term a “major” or “glamourous” project, but it’s an err to think good design should only live there.  Good architecture is welcome everywhere and makes our built environment worth living in.  Good stuff.

223 North Mathilda Avenue by, unfortunately, designers unknown.  (I tried to find them but haven’t yet – I’ll keep looking!)

Gaming Thursday

Just received a game I Kickstarted!  Nunami, by Inuit game designer Thomassie Mangiok:

Looks lovely, a game where the intent is towards balance and harmony of the land and people.  I am also super excited that it comes with trilingual instructions.  I can’t read Inuktitut, but I love that they’re there!

Can’t wait to play, though, of course, given what’s going on right now… it’ll be a while before I can get together with someone to play.  Alas!  Until then I will dig into the rules and admire the lovely box (and maybe try playing against myself).