Thursday, October 28, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Today was another long day, and I'm beat, and this is going to be a relatively short post.  Sorry, but we'll have to save the major introspective recap for later.

Things started off relatively flat.

At one point I was going about 80 when this guy passed me at a good clip.  That was super sweet.

Later in the day, I passed this power plant, which I had seen on my way East.  Turns out, it is the Escalante Station, a power plant that provides electricity to 250,000 people.

When I got to Gallup, I got off the highway and drove through town.  I stayed at the Road Runner once. That was probably about 15 years ago.

 As I was driving through town, a freight train went roaring past, bound for points west.

Earl's Family Restaurant was welcoming the stuffed bell pepper.  How 1950's of them.

 Next door to Earl's was another groovy restaurant, and I had to get a pic.

Later on, I passed the Cholla Power Plant that I had also passed on Day 2, shortly after leaving Winslow, AZ.

Eventually, we made it to California.  When we got to Barstow, I found a Starbuck's that had free WiFi and wrote this post, on my upcoming lecture in Denver.  Then we made our way to the nearest In n Out Burger, and then on home.

When we pulled into the driveway, Todd howled.  They seemed really glad to be home.  I am glad to be home.  It feels a little weird.  The road trip has come to an end, yet the house isn't finished.  The next time I see it, it will be done.

I'm embarking on a new big adventure, with my lecture in Denver coming up, and all the ideas that has brought to the fore.  I feel like I'm finally ready to seriously take up the problem of architectural theory.  Where will all this lead me?  Impossible to say, at this point.

It feels like I'm at the beginning of a new adventure.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Role of Ideas in Architecture

I am thrilled to announce that I will be speaking in Denver, at FROST, on Saturday, November 6th.  What's FROST?  It stands for Front Range Objectivism Supper Talks.  You can read the official announcement on their website, here.

This subject is one that I have been wrestling with for over 20 years, going all the way back to when I was in architecture school at Washington University in St. Louis.  Very little of what I was told to read, under the heading of 'architectural theory', ever made any sense to me.  It was the same in graduate school, when I was at SCI-Arc in the mid/late '90s.  The history more or less made sense, because it was along the lines of 'so and so built this building here on this date' and it was relatively well rooted in reality.  Plus, the history classes at SCI-Arc at that time were taught by Margaret Crawford, and she was not only a superb instructor with a passion for history, but she made it fun.

The theory, however, rarely seemed to bear any relationship to reality.  Occasionally there would be good articles or essays, or a chapter of something that was mildly interesting or inspiring, but they were the exception.

I got out of school and started working, and could pretty much forget about the (theoretical) academic side of the profession for a while (although I remained a fan of architectural history, and still am.)  Over the years, I accepted the occasional teaching gig, mainly teaching drawing, photography, and the like.

Then a couple of things happened almost simultaneously, that, broadly speaking, altered my relationship to theory (or philosophy) as such.  I started taking piano lessons, and I started reading Ayn Rand.

The piano studies fascinated me because, the deeper I delved into them, the more I could see that the music theory bore an absolutely direct relationship to the notes on the paper and the playing of the instrument.  It was as though the theory was actually the element that bridged the gap, if you will, between the notes on paper and the playing.  It was the complete opposite of any architectural theory I had ever read.

This was around the same time that I was reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time.  I had read The Fountainhead years before, but had never explored Ayn Rand's works further, and was completely unaware of any of her non-fiction.  After Atlas, when I read some of her non-fiction, like Philosophy, Who Needs It and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, I became convinced that, here, like with music theory, was a series of ideas based on the strict observation of reality.

Why couldn't this exist for architecture?  This has been my frustration all these years.  It pretty much seems like Louis Sullivan pronounced 'form follows function' and that was the end, and no one else really took it anywhere from there.  Then all the architects forgot all about Sullivan anyway, and he just became that guy who designed those flowery buildings in Chicago.  'Form follows function' became a kind of quaint, old-fashioned notion at best.  I've even heard it mis-attributed to Mies van der Rhoe.

And so, I give up.  I have finally decided to quit resisting and take it on.  It's time for all this stuff to get dusted off and re-evaluated.

In this presentation, I will take a step back from Sullivan, and start with Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, the French architect and theorist, whose Lectures on Architecture from the mid-1800s were a big influence on Sullivan and the Chicago School.

Sullivan's greatest pupil was, of course, Frank Lloyd Wright, who unquestionably left a great legacy behind, although I'm not at all convinced he was the theoretician Sullivan was.

These three men will be the subject matter that we will address on the 6th.  In due course, I intend to examine more fully the larger picture of the development of modern architecture through the 20th century, and its demise.  I suspect there were some good principles at work that were lost, likely due to poor philosophical underpinning.

I am particularly appreciative of FRO, Kelly Valenzuela, and Diana Hsieh for their encouragement and support.  See y'all on the 6th!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

800 Miles in 14 Hours

That pretty much sums up today.

We left Russellville, Arkansas at about 8 this morning, and pulled into Albuquerque at a little past 9.

I think I'm just really ready to be home at this point, and was pretty motivated once I realized that I could get close enough tonight to make it the rest of the way with one long day tomorrow.  The dogs were doing really well too, sleeping for the most part, so I just kept going.

There wasn't a ton of picture taking today, but there were a few interesting things that we saw.

Just after we pulled out of Russellville, we passed a cooling tower, so I'm guessing there is a nuclear plant there.

Once we hit Oklahoma (don't you just want to break out singing?!) the landscape really flattened out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Heading for Home

Today I packed up my little car, and P + T and I headed for home.

It was pretty emotional for me.  The last few days had been a bit of a flurry of activity.  I was welding like mad, and got some nice little 'extras' made that will give a little extra bit of a custom edge to the house.

Ms. Client, aka Farmer Jo, has a collection of horse shoes that she has found on the property over the several years they have lived there.  I cut one in half and made her a pair of coat hooks out of it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tennessee House Railings

First, I apologize for not blogging in a while.

The last few weeks have been frustrating in a lot of ways.  

I haven't been able to devote all the time to the project that I have wanted to, partially for exciting reasons that nonetheless took me away from my work here.  And, partially because I've had to put out various fires and deal with things that just come up that required my attention, as happens in life.

The main thing house-related that has been occupying me has been the steel railings for the mezzanine.  All the interior railings have been fabricated and were delivered to the powder coating shop today.

Here's how they all came together:

You may recall that I had built a prototype and reviewed it with the owners.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Night OLists Happy Hour: Philosophy & Career

I am in the process of developing a talk that I will present next month in Denver, for Front Range Objectivism, as part of their Front Range Objectivism Supper Talks (FROST) series.

The title of my talk is "Ideas in Architecture" and the theme is how French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc's theories influenced Louis Sullivan (and the Chicago School in general) who in turn influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and all of modern architecture.  So, I have been immersed in the philosophical nuts and bolts, so to speak, of my profession.  

It's not stuff that I think about all the time as I go through my day, but it is crucially important as part of my background context for my work.  And, as I review the material, some of which I read years ago, and some of which is new to me, I am struck at how the Objectivist philosophical context that I hold, even further back in my background context, gives me a frame of reference that makes this course of study much, much more clear and understandable than any of the architectural theory books I read during graduate school.

This has me wondering, do other Objectivists have a similar experience of the relationship between their philosophy and their work?

Appetizer:  Has your study of, or the application of Objectivism to your life influenced the way you view and/or go about your work?  Has Objectivism influenced either your career choice, or your internal context for your work?

Drink Special:  Does your profession have a specific body of philosophy or theory?  If so, how do you relate it to Objectivism?  If not, should it have one?  For the philosophers in the room, what led you to decide to make a full study of philosophy itself?

Happy Hour will take place from 9-10 p.m. Eastern and 6-7 p.m. Pacific, on Twitter.

For more info on the OLists, check out the OList Events page here.

New to Twitter and not sure how it works?  A simple tutorial on getting started can be found here.  

Your hosts for the Twitter OList Socials are @DianaHsieh@laforgetm (aka William Green) and @Earl3d (that's me!)

Want to lurk and follow along with the discussion, without joining Twitter?  You can do that here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Night OLists Happy Hour: Where Do You Get Your News?

Turns out there has been a trending topic lurking all around me this week, just waiting to be written up as a Happy Hour Menu for tonight's OLists Twitter Happy Hour.  Fortunately my subconscious finally sent it on up to my conscious brain just in time!

Earlier in the week I watched Citizen Kane on TCM for the first time in years (probably over a decade) (I couldn't help but think a lot about Gail Wynand, having watched The Fountainhead again relatively recently, too.)

Then the subject came up in last Sunday's brunch, of creating a new website that would be a clearing house for general news & information about what's going on in the Objectivist movement.  It generated a good amount of interest among the Brunchers.

Today, there was an interesting blog post by Danielle Morrill, Who's Actually Getting Read in Objectivism (Online).  She mentions several websites that I had never heard of, and gives some very interesting statistics.  It's a great read, and you should go check it out (after you finish reading this post, of course.)

Which leads us to our topics of discussion for tonight:

Appetizer:  Where do you get your news?  Internet?  TV?  Old-fashioned paper?  Do you bother?

Drink Special:  Where do you get your news about what's going on in Objectivism (besides facebook friends and twitter?)  This is where it might be useful to check out Danielle's post, as it seemed to be a pretty comprehensive list.

Happy Hour will take place from 9-10 p.m. Eastern and 6-7 p.m. Pacific, on Twitter.

For more info on the OLists, check out the OList Events page here.

New to Twitter and not sure how it works?  A simple tutorial on getting started can be found here.  

Your hosts for the Twitter OList Socials are @DianaHsieh@laforgetm (aka William Green) and @Earl3d (that's me!)

Want to lurk and follow along with the discussion, without joining Twitter?  You can do that here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 56: Birthday in Tennessee! Hooray for Me!

Today is my birthday.  In the spirit of everyone on the Book Face encouraging me to 'make it a great day' and 'do whatever you want to, it's your day' and all, I am starting off with a blog post.

Actually, I already kicked off the day with letting the drywall finishing crew in, and getting them going, and reviewing some things with Bob the Builder and his sidekick Jeremy (yes Bob the Builder has a sidekick.  I don't think I've mentioned him yet.)

I never really expected to still be here in Tennessee for my birthday this year.  I thought I would be here for a few weeks, from late August into mid or late-September.  But, the whole experience with the house has been so much better than I ever expected, that it has been well worth it.

In a little while, Bob and I are going to go pick up some of the steel parts for the mezzanine railings, and I will spend most of the day working on them.  What better way to spend one's birthday than welding?!

Here is the railing mockup.  Those pieces of 2x4 are under it to raise the height up to the point where Mr. and Ms. Client are comfortable with it.  That will be the height of the final railings:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday Night OLists Happy Hour: Productivity and Software

A great question was asked this week on the OHomos list, about whether or not the discussions from our Twitter Socials would be compiled and posted as a blog post for those who couldn't make it for the event.

I think this is a great idea.  I also think that with all the automated-ness of Twitter, there ought to be a way for that to be compiled with the push of a button.  As great an idea as I think it is, I'm not into hours of command-c, command-v, command-c, command-v.

If there isn't an app for this already, there should be.  Attention all you web developers out there!

Then I was looking over the OProducers list tonight and there are more than a few recommendations for various productivity software products that looked interesting.  

So interesting, that I think these are perfect topics for tonight's menu:

Appetizer:  What software do you use regularly that makes your life easier?  (I mean besides the obvious ones like Outlook.  Does anyone even use Outlook anymore?)  Task management? Time management/tracking? Any new discoveries?  What about web apps? Any novel uses for obvious things like Google Docs?  Anyone else love their Google Reader as much as I do?

Drink Special:  How can we get this Twitter Social easily compiled into a file that can be made into a blog post?  Any ideas?

Happy Hour will take place from 9-10 p.m. Eastern and 6-7 p.m. Pacific, on Twitter.

For more info on the OLists, check out the OList Events page here.

New to Twitter and not sure how it works?  A simple tutorial on getting started can be found here.  

Your hosts for the Twitter OList Socials are @DianaHsieh@laforgetm (aka William Green) and @Earl3d (that's me!)

Want to lurk and follow along with the discussion, without joining Twitter?  You can do that here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 50: Drywall Goodness

Today the drywall guys rocked.

And they rolled.

Here's the evidence to support my claim: