Archive for January, 2010

wk4 notes

January 27, 2010

wk4-The Web of Life notes

class notes 1.27.2010

Powers of 10 : Charles and Ray Eames

wk3 assignment

January 26, 2010

Photoessay on “beauty” in east-central Indiana

“crossroads of America junk yard”, south side of Muncie

photo credit: Mike Milosh

wk3 reading response

January 26, 2010

On Beauty and Being Just– Elaine Scarry

What is beauty, and what can it do [for us and for the world]?

Beauty exists in the eyes of the beholder and can be found in objects and people we can relate to.  It simultaneously is very personal and universal.  It is both external/physical and internal/characteristic.  Beauty reflects the composition of our past and present, as well as informs our future.  Our perspective allows beautiful things to momentarily come into and out of focus, obliging us to contemplate, think and discern.  We become proactive in a continual process of education and fair judgment.  “It is not that a poem or a painting or a palm tree or a person is “true”, but rather that it ignites the desire for truth,” [Scarry, p 52].

To be conscious is to be moral.  Beauty requires a constant awareness [perceptual acuity], and search for truth.  “It is as though beautiful things have been placed here and there throughout the world to serve as small wake-up calls to perception, spurring lapsed alertness back to its most acute level,” [Scarry, p 81].  Beauty reinforces, and is reinforced by, our being cognizant, alive and part of this world.  Beauty also carries with it the power to change.  This change happens through what Elaine Scarry refers to as radical decentralizing.  Scarry sums up a lecture given by Iris Murdoch in 1967:

“How we make choices, how we act, is deeply connected to states of consciousness, and so ‘anything which alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness, objectivity and realism is to be connected with virtue… the single best or most ‘obvious thing in our surroundings which is an occasion for unselfing and that is what is popularly called beauty… creating the sense that it is our own adjacency that is pleasure-bearing.  This seems a gift in its own right, and a gift as a prelude to or precondition of enjoying fair relations with others,” [Scarry, p 112-113].

The power of radical decentralizing exists in the alignment of unselfish adjacency and pleasurable experience.  When someone comes across something beautiful, their perspective is changed, if only for a moment, from one that is self-centered to one that is much more appreciative and holistic.  Radical decentralization provides a window for a new way of seeing the world.  A changed state of consciousness might enable our enjoying fair relations with others- equality.

We show acts of selflessness and contribute to the world by taking part in one of two forms of beauty that exists: perpetuating beauty that already exists or originating beauty that does not yet exist.  We consciously replicate beauty [draw, take photographs, explain to others] for the sake of discovery.  Our quest for truth is a journey, in which the Beauty is never afraid to show us our mistakes or the misjudgments we make.

Above all, beauty is our connection to the world.  It is a measure by which we can determine our aliveness.  Vice versa, the aliveness of beauty is determined in part by our commitment to its preservation/renewal.

wk3 notes

January 26, 2010

wk3 Beauty notes

class notes 1.20.2010

wk2 assignment

January 20, 2010

wk2 reading response

January 19, 2010

K Michael Hays, in Points of Influence and Lines of Development, begins to define what Stan Allen meant by “form matters, but more for what it can do that for what it looks like”.  He draws out a very clear argument for how Allen was, from his thesis onward, looking at minimalism in a different light.  He sometimes quotes Allen at length: “I am interested in a minimal language not for its materiality but its immateriality; not in the clarification of form but in its dissolution; not in what is revealed but what is covered up; not in self-sufficiency but in incompleteness”.  He describes for the reader how Allen’s take on minimalism, and its very lack of determinacy produces its own frame, “or better, a field condition”.

I find resonance in this position with my own thesis questions.  It seems most certain that what Hays purports about Allen’s work is that its indeterminate form allows room for active engagement and appropriation of space from the perspective of the urban participant.  This sort of open-ended program is what my thesis is seeking to incorporate.  The question becomes, how can an architecture be generative (an regenerative, if speaking of urban ecology) in a way that allows a simple set of spaces (rules) begin to circumscribe a complex array of programs and activities that may emerge.  This sort of recombinatory urbanism speaks to the complexity of [urban] life.  The architect is not a master planner, and cannot predict and program for every possible activity within a space.  Therefore, he/she must call on creativity and practice to begin to shape the urban environment, incrementally, in a way that lets the ecology of communities emerge.

This sort of appreciative, negotiated stance contrasts the way architecture has been practiced in the past, where spaces, no matter how creative, had clearly defined intentionality.  It seems as though architecture now, without being “soft”, is moving more towards incorporating intentionality insofar as to design spaces for users to make their own in unpredictable ways.  This, for me, is an ecological (or “sustainable”) architecture- an architecture that is inclusive, empowering, holistic, emergent, and engaging.  It simultaneously allows for flexibility in adapting to ever-changing circumstances as well as provides for equality within the power structures that define our society.

Below are several pictures of Stan Allen’s office’s work (  Additionally, there’s a video of what I might consider a unique appropriation of urban space (piano stairs,, albeit not something the architect designed for…

wk2 notes

January 19, 2010

1a- k_michael_hays

1b- stan_allen