Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sketchbook/Notebook Presentation

Next week I'll give a little talk and presentation on my sketchbooks at the local school of architecture. I've been doing this for over 35 years and they have served me well in terms of professional and personal development. Many of the ideas presented in this blog were born in my notebooks.

Take pictures, draw, write, take notes on what you're learning and doing. Be mindful, practice careful observation, go for depth and the heights and not just breadth. Celebrate and commiserate, read between the lines and investigate. In a couple of years, see the transformation.

I make no claims about myself, one way or another - but I would not like to guess how far from my present locus I would be without them.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hyde Park in Architect Magazine!

1415 Mallinckrodt - opens in Venice, Italy Monday! Here is a preview from Architecture Magazine:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Check out the Encyclopedia of Life

Monday, August 13, 2012

Practically Green

Practically Green is a website that offers a great, practical, introductory path to sustainability, health, comfort and energy efficiency. I joined up and took the survey and found some engaging ideas and challenges that I will consider adapting in the near future. Check it out and see if it might work for you. The following is from their 'about' page:
In 2006, our founder Susan embarked on a major healthy green lifestyle makeover, inspired by her young son’s food and environmental allergies. During the process, she actively sought out useful online tools where she could discover new actions to take as well as learn about their impact, track her progress, and even compare and share the experience with friends. While she found no such site, she did find LEED®, a system that evaluates and recognizes designers and developers for incorporating green features into buildings.

Susan began to wonder why there wasn't a LEED® for people. The vision for Practically Green was born.
We are redefining the way people go about their daily lives.
Sustainable living seems like a simple concept, but there's a reason why Practically Green has become the leading program for greening people. Going green isn’t just about using less energy, producing less waste, and reducing exposure to harmful substances (though we're not complaining when that happens!); it's also about clarifying what’s confusing, offering motivation, and helping people embrace and even share their new way of life. We make healthy green living simple, personal and relevant, trackable, and shareable. We also make it fun!

Practically Green is now backed by a team of people who know that sustainability can be tricky. To make it easier, we’ve taken the best tools we know—interactive technology, game mechanics, and social media—and applied them to the challenges of sustainability. It helps. The proof? We now have tens of thousands of people from hundreds of countries using Practically Green. We work with amazing companies to power their own, customized sustainability engagement programs for their employees, members and customers. As we go, we’re constantly tweaking our products and programs to make them both effective and loved, then scaling them as broadly as possible.

Practically Green is not only a useful and efficient digital tool, it's also a community of people who make it a reality: A talented, multitasking team; members who share their actions and opinions, making the journey easier for others; and organizations that know sustainability is the key to the future. We're focused on regular people—young and old, business as well as family types. Our goal is to give people what they need for each sustainable step, each sustainable choice, and each sustainable change. Our dreams are big, but we're not stopping until healthy green living is the conventional way of life.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

PSC explores discounted utility rates for low-income customers : Stltoday

PSC explores discounted utility rates for low-income customers : Stltoday

This is an interesting development, almost as interesting as the vitriol published in the comments section.

To the discussion I would like to add/ask the PSC to consider adjusting rates of Ameren users based on the Energy Efficiency (EE) of their buildings and equipment. The worse the EE of the building, the higher the rate.

This would encourage homeowners and business owners to focus on saving money and reducing green house gases all at once. It would provide plenty of green jobs, provide a baseline for the EE of our whole building stock and help conserve resources. There would be many issues to work through - such as rental property - but I think it worth the effort.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Intro Follow Up/Architecture Today

As it turns out, this is the 3rd part of 3 of some posts about mindfulness and intention in architecture.

From Chipperfield's intro:

Our contemporary, ambiguous public realm of consumption, travel and leisure, is shaped by criteria that tend to contradict the impossible but irresistible idea of a formally expressed, meaningful societal order.

Now to deconstruct this sentence in the context of 'architecture as gift.' 

The places we shop, vacation and relax in, Chipperfield seems to be getting at, have fallen into/become a gray area. What are they? How are they created? Why are they created the way they are? What is the 'criteria' in play? 

They ambiguity seems to me to be the the lack of true focus on the end user of these places because the criteria applied is: Will it make money? The work serves a value neutral purpose: making money.  But I don't really think 'ambiguity' is the right word here; it seems to be used as a soft way to describe the difficulty of serving 2 masters.

There is nothing wrong with making money, most of us go about it it everyday. It is done most effectively in the service of community needs and aspirations (see comments further down on Hester's book). In the realm of architecture, which has worked so hard to elevate itself to the level of a 'profession,' I would argue that there is something of an implied commitment to serving the end user of the projects (public projects, whether privately owned or not) they help create. This concept is what provides the contradiction overtly stated in Chipperfield's piece.

The 'impossible but irresistible' of the statement is, in some sense, the essence of the human condition. Architects want to design it, builders want to construct it, people want to live in it. It is what makes concepts like 'a process of continual improvement' necessary and valid. Our condition and environment is dynamic and in need of constant re-evaluation. A 'formally expressed, meaningful societal order' will not be created, even for a moment, when the bottom line and not even a 'triple bottom line' is leading the way.

Hester's book, which I'm just getting into, illustrates some of the issues raised above. Much research and many personal experiences document the positive qualities of community and shared experience that can be added to mundane activities like heading to the grocery store or bank. Per Hester, "To maximize enabling benefits, the environment must be designed to accommodate...[social interaction during routine, mundane activities]. Unfortunately, many ritual places do not. Most grocery supermarkets have narrow aisles and standardized high shelf heights that preclude stopping to chat in or across aisles. In contract farmer's markets with wide walkways and niches adjacent to the the main circulation paths encourages socializing." P37

The farmer's market serves the community in more than one way - it is a Third Space - place where people can congregate and share info while accomplishing routine errands.

The grocery store is about maximizing profit in the minimal amount of space with displays intended to entice purchasing. The design of this is not a gift, it is not done with the intention of serving those who will shop in it.

These are not easy questions or problems to solve with lasting answers. It is constant challenge. My aim is to keep us mindful of the inherent conflicts and contradictions in contemporary American architectural practice and to encourage a better balance of priorities.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Intro to the Venice Bienalle

The following is from:

This ties in to my previous post on 'architecture as gift.' I'll write another post this weekend to tie it together. I highlighted some sections I found of particular interest.

Common Ground

by David Chipperfield

The emphasis of the 2012 Biennale is on what we have in common. Above all, the ambition of Common Ground is to reassert the existence of an architectural culture, made up not just of singular talents but a rich continuity of diverse ideas united in a common history, common ambitions, common predicaments and ideals.
In architecture everything begins with the ground. It is our physical datum, where we make the first mark, digging the foundations that will support our shelter. On the ground we draw the line that defines the boundary of what is enclosed and what is common. Today our relationship to the ground is no longer so direct, but it remains critical to our understanding of our place and where we stand.
The physical process of enclosure not only protects but also defines inside from outside, private from public, the individual from the community. As the world seems to increasingly indulge the aspirations of the individual, we seem to find the idea of community, the civic, the public, the common, more difficult to define.
We still long for the things in a city that suggest collective identity: great institutions, a downtown, piazzas and places of public theatre. Our cities can be interpreted as the physical form of a dynamic struggle between the individual and the collective. The radical visions proposed and realised by the modern movement never replaced the conventional images we use to represent our idea of public and private: the street, the square, the arcade, the boulevard.
Our contemporary, ambiguous public realm of consumption, travel and leisure, is shaped by criteria that tend to contradict the impossible but irresistible idea of a formally expressed, meaningful societal order.
The territory of architecture has been reduced in many cases to conforming to regulations, maximising size and density on a given site, and achieving some vague sense of compatibility with the context.
Against this background we try to maintain ideas about the public realm, but they manifest themselves most frequently in choreographed retail opportunities for office workers or leisure shoppers. In this inevitable and never ending struggle to give identity to spaces that conform to ever more subtle shades of grey between private and public, the tools and words we use can seem crude and ungainly.
Common ground (as opposed to public space) infers a territory that is shared within a context of difference. The theme identifies the search for the shared within the apparently diverse, and helps us to imagine strategies to deal with our common predicament and our strangely persistent need to feel part of a world bigger than the one required for our individual comfort.
Common Ground of course also refers to the ideas that we share about architecture, within and beyond our own professional boundaries. The title invites us to consider how these shared perceptions, concerns and expectations may be better directed.
Architecture requires collaboration. It is difficult to think of a peaceful activity that draws upon so many diverse contributions and expectations. It involves commercial forces and social vision, and it must deal with the wishes of institutions and corporations and the needs and desires of individuals. Whether we articulate it or not, every major construction is an amazing testament to man’s ability to join forces and make something on behalf of others. The fact that this effort is so often regarded as negative rather than amazing is a communication failure on our part.
The role of the architect is at best one of critical compliance. Architects can only operate through the mechanisms that commission them and which regulate their efforts. Our ideas are dependent on and validated by the reaction of society. This relationship is not only practical but concerns the very meaning of our work. In the increasingly complex confrontation between the commercial motivations of development and our persistent desire for a humane environment there seems to be little dialogue. If architecture is to be more than the privileged, exceptional moments of our built world, we must find a more engaged collaboration of talents and resources.
Good architecture gives examples and inspires us. It doesn't happen naturally: it requires a conspiracy of circumstances and participants. While architects can provide ideas, the relevance and importance of these ideas depends on an engagement with society. The tendency to define the role of the architect as either an antagonist or a service provider only reinforces the problem and sabotages the potential of architecture itself.
Architecture has always been an act of resistance, resistance to the elements and the forces of chaos. Architecture offers refuge and can create a world within a world, giving order and meaning through the significance of its efforts. Surely it is the commonality of these efforts that rewards us all?
Within the context of the Architecture Biennale, ‘Common Ground’ evokes the image not only of shared space and shared ideas but of a rich ground of history, experience, image and language. Layers of explicit and subliminal material form our memories and shape our judgements. While we struggle to orient ourselves in a continuously changing world, what we are familiar with is an inevitable part of our ability to understand our place. It is critical that our expectations and our history don’t become a justification for sentimentality or resistance to progress. We must therefore articulate better our evaluations and prejudices if we are not to regard what has come before as something to escape and if we are to give value to a cumulative and evolving architectural culture rather than a random flow of meaningless images and forms.
The theme of ‘Common Ground’ allows us to engage with these themes, provoking us to think about the physical expression of our collective aspirations and ideas of society. It reminds us of our shared history and encourages us to think about the collaborative nature of architecture and the extraordinary potential of its collective process.
I am grateful to the participants who have so eagerly engaged in this demonstration of the shared, the common and taken time to engage in dialogue and present their ideas.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Residential Energy Base Load

How much of your utility bill dollars go to heating & cooling? Here's an easy way to figure it out.

Residential Base Load Calculation

To figure out your base load, you’ll need your electric and/or gas bills (if your home uses gas). Several years’ worth of bills is best, but if you only have one year you can still figure it out. For each year, take the lowest three bills you have, add them together, and divide by three. This is your base load energy cost.
To calculate how much you’re spending on heating and cooling, simply multiply your base energy consumption times 12, then subtract that total amount from your total energy bills. The remainder is the amount you spend to heat and cool your home.

Graph from :


Click on the images to enlarge.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Get Green! Event on August 20, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sprawl in Slow Motion/St. Louis

Provided by: these maps show the expansion of developed land in our region along with the considerably smaller population  growth.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Walk in the Neighborhood

I fired up 'map my ride' and took a short walk through my neighborhood - Tower Grove South - the other day. I also checked out amenities on from my house. Here are the maps and a few pix of some of my favorite things.

We now have South Grand squared away with widened sidewalks with pervious paving and lanes for cyclists. There are great restaurants with outdoor seating, cafes, shops and more.

I live between Morganford & Grand and the resurrection of Morganford in the last 10 years has been a major plus. Local Harvest Grocers and Cafe and other businesses and restaurants make it a nice destination.

And then through the park.