Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rebuild Foundation

I added a slide show of images from the past few weeks work in Hyde Park. A small thing or two by me as artist and as a builder and a whole lot of stuff by the students, led by Theaster Gates, and his team of artists and builders.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

more images from Hyde Park

The Rebuild Foundation and students from Washington U. and the neighborhood are getting a lot done.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

playing with history

Monday, July 11, 2011

Population Density and a Shrinking City

I have thought often about population density and the St. Louis area. I have NO expertise regarding these matters but as I think about my work in sustainability and construction the issue comes up, if only tangentially, regarding site selection, amenities and the walkability of a particular place.

I've read that Manhattan residents have very low carbon footprints. This is due to population density - at least in part. High rise apartments, smaller living spaces, fewer cars, highly walkable neighborhoods require less energy to maintain. Per the 2000 census New York City had a density of over 26,000 people/square mile. Manhattan's population per square mile was over 66,000.

There is a Wikipedia Article on Optimum Population. From the article: "The optimum population is the size of a population that is optimal. There are, however, various opinions on what "optimal" means in this usage, resulting in various end-targets for it,[1] but estimations usually take ecological sustainability and carrying capacity more or less into account. Also, optimum population can refer to a specific area, such as a region or country, but can also refer to the entire world or universe."

According to the 2010 census St. Louis has a density of just over 5,000 people per square mile.
Here is a chart of our region:
I have lived in the City of St. Louis for almost 30 years. The shrinking city has meant ample parking in front of my house, most of the stores and neighborhoods I travel to for business and pleasure. Density-wise it is not a stressful place to live. The mortgage is not painful either. We have not experienced much in crime either, though we know some who have not been so lucky. In Tower Grove South, where I live, my particular house rates pretty well on - it is 13 points above average.

Having seen films like The Pruitt-Igoe Myth in which the plight of high density developments in shrinking cities is shown to be problematic I wonder: How do we find an equilibrium? What is our equilibrium? How would a region keep this dynamic thing balanced over the course of time?

More later...

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Rebuild Foundation and Hyde Park is an organization dedicated to Social Economic Environmental Design® - SEED

from their website:

SEED maintains the belief that design can play a vital role in the most critical issues that face communities and individuals, in crisis and in every day challenges. To accomplish this, SEED provides tools—the SEED Network and SEED Certification—that guide design professionals toward community-based engagement with design practice. These tools support a public-interest methodology that is increasingly recognized as an effective way to sustain the health and longevity of a place or a community as it develops over time.

SEED Network
For designers and others looking for resources and a community of practice where like-minded people share an interest in the results of design and care about fundamental ideals of practice.

SEED Certification
For designers, project developers, community leaders and others who desire a common standard to guide, measure, evaluate and certify the social, economic and environmental impact of design projects.

Here is a project of great interest to many in St. Louis interested in combining these elements in a single project:

The Rebuild Foundation is working in St. Louis' Hyde Park neighborhood to establish a community arts center.

Trumpet Builders LLC, where I run operations, is engaged as a carpentry subcontractor on the project as the site is prepared for a group of architecture students to work with Rebuild Foundation founder Theaster Gates on various aspects of the buildings' rehabilitation and conversion into an arts center. Salvaged material will be at the heart of much of the work as plans unfold over the summer.

The building is well over 100 years old and it provides lessons in the adaptability of structure over time in its very bones:

Click on the images to enlarge. Note the areas in the photos above where the original structure was added to; see the old roof line along the masonry and see the gable end studs that have been added to when a full second story was built.

Here is some info from the Rebuild Foundation website:


The Rebuild Foundation is a not-for-profit, creative engine focusing on cultural and economic redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-resourced communities. We currently manage projects in Detroit, Omaha, Saint Louis, and Chicago, each city enlisting a team of artists, architects, developers, educators, and community activists, who work together to integrate the arts and alternative entrepreneurship into a community-driven process of place making and neighborhood transformation.

Founded by Chicago native, artist, and urban planner Theaster Gates, Rebuild engages an artistic practice which uses as its medium the urban fabric of under-resourced districts, bridging the creation of art with renovation and adaptive reuse, recycling of building materials, and community-driven initiatives for neighborhood revitalization.

Rebuild Foundation activates creative community resources to build vibrant neighborhoods. We act as a catalyst in local economies by integrating small business incubation, creative architectural rehabilitation, hands-on education, and artistic intervention.

Here are a few more images of the building:

In the image above carpenters and Rebuild Foundation staff hoist a reclaimed timber in place to serve as a beam in the new, more open, floor plan. The work of my organization consists of structural stabilization and heavier carpentry, including cutting in a new stair from the basement to the second floor.
I am excited to be a part of the project and I look forward to sharing more info as things progress.

a review/feature on this blog

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

small sculptures from back in the day

pipe, glass, newspaper on a table
glass on a table
These pieces are part of  a series of studies in cubism from the late 80s and early 90s. The materials were sourced from construction projects where I worked as a carpenter and the occasional run down an alley. Wood and, occasionally copper were the materials of choice. The older the better, with any patina greatly appreciated. The basis for this work was a study of cubist vocabulary. I wanted to learn and understand the limitations and uses of the material used by Picasso in some of his constructions from 1910 - 1915. I thought, and still think, that the power of cubism is poorly understood and still very relevant and useful.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Collage, Part 1

Here are a few collages I did over the weekend. A collage is a type of construction, an assemblage, more or less 2 dimensional. Most of them come from re-purposed material and can serve as objects of contemplation about the nature of materials and meaning.

Pattern, balance, text, image, the whole, the parts, the happy accidents and serendipities make engagement with collage a mini-adventure. Collage is also a good way to work out design concepts and rhythms - a way to test the waters on a manageable scale. Creating them is an act of meditation, of engagement and focus that, for me anyway, keeps me deeply in the present.

There is lots of collage work in the slide shows posted on this work as well. Each journal is full of them. Also, I recently photographed some old sculpture pieces from back in the day. 3D collage, constructions and so on, which I will sort through and post in a day or so.

Monday, July 4, 2011

it rained in st. louis yesterday

The roof foot print of the main part of our 19th Century, 3 storey home is just over 600sf. We have 4 downspouts on this portion and we just hooked up a 55 gallon rain barrel before the rain fell yesterday. Today it is full. We have lots of storm water issues in this town and it is hard to understand on a personal level but it becomes easier when we have our own ways of measuring the rainfall where we live.

A single rain barrel is not the answer. Maybe thousands of rain barrels are part of an answer, part of an equation that has yet to be solved in our region.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

the great american vacation, part 4 - Logan, Utah

This is Main Street in downtown Logan
A bungalow w/ a yard for the dog

Louis' studio - shared w/ other grad students, etc.
some of what we brought home

Wasatch Range up Logan Canyon

Louis & Herbie coming off the trail

Click on any image to enlarge. Paths and roads - journeys are, almost literally, like funnels, moving from the large to the small. We moved along side rivers on interstate highways to blue highways and small streets and eventually to dirt roads and single track paths. There are the roads less travelled - but travelled they are, and they lead to some great views, some great destinations. The pay-off is the potent reminder of the grandeur and interdependence of man, nature, family and community.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

slowly going green @ home

In the last couple of years the wife and I are slowly getting our 'green' on at home. We started, years ago with a commitment to the city and our existing housing stock in a neighborhood with a short commute/walk for many amenities; we're in Tower Grove South. Getting our kids through school (almost) slowed us down in many ways but we're starting to catch up.

There is no shortage of deciduous trees shading the south face of our home - this helps keep us a wee bit cooler in summer and let's in the sun in the winter. Putting full blinds on the south facing windows has helped with comfort in summer as well.

We started at the top with a white roof and we replaced the wood work with composite/recycled material that will never need painting. We finally got caught up with our tuckpointing as well.

We don't have a whole lot of grass and we're not big waterers anyway, but a newly installed rain barrel should help minimize our use of potable water for this purpose.

As we did bits of work on the interior we replaced plumbing fixtures with low flow toilets, faucets and shower heads.

Finally, we have recently installed a 95% efficient 2 stage HVAC system with a programmable thermostat. (Wish we did this a long time ago)

Next big tasks: window replacement, duct sealing, insulation improvements