Today is the first day of spring break and I am leaving town in a few hours to go to the Dominican Republic!! For the next week there won't be any new posts (no guaranteed internet access), but you will see tons and tons of pictures and videos from our trip. Have a good spring break everyone!
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
By Kristopher Teubel
Cities can afford individuals and households alike the economic opportunities that the increasingly globalized world is coming to expect. This has lead increasing numbers of people to move to urban areas. This can lead to squalid living conditions for many people if city management systems and personnel aren't prepared.
The functionality of a city is closely tied to its transportation characteristics. Decentralizing the different zones of a city can reduce the distance citizens need to travel while added transportation infrastructure can reduce the time taken to cross that distance. Either tactic has its inherent positive and negative characteristics. The following synopsis, based on Jeff Speck's Walkable City, addresses the different tools used to make any given urban environment more walkable.
Speck warns designers to, “...put vehicles in their place”. Many American cities put vehicles at the forefront of circulation design. This serves its due purpose but also seems to have outgrown its ideal place in cities. Streets are rarely ever considered social spaces, as they used to be, but mere conveyance for vehicles. Citizens living off of a highly trafficked road in America would not consider it the social space that those in Toledo, Spain may.
Urban designers and planners are called to mix the uses of city zones. A mixing of building purposes, as may be seen in many live/work communities, generally reduces distances between residences and their necessities. This greatly facilitates a walkable environment.
Various cities throughout the United States, including Washington D.C., are reducing the amount of parking within their limits. This trend has risen on the premise that the abundance of cheap parking promotes driving that would not otherwise occur. With the auto-centric design of American cities, this approach could be expected to cause issues more immediately that other options.
Speck also mentions the importance of non-automobile transit. The implementation of mix-use zoning near stations, proper station siting, and general respect for the transit system itself can turn around the usability of local transit systems. Darrin Nordhal, a prominent transportation planner, said that public transit is a “mobile form of public space” and should be treated as such.
On roads with vehicular traffic, on-street parking can be advantageous as it serves as a barrier between vehicular traffic and foot traffic. This can lead to a safer commute for walkers. Also, on-street parking can serve to reduce overall parking while bringing the parking locations closer to destinations.
These arguments are instrumental in the creation of walkable communities. The five items listed here are only half of the full ten that Speck outlines in his book. I would urge any interested reader to research walkable cities more. Most specifically, Walkable City, includes much more information on popular methods to reduce vehicular traffic in cities.
Benfield, K. (2012, Decmeber 3). 10 techniques for making cities more walkable. Retrieved from http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2012/12/10-techniques-making-cities-more- walkable/4047/
Joshua Fowler here,
The following except is my initial introduction of research into the research paper I will be writing on Potala Palace for ARC 532 class:
There has been, recently, much mysticism and inquisitiveness about the large structure which towers over the city of Lhasa located in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China. This structure known as Potala Palace stands as a powerful symbol of Tibet. Potala Palace also stands as a reminder of the enduring history that revolves around this magnificent structure, serving as a home, a shrine, a fortress, a pilgrimage destination, a political symbol, a museum, and so much more. This aims is to answer the questions of how the history, culture, place, and architecture of Potala Palace all relate and influence one another in order to create a greater understanding of the architecture and how it came to be, and is now.
The history and culture of this palace has shaped this structure just as much as the design, materials, and workers who constructed it. In order to truly understand the influences and considerations taken into account during the design and construction of the palace, one should look at the economic, cultural, and social history and their effects upon the design. Consideration should also be taken on the reactions of the general populace, both local and global, as well as any kind of political, philosophical, and religious statements the building was attempting to make. These considerations have changed through history and it is important to note how and why the changes have influenced the identity of Potala Palace today. Additionally, the identity of the palace also stems from the physical form and grandeur of the building. Exploration into the construction methods, building materials, structural symbols, hermeneutic-phenomenological taxonomy, programming, and various other architectural influences all aid in better understanding the architecture and how it came to be amidst its religious and social-political context.
This structure has fascinated me ever since I have seen a picture of it years ago in the beginning of my architectural endeavors. What initially intrigued me about this building was the sheer size and the notion that it was built seeming on the side of a mountain. It is, however, sitting on what could be better termed as a large hill in the middle of the Himalayan mountain range. In the brief initial research, I have found the significance this building has played in the religious and social-political history of the region which will be further explored with great interest.
By Isaac Grayson
I have been working on my resume lately. I feel like have a very strange work history, but the skills I was able to learn I believe have helped during my school and will continue to direct me during my career.
After my first year of college I was looking for an escape from the long studio nights and hours of huddling over a drafting board and operating a computer. I have always longed for outdoor experiences and as such I looked for a job that would get me outside. I happened upon the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps program out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Here I really got to experience being part of a team as we worked as a trail crew traveling through Colorado doing various jobs for different Forest Service Districts.
The first day I had showed up late because of flight scheduling difficulties and just walked up to the first group I saw and they told me I was in their group. So without question I put my bag on the trailer got in the van and we were off. That was the start of a great summer where I lived out of a tent in in constant contact with these eight people. I learned a lot about group dynamics and team operations this first summer. It is a very different experience to not only work with these people but to wake up and have breakfast with them, commute to the work site together and then return to camp to create dinner and participate in group discussions or educational programs.
Very quickly you develop and intimate trust and family level of friendship with these people. But there are always issues to work through. The summer always starts really well everyone is nice and does a good job of keeping their civilized face on so as not to offend anyone. But after a couple of week’s people tend to get real and misery really brings out peoples true character. Most often our misery came in the form of rain and lightning. I have spent several hours squatting under a short tree or out in the open when I lighting storm rolls up on us.
It may sound strange to squat during a storm but the reason ultimately comes down to safety. We work in very remote areas, hours away from medical care, utilizing metal tools to carve the earth into an appropriate path. When out in the open we are a lightning magnet. So we throw our tool far away and either squat into lighting position or hid under an average sized tree and wait the storm out. Inevitably this lightning storm is followed by rain, then a sharp drop in temperature and something’s graupel.
Cold, wet, and tired will make people real very quickly. When this happens you really learn to deal with people at their worst. This requires extensive communication on varying levels. No matter how much communication occurs there will always be conflict. This experience was really beneficial because when conflict occurred I had to be dealt with. Living in this intimate setting conflict must be addressed at some point or else the whole group dynamics will unravel.
I believe these skills have been useful in navigating studio culture. We may not live in confines as intimate as I did out in Colorado but there are times when studio feels very small. This is especially true when a conflict is occurring. But having the maturity and responsibility to deal with it proves beneficial to everyone and can really create a beautiful place to work and live.
More on lighting position see below: http://www.nols.edu/nolspro/pdf/OutdoorLightningRiskManagement-Gookin.pdf
Saturday, March 1, 2014
By Sufiyanu Momoh
The great mosque of Kairouan is located in Kairouan; the Islamic capital of Tunisia founded by the Arabs around the year 670. The city Kairouan is a UNESCO world heritage site meaning it has some type of special culture or physical significance, the great mosque of Kairouan being one of them. The great mosque was built at the founding of the city by the Arabs as Kairouan became a major Islamic center after Mecca and Medina.
It is also known as the mosque of Uqba, named after the Arab general Uqba Ibn Nafi, who built the mosque at the founding of the city. The mosque covers a surface area of 9000 square meters. It is the largest mosque in north Africa with a perimeter of about 405 meters. It consists of a large prayer hall covered with a roof supported by well-decorated columns, a large courtyard paved with marbles and a huge square minaret. The building has an irregular quadrilateral shape, longer on the east side than on the south side. It has a tall detailed minaret at the middle of the north side. The building is made with thick walls and large powerful buttresses to hold the walls. It is simply a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.
In 670 when the foundation of the mosque started, general Uqba choose the location of the mosque at the center of the city. In 690 the mosque was destroyed by the Berbers while they occupied Kairouan. The mosque was later rebuilt in 703. Around the 720's as the population of Kairouan increase, the government at that time decided to carry out a development work of the city and a renovation of the mosque. During this renovation was when the construction of the minaret started. About four more renovations were made between 770 and 870. In the 1900's the most recent significant renovations were made by the National Institute of Archaeology and Art.
The building covers a total surface area of 9,000 square meters and has an exterior wall with nine gates, six openings into the courtyard, two openings on the prayer hall and the last one leading into a maqsurah; an enclosure designed to shield the lead worshiper from assassins. According to Arab photographers and researchers, the buttresses on the exterior enclosure were more recent changes made to ensure stability in the exterior wall. The building has two domes on the roof above the payer hall. one above the mihrab and the other above the southern portico.
The great mosque of Uqba being a place for both prayers and Islamic teaching made it one of the greatest center for Islamic civilization. In addition to the religious studies that go on in the mosque, the mosque host all other courses in secular subjects. The mosque aided in the development of the city as its presence brought a large population of people to the city. Being the head quarter of other good universities the mosque is regarded as one of the most intellectual and cultural area in north Africa. .
By Lani Walker
In my Sustainable Landscape Practice class, we are learning about Permeable Pavers. This project I decided to review was the use of Permeable Pavers at a commercial store, Diamond Vogel Paints in Duluth, Minnesota. Permeable Paving is a sustainable technique of paving with a base and sub-base that allow the filtering of storm water through the surface, which reduces surface runoff. This paving technique effectively traps and suspends solids while filtering pollutants from the water. While Permeable Pavers can be used in many applications, this commercial store used Permeable Pavers for their parking lot.
In this example, the pavers at Diamond Vogel Paints were installed in 2003 and are still in use today. The motivation for this project came from local regulations. This parking lot has an Impervious Surface Limit due to its location within the Lake Superior Costal Zone. The current manager of Diamond Vogel Paints, Paul Reinier, says that the Permeable Pavers cost about three times as much as a regular parking lot, however the environmental benefits are much greater than that of a regular parking lot. Reinier also says that the pavers have held up well and proved to be a successful technique for dealing with storm water runoff. These Permeable Pavers filter the water, collect it in an underdrain, and lead the water to a grassy area before entering the storm sewer. Due to the paver’s success and durability, this business could be an example for other local businesses who are contemplating installing permeable pavers.
ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS of Permeable Pavers:
- Permeable Pavers reduces runoff because they allow the movement of storm water through the surface.
- Permeable Pavers effectively traps suspended solids and filters pollutants from the water.
- Permeable pavements may give urban trees the rooting space they need to grow to a full and healthy size because a ‘structural-soil’ pavement base can be used. The ‘structural soil’ combines structural aggregate with soil; a porous surface that allows air and water to the rooting zone. However, in this example, there are no trees in the parking lot, but that option would have been available.
- Permeable Pavers can be indistinguishable from regular pavers; however, they can be very attractive and make a regular parking lot more visually appealing.
- Aside of the environmental purposes, these permeable pavers serve as a commercial parking lot. The pavers function differently than regular paving by filtering and moving storm water out of the parking lot.
- This parking lot does not contribute to the flooding which might occur in the coastal area because the pavers redirect water to the storm sewer.
- Using the Permeable Pavers allows this parking lot to fall beneath its Impervious Surface Limit for the coastal area.
- This example could improve the social atmosphere of the parking lot because it is a better place park now that water does not fill up in the parking lot, resulting in happier customers/employees who would have to walk through the parking lot.
- The manager said that installing the permeable pavers system cost about 3x what a regular parking lot would. So, this system might or might not have been the best economic decision.
- However, having a parking lot which is free of water would result in happier customers. This improvement in social conditions of the parking lot could boost business sales.
- Regular paved parking lots generally are uncomfortable places to be because they attract heat in the summer and become icy in the wintertime. These pavers could improve the psychological well-being of the managers, employees, and customers because the parking lot is a more enjoyable place to be that is also environmentally conscious.
IMAGE: Section through Permeable Pavers by Author.
Project Information: ‘Pervious Pavement at Diamond Vogel Paints’
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
By Brittany Ricker
The values and ethics of different cultures have always caught my attention when studying architecture. An assignment was given in our history class to study a non-western building, place, or structure. Sherpa architecture, religion, and basically just having interest in the indigenous culture and traditions were something worth studying and learning more about. Knowing that the Himalayan heights, also known as death zones, are stressful and difficult environments as is, but understanding how people go on with their daily lives and live in these certain areas shocks me. Not only do they live at forbidding altitudes, they have managed to make the areas relatively safe and enjoyable place to live. It must be their deeply embedded ethics and strong sense of environmental responsibility that has drove the Sherpa people to flourish the area they have been living on for many years.
Sherpa, a Tibetan word translating into “eastern people” coming from shar “east” and pa “people”, are an ethnic group in the Himalayas in Nepal. The Sherpa people first settled in the Solukhumbu District, Nepal. They gradually moved westward along salt trade routes and according to Sherpa oral history, four groups migrated out of Solukhumbu giving rise to the four main Sherpa groups (Kerry, 1998). Sherpa’s would move from place to place in the Himalayan region as Alpine pastoralists and traders since ancient times, like some other indigenous Kirat Nepalese tribes. During the nineteenth century, Sherpa people maintained independence within Nepali state, which was newly formed (Steven, 1996). For many years Nepal was prohibited by visitors except for a select few wanting to climb the mountains or scientists carrying on research. In the 1950s this shutdown was lifted with the restoration of the monarchy to power. Tension grew between China in the 1960s lending the Nepali government to have influence on the Sherpa people and it continued to grow (Somigli, 1978). In 1976, Khumbu, Nepal became a national park which attracted tourists from all over causing a major economic move.
These major events have shaped the way Sherpa’s live today and make a living but overall their cultural, religious beliefs and typical building layouts have not altered much. Khumbu, Nepal offers unique geography, old river terraces, former lake beds or mountain slopes, which ultimately determines the style of the house (Norbu, 2008). The building materials have altered slightly, but overall the characteristics and style of a typical Sherpa home remain the same. Despite some difficulties the Sherpa have faced over the years, the Sherpa’s have managed to build a strong reputation as reliable, honest and loyal workers.
Throughout the semester I will be researching the Sherpa culture, architecture, and religion and gain even more cultural appreciation for these indigenous cultures. There might be differences in the way these people live their day to day lives, but I am curious to see if they really see it as a hardship like we think of it as. I do not believe they do but that is my own personal opinion. It’s a different way of living that most are not accustomed with and many automatically assume they struggle but from the research I have come across so far, that doesn’t appear to be the case.