Oct 31, 2006



Well, it Halloween night down here below the equator, and there's really nothing going on. A few grocery stores have made some little displays selling some Halloween candy and a few decorations, and Halloween costume rental places have sprouted up around town, but right now, on the eve itself, there's nothing happening. We architecture students are going to have a Halloween party Thursday night at Janette's apartment, and Saturday or Friday I believe there is also a costume party at one of the clubs.

Studio review monday was not good. There were those who were just not getting this whole project who got mediocre reviews (us and the majority), those who had exactly the professors wanted (2 groups) and those who had almost nothing concrete to show (2-3 groups). Not that people havn't been working, its just that this is a really hard, complex problem with a very narrow process that one has to follow extremely rigorously in order for it to make sense at least to the professors. Absolute systemization. At any rate, at least we had a really eye catching poster Adam printed with the help of the Julies at UBA. His connections with locals really paid off.

I uploaded about 3o more photos I had of stuff we've been looking at around Buenos Aires. The only building designed by Le Corbusier in south America, and the only other building of Corbu's in the Americas at all, the bank of London by Clorindo Testa, and several projects designed and built by Claudio our professor. I really liked his rehabilitation center with the long winding ramp in the courtyard. He really had to fight for some of his projects with the city. The construction company would actually build more than the plans had to show, so at night, Claudio's team would sneak into the work site with sledgehammers and sabotage his own building in order to get the construction company to built it right.

I started working on a short horror story about what happens when students spend a week without sleep confined in a room and dealing with highly abstract and arbitrary concepts, and stopped when I realized that I was writing almost verbatim from experience. In place, I offer a bit of doggerel I put together attempting to capture the mood of the story:

When a week of sleep you lack
the walls shift behind your back,
trapped inside an endless room
strangers watch you from the gloom.
Lines and points are all we see
lost in morphological theory,
and the dark of CAD envelops me.
Time gets fuzzy, cold, and drips
Something shapeless licks it's lips.

and of course it's not Halloween without Thriller.

Oct 30, 2006

Studio Blues

I've come to studio every day for the last seven days, 9 AM to 9 PM at least, most days until 11 or so. I've also come to the realization that the reason I'm hating studio right now is because this is a non-design studio. Never explicitly stated, but obvious in retrospect, we are working not to design anything, but to tease a response out of the site in a systematic way. The most successful students in this studio are the ones who can work without thinking because it is thought, thinking "does this make sense?", or "what would work best in this space?", which defeats the work. I still have not been to Boca or to a football game down here. I haven't even been to the nature preserve.

Oct 27, 2006

Memories from Brazil II

Brazil is a difficult place to write about. It's such an experience, its difficult to pinpoint the feel. One way of writing about it would be to explain it as Las Vegas, but brutally honest and real and authentic. The Pirate show with real pirates, the actual Eiffel tower, shows where you become part of the show and the performers don't do the act because they're on contract but because they love to do it. Theres just an intense vitality and vivacity of Brazil, even more so in Rio.

My favorite memories from Rio were:

Standing on top of Corcovado Mountain beside the largest statue of Christ in the world, with the clouds below you rolling around the hills of the city, and the sun beginning to set in the west. The city is just spread out around, nestled into the hollows and along the bays of an unbelievable fantasy landscape. It is comparable to the first time one sees the grand canyon in its entirety from the edge of the cliff.

Dancing samba at the Caprioca de Gema samba club in Lapa, a historic district of Rio, beautifully lit colonial buildings and pedestrians everywhere, drinking caphirinas and dancing with my friends and professors to the amazing live samba band at the front of the club. Drenched in sweat from the dancing and the heat and the crowds.

Standing on the prow of the boat as it took us back to the isolated colonial town of Paraty a few hours from Rio. The rain was pouring down, I was totally drenched, and the mist was rolling around the hills and islands surrounding the bay. We were coming back from lunch on a tiny island which only has two houses and an outdoor restaurant and bar.

Bodysurfing with Rio locals all around on Copacabana beach, while the military police helicopter made occasional patrols overhead.

Eating lunch in the Rocinha Favela (organized slum) with dealers cleaning their automatic weapons across the street. Someone announced our arrival to the favela when we came in with fireworks to alert the place to our presence. The police have no jurisdiction here, but its tightly controlled by other forces who maintain order. We were actually safer there than between slums or in the city.

In Rio, riding the old wooden open air street tram at night. This thing is ancient, wooden and rickety. People who dont want to spend the quarter to ride hang on the side and cling closely as the tram makes very tight clearances. Occasionally they have to hop in to avoid being scraped off the side as we rocket along at 40 miles an hour. The bumps, turns, stops, and accelerations of that tram I haven't experienced since the Indiana Jones ride.

In Sao Paolo, walking through the amazing museum/ruin of the Pinacoteca. Stupidly, I forgot my camera on the bus, but my friends got lots of pictures.

Wandering around Sao Paolo's school of architecture, a phenomenal building where the students have completely taken over the spaces. There are no handrails or guardrails in the building which is organized around a big atrium space. The studios are all open and massive. There were kids talking and working while in one corner, a review and critique was going on.

Eating dinner in Rio at a corner joint near the hotel. We first sat outside, but the owner moved us to around the bar as Aldo, Saori, and I were getting a lot of stares from the locals. Amazing rice and black beans with roast beef and beer.

Brazil is an amazing place to visit, but its too intense. It was nice to come home to Buenos Aires, and to get up the next day for a relaxing morning drinking cafe con leche y medialunas.

Oct 21, 2006

Footnotes of History

Today is Emily's birthday and in her honor, I will relate an anectode from her which, real or not, is worthy of storing at least someplace on the internet.

Emily's grandfather in Ohio once had in his employ a Norwegian cook, whose name was Rinda Gannuts. She made her way to the US after leaving the service as the cook of Pancho Villa of Mexican fame. Apparently, she was a very strange woman who made clothes effigies.

It's strange enough to be true, and maybe someday someone will be looking for a detailed history of Pancho Villa's domestic staff and come across this page. I think the name Rinda Gannuts worth of internet recognition anyway.

Last night I went to see a movie with some friends. Saori pointed out a director Ken Loach which she recommended to us, and so we picked that movie without having any idea of what it was about based on the fact that it was in English. To be more accurate, it was in heavily accented Irish english, which meant we got as much from the spanish subtitles as from the vocal track. The movie was good, a documentary-drama about the Irish civil war and the factioning of the IRA.

Studio is not going so well. I've talked it over with my roomates and we're agreed that the most concerning thing is that we're not that concerned about the fact that we're not getting it. I feel unproductive and unconcerned about it, which is very distressing. The thing to do is just keep working hard at it, although the fact that the assignments, aim, and methods are vauge and difficult. As a group, we are wavering between "we're in serious trouble" to "we're not going to worry about it"

On the brighter side, we're through with site analysis and we can get back to building design, ground which is more familiar to us than site analysis and diagrams. Hopefully, a solid foot on schematic design will be able to support us and get us back on top of everything.

Predictably, and lamentably, Buenos Aires is entering full spring. Welcome to sunny warm days.

Oct 17, 2006

More pictures

Ok, added all my pictures from Sao Paolo and Rio, and finished captioning all the important ones from Sao Paolo, so you can actually tell what I was thinking when I took the picture. Just follow the same link in the post below. I'm glad I'm back home in Buenos Aires. Yesterday I just sat outside on a sunny corner cafe with Aldo and Saori, drinking an excellent cafe con leche, and eating medialunas, and life just does not get any better.

Oct 16, 2006

Memories from Brazil

Brazil is completely different from the rest of Latin America. In terms of size, language, and culture, it is quite literally its own continent. There is a vibrant intensity of life, like that of New York or Hong Kong, but even more so beyond just the rush and the energy. People dance everywhere in Brazil. There is music everywhere. The 7 days we spent in Sao Paolo and Rio were unbelievable.

We traveled everywhere in a huge tour bus, since there were about 30 of us on the trip. There were us the students, plus Claudio and Sergio. Another local architect Johenu, joined us at the last minute, and the three of those guys cracked each other up the entire trip, and I think they actually had more fun than we did.

We arrived in Sao Paolo in the morning, dropped our stuff of at the hotel, and took a bus tour of the city. Sao Paolo is ringed and infiltrated with Favelas, slum neighborhoods built on unusable land and completely out of control of the municipalities. Some steal power and utilities from the cities, but they are poorly built by the inhabitants, filthy, and dangerous. We passed them all the time from the elevated freeways.

Sao Paolo has been described with some accuracy as a New York in the jungle. It's the third biggest city in the world (behind Tokyo and Mexico City) and the industrial and financial capital of Brazil. Skyscrapers everywhere. Extremely tropical with unbelievable trees and mist everywhere. It's a fight between the gray of the fog, clouds, concrete, buildings, and the green of the trees, plants, and mosses.

Our first stop was lunch at a cafeteria that sold food by the kilo. You get food from the buffet, bring it to the weigher, and they put your total on a barcode card. If you want more food, you refill your plate, and they weigh it and scan your card again. Lots of meat, and rice and black beans in Brazil. The black beans are incredible. I really missed spices in Buenos Aires. At the end of the meal, I brougt my card to the cashier and paid the total. That's actually the way most of the bars and clubs worked over there too. They gave you a card with all the drinks and marked the ones you'd had as you bought them, and you paid your tab before you left.

We stopped at the hanging subway entrace by Rocha, the refinished Pinacoteca art museum by Rocha which was my favorite building in Sao Paolo, and finished the day at a cultural center complex designed by Oscar Neimeyer and Burl Marx, the two main architectural figures in Brazil. Neimeyer does extremely scupltural buildings in whitewashed concrete and has hundreds of buildings. 93 years old, he's still having his sketches translated into actual buildings. Burl Marx was a landscape architect who created highly abstracted landscapes using Amazonian plants.

At the cultural center, the Biennal was going on for Sao Paolo, which is a huge art+culture+design exhibition with enterants from all over the world. The exhibition was in a huge hall with three floor and it was a trippy experiance. My favorite work was this scluptural/performance piece. It was a small rectangular plot of astrotruf maybe 15'x 10', surrounded by two 10' high fence tipped with razor wire, and the space between the two fences littered with machetes, scythes, and rubber gloves. The installation included black uniformed guards patrolling the perimeter. In the center of the grass was an obscenity- a naked, armless human figure with the head of a vulture.

Postcards from Brazil

My pics from Brazil. 96 uploaded so far, and that's just for Sao Paolo. Working on Rio.

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by archalec

Oct 15, 2006

Rio, me

I am home

Brazil was phenomenal. We just got back in at 4 AM to Buenos Aires. I can't believe the things we did, and the things we saw over there. Brazil is so different from the rest of the world, the rest of latin America, its its own world. Anyway, we survived a week, Sao Paolo and Rio de Janero. The view from the giant statue of Christ on Corovado mountain is the most amazing view I've ever seen, moving me almost to tears. Anyway, after I get some sleep I'll compile the memories and moments.

Oct 9, 2006

Sao Paolo

Just when I begin to get a handle on castellano, they throw portugese at us. We are on our last day in Sao Paolo, leaving tomorrow morning for Rio de Janero!!!! Sao Paolo is amazing, night and day from Buenos Aires. This place is more like New York in a rainforest. Massive green trees everywhere, tons of concrete, tons of skyscrapers. Today we saw the architecture builing at the university of Sao Paolo. Amazing building, the pictures dont do it justice. Weve been running all over the place non stop. Ive been getting less than six hours of sleep at night, although the hotel is really nice. Were in the garden district on the 15th floor with another amazing view. Everyone is jealous. Early morning flight out of BsAs went pretty well, spent all day saturday touring the city by bus, and checking out architecture of museums I studied last semester. Traffic is a pain, and the fact that theres nearly 30 of us in a group complicates everything. The professors are having more fun than the students: last night we went to a brazillian music show and they got into a hilarious arguement about whether the show was so bad that it was a deliberate statement or if they were just a really crappy show. All three of them were literally hooting and crying with laughter. I think they~re having a better time than we are. Brazil! What a place. Buenos Aires is a tango- reserved, intsense, passionate, with very controlled moves. Brazil is a samba, full of movement, energy, life, big, wide expressions and gestures. About out of time, so thats all for now. Hundreds of pictures.

Oct 5, 2006

Review Day

I posted some good pics from the review day, mostly of people passed out at their desks. I included 1 picture of me which is terrible, but gives a good idea of what I look like after over a day in a half in studio. I survived the critique, but we were torn apart. Literally, they told us that our program didn't use the modfied site lines, our modifeid site lines weren't related to what was actually happening on the site lines, and that our site lines didn't really go into what was actually happening in reality. We were also accused of social engineering, and one of the modular units I had so much designing was apparently attempted by the military regimes here as a real housing solution with disasterous and hated results. Anyway, the pictures are fun, so enjoy, especially if you happen to know these people. I am ready Rio.

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by archalec

Oct 4, 2006

Mid Review

I've now been in studio for 31 hours straight. Got maybe an hour of sleep on the floor. We crunched all the way through the night and tapered off a few hours ago as we finished everything up. I'm in the loopy phase of exhaustion, although I passed out straight into REM sleep in a lull while I was waiting to process some images. Chris just keeled over in the corner, now he's lying on the floor, probably already asleep. I woke up feeling a lot better after my powernap- I need to figure out how to do that more. Almost time to go into the review. There are outside critics, non architecture people, so this should be interesting. We're group 8 so we have a while to wait. It will be a long day, I'm sure already. The weather is warming up even more from the coolness of the last few days, and its humid. I see more and more mosquitos every day. I can;t even think about Brazil. Or the theory reading I'm supposed to have done for tomorrow. At least this hard part is over. I had such a blast in the last hour, just playing with stackable forms for the housing part of the project. Wish me luck! And good luck to my friends back in ASU who are also going into reviews today!

Oct 3, 2006


Sunday night worked at home, got about 5 hours of sleep sunday night. Got up and went to school with Jamie around 7 AM monday. We got caught in a torrential downpour and so we ducked into a cafe to wait it out, but it lasted for an hour. We attempted to make a break for the school but it was coming down too hard and so we hailed cab for the three minute ride to campus. We were all totally soaked, but our machines were still dry. Dusty was the only one in when we got to studio, and he had his shirt off, drying, so we followed his lead. When more people arrived, they just started cracking up at the sight of the three of working at our desks. It was a long day. I didn't leave studio until 2 A.M. Cab home, shower, shave, bed. Up again this morning after five hours of sleep again. Went and paid off the rest of the Brazil trip at the travel agency downtown before hightailing it back to studio. Been here all today, and will probably remain here all night. I'm actually pretty good sleep wise. I'm tired, but I've had more than three hours of sleep at night. Got plenty of water and coke, and I've got empanadas downstairs in the fridge. Wish me luck.

Oct 1, 2006

Uploaded some more pics from UBA, Universidad de Buenos Aires and some from our class at UTDT.

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by archalec

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...