Sunday, April 19, 2009

e² design

I've recently rediscovered a great series on PBS, e² design.

e² design is an ongoing PBS series about the pioneers and innovators in the field of sustainable architecture, and how their work is producing solutions to pressing environmental and social challenges. Now entering its third season, the series features compelling stories from around the globe: Beijing to Nova Scotia, Ladakh to New York. Each episode examines the built environment's effects — both ecological, and social — and the design innovations that can reduce buildings' contribution to climate change.

I originally saw the first season during lunch breaks with my co-workers and found them to be very interesting and a great resource. While exploring Hulu for the first time, I found 12 episodes to watch. They are now on their 3rd season and also have shows based on energy and transport. Wanna know the best part? e² design is narrated by Brad Pitt!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

get excited and make things

With the Recession in full bloom, I'd recently had about enough of all the professors and professional architects who had come to speak to my class about the profession. Their responses to our job[less] concerns were to "Think outside the box. Get creative in your job search!"

Hearing this would only make me feel frustrated and overwhelmed. That was until I saw this article with this image:
It questions the designers role in the time of a depression and the impact the economy has on the world of design. How useful is the item? Can it be made to last longer? Could it solve more problems? Can it still be beautiful and practical? All issues that should be addressed at any time, not just during tough economic times.
At its heart, design is about problem-solving, but it’s also about problem-identifying. Instead of creating a need for things, designers can now focus on responding to things we do need. We may have never been confronted with as many problems as we are today; the blame for them can’t be attributed to designers, but many future solutions can — and will be.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Beautiful Modern House Rises from Stone Ruins

By architects NRJA, this modern home in Latvia was designed over stone ruins. Rather than tear down the stone ruins of the barn, the family wanted to use the exterior wall of the barn as a protective barrier surrounding their new home. Read and see more images here: Inhabitat

Monday, November 24, 2008

first snow

courtyard of my apt

Yippee! What a great way to start the week?! I think it started snowing at about 7 this morning. I was called by my friend, Matt at 8 and told to get to the piazza for a snowball fight! There were a few inches already covering the ground when I bounded out the front door 10 minutes later. It is usual for it to snow here during the winter once or twice(it snowed the first week in January after I had returned home 4 years ago) but it is very rare for it to snow here during the fall, so it is a real treat to see now! I think I've had this grin on my face all day long.

On my way to the piazza I took many photos of my daily walk/commute now freshly covered in snow. I'm not sure how I would feel about this kind of weather if I had to go somewhere that required transportation other than my own two feet. I'm sure I'd be a little grumpy about it at times or when I didn't have the chance to make snow angels and snow men.

I REALLY hope it snows again tonight and tomorrow morning!

Friday, October 24, 2008


You may wanna grab a snack, this is a loooong one!

October 17th-20th
I think Berlin is one of my new favorite cities. From Rome on Friday afternoon, my friend Amy and I flew easyJet into the city. We arrived around midnight and had to groggily make our way to the Pegasus Hostel so there wasn't much site seeing to be had. At the reception desk we had been told about a free 3.5 hr tour offered everyday by New Berlin Tours, so we went on that Saturday morning. Our first guide, Jaime, who lead us from the hostel to the start of the tour @ the Brandenburg Gate, turned out to be an architecture student too. He is also in his last year in architecture at a school in Germany and had many recommendations for great architecture to see. Our real guide, Paul, gave us a concise tour that lead us along where part of the Berlin Wall stood. From the Brandenburg Gate, in Pariser Platz, we could see the Reichstag and Siegessaule Statue, as well as the U.S. and French Embassies. The highlight of Pariser Platz was having my first Starbucks in about 2 months(It's got nothin' on Italian Espresso!) and seeing The Adlon Hotel, a.k.a. Michael Jackson Baby Dangling Hotel(yep, that's where it happened)!

Brandenburg Gate, Adlon Hotel, Holocaust Memorial

more Holocaust Memorial

From there we went to the Holocaust Memorial by Peter Eisenman. My impression of this space was much different from what I got from just seeing photographs. The architect hasn't said what his meaning behind the design is as a way to allow visitors to develop their own impressions based on their individual experiences. There is a small memorial exhibit underneath one corner of the field of stones. I really like this memorial and think it is such a powerful place evoking many different feelings from each person who walks throughout it.

The next stops were to Hitler's Bunker and the SS Headquarters. The site of the former bunker(it was completely distroyed and recovered with earth) and where Hitler ended his life is actually now surrounded by apartments where a few famous people such as Katerina Witt have lived. There is appropriately very little sign that it was ever there. This was in hopes that the site wouldn't become a shrine to the Neo-Nazi.

remaining Berlin Wall, marking on road of wall, Checkpoint Charlie @ night

Next to the SS Headquarters a large section of the west side of the Wall is still standing. It looks a lot shorter and less looming than I had imagined it would be, but I'm sure the armed guards that surrounded it for 28 years would certainly have kept me far away. One thing I hadn't realized about the Wall is that it was actually made up of 2 walls about 100 yards apart in certain areas, the space between them being called the death zone and the typical images seen of the wall covered in graffiti are only of the west wall, the east being unapproachable.

Jewish Museum

Checkpoint Charlie was the last stop we made on the tour before Amy and I decided to go on our own to see everything else we had on our checklist. Throughout the next 2 days we went to the Jewish Museum by Daniel Libeskind, the Berlin Philharmonic, New National Gallery, returned to the Holocaust Memorial and Brandenburg Gate and then explored 2 key neighborhoods; Mitte and Prenzlaur Berg. We had 2 amazing classic German dinners, both restaurants we stumbled upon(literally out of pure exhaustion and hunger from the many hours of walking) and would return to in a heartbeat. At the first I had "currywurst with homemade potato salad, a "small small salad"(named by the menu) and a Berliner Beer, "Berlin's Best!" The second was a fairly similar dish(why chance a good thing?) but I also had an apple strudel with whipped creme. Amy's meals were equally delicious! I think 2 reasons we enjoyed these restaurants so much were for the atmosphere and the for the complete meals you could order as compared to the separate single dishescourses in Italian restaurants. Here you either get a large plate of pasta or meat and order veggies separately and you end up paying for a lot more food than you should eat! At any rate, German food was a very welcomed change to our exclusive Italian of the past 2 months.

We stayed at Pegasus Hostel in an 8 bed(4 bunks) mixed room. It was decent; clean, quiet and in a good location for the price. When we arrived the first night after 1am all the other beds were full so we had the 2 next to the door. The next morning a couple people left and by that night those beds were full again. The last night there were just 5 of us in the room; 2 new guys, Amy, me and another guy who had been there the "entire" time. It wasn't until we were on our way to Praha that Amy and I realized we hadn't seen the one guy out of bed or his bed empty during our entire stay. It was so weird. We've been trying to figure out how this was possible and how he managed to see any of the city during the 2.5 days. We usually left the hostel by 10 and wouldn't return all day until between 22 + 24 each night and everytime we were in the room he was in his bunk above Amy. Thinking back, it was really weird that I never even saw him get up to use the bathroom! I hope he somehow had at least half as good a time in Berlin as we did!


October 13th - 17th
I spent last week in Rome with my class. We chartered a bus and had about a 10 hour drive ride from Vicenza with a couple stops along the way. Other than the necessary pitstops, we saw a few churches; one along the motorway in Florence and 2 others on the outskirts of Rome. The one in Florence was quite beautiful. I had seen it last time but finally got to see the interior last week. One of the churches in a remote area outside the main city of Rome was not well received by any of the 28 of us that visited it. Our professors had seen a magazine article praising it which gave reason for our trip there. As we approached the building on foot from the road, we became speechless. It was a big blue tiled box reminiscent of the ˝This is my house˝ drawings from kindergarten. Beyond the surprise of the exterior our overall impressions of the building dropped even more once we saw how pourly the interior was detailed.

The next morning one of my professors came to me about his ˝nightmare˝ from the night before. He said he had dreamt that the awful blue church had grown arms, picked up the white structure next to it and began beating him on the head with it! I think that best explains everyone's feelings!

Throughout the rest of the week we met as a class each morning @ 9 to tour various areas of the city on foot. A few of my favorite sites are still the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, The Vatican and Piazza Navona. Friday, our last day in Rome, my group of friends and I headed on the long trek from our hotel to The Vatican. About halfway there it started raining, something none of us were equiped for so we were dripping wet. I joked on the walk that ˝This better be worth it!˝ I, of course, knew it was having already been to St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel before. By that evening Amy and I were more than ready for our fall break and headed to one of the Rome airports for our flight to Berlin.

Check back early next week for pictures!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

fall break

Dark and early tomorrow morning I am headed to Rome for a week. Our entire class is going and I'm sure our days will be pretty jam packed with all the sights to see. The week after Rome is our fall break and I am very excited about the trip that I have planned. My friend Amy and I will be flying from Rome to Berlin next Friday and staying there until Monday morning. Then going to Prague, Vienna and Ljubljana for 2 days each. Matt and Cheech will be meeting up with us in Vienna after they go to Dublin for most of the week. My brother helped me plan the trip because I had very little time to plan myself with all the school work I have, plus he and my parents went to many cities in Eastern Europe for 3 weeks this summer so he is already familiar with some of the best things to do.

Well, I still have some packing to finish up but, I'll try to update/share pictures from internet cafes while I am gone!