Mar 24, 2007

Studio Project Movie

Here's a little movie I made splicing images of the site and context with animations I made of the model in various stages. This is my studio project.

Mar 18, 2007

Alamogordo to Phoenix

After saying adios to White Sands, we swung back through Alamogordo and got a bite to east at the most hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant we could find. Got really good fajitas and horchata for lunch. From there, we decided to drive up to a ski resort in the nearby mountains to see some snow. It was about a 40 minute drive up to the little resort town of Ruidoso, and it was packed with apre-ski pedestrians. Looked like a cute little ski town though with lots of small boutiques. Bad traffic with people coming off the mountain. In fact, the road up to the ski resort was closed, as all the traffic was downhill and rated to dangerous to drive uphill. So we pressed on.

We drove out of the mountains and on north, sticking to the backcountry 2 lane roads that stretched across the open plains and by the tiny towns in the middle of nowhere. I enjoyed driving across this countrside. On a high pass, we stopped for a break and watched a herd of deer across a field.

We stopped for some food at Cline's Corner, where the road north instersected the 40. I've been to that rest stop at least three or four times now, but not in a long time. This was where our family would stop on our way from Albuquerque to Oklahoma. We grabbed some subway there and continued on to Santa Fe.

In Santa Fe we arrived late and consequently just decided to grab a Best Western hotel. Expensive. $50 a night for a room. And the owner cut us a deal too. Cleaner and more modern with nicer towels, but I still prefer quirky motels for road trips. We drove around the middle of town in the dark to get a feel for the place. Saori had been there before, but it was my first trip to Santa Fe.

In the morning, we got up and drove into downtown Santa Fe, the tourist district. We parked in a public lot and got an all day parking pass. I enjoyed the town. It was more than a little touristy, but fun, and definately New Mexican. We saw the square and the native jewelers, spent some time in the fine art museum, got coffee and ice cream off the main square, and delicious fajitas and tamales from a corner vendor on the square. We took in the St. Francis cathedral and the old St.Michaels mission church. We picked up about ten maps of downtown too. I ended up buying a coarse-woven Mexican blanket, completely Mexican, but its colors and texture reminded me of the place. We walked all over the downtown area, from little bookstores to this really cool shop called "Two Hands" across from the old mission chruch. Sold eclectic goods, paper, and handmade sketchbooks. Cheap ones from cardboard covers and pulp brown paper, to the really beautiful leatherbound volumes with creamy handmade paper.
The only negative was that I started sneezing constantly all day, and my nose ran like the Rio Grande. I can only assume allergies were kicking up.

In the late afternoon, we waited for traffic to clear and journaled sitting in front of the main cathedral. I thought it was ugly inside. The interior was a bad mix of modern and reniassance fair and byzantine. The older church was much more interesting, beautiful, and of course, was built on top of the old kiva of the original natives who lived there. Religious architecture spreads almost parasitically, building on top of what it already sacred to the locals. History is full of it- Islam adopted the Hajj and Mecca from an ancient, preexisting religion, Christians patterned thier churches on Roman courts and made a Monotheon out of the Pantheon, Muslims changed the Hagia Sophia church into a mosque, and in Spain the Catholics built a cathedral smack in the center of a mosque.

Anyway, it was wednesday evening, so we decided to just head out and start the drive back to Phoenix early rather than spend another night in Santa Fe. We drove out of town, grabbing a bite in Albuquerque and continuing on. It was getting late on the road and we were worried about check-in time, so we took the Grants exit. We had a coupon for $30 a night at the South West Motel, so thats where we went. It was right across the street from the train tracks, and was a typical u-shaped motel. The sign was a huge rising sun with neon flames coming off of it. Grants by the way is a tiny tiny town which mostly streches along the strip coming off the freeway. It had an autozone, but that was the extent of its high retail. Behind the desk was an old Korean guy who was watching Korean TV via satellite cable. He was the owner and gave us our key. The room was clean but old. The microwave was used as a lamp stand, and there was a closet/niche about 18 inches wide beside the door to the bathroom. The toilet had it's "Santized for your Protection" bands on it. We thought it was hilarious.

In the morning, I asked the Korean owner a good place to eat in town. He recommended Grants Cafe, which was literally next door. We took his suggestion. It was a small restaurant with cheap tables and chairs, and a lot of older locals, where everyone knew the waitress and she knew everyone. Brought us some coffee. They actually had a jukebox in the corner. We ordered french toast and pancakes for breakfast. Really good stuff. Took awhile, but it was good anyway. We decided, since we were already on the way back, to take a detour to see an ice cave and volcano outside of Grants. Took about half an hour to get out, out of the grassy plains and up more in the mountains. Lavafields everywhere and a smattering of old volcanos dotting the landscape.

The ice cave was ok, not as cool as the lava tubes near Flagstaff, though the volcano was fun. We continued on the back road into Arizona, passing through the Zuni reservation, before popping back up north to Flagstaff. We stopped in Flagstaff for lunch (no snow at all, dissapointingly) and then swung south for the run to Phoenix. The only place we stopped was at Monteczuma's castle.

It was to close in 30 minutes, so we rushed in for free and got to walk around a bit before hopping back in the van. We pulled into phoenix around 6:30 and that was the end of our trip.

Mar 16, 2007

Road Trip: Phoenix to Alamogordo

A friend of mine once told me about his spring break down in Rocky Point. He had taken a "drunk bus" along with a bunch of other ASU students down there, and there the travel company kept the supply of alcohol flowing to the extent that many students stayed drunk for a week. As this is my last spring, I debated for a moment, doing the whole Rocky point thing, and rejected it after a few seconds thought. Instead, Saori and I set out for the road less traveled, a loop which would take us through north and south Arizona and New Mexico.

We left Sunday afternoon, after my friends in Tucson agreed to host us for the night at the last minute. Sally and Jonathan lent us their minivan for the trip, which made the drive a lot more comfortable and convenient. We knew were headed to white sands national monument, but not a whole else other than some vauge destinations in New Mexico. Just outside of Tucson, we pulled into a Wal-Mart to see if they had sleds. We had it in mind to go sledding on the sand dunes once we arrived. No luck. The Wal-Mart was located in an edge city which bore a strikingly depressing resemblance to north Scottsdale. Actually on this trip, we saw many cities which had parts just like north Scottsdale, almost to the point where you could predict the stores in the shopping center: you had your Starbucks Coffee, the Michaels and WorldMarket, the BestBuy, the fresh mexican food chain, etc.

Leaving Wal-Mart behind, we drove up to Gates Pass, a high mountain pass which overlooks Tucson in the West. From there, Saori and I and another two dozen people watched the sun set across the valley laid out below us. It was slow, serene, and beautiful. It made me happy and hopeful, that these families and people of all sorts would make the effort to drive out to this spot, just to see something beautiful and natural. It never fails to amaze me either, the absolutely perfect blending of colors in the sky, the unbelievably crisp silhouettes of saguaros and paloverde trees against the sky. These are the things you really appreciate after working with photoshop for awhile.

After admiring the sunset, we drove into town to meet Cassie and Kevin at a Korean BBQ / Japanese restaurant. Soon after, we were joined by Whitney and a new friend of hers, Billy whom she knew from working at Blockbuster. We split a grill-it-yourself thing and also got a bit of sushi. It was really fun to see them again and to hear what was going on in their lives. There was a party of asians who at one point burst into song which was very strange. We spent that night at Cassie's apartment, crashing on the couch.

Monday morning saw us on the road again around 9 AM. Somehow, we never managed to get up before then the entire trip. We drove out of Tucson and headed east, a route I'd never taken before. I realized to my surprise, that I actually didn't mind the driving. I was good for several hours nonstop, traversing the countryside that I'd never seen before. It was a lot easier than the hellishly boring flatland between Phoenix and Tucson. Saori loves Tucson, she likes the greenery, and the small-town feel it has. It has its charm, but it still feels very slow and provincial to me.

We stopped at a few places along the way to New Mexico, rest stops to enjoy the scenery, little towns just to see what was there, that kind of thing. We took turns driving, and finally a bit after 5 PM, we passed through Las Cruces and into the White Sands Missile Range. I saw a sign for a museum on the base, so we turned off the main road and followed a single track to an army base at the edge of a ridge. Signs on the side of the road warned us to stay on the road to avoid live ordinance which might be around. At the gate, we realized the museum just closed, but talking to the checkpoint guards, we learned we could still drive in and see the outdoor missile park. The only thing was they wanted to check our vehicle registration and proof of insurance. I had a few panicked moments as I dug through the glove compartment of our borrowed vehicle, but both documents were sanely together in a single flip open view folder. They gave us a little sheet for our windshield and we drove into the base.

The weather was cool, but not cold, and the sky was a bit overcast when we went out to walk around. They had a lot of very old missile casings, from the experimental V-2s patterned on the German missile of WWII to some very large missiles designed to be tipped with nuclear warheads. They also had a Fat Man casing, which was identical to the one that housed the nuclear bomb that destroyed Nagasaki. Saori was shocked at how small it was, and how the amount of plutonium it had taken was smaller than a soccer ball.

We pressed on the dune park, getting in an hour before sunset. White Sands National Monument is definitly one of the more surreal places I've ever been. The monument is actually only half of the dune field, as the other half is on the missile range. Occasionally, they close the road between Las Cruces and Alamogordo during missile tests. Geographically, the dune field is in the middle of an even more massive flat valley, which stretches over 50 miles in all directions. The sand is white because its all gypsum sand, and its the slightly off-white bone or milk color.

When we first arrived, I tossed my sandals and walked around the dunes barefoot. The sand was cold. We had stopped at the first place to park, too eager to get onto the dunes, but then we drove on a little further to find a more quiet spot. There, on top of the white sandy dunes, we watched the sun set in the distance behind the mountains. The sand turned orange, then pink as the sun went down, casting incredible patterns. We sat for awhile until the park ranger drove by, informing everyone via megaphone that the park was locking its doors at 8 PM. I checked my watch. 6:30. No problem. The ranger continued. "The time is now 7:33." I realized that I'd forgotten to take the time change into account. We raced back across the dark dunes back to the van, and barely made it out of the park on time.

We got into Alamogordo and started looking for hotels. Saori had picked up a coupon book at one of the places we stopped and she was thumbing through it looking for cheap rooms. On a whim, we decided to grab one of the tiny motels off the main strip. I liked the name: "The White Sands Motel." It was run by an Indian woman (ALL of those motels seemed to be run by immigrants) who gave us a room for under $30. It was perfect for us. Easy, cheap, clean. The furniture was old, and the room smelled of old smoke but it had that great cheesy, quirky quality to it. We dropped our stuff and went out for fried chicken. Afterwards, we found a Big5 Sports. The sales guy kept calling me "bro" and sold us a plastic toboggan for the dunes. I asked about missile testing, as he told us about a few months ago, there had a been a series of tests the space of a few hours that caused earthquakes and shock waves to hit the town, rattling windows, and knocking all the shoeboxes off the back wall. Impacts like that can only be caused by nuclear weapons at that distance.

Tuesday morning, we grabbed a coffee and cinnamon roll at the motel office and drove back out to White Sands national monument. There, we drove to the center of the park and found the main sledding hill. Sledding on sand dunes is not as fun as it sounds, mostly because the sand just doesn't move fast enough. Saori and I were too heavy to ride the sled together- we just buried it in the sand build up in front. Everyone else had the disc sleds, mostly kids, so they were pretty light and they were still just kind of poking down the dune. It was fun anyway, and tiring trekking up the dune. After awhile we decided just to head out and walk out among the dunes.

Oddly, there was flooding in the area, so there were a few places with huge standing pools of crystal clear water a few inches deep. The gypsum sand gets really weird in these cases. It sometimes formed air pockets below the surface forming these weird rippling tubes, walking on saturated gypsum mud felt like walking on a damp thick carpeting. There was also these two layers of red and green which we figured were probably algae.

Anyway, it was out there that we found the places that were unmarked by footprints. There was the surreality we had looked for- where all you could see was the deep blue of a cloudless sky, and the blinding creamy white of the sand, thats all, two color fields. We trekked around taking photos and running down the dunes until our eyes began to burn with the glare.

Spring Break Photos

Well, I'm back from spring break. I'll give you the full details in a bit, but for now, some photos. We took a road trip down to Tucson, across New Mexico to white sands and Alamogordo, and on up to Santa Fe before looping back down through Flagstaff.

Click on the slideshow below to go see the full sized photos.



Spring Break

Mar 12, 2007

on the road

Saori and I are in Tucson, heading out to white sands. Stayed at Cassie's place. Good korean BBQ dinner with Whitney, her friend, Cassie and Kevin. But now its morning, the sun is shining, and its time to hit the dusty trail!

Mar 10, 2007

Welcome to Spring Break

I think I've found a good solution to how to get to work. I'm going to buy a car.

But in the meantime. I've discovered a great alternative. ASU president Michael Crow drives me downtown.

The way this works is that Crow saw through the establishment of a downtown campus for ASU. This campus has classes used by regular students at the Tempe campus, who really did not want to A) Fight traffic, or B) Pay for downtown parking. So part of the deal is a free shuttle bus which runs from ASU's tempe campus straight to downtown.

Friday morning, I biked to the shuttle stop on ASU in less than ten minutes. The shuttle bus left at 6:30 AM. I was the only one on it, which feels a little strange, but ok. The bus dropped me at Polk and First st, which was another ten minute bike ride to work. So I got my workplace at 7:05. I had time to bike around the neighborhood, and pop into a Jack in the Box for breakfast.
Next time, I'll take the 7 AM shuttle and get another half an hour of sleep in the morning.

Work was good, simple tasks to do, so I filled in the rest of the time really getting everything right in the programs, and doing some areal photography work over the site. I rode home with a bunch of chittering, giggling, Devil's Advocates, the peppy student guides and salespeople who give tours of ASU to graduating kids with thier parents. It's hard to believe there was so much enthusiasm for ASU. They were like evangleist youth groups spreading the Good Word, so pure was thier faith in ASU.

I got my two other books in the mail. One was Images of the City by Lynch, and the other was Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I love Vonnegut. His books are like tinted glasses to look at your world. Some books are good at drawing you in and making you forget the world around you. Others are good for making you look at the world around you. I like the book so far, Cat's Cradle was better, Vonnegut seems more resigned and embittered by the world around him in this one. Image of the City was recommended to me by my old history of architecture professor and friend Dr. Morton, while he was reviewing my project.

Listen: Friday was also my mid-semester review. Five of us pinned up in the hall outside our classroom at a time. One person got the board, and the other four shared two huge movable whiteboards which we pinned up on both sides. We completely took over the corridor and clogged it up. Our reviewers in the early part were actually two thirds of the Argentine faculty. Milagros, a faculty from southern Argentina, and Professor Claudio Vekstein, whom we all know from our many adventures south of the equator.

I went late in the day, but the reviewers really liked my work. The idea of putting up a facade of another building on the old mill was a really controvercial decision which made my studio teacher (art and theory background) nearly come to blows with Milagos (brutalist modernism background). It's fun when reviewers fight. Especially since they'll typically give you ammunition for later development. Everybody loved the patio on top of the grainery. That shot with the silhouette and the sunset nailed it. That was the money shot, even if it was completely fabricated. It's the idea of what they could see rather than the precise angle or height (I shot the sunset from on top of A mountain, a good several hundred feet above where the top of the grainery is).

Saori's studio was not so fortunate. Her studio all looked really unhappy leaving friday. Seems like Professor Spellman wasn't too happy with the state of things, or the amount of work. So there's lots of work for them over spring break. Our studio teacher told us that she didn't want us to worry about working over spring break.

After studio, Saori and I and Jamie (old roomate) met up with a bunch of grad student girls from our Buenos Aires trip, and we sat ate mexican food and drank margaritas and talked for about two hours. One of them summed up the problem with all our of studios/thesises. "We're halfway through the semester, but we're not halfway done yet."

So that was friday. Today I picked up Sally and Jonathan's van at thier apartment and took it in for an oil change which was part of the deal that I made with them to borrow it over spring break. Better, really since Sally left me money for it too. Anyway, after the oil change, I watched a movie, relaxed, read about half of Breakfast of Champions and then worked on my sketchbook.

My sketchbook, incidently, has about 320 more pages that I have to fill with drawings and sketches. This sketchbook when I turn it in will consititute most of my grade for my sketching class. So there is some serious work to do, especially considering that I have five weeks.

Five weeks. I have five weeks of school before graduation. I need to get on the ball with figuring out all the finalities and nicieties of the graduation ceremony and protocalls. And I need to figure out a place to live too, as the lease here is up in mid may.

Mar 6, 2007

Your Education Tax Dollars At Work!

In studio I'm working on a redevelopment of the mill and grain silos on Mill Avenue in Tempe. My proposal as you will see includes the creation of a shaded outdoor stage between the two buildings, an art gallery inside the old mill building, and a cafe on top of the mill itself.

In addition, I am also including images of a prototype transportable stage/gallery which folds up into a shipping container size. It has an image of a typical house on the front at full scale, fake grass to roll out, and a gallery to showcase local art inside.



studio work

Mar 3, 2007

Week in Review

Snapshots from this week...

I received my copy of S,M,L,XL by Rem Koolhaas in the mail. Got a great deal for it online. This is a serious tome about five inches thick cataloging all the projects done by OMA and Koolhaas, in addition to some written treatesies, poetry, random works, projects, art, and installations. It's a like a interpretive encyclopedia of architectonic culture. The only organization is by the scale of the project, hence the name. Its best read by flipping open a page randomly and reading whats on and around it.

Also in the mail, I got the DVD dad put together of our trip to Egypt, including some photos from Abu Dhabi, all to the soundtrack of traditional middle eastern music.

Wednesday we had a lecture from Nan Ellin on Integral Urbanism, the title of her new book. Nan is a longterm professor at ASU and is currently heading up the PURL (phoenix urban research laboratory) downtown. Anyway, she gave a pretty good talk, also highlighting another book which just came out, PHX: 21st Century City , which highlights contemporary architecture in the valley of the sun. Looks pretty cool, actually, I may have to pick that up. Her lecture was good, but seemed to piece together a lot of really obvious things. The fun part was when she talked about the necessity of three types of architecture- that which comforts, that which raises awareness of a circumstance or context, and that which shocks. I whimsically shortened it to "ahh..." "ah!" and "AHHH!"

Our studio professor finally took a look at my work friday. I'd been working on my own for about two weeks and so I had a lot to show her. She was really enthusiastic about the idea, and basically recommended I just keep going with what I was already on.

Before this, she took us through some websites for inspiration on how to visualize the city and urban conditions. Among them SpaceHijackers.org, self described "anarchitects" who fight corporate and institution owned spaces by various actions, protests, and vandalism. Other, less politic sites she showed us was govcom.org, which is an extremely interesting issue-mapping webcrawler which attempts to map how close the cause of a issue is to the locations where the issue is happening. Combines news search engines, mapping software, google-esque link monitors, that kind of thing.

Speaking of news, I added a new website to my list of regular news providers- www.janes.com, which is basically a huge privately owned intelligence-gathering network, mostly focusing on movements and activities of weapon technology, armies, and politics around the world. Wish I had a subscription.

Last night, Saori and I drove downtown to check out a lecture by Steve Martino, a landscape architect who has carved out a lucrative and easygoing niche of extemely expensive modern landscaping out in Fountain Hills and in Scottsdale. Lots of perforated Cor-ten steel, colored concrete, that kind of thing. All very strongly in the vein of Scottsdale Palm Springs Modernism.
We had a huge problem finding parking, as it there was also a Phoenix Sun's game going on at the same time. It was actually held in the AIA building downtown on 3rd and Washington. It was dark but I knew straightaway which building we were going to. Its an AIA building, so of course it had to have been the ugliest, most inappropriate Greek Classical building with white collumns and pilasters. What is it about buildings associated with the production of architecture that they have to be hideous and awful? Really lousy signage.

We got there half an hour late, and he concluded his lecture a scant twenty minutes later. Small crowd of people, maybe 20 or so, and five more or so arrived after we did. The $5 parking fee was made up however, by the wonderful selection of gourmet cheeses and beer they had laid out. Really nice chedder, smoked gouda, and pepper jack cheese. Aldo popped in right after we did and we stood around talking with the other half dozen landscape architecture students who were also in attendance, drinking beer and snacking on cheeses.

Afterwards, we all decided to go try out Trax, a bar I'd seen biking to and from school. I had major misgivings about Trax at first. It looked like second-use of a building, and it was tucked way out of the way, on the west side of the tracks, nearly at the point where the line crosses Tempe Town Lake. It's a good ten minutes walking distance from the closest bar on Mill Avenue. With its red and black color scheme, blind main entry, and secluded location, I first mistook it for a strip club. After reading some positive stuff about it, I looked at its website and found it was actually more of a lounge with live music and outdoor seating.

We were all pleasantly surprised with Trax. It's a little older crowd, the parking lot was full, but the interior was very uncrowded. The size of this bar is huge, with a lot of space dedicated to the outdoor stage where there was a decent band playing. They can handle a lot of people well. The interior decoration is playful modern, strong red and black colors, lots of rough welded steel fittings and door, unobtrusive, low modern black couches separated by large, low underlit steel tables which suggest dancing on top of them. The bar is also decorated with huge black and white photography of the female form. Aldo bought the first round of drinks; $2 dos equis, and we all went outside to the patio. The patio has nice iron tables and chairs, and its dimly lit. The coolest thing about it is they have black steel 55-gallon drums which serve as fire pits, so we stood around these for awhile talking. After awhile the train rolled by which was really cool to watch.

So that was my Friday night.

IHOP breakfast this morning, and Saori and I talked about culture makers vs culture supporters and their aspirations over french toast. I'm so glad I don't work at IHOP. When we were paying at the end, one of the cashiers starts taking to the other.
"My stomach hurts."
"Mine does too."
"I think I'm going to die."
"Then die already."

I've started reading a book called Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World. It's a very surreal kafkaesque novel with strong cyberpunk overtones. The author is Japanese, so its interesting reading cyberpunk from that cultural standpoint. It's a good book. Hard to put down.

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...