Architecture Monday

I live in a house that is sometimes known, fully tongue-in-cheek and delighted for the pun, as a “Likeler.”  That is, “like an Eichler.”  Eichler homes essentially defined the ‘California Modern’ house type of post-and-beam style construction, open floorplans, and access to light.

However, spend anytime in an actual Eichler house and the difference between them and my own is readily apparent.  The better design of an Eichler home is completely palpable.  The quality of the spaces and the connections between them, the connection between indoors and out, the play of light, all of those are often downright exquisite.

That includes one of the more common Eichler features, that of the private courtyard.  Sometimes bordering the front of the house, sometimes ensconced in the middle, this little garden could be seen and accessed from numerous places within the home.

These images are some mighty fine examples of the type.  They don’t really need much more description; their awesomeness speaks for themselves.  These are homes designed and built nearly 60 years ago, and their design still shines as an example… and, hopefully, as a reminder and lesson that great design is for everyone and ought to be afforded to everyone.

Courtyards of Eichler Homes, some designed by Robert Anshen as well as Claude Oakland & Associates.  Of note, Eichler also had an inviting and inclusive intent beyond the walls of the house – it’s pretty cool, read a bit more about their history here or here.

Philosophy Tuesday

“Everything I had thought was wrong.

Everything I had expected to see was wrong.

I had thought that going into space would be the ultimate catharsis of that connection I had been looking for between all living things—that being up there would be the next beautiful step to understanding the harmony of the universe. In the film “Contact,” when Jodie Foster’s character goes to space and looks out into the heavens, she lets out an astonished whisper, “They should’ve sent a poet.” I had a different experience, because I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.

It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna . . . things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind. It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral…

[Seeing our precious earth from space] can change the way we look at the planet but also other things like countries, ethnicities, religions; it can prompt an instant reevaluation of our shared harmony and a shift in focus to all the wonderful things we have in common instead of what makes us different. It reinforced tenfold my own view on the power of our beautiful, mysterious collective human entanglement, and eventually, it returned a feeling of hope to my heart.

In this insignificance we share, we have one gift that other species perhaps do not: we are aware—not only of our insignificance, but the grandeur around us that makes us insignificant. That allows us perhaps a chance to rededicate ourselves to our planet, to each other, to life and love all around us.

If we seize that chance.”

William Shatner

 

Philosophy Tuesday

There is great beauty in the simple* act of bearing witness.  To just be, and be there, for another in what they are going through in that moment.  Not to fix.  Not to provide advice.  Not to agree.  Not to negate.  Not to do something.  But to just be and acknowledge and honour the emotions and feelings and thoughts and to honour each other in our shared humanity.

In that there is also a great power in the simple act of bearing witness.  To allow what is there to pass, to open, to become a clearing, to allow love and beauty and empathy and verve and whole heartedness to arise once more.

It is a beautiful moment of generosity, of empathy, of connectedness, and of who we all are together.

(I was fortunate to be able to provide this once, to a lone person crying within a large crowd.  A few of us were drawn to them, crouching down and reaching out with a single hand, wordlessly lending our presence and our attention.  Bearing witness to and honouring their anguish, and in so doing honouring that for what or whom they were anguishing for.  As their storm subsided we began to leave, one by one, still silent, leaving with them as they returned to the present, serene and smiling.)

 

* Simple in that it consists only of being present and attentive and for the other.  Not-so-simple if we are not used to being present, or not facile with being vulnerable, or become distracted by our inner chatter or judgement or make it about ourselves or anything of that sort.  But when we practice mindfulness and work to transform and self-cultivate and remove our own baggage and barriers we are not only more available for ourselves but for others as well.

Architecture Monday

Alright, after our look at the exterior it’s time to head inside!

What’s immediately cool is that the inside speaks the same language as the outside, both in brick and in the sculptural concrete, with the addition of wood, and all embellished with the restrained but lovely arts & crafts-like detailing.

Plus some art on the windows…

…and this very cool light fixture that’s fully incorporated into the equally nice ceiling.

While basement multifaith chapel was redone more recently, its intimate wood vaults continue the tradition.  Check out the ribs as well as the base of the vaults, with sculptural layers, joints, and more to subtly ornament the structure and the space.  Plus the integrated light fixtures along the base that allow the vaults to glow and separate themselves from the walls all around.

Though now used less often for this purpose, this thesis defense room might be a bit intimidating… fortunately that glowing inverted dome of spiral pattern goodness might provide some levity.

The pièce de resistance is the dining hall.  Even coming up the stairs you know something cool is happening.  The space expands dramatically above you with the hall awaiting through a sculptural portal.

Once inside you’re treated to all its expansive and illuminated glory where all we’ve seen so far comes together in brick, concrete, and wood all within a multitude of sculptural forms and carved detailing.  Inspiring enough that it was featured in Star Trek: Discovery season 4 episode 4!

Such a gem of a building.  Engaging and welcoming, warmly crafted and articulated, and has a great spatial sense throughout.  A definite boon for those in residence… I know I would’ve loved living there while I was in university.  Great stuff!

Massey College by Ronald Thom

Architecture Monday

When I visited home a few months ago, I had the fortune of being able to tour Massey College, a graduate residence at the University of Toronto.  Though built in 1962 I embarrassingly only learned about it a few years ago and had been wanting to visit ever since.

Right away you can see what captured my interest – it’s a lovely modern interpretation of an arts and crafts expression that also has a touch of Wright in it.

This all starts with the highly articulated brick walls, shaped into strong geometric forms that are further punctuated by openings or careful detailing, such as the copper caps or window sills, or even more intricate details such as the amazing metal work at the corners and the entry gate that could double as its own piece of artwork. (The cone does, admittedly, detract a bit…)

Crowning the clean lines of this base is the concrete and glass latticework that features sculptural flourishes and flair.  (These give me vibes of the kind of sculptural work Wright did at the Hollyhock house.)

The whole thing is built to enclose a large central courtyard punctuated by a clocktower that reaches its sculptural fingers to the sky.

The whole affair has a great rhythm, with mass and bold slabs that never feel over scaled that all play nicely off the intricate and highly carved insets, all with a strong vertical emphasis.  Very sweet piece of work, that only gets better on the inside… I’ll post that part next week!

Massey College by Ronald Thom

(Who, interestingly, also did many of the most famous buildings at Trent University.)

Coaster Wednesday, Addendum

When I went to Great America last Wednesday I already knew about how the owner had sold the land with a leaseback, thus putting a definitive timeline on shutting down the park.

I had thought that was because of a cash crunch or something they needed to fill.  Which would suck, but the market is hot still here and it would bring in a lot of quick cash, so, OK.

But no. It was not done for that.  It was done to pump their bottom line so they can give out stockholder dividends again.  (This isn’t hidden, by the way — they state it straight up in their press release.)

It wasn’t done because they needed the cash to stay solvent.  It doesn’t seem it was done because this park was losing them a tonne of money.  It wasn’t done to improve and elevate the experience for more fun and entertainment, either at this park or others.  It’s major goal is only to give money away, mostly to those who already have lots of money.

By closing a park that has been a fixture of fun for the local area since 1976 and could have continued to bring in revenue for many years to come.  (Not to mention that by selling now they are also depriving themselves of further land appreciation.)

Which truly sucks, and I say is a sucky way to run a company.

Philosophy Tuesday

This seems like a very appropriate time to discuss motivated, a priori, and presumptive reasoning.

Because they are the very antithesis of reasoning.  Rather than start at the wide field to narrow to a conclusion, they instead begin with the desired conclusion or outcome already determined and use the illusion and language of reasoning to justify themselves, irrespective of what the complete picture may actually say.

In a way I’ve touched on this before when I noted that we are rationalizing rather than rational creatures.  Motivated reasoning is this writ large:  we start with our “truth” and then rationalize our conclusion.

But it also engages so many other of our biases and foibles.  MR lets us bring out the big guns, like cherry-picking, confirmation bias, or our ultimate weapon, that of simply being dismissive.  We even get to be creative, by making up whole new goals, tests, causes, doctrines, laws, interpretations, “truths”, and more, whatever’s needed to create a pathway from here to that desired outcome.

(And you better believe that these are independent pathways – a rationale pathway to create one desired outcome can be quickly twisted or discarded when creating a different rational pathway when ensuring another desired outcome.)

In the end, that predetermined conclusion is, well, concluded, all while cloaked behind supposedly coherent and good faith deduction.

This, like all our foibles, is quite a universal ability that comes with being human.  And, again like nearly all of our foibles, we are often not even aware of it.**  That is where the practice of being mindful comes in, to recognize and acknowledge our desires and find the balance so that we include them in our deliberations and thus avoid being hijacked by them.

** On the other hand, some are fully aware of their motivated reasoning 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).

Architecture Monday

Check out this nifty school right next to the California Science Centre.  Adaptive reuse + a new wing by Morphosis.  And as a Morphosis building you know you’re going to get a lot of hyper expressive screens, stairways, and outdoor pavilions, but this comes with a bonus covered courtyard nestled within the historical structure plus green roofs and a berm that embraces the new building.

Next to a science centre, art museum, olympic stadium, and soon to be motion picture museum, plus a DC-8 as an entry piece, and nifty architecture… pretty darn cool.

The Dr. Theodore Alexander Science Center School by Morphosis