Monday, October 8, 2007

mi casa es...

Jade's casa

in this house you can

-paint with abandon (the concrete floors are forgiving)

-balls bounce better here

-light is abundant

-you can skate and run around in circles till you are dizzy
-cars race all over without losing momentum (on the stone counter tops, smooth floors and walls)

-elevators! (when you are five, everyone lets you push the button for their floor)

best of all, when I make a mess building models for studio,
Jade gets to help too!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

to draft perchance to dream, or even better sleep...

Why do we compete? How do we practice architecture as talented and enlightened individuals? How can we in the profession bring forward thinking to our practice rather than just to our designs?

The firm I am employed with recently landed an important project with a private University here in Texas. The job requires our firm to team up with another large firm from San Antonio that is famous for their design work. Prior to landing the job with this design firm, our firm opened the office for a tour. We were asked to be available to be present during the tour to greet the visiting designers. A colleague in the office later related her introduction with one of the famous visiting designers. She explained to me that the visiting designer was told that the north side of the office, where she is located, consists of administrative staff and CA’s and upon meeting my colleague during the tour the designer assumed as he shook her hand that she was part of our administrative staff. She announced that she is actually a licensed architect involved in projects during the construction phase.

As an aspiring architect I admire this architect. She has been involved with the architectural profession for over seven years. Unfortunately my firm lost this architect to another company that offered her more responsibilities and pay when she obtained her architectural license. She is currently working in the role of a project management. My colleague never discussed her pay with me however she did explain that she was surprised to only earn a 3% raise at our firm when she obtained her license. In the office, we often discuss our experience of working in the architectural profession. In these discussions, we have reflected on our architecture school experience. The camaraderie found in the profession exists primarily because of shared sense of being a“survivor” of architecture school.

This leads in to the next question of what is necessary for a productive working environment.This question most certainly pertains to the professional practice as well as the educational environment. In the article, “Why women leave architecture”, the architectural profession is examined in the context of what is the professions’ rate of progress? Is a woman provided opportunity when faced with a class of entirely all male peers in an introduction to architectural design course, does she find her place within the class? Most often, I believe the female student would move on to a different field of study. My sister once faced with this question, determined that architecture did not have a place for her. I have never understood what the profession gains in this outward division among the genders. It is certainly dangerous to risk this isolating practice and what is truly gained by the few who manage to make the crossing across this divide? How could the profession truly benefit from this practice? Architecture suffers from the loss of understanding of the individual; the danger is in perpetuating the cycle of Architecture as a “few good men” and a couple of women. Is the goal to teach acceptance in order to survive in the profession or is it to teach acceptance of the people? How does architecture take responsibility when it develops architects that are hardened and insensitive; how does this provide for better public design solutions?

I learned early on in my undergraduate studies that acceptance is a method of “survival”. There are defining moments in life; I found that my first moment occurred during a lecture class in undergraduate school. I learned in this class that as a female student I would never be asked to participate in after class discussions at the local coffee shop. My professor extended the invitation for coffee to his male students, and specifically excluded the female students. This was disappointing as I respected the professor greatly. During this particular lecture I learned that I may be an architecture student, but I am a female architecture student. This is when I realized I would be expected to make it on my own as an architecture student but I also will be developing as the lone woman in the studio. At this moment it was clear that there was ME and then there would be all of them. I challenge my peers to consider this; how does the exclusion of women in academic discussions in curriculum help the profession or those involved with the profession become comfortable with the notion of equality and the notion of teamwork? A lecture hall of men and women on this day learned that we are not expected to work together. How many women felt their voice quieted on that afternoon?

Is architecture meant for only one type of individual’s experience, or are we employed to design for the public? And in what manner does an architect begin to understand the public as a whole people? During the first position earned after college, during college, prior to college; or is it a conversation that is an open forum in order to make informed and understanding design decisions?

-articles read: from The Guardian, on Zaha Hadid, titled “I do not do nice”


In 2006, Hadid is still the world's only major woman architect, by which I mean an architect who will go down in the history books.”There have been some well-known women architects in the US," she says. "But they have always been part of husband-and-wife teams, like Bob Venturi and Denise Scott Brown [who designed the National Gallery's Sainsbury Wing]. There have been very intelligent women architects working in local authorities and government offices worldwide, too. But for a woman to go out alone into architecture is still very, very hard. It's still a man's world

What's more, she says, architecture requires 100% dedication. "If it doesn't kill you, then you're no good. I mean, really - you have to go at it full time. You can't afford to dip in and out. When women break off to have babies, it's hard for them to reconnect on the big scale. And when [women] do succeed, the press, even the industry press, spend far too much time talking about how we dress, what shoes we're wearing, who we're meant to be seeing. That's pretty sad for women, especially when it's written by women who really should know better.

"In another way, I can be my own worst enemy. As a woman, I'm expected to want everything to be nice, and to be nice myself. A very English thing. I don't design nice buildings - I don't like them. I like architecture to have some raw, vital, earthy quality. You don't need to make concrete perfectly smooth or paint it or polish it. If you consider changes in the play of light on a building before it's built, you can vary the colour and feel of concrete by daylight alone.”

Friday, August 31, 2007

Read: "Why Women Leave Architecture?"

This article was written by some ladies who live on the other side of the pond.

This University of West England study proved quite a helpful read. Particularly the questions it asked women in design. The first page posed the challenging question, "Can you name six female architects?" This question I presented to a friend of mine and he struggled but did manage although he had to borrow the partner here at my firm for his list. Also the question was alive or dead? Alive and STILL practicing. This was the first eye opener. The second came when the article cited the 1919 Sex discrimination (removal) Act as the first time women were ALLOWED to be architects, or any type of professional.

The article goes on to establish the social system of architecture. This begins in architecture school with the boasting of length of time spent in studio and if someone can not hack it, then they are a wimp and seen not fit for the profession. This is a practice of boasting seen in BOTH male and female architects. Another discovery is with the role of a woman in architecture that is successful and secures her position as a Queen Bee. This woman is found to usually be hostile towards her junior colleagues and not supportive towards their goals. This is a practice that I am familiar with both in professional practice and academia. Another problem is what the article dubs the pretty factor; this is where you dress up and sit at a meeting for purely decorative purposes. I had a discussion with a female colleague recently on how often this has occurred for her in the industry.

The article goes on to look at other professions like medicine and law; and the fact that half of these professions consist of women. Architecture is a profession that does not see this number. According to the RIBA of the 38% of women studying architecture only 13% will practice, as of 2002. I am interested in this number for the AIA.

Question that I hope to answer (from the article):

"What should women and men in the architectural profession who wish to promote change and action for diversity in the profession be doing as individuals or as the employers of a small number of people to assist with this culture change?"

Suggestions I hope to use:

Equal opportunities task force in construction:

Have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve with equal opportunities.
Set goals for equal opportunities
Have a long-term plan to achieve equal opportunities
Have a policy that is published, understood and operated

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Boston intensive; and the lack of sleep...

This time in Boston has been intense and an incredible challenge. I'd like to mention that I would rather type this in Helvetica. Why? Because it is known as the anonymous type font. I think the notion of anonymity is something that this city does not imply. The sidewalks are wide and the people are generally agreeable. There is an immediate sense of belonging here that I have not experience anywhere else thus far. New York is a hurried city where the people tend not to really notice one another where as Dallas is a city that is full of waves of hellos. There are many differences in the places I have been, yet none compare to Boston. Perhaps my need to feel anonymous is stemming from my need for alone time that has not been prevalent in this week's intensive. This lack of time in my own place has given me the chance to notice that a true Boston city life really puts you in the public spectrum. I can now for the first time, understand the need to retreat. Perhaps this is a response to the current uprooting, or it is a comment on the idea in order to be anonymous, in a sense get lost within a city or your mind, you need to have known your way. Now I bet this is probably the most confusing blog I have rattled off; stick around it will get better or worse. This commentary is in response to the article, Space, Place, and Ethos: Reflection on the Ethical Function of Architecture; I really enjoyed the material and it created a lot of reflection. On page 165, "Our experience of space is essentially regional. in this case the region is a room." I'd like to be alone now in my room. Well back to work for now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Duncan's Landscape Taste...

To me, the difference between Duncan and Bickford is in the approach to the topic of socio-economic exclusiveness. I appreciate Duncan’s use of the case study. I had to double check the date of publish, because I found the price of the homes in the alpha and beta groups to be extremely reasonable.

I believe this question of social class segregation will be a topic for, possibly, ever. Why this is one of the reasons for which we find ourselves on this land mass, our ancestor’s quest for the “American Dream”. The haves and have-nots as it was often referred, has long been the social divide. The concern can be found in many professions.

Literature is full of social commentary on this topic. The author and social commentator Charles Dickens felt the use of statistics to be a form of class-bias. Since the suburbs are often used in social statistics I wonder if are we further developing the divide by denouncing types of suburbs. With an alpha and beta housing community as examples, I am left to wonder if this idea of the have’s and the have not’s, is not doing much in way of good as it is encouraging the distinction. The media can create hype for the exclusive, in this example a community golf club. I argue if these exclusive groups would flourish without the press that is often focused on the “exclusivity”.

As mentioned on NPR, in 2004, former Senator John Edwards based his bid for the Democratic nomination on what he coined the “two Americas”. The program mentioned President Bush’s lack of discussion on the income inequalities although he has been quoted, “Better schools can help close the wealth divide”. Obviously most of these “better schools” will probably be found in those “better communities”, although I do value the discussion.

The assigned reading has prompted me to consider my role in the social divide. According to the NPR report, conservatives would blame me; the belief being that the increase in single-parent households has contributed to the increase of the divide. Perhaps; yet the ideal family, a father working outside the home with a mother taking care of the children, certainly only earns one set of wages with benefits. Although isn’t this perfection just a false nostalgic notion advertised in our media? Nothing sells biscuits or maple syrup quite like the romantic notion of an ideal family.

The question remains, how to lessen the divide in our nation’s sub-divisions? The problem is far greater than home ownership; this is a behavioral pattern of most, to be distinguished or recognized as a certain type of person, whether you are of the alphas or the betas group. I am wary to jump on this band wagon with my pitch fork; the problem could exist in an opposing extreme like in Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, Harrison Bergeron, where social equality is forced, and I could not live with that either.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

In response to the article, “Constructing Inequality: City Spaces and the Architecture of Citizenship”:

I agree that we, citizens, have essentially settled into an acceptance of the economic inequalities of our society. If this is the case how does one begin to argue against revitalizing our cities? Would the eventual abandonment of these places help balance the scales? When books are being authored over the concern for our Shrinking Cities how do we begin to suggest feasible solutions? It is certainly a heated topic of debate.

I do understand the author’s concern, however as a tax payer and aspiring architect I must argue at what cost do we provide inclusiveness? Should I believe architecture is responsible for the gentleman in the wheelchair collecting spare change at my street’s intersection? Do I blame architecture for the grown men who sleep and hang out on the neighborhood playground? Would you take your kids there to play? And how do you explain to your kids why they can’t play there? Consider these questions while you drive miles away for a playground you will allow your children to play in.

I do believe the forms of our cities shape our notion of city and city life. Our experience within the city is a directly linked to our comfort. Comfort is a concern; if there are numerous dark streets with strangers most of us will not feel safe. Another given is that regardless of the argument presented no one would want stop their car to play in a playground with their children that is filled with individuals who appear homeless. I would not endanger myself or my child in order to prove a point against social prejudice.

As for outside versus the inside; this is an entirely personal perception of space. Someone once told me that resident gates only keep out the honest. This struck me as a sad truth. Does the gate that is specified for the community or building development feed the misconceptions of what is believed to be safe? I believe our misconceptions to be a result of other convincing factors. Why doesn’t my auto insurance company play into the debate? The insurance company prefers a community to be gated or that I keep my car in a secure parking garage. The location of my residence is a statistic that factors into my premium.

I believe the deconstruction of equality in civic life to be the result of a complex piecemeal. The media strikes as a predominate force in our perceptions or misconceptions. Its reach is great, as it is filtered into our daily commute by radio, in print, or on our office computer screens. The media is a factor in our cities, whether it is reporting on the demolition of a building or on a neighborhood eye sore. I find the local news to carry the highest guilt when it comes to feeding our fears; it is a guarantee in television ratings. Nightly news is the bearer of the good, the bad and the ugly. The article cites’ Sennett as saying, “The way our cities look reflects a great, unreckoned fear of exposure.” I agree but I must ask how much should one be exposed? I am relieved to escape the daily media exposure. I choose to disregard television in my home in order to create a haven without all the hard truths. And in reality how much am I truly missing? I promise not much. The internet is a very informative tool in my daily life.

The contrast of our modern life to those who lived in cities past is greatly different. Aside from print media, how far would the information reach into the home or work place? Our experience is certainly on overload. I find the success of reality television interesting. It is considered to be entertaining to tune into a show that brings into the home arrests of individuals we would hesitate to sit next to in a doctor’s office much less pass while walking on our cities sidewalks. In history, wars were lost and won without either side the wiser for months, and yet I remember jogging in the gym while watching bombing LIVE on CNN.

Perhaps I have broadened the scope of discussion, although I wonder how civic this would be if all possible elements were not scrutinized. We are all formed and informed. The moments that determine this formation are the results of numerous collected experiences, the fact that I have had my share of good experiences of living in the city is the reason I choose to make a home for myself and my daughter in the city. This of course is a personal decision; in fairness for discussion I admit I live in an area that would be considered gentrified. However, I do believe it would be quite difficult to find an area in this city that is not being revitalized or undergoing substantial real estate re-investment; the trends are driving the market. I personally enjoy living near my workplace, and I also consider my daughter’s elementary school location to be an amenity. I find our freedom of choice to be an admirable right in our democracy.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


I live where all things sparkle; a promise of happiness fulfilled is just an unopened pocket book away. This great fortunate life can be purchased from one of the many number of storeroom windows which few can afford yet hundreds gaze into. There, meticulously presented is the perfect outfit or living room or hairstyle. YOU, YOUR life only BETTER.

It is adjacent to a DART station. Parking is unnerving, and so on weekends there is free valet. Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live, I just don’t understand the world that flourishes outside. I don’t get the rush to the shops, the “hanging out”, to be “In it”, to gather among the shopkeepers and restaurateurs. I have only been here a short time so this could all change. Currently I observe. I do not participate. And no I do not have a “fear of the marketplace” I just have limited funds, although, for most of my friends this is mutual. So here we all are sharing in the mutual lack of funds in the city that for many is a shopper’s wonderland.

As I gaze out my window I continually wonder, “Who are these people walking from shop to shop? Did they get what they came for? Will they return to their homes wishing they had remembered the items they truly needed? Will they return tomorrow? Will they forget again only to have to return another time?” It is easy to fall into this role of observer. I do not even have step out onto the “street” level. I pull into the resident parking garage after work and take the elevator up to my floor. I do check the mail which is found at ground level yet this is beautifully encased in storefront glazing far removed from the traffic outside. There is a lot of traffic given the two modes of transportation running parallel on either side of my residence.

With all the comings and goings how does one actually begin to feel at home? Well it may help that given my chosen profession I am found more at the office. Thankfully, I am grounded by my daughter. There is reality, kindergarten, bake sales, school uniforms, soccer, bicycles, and the playground. There is the fact that for her I must make this a home and that she makes this home for me. Children do not see the signs that adults are plagued by. They do not see the Urbano Home, the Urban Tacos, the Urban Outfitters (all stores or “places” found in my neighborhood). They see the fun whereas we see what we are told is fun or how to aspire to be more fun, FUN only BETTER. This reminds me of Calvino’s Cities and Signs from Invisible Cities,

“Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages: the city says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara you are only recording the names with which she defines herself and all her parts.” [ Calvino 1974 :14]