02 October 2009
01 October 2009
29 September 2009
on the corner of lee and fulton streets, new apartments have taken over the former industrial sites and, before that single family residences along the street. there is also a sharp contract with the feeling of wafco mills complex, which seems more a part of the fabric of the neighborhood.
lee street feels very different than the neighborhood proper. along this thoroughfare, there seem to be four categories of building:
 the residential dwellings dating from the latter nineteenth century into the twentieth
 the industrial buildings that largely replaced them and shifted the vision of the landscape
 other store front buildings that provided a retail presence along the thoroughfare
 larger-scale apartment complexes constructed in the last several years (lee street/fulton = the largest)
25 September 2009
in hss125 today, i presented "visualizing empire," a presentation that the wonderful kim martin and i did for a conference three years ago. using genre painting, we frmed architecture as a trope within the works to help understand notions of eastern-ness and western-ness in the early republic....with polarities between civilized and wilderness, order and chaos, etc. students seemed most to resonate with thomas cole's "course of empire" series....moving from the "savage state" to the "pastoral or arcadian state" to the "consummation of empire" to "destruction" and finally to "desolation." with each of these works in a series, cole depicts a cyclical view of the world, periodizing history and tending to compartmentalize each state into a discrete phase through which each civilization passes (reference here the later work of frederick jackson turner and the advance of the american frontier). the point of the presentation, though, is the blended landscapes with elements of the two visions of the world...not either/or but both/and.
24 September 2009
PRIMARY : SECONDARY : TERTIARY
we also looked at changing uses for buildings....post office to a printing company....methodist church additions.....bank building to a police station....grocery to convenience store....movie theatre to a bookstore....what was one a mini-city with a commercial area that served more than a narrow population of students has over two decades transformed into what clay calls a strip. some of this has to do with the lack of diversity in what stands as the commercial core.
17 September 2009
as students conclude the first segment of hss125, they will be analyzing a series of artifacts from the period 1750-1850. today in class, we worked together using an oil lamp and created a presentation to help them see that visual media can actually WORK WITH the topic to help underscore central themes and issues. by developing a three point outline, students reinforced salient concepts using this example...and will thus turn their attention to their own specific projects.
here's what we dreamed up:
clear glass material
cold/hot to the touch
parlor…idea of darkness
compare/contrast to other oil lamps
whale oil industry
sperm whales killed in great quantity
pacific ocean focused
pass out of fashion/sustainability
and from there, we drew up slides and worked up some visuals...i've put together a demonstration slide that looks like this...
and here's the whiteboard in the room with some of our scribbles on it...
not bad for less than an hour's brainstorm.
the idea of infilling, central to today's (wet + rainy) class, informed our discussion in hss105. as we de-constructed the landscape along mendenhall street, students had the opportunity to use sanborn fire insurance maps to see changes along the thoroughfare in the early twentieth century. here are a couple of images from the handout.
as suggested within the handout, students thought about architectural style, their previous travels along tate street, and some additional ideas about the changing face of the neighborhood over the decades as buildings were built, some demolished, and new ones infilled.
16 September 2009
and here are the students using the forms along tate street...
12 September 2009
as we finished visiting the campus today in hss105, we headed from the monolithic, modern library tower to the quad, peabody park, the business building, along spring garden to the moore humanities and research administration building, concluding our brisk walk + talk at the gatewood building. students took a CLOSE look at the library tower in this next image...
11 September 2009
04 September 2009
among the most significant edges on campus, the rail line on the south side of the "mini-city" clearly distinguishes us from the properties that face lee street. we were lucky enough that a train came rumbling by to reinforce the sense that sometimes noise is an indicator of where edges and stacks lie, according to clay's terminology. i have to say some of my most favorite moments on campus lie at its edges.
02 September 2009
september 1st brought the realization that school REALLY is underway! in hss105, we walked from the east edge of campus (tate street) to the north side of campus (market street), taking in the architecture along the way and speculating about meanings hidden and not-so-hidden in buildings. following grady clay's method for looking at the city, the students in class searched for fixes, district, fronts, strips, and beats. on thursday, they'll attempt to synthesize all of the efforts at analysis for the uncg campus. you can follow their efforts through the semester by the series of links on the right hand side of the blog. my initial foray is contained here, a page from my sketchbook.
one of the most obvious things about our walk was to understand the center of campus (as it happens...where walker avenue WOULD have crossed college avenue)....a spot between the library and the newer wing of the stone building, marked by the two porticoes of these buildings facing each other across the campus lawn. the specific spot is marked by a circle on college avenue. lots of alignment there....
on the periphery, students saw the "edges" of campus (what clay calls fronts)...and their advancement into the residential college hill neighborhood to the east. on thursday, we continue our exploration of edges....
28 August 2009
in light of the hss125 discussion about american attitudes towards others, i thought this great illustrated essay by maira kalman "i lift my lamp beside the golden door" apropos for the week. the photo above is from her blog...and her drawings are quite terrific. enjoy!
27 August 2009
on tuesday in hss125, we considered jasper johns "flag" of the mid-century as an iconic image that, when looked at quite closely, reveals many layers of messages. this led to a greater discussion today about issues of american identity and some challenges that we have as a nation and our place in the world. at the core of this discussion, students read (and spoke well) from gordon wood's "radicalism of the american revolution." in this work, as students recounted, wood structures a series of evidence to suggest that the forces unleashed by the american revolution (and some consequences that resulted) emerged in the decades following the revolution in the early nineteenth century. students characterized a most interesting aspect of the debate as one that revolves around balancing individual freedom with social responsibility. not bad for the second day of class! see the students i am working with in their own "empire" on the handout below.
for his work, wood won the 1993 pulitzer prize for history....which got me thinking about other pulitzer prize history book winners...http://www.pulitzer.org/bycat/History
this morning, students in the hss105 course dissected and speculated about the foust building as visual evidence for values of the university. their first efforts at "reading" using the classroom of the campus yielded some salient observations about buildings and the language that we all use to talk about them. here they complete the "thick description" exercise (with a nod to clifford geertz) before we began our class discussion.
the building that represented the target for our analysis: foust (originally the administration building on campus), built at the end of the nineteenth century. above, my drawing that represents my "thick description" for the morning.
here's a terrific ca. 1905 image of foust all "flagged up," with the two towers marking the center of the structure. horizontals and verticals balance here as surface decoration, and the massive front facade, facing spring garden avenue, suggest the importance of the building in the community landscape. to respond to the observation of the student who indicated that foust "looked so different," consider the following additional historic image of the building (ca. 1900) and its built environment context. looks to be the only survivor...
the latter two images posted here are part of a neat digital exhibition on postcards by the university archives and manuscripts division of the uncg walter jackson clinton library. you can see the display, Postcards from the University, in its entirety online.
25 August 2009
in the gpu course, we'll be looking at local greensboro sites physically and then considering, through digital means, the same or similar sites across the globe. my thesis for this course is that despite the overwhelming amount of information literally at our fingertips, we know less about ourselves and who we are than ever before.
in the empire course, we'll consider the visual evidence of art, architecture, and media images as a way to look at the american empire at some critical junctures in the history of the nation. my central idea about this course is that our sense of "american-ness" is a much more complicated enterprise than relying on key iconic images of the nation to define us all.
in the third course, one of six sections for all first year honors students at the university, i'll help guide students in getting to know their campus -- and each other -- through attendance at arts and theatre performances, and through a common read of "enrique's journey" along with innumerable other explorations.
13 February 2009
11 February 2009
the collection of buildings at the acme of the athenian landscape suggest the quest for perfection by the greeks...in the development of the parthenon itself as an idealized building, and in the population of the acropolis with other buildings less perfect than the ideal -- the pastiche of the erecthion, the turning the grecian temple inside out at the propylaia, and the diminutive scale of the temple to athena nike. all four of these buildings speak in loud volume about the idea of PROTOTYPE : ARCHETYPE : HYBRID in architecture and design. as you consider buildings in the current landscape or artifacts within interiors, speculate about how each might represent a PROTOYPE based on an ARCHETYPE...or if perhaps the building or artifact captures a snapshot of the design process concretized into physical form as a HYBRID. also consider the importance of language, both architectural and written, in bringing shape to these ideas.
proto- : first in time, earliest
arche- : an ideal
-type : classified artifact or building
hybrid : containing mixed elements or different languages
akros : highest
polis : city
if the acropolis is the HIGHEST CITY and contains the ARCHETYPE as well as significant PROTOTYPES and HYBRIDS, what is the implication for the rest of greece in emulating these works....or perhaps ignoring them?
08 February 2009
i find the relationship between building and landscape to be the chief difference between early greek structures and the previous architecture we have studied in egypt + mesopotamia. it seems that the greeks understood the foil a building provided to the mountainous landscape of the peninsula. by contrast, the light colored buildings of stone stood out against the verdant land around. in this way, the designers and builders of the many temples of greece understood the power of an interlocking relationship between their buildings + the environment.
06 February 2009
30 January 2009
much of our discussion this week in the history + theory course related to humanity's first efforts toward placing habitations + structures on the surface of the earth. far more than simply providing shelter, environmental theory suggests that these first attempts to come to terms with nature carry significant meaning. from the perspective of material culture, barthes would suggest that all of these human-shaped artifacts serve as signs for humans to bring order out of the chaos. at stonehenge, i speculate about humanity's reverence for the unknown and the possibility of meanings for the structure.
23 January 2009
the two-page handout to describe the opus project. funny that what one writes will be interpreted in so many ways.
as the semester has gotten underway, i return to my roots as i do each spring with first year students in our interior architecture program as we undertake a study of the building arts through time. this year, working with suzanne cabrera and stoel burrowes, fellow first-year teaching faculty, we established the opus project as a sort of reporting system for all four of the classes students take as first year students – studio, history + theory, drawing, and graphics. the goal of the single reporting system represents our collected and concerted efforts to reach across the boundaries of each course to find the common ground. students each keep a physical journal with notes from all the classes and then report the “best of the best” online at their blog sites. i, too, find myself carrying a journal, attempting to document if our time together transforms during the semester as the result of this project. it’s good to be drawing along with my students…i think we all forget how much drawing slows you down and gets you to really consider something from many perspectives. besides a sketch book is certainly a people magnet. if you are sitting in a coffee shop, in a meeting, in your office drawing in a sketchbook, people surreptitiously offer a sideways glance, an earnest peak over the shoulder, or more often than not a conversation about something they see in your work. not a bad thing, all in all, just makes it all a little more public.
and speaking of that…there’s this blog which i am attempting to address weekly as part diary on the project and part teaching journal and to put the opus project work out in a public forum. as part of our goals as educators, we share information with others…and this form of dialogue research suggests an alternative for sharing that is made easy by the blog world. i have many questions about the outcomes of all this, but for the moment, i am diving in with the best of intentions. let’s see how long it lasts.
one last thing for context…in the history + theory class, i have shifted to a one-semester chronology. my sidekick and super teaching assistant, gwen mckinney, and i have retooled the material we have learned and amassed over the last several years that she has been with me, streamlining and extracting the most salient kernels for distribution. it’s good testing ground, i think, for precision in class and out, but i must admit that it’s very scary to try all of these new things at once…but life is not fully lived unless it is lived to the hilt. and so it begins…