Posts Tagged ‘community’

h1

Architecture Monday

April 9, 2018

I first saw the Strawberry Vale school while I was in university, and I fell in love with it immediately.  There’s a lot of great stuff going on here, an inventive take on the idea of an elementary school that creates an amazing array of spaces that I certainly would have enjoyed the heck out of during my primary school days.  A playground of geometry that, if it seems like it erupted from the ground, it is because, in a way, it did; situated near a rock outcropping, the school follows the forms and contours to organize itself in a nifty way.

The key to the whole composition is in that winding hallway (although it almost feels pejorative to call such a big feature a mere hallway) off which classrooms, libraries, gyms, and more jut out into the landscape.  Full of level changes as it follows the land outside, it’s a visual treat and a logical way to organize a school.

The images speak well for themselves.  Ramps, stairs, corners, and more make for niches and protected alcoves that can be taken over by teachers and classrooms, while at the same time encompassing larger and enclosed spaces for many of the school’s shared functions.

The creative geometry of that central spine also allows for an abundance of light to enter every room, often in multiple ways and from multiple directions.  This is a dynamic building, with all the angles and jungle-gym like structure and the changing light throughout the day.  In addition, there’s a focus towards the woodlands that surround the school, tying nature back into the learning experience.

This is one cool and exciting school.  I don’t doubt the kids here gain a whole lot from the building and their environment as from the teachers themselves, there’s enough here to keep the mind engaged and amused.  Really great stuff.

Strawberry Vale Elementary School by Patkau Architects

h1

Philosophy Tuesday

March 27, 2018

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”

–Fred (aka Mr) Rogers

 

(I love this quote, for it reminds that everyone has as rich an internal life and story and dialogue as I do.  It reminds that despite all rationalities, sometimes we pilfer in actions and things that are weird or rash or poor.  It reminds that there are foibles, and then there is authenticity.  It reminds that even when face to face with someone of seemingly intractable unworkability, or unproductiveness, or even where there’s just plain disagreement, that there is a core to speak to.  It reminds vilification isn’t necessary.  It reminds that communication is massive.  It reminds that we can say I love to you – not the actions, whether “good” or “bad”, but to you.)

(And it reminds that Mr Rogers was a remarkable human being who saw deep into the heart of possibility.)

h1

Philosophy Tuesday

March 6, 2018

In the realm of contribution, there is no such thing as a greater, or lesser, contribution.  Contribution isn’t about size, or magnitude.  It is about, and there is only, contribution.  Or not.

It’s worth recognizing this.  Because it can be all too easy to slip into the world of judgment and get hung up on assessing and rating our contribution(s).  It can be easy to see the action that makes the big difference and see things begin to shift and think “Well darn… they did that thing there and now things are altering;  I guess I wasn’t the one.”

Except that you are… you are the one of the many.  Without your contribution, that “final” tipping point that is so visible and seems so momentous may never have happened.  Every bit is a contribution, and every bit makes the next contribution possible, and every bit cements the previous contribution.  Every brick helps build the building.  Your contribution was integral to the big shift starting.

When we keep our gaze only on the capstone, when we limit our view only to that final moment, we lose sight of our power.  Why bother!?  it seems like.  My actions clearly don’t matter.  Things are intractable.  I tried but… it didn’t make a difference.  I knew it!  Might as well move on to other things and cross my fingers.

Which is, of course, the most surefire to ensure that indeed we’ll have no impact.   We will definitively not be a contribution.*

When we focus on contribution as contribution, free from magnitude, we likewise gain freedom to participate and contribute everywhere in our lives.  Opportunities open up.

And we get to aim ourselves.  There is contribution and not contribution.  Aimlessly, without care or reflection, we may be missing out on contribution, or contributing towards a direction we don’t want it to be.  It’s no contribution.  Mindfulness is still vital.

Moments of contribution are a gift.  To contribute is to get the joy and fulfillment of building something. To be contributed to is to receive love and worthiness.  And contribution can be everywhere.  Every moment, every interaction, every choice, can be a contribution.

It’s a big responsibility.  But we’re big people.  Let’s play.

 

* And it’s worth remembering that not taking action is still taking an action that still produces a result – a result that likely will be supporting the opposite of the contribution we would want to make…

h1

Architecture Monday

November 20, 2017

I’ve recently returned from a vacation to Japan that was very heavily aimed towards architectural visiting.  And indeed, I saw some absolutely incredible architecture, including some that expanded my understanding of what space can be and how it can feel.  Spaces that (actually) literally stopped me in my tracks and had me go “whaawwwaaahhaoaaa, what’s going on here?”  Good stuff, for sure, and I’ll share much of it in the weeks ahead!

Tonight I want to start with something a little more on the sedate end, but nonetheless is still delicious examples of finely crafted experiences:  a pair of buildings that form a community centre at the heart of the town of Honmura.

The larger building is the one that first catches your eye, with its tall and sensuous weathered cypress roof.  The building is also nestled within moss-covered earth berms, and right away you notice that the rise and angle of these colourful berms smoothly merges into that of the building’s roof.  The roof itself sports a prow that juts out on two sides and forming a hollow that extends right through, creating a passage that allows light and air to flow into the giant hall that’s within.

The centre was closed when I wandered by, so I could only peak inside.  Yet, that little peak was enough to see how the white underside of the roof allows the light from the prow and the light from the windows along the base of the roof (at the end of the berms) to blend and suffuse the space in an even glow of daylight.

Through the magic of internet photos, it’s also nifty to see that what looked like a simple stage from my vantage point is actually beefier and forms a divider of sorts, creating a tatami-filled back area of the hall that overlooks the lovely garden I saw being tended.

I’m really taken by the second building though, because while at first glance it seems to be a simple building with a very tall roof, it’s actually an assemblage of buildings, each with their own roofs underneath this larger, common, roof.

This is quickly revealed as you walk under the canopy and look up to see the oculus hovering above.  There’s this nice multi-layered effect going on here.  Along the perimeter, the thin and richly coloured support for the canopy stands with regularity before the much lighter coloured and faces of the individual buildings within, which are irregularly arranged along the edge and punctuated by the walkways that travel under the canopy.  Inside, each building’s roof is played off the canopy, with vertically oriented weathered grey smooth and tightly placed boards contrasting  with the horizontally oriented slats of the fresh cut canopy above.

The sub-buildings all feature sliding glass screen walls, allowing the entire area to open and become one, even while each finely crafted unit remains separate in their framing.  Even in the wet and cooler months, this little covered village can remain cozy and open for visitors to meander about within.

Stupendously done, on both counts.  And a joy that, while they may share the idea of a prominent roof, they’re both executed quite differently to allow them to fulfill their aims in the most expressive manner.  A bit of inventiveness that really comes together in clean and precise lines, making them a joy to be in.  Nice work

Naoshima Community Centre by Hiroshi Sambuichi

h1

Philosophy Tuesday

October 17, 2017

So there’s this funny* tendency we have, as humans and that is the tendency for one disparaged group to disparage another.  For a group, or individual, under duress to all to readily and quickly turn around and perpetrate the same onto another group.

On the one hand, this doesn’t seem to make any sense… surely this group, or individual, knows what it feels like to be disparaged, denigrated, diminished, disowned, and discriminated against, right?  The hurt that accompanies it, the feelings of frustration, the harshness it is to exist under… why would they then do likewise to another?

But, on the other hand, it also makes perfect sense – in the same context.  This is the world they (we) live in, this is the world that has been modeled, this is the world that has been taught, a world where if you are to have power and agency, you gain it, at least in part, via the act of disparagement.  It is what the “powerful” and “well to do” and “respected” and “right” and “normal” people and groups do.  They disparage.   It is a hierarchical system, a caste.  And so, to be, and to demonstrate you are, in “power”, you disparage.  It is the path forward, the path to confidence, security, and self-determination.

Except, of course, that it doesn’t really work.  Nor is it authentic.  And in the end, if we’re honest, doesn’t leave anyone on any side feeling great.  It only perpetrates the precarious anxious knife-edge feeling of precariousness, balancing on that “knowledge” that, at any moment, something may happen that will drive us out of favour and perpetrate our rush to the bottom of that ladder.

No matter where on the chain we (currently) sit, there’s no authentic self-confidence there, no peace of mind, and no self-actualization.   And , above all, no freedom or self-expression.

There isn’t much more to say other than the invitation play the game of being mindful and present, and be aware of what the actual impetus is when jumping on the disparagement train.

There are plenty of other trains that lead to far more exciting and heartening places.  Let’s travel on those.

 

* Funny in the cosmic sense, though it is also, at the same time, not so funny at all and cosmically unfortunate.

** Years ago I played in my first LARP (Live Action Role-Playing Game).  When I got there, a bunch of the regulars were talking, and were fully embroiled in disparaging this other, particular, fandom.  “Yeah, those losers are almost at the bottom of the geek hierarchy chart…” one person proudly said.  Putting aside the vapidity of such a chart, the illuminating thing was that LARP players are also right near the bottom of that same chart.  This person was using a chart that disparages them to disparage someone else… trapped in the downward spiral in hopes of somehow regaining pride and agency.   (It didn’t/doesn’t work)

h1

Architecture Monday

October 16, 2017

I just got back from the Monterrey Design Conference this past weekend, filled with lectures that not only wowed architecturally or artistically, but also got me examining things and thinking in new ways, which is always very cool.  There are a number of projects to share, but tonight I’ll start with this one, because while I may think there are some design aspects that are not quite fully resolved, I really like how it takes the necessities and plays with them hard, springboarding from the constraints to create a multiple series of wins.

The brief for the project by the city was a for a gymnasium, with a community centre.  There were requirements for the size and height of the gym, and a max height for the property.  The retail/supermarket on the first floor may have been part of the brief (I can’t remember), but other than that, the developers were allowed to add in whatever they chose.  Now, for a gym, you need some deep trusses to support the roof (as having columns in the middle of your playing surface is just a drag for everyone).  And so the first of the various nifty bits in this project came in coming up with the idea to use the height of those deep trusses and nestle some residential apartments in between them.    The space between the trusses would otherwise have been “wasted” – now instead you’ve got 12 new housing units for the city.

The units themselves are quite nicely done, with a courtyard in the middle, a tall living area, and a small loft that opens onto a deck.  I especially like how the countertop becomes the landing for the staircase, and even more so how the huge windows at the end of each unit is angled to provide a vista down the street, rather than looking straight into the building across the way.

This sawtooth edge also is used to good effect in the gym, providing indirect natural light in a way that prevents glare and also protects the windows from errant sports balls.  The community room nicely sets out from the building slightly as a glass box, and is attached to the gym via a grand staircase & bleachers, letting it be both separate and part of the gym as needed.

Overall the whole design does a lot of its work vertically, nestling and stacking its functions in and around themselves and the structure until everyone wins:  a grocery store, a community space and gym, and apartments with plenty of light, interest, and a view onto the world.  Good stuff.

Sundbyoster Hall II by Dorte Mandrup Artkitekter

h1

Philosophy Tuesday

October 3, 2017

the definition of being empowered

and in action

is not that we have THE say in how something goes

but rather

that we have A say in how it goes

for there are no guarantees

as much as we’d like there to be

that what we do 1:1 will always produce our desired outcome

instantly

flawlessly

with glorious music

and recognition of what a great person we are

no

that is more likely in fantasy land

and yet

there remains quite the difference

between being attached to being THE ONE

or instead embodying THE ZERO

the game to play is not to be the golden saviour

the game to play is in the world of contribution

working like a bricklayer

adding to the body of work

sometimes we may make the foundation upon which something will spring forth

though we will never see it

sometimes we will work on the blank facade at the back of the building

that is still, nonetheless, vital to its completion

and sometimes we may be lucky enough to put the final, crowning brick

that shifts things immensely

we can never know if our actions will be the tipping point

or if it will be a step towards such

in the end, it doesn’t matter

because in the world of contribution, there is no bigger, or smaller

it’s all contribution

when we let go of our ego of absolute control

and true our actions to our authentic selves

and seek out opportunities to make a difference

we (re)gain our voice

we have our say in how things will go

things shift

worlds are created

and we go to bed fulfilled