between here and there


Leave a comment

the gold season

 

bambi preparing for the last drive of 2014

bambi preparing for the last drive of 2014

the fall days are here. As a matter of fact, they are glorious days in October that are warm and sunny. Anyone a local, knows these days are limited. They will come again, but not before a long stretch of cold, white winter. For me, the coming cold also means shutting down my bambi airstream. Its a sad day that suggests I won’t be rolling down the highway with camper in tow any time soon. But there is always that dream that some free time will show up along with clean roads. And I will hook up the rig and head out….dreaming is important.  Dreaming is where magic is born.

So, until the next time, I will dream of the next trips, and love the day I have today. Golden leaves blowing from branches across the yard and a dog that really, really wants to go out and hike.

picstitch


Leave a comment

Drawing the Next Reality

Design Sketch, Click Cabin

Design Sketch, Click Cabin

A critical aspect of designing architecture is that at it’s very nature the process creates tangible reality through it’s physical expression. Both understanding the existing conditions of the place and how the potential design fits into the place along with the ephemeral experience of life, changes reality, and is the great value and necessity of architecture. In its most positive propositions, these changes in our reality provide aspects of positive cultural transformation that change the way that we see the world and ourselves in it.

For the designer, the process is one of the great adventures of life.

 


Leave a comment

Manufactured Landscapes

photo
I’ve lived in Montana since 1998. When I arrived there was still a realness, a grittiness to the place, that, as I look around today, seems to be slipping quietly away. What is disappearing is that sense of a community when folks have slowly built up their surroundings responding organically to the place in which they live. The growth over time that occurs as people scrape together their savings to open a mercantile, or a bakery, or build their home. These are individuals who become a collective, who put down roots, people who truly commit and live in the place of their business. The collective of place that I am missing today evolves beyond the hands of trained designers who have learned to execute an industrialized model for living. What I see today are the designed landscapes that have vegetation spaced correctly, trees and shrubs (not bushes) growing from a  pattern of circles specified while looking down at a two-dimensional drawing instead of making decisions while standing on the ground, designers who have the landscape smoothed and weeded, and de-wrinkled the nature of the place.

I know, you’re saying to yourself , she’s just romanticizing the past. But I don’t believe that’s what is happening. Instead, I am witnessing my hometown of Bozeman transform into the sameness of the industrialized American development model. These are the manufactured landscapes that support the commercial and economic successes of Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, World Market, The Gap, and Starbucks (yes we finally have them here, too). These are the places that now look the same across the United States. The trees and shrubs that decorate and edge these big box stores ring them like imitation stones of cheap jewelry. The curb cuts and edging and bark islands, the four layers of vegetation from Trees, to shrub, to some ambiguous flowering plant selected for its long blooms and easy maintenance growing up against bermuda grass or its equal, these living things are used to make a new place that we know, but not really. The easily recognizable non-place.  A place that is everywhere but nowhere. A place that makes us feel comfortable so that we easily slip into the ridiculously large parking lots of suburban America without question so that we can happily pop into the big box store of choice. And as we drive in we think, isn’t this pretty, with the greenness of the world around us. When actually, we are just holding nature hostage for our own use, our own manufactured excuse of a natural landscape.

Who is to blame for all of this? We are. We all are, every time we forget where we are as we slip into that lull of commercialism that makes us feel better, or even good about shopping for things we don’t necessarily need. We, the designers, are responsible because we have passively accepted the instruction of “how to design” the edges of these places, that we have followed city planners who have created such sweet little places for their community to come and go from. We are responsible because we are not getting out into the wild enough to recognize the difference, or care about the difference of what this lack of understanding does to us or our impact on the world. We are, because we fail to recognize that we continue to use the natural world in ways that discourage and erase our sense of being a part of a larger whole, instead encouraging even the simplest use of the living world in dishonorable ways.

 

If we do care, how do we find that integrity of place, how do we retain it? How do we respect these places in their specificity and richness of conditions while knitting together our sense of belonging to these places, too? How do we honor where we live, and how do we create them?

Perhaps we start by not fully and completely erasing the world that appears scrubby and unresolved, the place that is living, cyclical, jagged, and constantly changing. The place that was here before we moved in, before we used that can of upside down marking paint and staked the land. We can start by standing, feet on the ground as Ed Abbey said, and feeling and observing and learning the world around us. By not accepting the lessons that we are taught at school without question, the lessons that are same all over, lessons of ubiquity for providing generalized backdrops where we live. By valuing the need to take time, to live local. To live the local, not the commercial, to live the place, not the sameness that is expanding across the United States.

I think you know what I’m talking about. If not take a look around. If your hometown looks like the one down the road you are living in a Manufactured Landscape. If not, then there is still time to give deep consideration, time and commitment to where you live, to not erase the community that already lives there, all of it,  plants and animals alike.

The Wilderness that surrounds us

The Wilderness that surrounds us


Leave a comment

Dreaming of Utah

Utah, South of Moab

Utah, land of dreams

I have been dreaming of Utah these past nights. Not those kind of dreams you have when you are wishing you could go somewhere. Not the melancholy type. But the kind of dreams that are had from experience, when your subconscious is so full of an experience that it pours out of you after you have had it. The dreaming is rich of the landscape. They are not full of saga or people, or any far-fetched narrative. They are full of the place, the feelings, textures, smells, and colors. Every night after I close my eyes I relive the place. The overwhelming beauty.

I have never had such realistic and vivid dreams before of a real place, portrayed in a true and actual dynamic. I am wondering what this means for my psyche. Have I found my spirit home? Or was the experience simply overpowering that my subconscious is relishing the intensity of the memories?

Utah. I await the next adventure.

 

rain falls on Utah, the mist of magic

rain falls on Utah, the mist of magic


Leave a comment

Desert Land next Stop

20140503-170215.jpg

I have been in many places across this landscape of Utah, visited it’s canyons, rivers, plateaus and rock formations. But never for as long as I will when leading Quest. So today I begin the great “count down” for departure. In planning the trip I referred to the Utah Gazeteer, map book extraordinaire. But the scale of the plateau of southeastern Utah is immense and leaves me with only a fragmented sense of this expanse of landscape. I wanted a map that would guide me across this place that I could look at whole. I chose a map to order sight unseen, yet thinking it would reveal the mystery as a whole . Today as I review the readings the program participants and I will read encamped on some mystical spot of sandstone I unfold the map. Ha! The map covers the southern edge of the area in question. But the northern portion if the area I am interested to study is not to be found . Looking back to the map guide selection , you know the little overlapping boxes that denote which map covers what area, I realize the map I want does not exist! Maps ring the area in question , but not the place. And that is the magic of the upcoming journey. Seeing, feeling, touching, smelling for ourselves that power of a landscape we do not know from reading a map or previous experience. Soon the days will be of this journey, dust trailing behind us as we get to know the mystery.


Leave a comment

Remote Studio: Basic Philosophy of the Program

Willow Wall

Before you arrive, I want to give you a little bit of context on this studio. I assume everyone has reviewed Remote Studio on the Artemis Institute web site. If not, you should. You will be better prepared to learn and discuss the more you understand the program. Read some of my essays on the website if you have the time. In brief, the Remote Studio and its format are developed out of ideas for teaching design from previous experiences and my PhD research. The program is an alternative to the abstract-rationalistic and scientific organization of teaching that pervades university programs. The course sequence will be orchestrated through hands-on, first person experiences from which each of you will gain unique and personal knowledge. One of the primary focuses is to help students re-engage with the rest of the world and the intuitive intellect. It is my belief that a good way to proceed is to provide students with inspiring and unknown environments, where their expectations have not been specified with “what to expect” lectures, and pragmatic projects. I also believe that the best way to understand your ideas is not through mock or “virtual” projects, but through hands-on immediate projects that are the intentional result of your imagination and reflections. We will discuss these ideas at length during the semester.

IMG_1021

With these interests in mind I ask you to understand and accept that the studio may not always run smoothly, not only due to the nature of this type of educational model, but because of the context of real life: clients, weather, materials, people, etc. Certain dates will be scheduled such as the trips, but the itinerary for the trips will not be completely delineated. Sometimes the weather does not cooperate and we change the dates of hikes. The small individual project schedule (called vessels) and reading will be fairly well determined, but are always subject to change if we decide they just are not serving us best, or discussions need to be shifted to accommodate clients or weather. If you are some one who requires notification of a complete plan this studio process may put you on edge. From this experience it is possible you will learn something new about yourself. It is important that studio members communicate well with one another, this means good communication with me and anyone assisting you from the Artemis Institute. If we have good communication we will learn the most from one another.

 

If you are reading about Remote Studio for the first time learn more at : artemisinstitute.org