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A collection of random thoughts, kudos and useful resources for home and business owners looking to do architectural work -additions, renovations or new construction- to their home or small business.

Tuesday
Apr252017

The Ideal Community Center


Imagine if every town had a community center that combined a senior center, a daycare center, and a no-kill animal shelter

I have an idea: what if we created a community center in every town that accommodated three public needs — a senior center, a daycare center for underprivileged kids (or any kid for that matter), and a no-kill animal shelter? They all share two things — a vital need for human connection and companionship, and an abundance of unstructured time.

Studies prove that animal companions can improve health and ease depression, that children require love and attention to thrive, and that seniors who feel connected or have a role in society live longer, happier lives. Less adoptable animals that might otherwise live their years out in a shelter, have a new community of animal lovers to share their days with. Kids love an audience as they play and run around. When they yell, “look at me!” someone might actually be watching, someone who might even acknowledge their amazing feats with praise. A lonely senior might actually enjoy a child’s long-winded story that others might otherwise brush off, and vice versa.

The synergy could impact the entire community.

Parents leaving their children in daycare all day would find comfort in knowing they are part of a community, getting the attention they need, when the parents aren’t around. Kids would bring home stories of things they learned from the seniors that might entertain or enlighten their parents. Most adults with elderly parents would be pleased to see them in a community where they could engaged with a range of people, and not exclusively other seniors. Such a center would benefit all the town’s residents through the positive, synergetic energy spread by the families of its users.

We build senior centers, daycare centers and animal shelters, why have we never thought of combining them? Forget liability issues, forget special needs, forget the issues of cost and politics, and anything else that could inevitably stall such a project — just make it happen! The determined soul finds solutions, whether through architectural design and technology; space layouts and security cameras; screened and properly trained staff and administration; educational or civic policy; soliciting, lobbying, and fundraising.

There’s an obvious cost savings in combining activities in a single structure — in terms of reduced square footage, avoiding duplication of amenities like toilet rooms, staff lounge, kitchenette, office space, reception area and common space. Energy, supplies and administrative and operational costs would all be reduced. There could be less parking, especially if there was a drive through drop-off, and if scheduling could circumvent rush hour overlaps. Parents living with extended family could drop seniors and children at same location before work.

The architecture could work to both foster connections and accommodate necessary separation of activities. Each group would need its own identity and activity areas, but the common areas could accommodate both structured and chance interactions, with park benches on the perimeter of the play area, or protected window over looks, shared TV lounges and dining areas with a variety of seating and tables. It could even include a community garden.

So, then, if there are major social, developmental, health and wellbeing benefits, and costs could be contained or even reduced from what we do now, isn’t it an idea worth exploring further?

https://medium.com/architecture-landscape-urban-design/synergetic-community-centers-ae72f08a9983

Monday
Jul112016

Value of Adding A (Arts) to STEM Thinking

 

The tendency to attribute symbolic meaning to acronyms we use in our daily life made me think about the meaning behind the educational philosophy of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and the recent capitulation to add the letter A, for Art, thus turning STEM into STEAM. While a minor change in terms, the meaning could be profound.

stem, according to the dictionary is “ the ascending axis of a plant,” or the origin or cause of a thing. At least physically, a stem is always grounded in the earth. Whether a flower or tree, the stem reaches for the sun and roots itself in the soil. It is the support system and backbone, carrying the weight of branches, leaves and flowers. But it is immobile.

Steam, on the other hand, is an “invisible vapor into which water is converted when heated to the boiling point.” Steam is water which has become free of the earth, air born, an ethereal mist, shape-shifting and mysterious. Steam, though immaterial, is also powerful! The industrial age was born of it.

So, the simple addition of an A to an educational acronym, as well as the simple act of adding Art to the Science/Tech mix, if treated seriously, has the power to catapult the education system, and society at large into a new and powerful way of thinking about our future.

To rise above the already astonishing landscape we have built, to add other dimensions, depth and character, we need the wings of creativity and imagination. To grow beyond the industrial age that has grounded us in materiality, but also greed and waste, we need the wholeness and harmony that the arts contribute.

A balance of nature and culture, science and art, brawn and beauty is what allows us to be bold, build amazing things, yet also be introspective, and to add meaning, fun and beauty to the things we make.

“Where science ends, art begins,” Charles Nègre

 

 

 

 

Friday
Apr082016

manifesto

MANIFESTO FOR A 21st CENTURY HOME

The new modern home possesses an elegant simplicity and harmony in design

The new modern home promotes chosen lifestyle patterns, and allots resources to enrich those choices

The new modern home advances the unique and essential qualities of the individual

The new modern home inspires the imagination and preserves our best memories

The new modern home engages the heart and shares in the desires and passions of the family

The new modern home expands our intellect and summons our greater purpose

The new modern home removes the superfluous and moves toward clarity and balance

The new modern home, by compartmentalizing, lessens unnecessary choices and reduces chaos

The new modern home is a respectful and engaging neighbor

The new modern home is archetypal in form, yet modern in style

The new modern home evokes an overall mood, yet allows for areas of deviation and distinction

The new modern home allows for undisturbed retreat, spiritual sanctuary and safe shelter

The new modern home encourages fun, camaraderie, family gatherings, and entertaining

The new modern home reinforces active exploration and discovery in the outside world

The new modern home is smart and sustainable, but does not allow technology to dominate living spaces

The new modern home engages the land locally, and conserves resources globally

The new modern home makes homeownership a positive, worthy and significant experience

The new modern home adds to the intricate tapestry of life

medium/value-of-adding-a-to-stem-thinking

Monday
Feb222016

Building for Life- book review

corinthian column symbolic of tree, projecting vertical strength and floral embellishment: truth, utility and beauty

Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection

by Steven Kellert

I tell people my greatest interest in architecture is when I can merge the inside and outside into a single flowing design. Building for Life does not go into length on this particular concept but supports it in general as a part of the love of nature continuum. He refers to this as Biophilia, a term coined by scientist E O Wilson that translates to “love of life.” The idea is that man is inherently attracted to nature, and is at a loss when nature is missing from his environment. This book explores ways of bringing nature back into our work places and personal surroundings. It provides scientific studies as proof of the need, and offers solutions that begin to remedy the problem by incorporating nature into architecture both directly and symbolically.

Kellert believes that it is especially important to expose children to nature, in whatever ways possible. Empathy and knowledge are really our best defense against environmental waste and destruction. I grew up spending a lot of time in the woods (my Dad was a forest ranger when he wasn’t teaching science), so his theory helped put my passion for nature into perspective. In nature we connect, we understand that we are not separate but part of a larger world. 

He also points out that if we don’t build places we love—that are beautiful, light filled, well built and unique in character—we will never put in the extra energy needed to preserve them longterm. And tearing down a building that is only a couple decades old is the worst affront to the conservation ideals of sustainability I can imagine. I’ll be watching to see how the ‘biophilia’ movement grows and transforms, and hopefully adding to it in some small way.

Shannon Scarlett

as a kid I did a lot of hiking with family, here on the Skyline trail in Oregon

 

Tuesday
Jan052016