Sunday, September 19, 2010

Summertime and the livin’ is easy… or not!

There have been a number of meetings this summer (I could count… but the number easily surpasses 50) to prepare for the upcoming school year. There have been the expected Student Council meetings, the subcommittees and the like. Then there are the Student Survey Taskforce (and subcommittees) meetings, the NAAB Visit preparations, and the preparations for orientation and convocation. Oh yes, then there were the AIAS meetings, the CSIs and CSI meetings, and the one ASID meeting I was able to attend. More than once this Summer, I have wondered if I was in the right place at the right time.

All that being said, I am very excited about the progress made in these meetings and looking forward to an exciting new year at NewSchool of Architecture + Design. The Summer Break was not really long enough for me to get all the things done that I had planned. And yet, it was long enough that I am, now, looking forward to going back to school.

I already tried to get books for my classes, piling about $250.00 worth on the counter at KB books near City College. Unfortunately, they were not prepared to sell them to me with their typical guarantee that you can return them up to the Drop-Add date. While I don’t anticipate that I am going to change my schedule, I am certain that there will be changes made that will affect some scheduling this year. Could it be mine that gets changed? Perhaps. So their return policy offer was thirty days OR until Drop-Add, which-ever comes first. I was more than thirty days ahead… So I guess I will buy from Amazon, for less, with a guarantee of return-ability.

Other signs that I am ready for school to start: I have already checked out a space in the studio that was used for fourth-year cohort last year. It is noisy; being un-air-conditioned and adjacent to the Trolley tracks. And the light is abundant, though glarey. There is only one orientation of the desks that will allow the use of a computer without direct glare on the screen. And the studio spaces that hold two desks were originally designed for one student; a typical working arrangement for an architectural workplace. Now the growth of NewSchool means that two students will be working in a space originally intended for one. I rearranged the furniture in one of the spaces and discovered that the glare on the screen was reduced, and the space for seating was increased. Leave it to the interior designer to figure out the furniture arrangement.

There will be approximately 100 additional students on the NewSchool campus this coming year, and space will be tight. The school has made arrangements for an additional studio space about three blocks away from the current complex of buildings. This means planning for additional time between classes, and probably some schedule snafus on the first few days of classes. And the new studios are air-conditioned! And quiet. I am hoping…

There will be a lot of change in this coming year. The new Dean, Chris Genik, will start with the new school year. While I have great respect for the current Dean, Gil Cooke, I am looking forward to the infusion of a complementary energy into NewSchool. Other changes: the Student Council, of which I am President, will be incorporating representatives from all the degree programs (NewSchool is adding a Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management and a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture to the existing array of programs). CSI-s, the student chapter of CSI San Diego, will be developing new programs to integrate the student community into the professional world, and NSAD AIAS will be developing new leadership programs, competitions, and community service projects as well.

I have begun to investigate the climate for one of my pet projects. I would like to see NewSchool create a BIM project in conjunction with students at other colleges and universities with complementary programs in the building, design and construction industry. This will hopefully be developed to include structural and mechanical data from engineering students, interior design data from student interior design program participants, and construction data from construction management program students; perhaps utilizing existing project data from a sponsor organization. Learning which software is available at which schools will be an important first step. And creating interest in this practical exercise will be important.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

If God is in the details….

One of the best things about Summer Vacation is being able to travel a bit to see some sites and sights. I had the opportunity to see two iconic temples of Modernism this summer, while on a trip to the Midwest. I visited Renzo Piano’s addition to the Art Institute of Chicago, dubbed the Modern Wing, and Mies van der Rohe’s Edith Farnsworth house in Plano, IL. Both of these projects are chock-full with unique and interesting details. As temples of Modernism, they are dramatically different in their scale and affect. And as architectural masterworks, they score quite differently.

While most visitors to the Modern Wing are inside, looking at the art and design represented within some of the daylight-rich galleries, I found myself on the outside. I was fascinated by the uniquely designed parts (probably thousands of them) of the building. There were purpose-built, and very elegant, polished stainless steel struts and anchors holding the huge variety of fins and louvers, portico covers and screens. I saw fascinating glazing frame details holding translucent and opaque panels; some only partially framed. There were capitals and plinth details holding the sharpened pencil-thin columns creating the rhythm of a classical order; indeed a temple arcade without decoration. There were frameworks and facades suspended on top of facades creating the second skin required to moderate the brutal Chicago weather; and to hold their own against the fabled Chicago winds.

We are taught in architectural theory classes and in history classes that architectural distinction lives in the details of a design. I look forward to an opportunity to express this in design studio where there appears to be less emphasis on detailing. I do believe this is a critical flaw in the NAAB curriculum standards followed rigorously at NewSchool of Architecture + Design. For in the real world, it is the detailing that consumes the lion’s share of the architectural design effort. It is also the place, typically in the construction documents phase, wherein lies the profit in architecture.

Learning to “design” a building, let alone an icon, is a multi-faceted problem. What will it look like? How will it stand? How does it relate to its site and surroundings? What are the materials? Further, figuring out how to lay out a building is the key to its function. Still, detailing the same building is the key to its ability to shed water, withstand wind, remain structurally stable, hold in heated or cooled air, enable seismic loads to be dissipated without significant damage, maintain occupant comfort, to utilize abundant day-lighting, natural convection driven ventilation, and to minimize the use of scarce and dear resources (among myriad other details).

At the Farnsworth house, I enjoyed seeing, in-person, an iconic mid-century house with a challenged and checkered past. While undisputedly THE residential icon of European Modernism (even with its location in Plano, IL, firmly ensconced in the heartland of the United States of America) this property exemplifies all of the pluses and minuses of architectural Modernism. Perhaps even more deeply flawed than the houses designed by Mies van der Rohe’s contemporary, Frank Lloyd Wright (known for their leaks, creaks and other challenges), this house didn’t really work for the owner. It is as if, in spite of its stated purpose, occasional use, and riverfront floodplain location, an iconic temple was designed and built to demonstrate a Modernist ideal; and the client be damned.

Still, despite the above assessment, the Edith Farnsworth house is a masterful collection of details; however ineffective they may be at keeping out the floods, keeping the interiors comfortable, and providing the respite requested by the owner. There are beautiful details in the structural steel work, including a punch-welded frame, with welds ground smooth, and painted white so as to make the juncture nearly invisible. The modular grid is evident in the lines of the travertine flooring which travel from inside to outdoor terraces. The specified polished plate glass is evident only because a single replacement panel is of the less-costly float glass used today. The perfect, mirror-like reflections of the polished glass panels are clearly discernable next to the distorted and rippled reflections seen in the float glass. The masterful and clever invention of the furniture-like “cabin-ette” for bathing and cooking, set squarely upon the temple-like floor, is visually stunning.

While these details are masterfully drawn (some documents are available at the site) and executed, they are in one sense flawed by their inability to meet the requirements of this site, the initial owner’s brief, and the admittedly brutal environment. Mies, an apparent advocate of style-less design, was inexplicably locked in a style paradigm that worked better in several other contexts; notably the Lakeshore Drive multi-family complex completed at about the same time, and the prosaic architecture school building at Illinois Institute of Technology. In the ensuing years, we have learned more about thermal comfort analysis with notions of internally-loaded and externally-loaded buildings. Perhaps the relatively diminutive scale of the house inverted the notion of the thermal loading as compared with the other, much larger, and more thermally massive structures.

While I love the ideal of the house as a “temple of Modernism,” the unfortunate reality demonstrates the error of ocular centrism in Modernist design. Far too many times, the sculptural ideal has been utilized to justify the shape, the location, the execution of a design that is inadequately reasoned, and in-elegantly justified, however masterfully executed and detailed. One need only review the recent starchitecure of Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Thom Maine’s Morphosis, and numerous others to find buildings (while detailed to the nth degree) that are inappropriate contextual partners, unfortunate expenditures of rare and precious materials, and leaky substitutes for shelter. But I digress…

So, if God is in the details, Renzo Piano is today flying much closer to God than was Mies at the time of the Farnsworth house. Time, only, will tell how the Modern Wing maintains its rank among its peers. Somewhat a temple in its design and layout, the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago clearly has a place in the iconography where it stands, in my opinion, head and shoulders above its peers in the recent spate of museum architecture.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


While not yet "official" (in that I have not received the letter), I am clear that my academic performance this quarter has placed me on the Dean's list at NewSchool of Architecture & Design again. I have been wondering if that designation is worth anything any more. And the fact that I have made that list three times in an academic year now places me on the "President's List." Other than the ability to place a "cum laude" (or better?) on the resume when looking for a job, I wonder if it matters to anyone? In fact, I really wonder if it even matters to the people who will review that resume (????).

I have decided that it matters to me; in a way that may be different from what one might assume. I decided when returning to school to study architecture that it was not the quality of the faculty, nor the reputation of the institution, nor the challenge of the various parts of the curriculum that I would encounter that would be my gauge of success. In fact it was to be something completely internal. For I wanted to satisfy my longstanding hunger for knowledge about the whys and wherefores of design. Learning these things was more important to me than the accolades, the grades, the embarrassments of experimentation which I would encounter.

I have long ago decided that I needed to study architecture for myself. In fact, who in their right mind would actually pursue a career in architecture? We are the lowest paid among the professions, and carry high liability insurance costs for large dollar value projects with possible defaults and risks yet unknown. And the grueling educational requirements and three years of internship requirements are not all that dissimilar to our "professional peers" (the M.D. and the J.D.). Still we are compensated at about half the rate of these other professions. Why bother?

Well, it is quite something to actually see a project come out of the ground and know that it is your handiwork; this I know. Then there is the simple joy of figuring out the solution and solving the architectonic dilemma for the particular project. And there is some benefit in leaving a legacy that is greater than yourself; I suppose. It is another thing entirely to realise that you have made a significant contribution to the well-being of mankind (or some small unit of mankind). I suppose these items in some way compensate for the challenges architects face in the arena of compensation and value for work exchanged. But I digress....

The acknowledgement I was considering when I titled this post was the acknowledgement of my superiors at school; acknowledging the work I have accomplished. One way in which that acknowledgement matters is in the scholarship arena (and I refer here to the funds for education, rather than the abstract notion of study). I am grateful to have received acknowledgement of my academic progress in the form of scholarship funds. Now in addition to paying for school, I have to figure out how to pay taxes on the scholarship income!!! It strikes me as a pitiful situation when scholarship funds are taxed as income (income I never actually see, nor can touch in any other circumstance).

Though I must admit; this is another situation where I hear the words of my mother who said: "you needn't feel sorry for people who complain about paying taxes." So I will take the acknowledgement and appreciate it for what it is worth (significantly reduced though it may be due to the taxes required). Can anybody do something about this? But again, I digress...

The subject of this blog post, titled "Acknowledgement," is really the realization I had, early in my first quarter, that one makes one's own education. I am learning what is required to get an A in course requirements because I am working to master the overall material at hand. I suppose it is the combination of a longstanding desire, and knowing where it is that I am going. I am not subject to the distractions of youth; distractions I know very well (as they kept me from my stated goal some thirty-five years ago). Regardless of the instructor's skill, the subjective nature of the review, or the complexity of the subject, I have a burning desire to know the information and understand its application. And this is really the reason I am acknowledged in this setting.

Thirty years ago, I was naive and thought that the acknowledgement was all there was. And I pursued the acknowledgement to the detriment of learning. I would ace a test and then immediately forget the material only to realize some years later that my high-school and early college education resided solely in short-term memory. It was of little use beyond garnering that acknowledgement. Today, I am learning how to apply the information and place it, hopefully, in much higher regard... and hopefully in long-term memory. And this I am doing because I want to learn; more than merely excel.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

Well, my friends, the Spring Quarter of 2010 school year has come and gone. The grueling "third year" of architecture school is over. It is amazing how time flies! It seems just a short time ago I was contemplating returning to school to get my Bachelor of Architecture Degree. Now I am within two years of that commitment (though realistically, I started working on it 35 years ago).

The quarter ended very well which is a blessing considering the challenges faced last quarter. I received a grade "A" for my studio work this time around. In fact, the instructor kept all of the work that I and my team partner produced including five concept models, the large massing / site model, a mid-scale structural section model, and a "data scape" model as well as our presentation boards. No need to worry about what to do with the models, so painstakingly built, after the quarter ended. The presentation is being retained for the NAAB gallery (National Architecture Accreditation Board) and will be utilized to show a comprehensive project completed by a NewSchool student group!

I also volunteered to help, and attend, graduation this year as a couple of friends were graduating. This was also about keeping my eye on the goal. Graduation takes place in the very beautiful courtyard of the Salk Institute in La Jolla. This is one of two structures in all of San Diego county that someone from afar might come to visit. It is, of course, named for Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the vaccine for Polio; among other things. As an architecture student, it is famous for being the architectural work of Louis Kahn. The Salk Institute building can be seen in the documentary film "My Architect."

Having sought this goal (B. Arch Degree) for some time, I was aware of the potential for emotional response to the graduation ceremony. I wanted to try to reduce the emotional load a bit by previewing the circumstances. I will probably want to help with graduation again next year; for the same reason. As it was, I teared up a number of times thinking about how my parents might have considered the experience. The families gathering to cheer on their loved ones as their name was called was quite heart warming.

The next couple of months will be a much needed break for this student. I have plans to do nothing this week; a long awaited nothing. I spent the last few weeks of the quarter burning the candle at both ends, and in the middle. Today's nap was well deserved, I might add.

And, there is the list of things that didn't get done while I was spending all my time studying and or nose buried in my laptop in either AutoCad, or Sketchup, or VRay; among other software. Oh, and then there is the extra ten pounds I am carrying as a result of sitting with my nose in my laptop. Architecture school really is bad for your health!

So a long, brisk walk and / or a roller-blading excursion each day, some (not much, mind you) healthy food, and some rest and relaxation will be the antidote to Architecture School for now. Then I can start all over again next fall.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Habits of Being

I was thinking this morning about habits of being. These are the little habits we inherit from our loved ones; waking up to a cup of coffee every morning, or listening to classical piano music to fall asleep at night... Whatever the habits, they inform who we are being. More importantly, to this author, they reflect directly on our interactions with others on a daily basis.

If we are in the habit of waking cheerfully, with energy and enthusiasm for a new day, our habit of being will impact the others around us on a daily basis. If, on the other hand we are in the habit of waking up grumpy and insolent, then our being will have another effect on those around us. Not being a parent, I can only surmise that the habits of being reflected for ones children influence the habits of being those children acquire.

The above thoughts on habits of being became obvious to me this morning when my nephew woke up, the first morning as a guest in our house for the summer, and I saw in his morning reaction a glimpse of his father, and a glimpse of my father (his paternal grandfather) as well. There was some slight evidence of habits of being that, perhaps, got passed on from grandfather to father to son. Curiously, my nephew snapped out of the habit when he began to interact with me.

I was reminded of a conversation overheard at school yesterday where a student previously unknown to me approached my professor to request a grade review. While this process is not unheard of (architecture school is notoriously subjective when it comes to grading), it was intriguing to me. The student essentially wanted a revision of all his previous quarter's grades. Admittedly, I know nothing about this student's circumstance or talent or ability. So for me to opine without expertise is bad form. Suffice to say that the habit of being represented in this encounter was intriguing to me.

I thought about approaching an instructor for a grade review once. I had misunderstood an assignment; though it was fairly clearly spelled out in the course syllabus. I had relied upon my understanding of the assignment without reading the detail in the syllabus. As a result I didn't properly complete the requirements. And further, as a result, I didn't get the grade I thought I deserved. So for a moment, I considered asking for a review.

It was then I realized that the grade I got actually accurately represented the effort I made. It was my first quarter back at school after some 30 years. I was confused, I didn't make a special effort to understand, and I was graded accordingly. So I learned to make an extra effort to ensure that I read, and re-read the course syllabus each and every time; and whenever an assignment is provided. In this way, I have learned a great deal more, and pushed my self to be on top of the many requirements. I guess one could say it has become a habit now.

Habits of being have great impact on the interactions we have with others. And this is true whether one is interacting with loved ones, family members, or someone driving next to you on the notoriously impersonal Southern California freeway system. The curious thing about habits of being is that we acquire them so unknowingly. And we exhibit them, for the most part, without knowing they are there. Only when one is in the position to freely examine their habits can change occur. Occasionally, we get a glimpse that changes everything.

Habits spread like a virus. One day, the word "cool" as an expression of completeness, or of praise for circumstance, crept into my awareness. Now I realize I use it as if I was born in Southern California (which as a Midwesterner, growing up, seemed to be the epitome of "cool"). Still, it feels odd to know that I am a fifty-something professional interior designer and using the word "cool" in this way now seems a little funny to me. As habits go, it may not be the worst thing.

Ultimately, the real question is this: Do the habits of being we exhibit serve to improve our circumstance? ...or to degrade our circumstance?

Saturday, April 24, 2010


It is not without thought that I undertake to write. My mind has been churning since my last post. The mash-up of the carts (as in the last post) has continued producing some new awareness and insight. While my "being" has been deeply affected by my process in the last quarter, I think I have resolved a great conflict in my mind between the last post and this one. And hopefully, who I am being, from this point forward, is all the wiser for the experience.

I'll never be twenty-something again. While I have, seemingly all my life, said I would go to architecture school some day, I realize that the day may have come and passed when it would have been easiest / best to accomplish this task. My expectations of life are different now than when I made this goal proclamation at twenty-five, thirty-five and forty-five. This is not to say that I have changed my mind about the immediate goal at hand; for, in fact, my resolve is even stronger. Still I am now aware that I cannot relive my past.

I may have wanted to have the archetypal collegiate experience; to pick up where I left off, some thirty years ago. I suppose I wanted, all those years, to regain an experience I lost, misplaced, or one that was disrupted by my circumstances. As it turns out, I am having a different experience than the one I thought I wanted, during all those years. And the lesson, in that awareness is this: The meaning behind the phrase "you can't go home again" is that every experience one has had changed the way you were.

The way I address a situation today is so completely different than the way I might have addressed that same situation at twenty-something. This applies to school work, and the collegiate experience, professional work, and social settings. It applies when I speak to a colleague from school about a project on which we are working. It applies when I speak to a professor about their work, their life-long interests, and their aspirations. I cannot not bring this experience to bear as it has shaped me, changed my expectations, and made me who I am. I must bring this experience to every situation as I cannot un-live my life.

And this is an existential difference between me and my "peers" at school. Unique in its international connections, the school has a very diverse population. To generalize the experiences of the many students does not serve well each individual situation. Yet, while I don't disregard their unique experiences, it is clear that our paths have been different, if only for the amount of time I have wandered along my path. My exposure to the world has not been virtual. My experience in the design field has been first-hand (with so many lessons learned that are not taught in school). My travels and travails have been formative and substantive in ways that are simply not possible at age twenty-something. Or even at age thirty-something and forty-something;

An example of the differences in life experience became obvious during my last quarter. Having worked on two 400 unit multi-family housing projects in developments in Cairo, ARE , and a third multi-housing project of 375 units on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, near El Alamein, I have some first-hand knowledge of how a building like this gets put together in reality. I can't unlearn what I know of design and construction in the real world; just as I must bring my life's experience to bear in every circumstance in which I live.

My studio project last quarter was a multi-unit housing project. When I shared with my group my experience as demonstrated in my portfolio, they were motivated to share their portfolio of school design projects (never built, never tested by MEP engineers for compatibility with A/C ducting, plumbing, and electrical codes, never evaluated for structural engineering, with design theories never tested by professional peers in other related fields...) I was absolutely stunned by the arrogance and ignorance I represented in feebly trying to demonstrate my experience and qualifications, and that which I received in return. What I learned is that a twenty-something with virtual world experience has a blinding grasp of enthusiasm and energy; no matter the experience.

This lesson was reinforced in the development of the NewSchool Haiti Project . In my proposal (see 9 February 2010 posting) I outlined some approaches to the problem of dealing with the apparent lack of understanding about earthquake resistant construction in Haiti . In my proposal I suggest creating a graphic communication response teaching suitable building techniques.

The twenty-something response to my proposal was so enthusiastic. I was amazed at the burst of energy which was showered upon the project. As a fifty-something, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for doing something physical. In the end, the project went two directions at once; developing a physical prototype and purpose-built solution to housing crises on one hand, while continuing to educate ourselves about the focus of aid in response to disaster on the other. In the end, the group decided, based upon the participation of an individual providing medical care on the ground in Haiti, that our best approach was to abandon the physical response (as other groups could do this far more efficiently and cost effectively). We decided to do this in favor of an educational emphasis including graphic communication of information about suitable means of building to resist earthquake.

A corollary lesson for me here was learning that I had great instinctual response when considering the project proposal and suggested approach. What I didn’t have was the ability to communicate my vision at the start in a way that marked a clear course. And, I had the overwhelming energy and enthusiasm of the twenty-something response to the situation. This blind ambition overpowered my sensible approach only to come back, at conclusion, to the place where I proposed we start. This is not to say that our efforts were for naught. For in the process, the group has learned and is changed by that learning. And we now are clearly aware of our next step.

Today the NewSchool Haiti Project is not new. Haiti is less and less in the news. The urgent issues that seemed to drive the participation of the twenty-something students are not so urgent any more. And the problem of a cultural lack of understanding of suitable building techniques still remains. It will be interesting to see what this new quarter brings in the way of progress toward this goal. And the interesting thing, for me, will be learning leadership.

To a certain extent, I have been able to have some of the collegiate experience I was seeking at NewSchool. My work on the Haiti Project has developed some new friendships that I will carry with me throughout my life. Still, I am aware that one has totally different priorities at age fifty-something then when age twenty-something; or even thirty-something. And that, my friends, is the real difference in my experience.

W. Edward Demming is reported to have said: “Change is not necessary. Survival is not mandatory.” And yet, to live is to experience change, even as we resist it through our attachment to ideas, ideals, hopes and dreams. Experience is change. To deny it is counter to the life force and process. And this process goes on, ad-infinitum, as long as we live. As the saying goes, "you get old, or you get dead; there are only two options." Hopefully, we also become wise as we get old.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In the Crucible; no not that one....

I lit a candle tonight to celebrate the fact that I am in the crucible of learning. It is the middle of the night, Thursday AM in fact, and I am struggling with sleep. This is how I know I am in the crucible: I am struggling to sleep on Thursday after getting up Tuesday AM and running some errands, going to school in the morning, working on my studio project for 25 hours straight through, going home for a bath and a 20 minute nap, and going back to school 1-1/2 hours later for another 6 hours; then coming home to drop on the bed in a deep sleep. For 5 hours, I slept; blissfully stationary.

And then it hit me. My mind started racing with thoughts, and thoughts, and thoughts. It amazes me with all the thoughts that race through the human mind, that we have any time to actually speak (supposedly disrupting the racing of thought going on behind the scenes; though in most instances the synapses continue their inevitable processes (see the paragraph below on inspiration)). In my unstudied opinion, what changes when we speak, is this: the incessant drone of thoughts is, by contrast, lulled into a quiet hush by the greater noise of creating vocal tone. It is unfortunate when the only reason some speak is to attempt to hush the inevitable processing of thoughts going on in the background..., and that speaking loses quality due to its quantity and its unfortunate purpose. Talk for talk's sake.

So, gentle reader, what is it that distiguishes talk for talk's sake (the gibberish of the insane, or the quiet pleadings of the marginalized homeless, for example) from blog for blog's sake? I sometimes wonder what distiguishes the midnight blogging of one individual (starved for sleep, if not words) from the midnight talking of someone who talks in their sleep. ...Or further, from the talk of politicians motivated by drowning their sorry racing thoughts into speaking in endless mobius strips of rhetorical filibuster. Is it possible that this "national gridlock" and dearth of ideas of substance is nothing more than the filibustering techniques of political players dominating our conscience while droning on and on; in hopes that we will give in to their thoughts on the matter at hand? ...which, by the way, is what?

For my mind, and specifically my waking thoughts this night, I envision a sort of automated robotic warehouse of various things stored on rolling carts. These carts form a series of walls of information including experiences of the day, visions remembered, ideas considered, and so on. Everything in lifes experience has a place there. It is all in there somewhere; catalogued and ordered by the mind in some such way(s) that mankind has not, as of yet uncovered. (Great mystery, that!) The carts operate with seeming autonomy; rolling in and out of their storage spots in a sort of rythmic dance. Each cart of memories has a spin around the floor in the warehouse, looking for dance partners with which to mix.

Inspiration Strikes
And suddenly with great fanfare and a truly quiet hush of all the other musings, two carts of experience and ideas merge into a unique cart, as if by accident. The robotic ways of the rythmic dance have created an idea (that otherwise comes from nothing). The symbiotic merger of two carts into one creates a taller cart with a mix of seemingly random and unrelated items; reshelved and resorted by the experience of the mash-up. And a new synthesis is formed... a new idea... an awakening... or an inspiration.

And so the process goes, and goes. Altogether too slowly for some, it is for the most part, too quick to notice for many, and sadly too quiet to be heard above the din of talk; the purpose of much of which is to simply mask the seeming chaos of the warehouse of the human mind.

So in the middle of the night, in the middle of my sleepless week, having gone to bed well aware of the notion of being in the crucible of learning, I awaken to the crash of carts of information in my mind. My increasing frustration with the unreality of school projects forces me to think in terms of finding the purpose for each learning endeavor I undertake these days. I have struggled a bit this quarter with the notion of being uniquely able to solve design problems in an effective and measurably better way.

The arbitrary and subjective, almost capricious, way in which architectural design is taught leaves me wondering about my ability. It is not a question of my ability to design that I ask now. It is rather, a question of my ability to endure the arbitary, subjective, and capricious process of learning.

For in the end, there may be no right answer except that which is deemed right, and justified, and subjectively sold to the jury of the moment. And great architecture today seems to be subject to the random mash-up of carts of information. Or is it?

To Be Continued.