Friday, March 26, 2010

how deep is your love?

The opening sequence to the movie Up in the Air was worth the price of admission. Google Earth has made the virtual traveling done by us map-geeks so rich that it reduces the curiosity to visit some places. Alas, as with most things virtual, we forget the power of the real deal. Viewing the ever-closer landscape of my birth during descent in a plane evoked a core feeling of home-ness. As I gazed at the woodlands and prairie around O'Hare Airport, 30 years of walking communion with my beloved San Francisco fell away to a siren-song from home. How deep is the home bond rooted in the terrain itself? 
David Abrams wrote about poet Gary Snyder driving with an Australian Pintubi man named Jimmy Tjungurrayi to his ancestral territory in a pickup. Being on site was necessary to collect ancient & living stories from Tjungurrayi's culture. Driving through a particularly rich location, the fellow began to recall events unintelligibly fast, like a tape at high speed. No one could understand him. Everyone was frustrated. Eventually they realized the tale was SO linked with footsteps on specific terrain that they would have to slow the vehicle to walking speed for the story to be comprehensible.

the squeeze

Maybe it's a sex thing or a childbirth thing, but early on in my schematic design experience,  I got the idea that the entry experience should be a kind of squeeze, a tightness before you get to where you're going in a space. Not just a visual portal, but a time-sensitive transitional experience long enough to give "entry" its own experience, perhaps to lend relief to its end. Not every project can spatially afford this (think Ben & Jerry shop), but it has been fun to try and interject and illustrate this element in projects. I was reminded of the squeeze during a recent trip through airport security and started to wonder: just how long has probing, wanding, multiple ID verification and the possibility of a pat-down or body-cavity search been a prelude to travel?  What a squeeze on the front end of a trip! It makes the anonymity and indifferent solitude of exiting the plane and the airport liberating. When I get home my dog will kiss me. It was kind of depressing to learn that dogs, a little like an insecure spouse, only do that to check what the missus was eating while away.

master draftsman

I ran in to Ken Sekiguchi, architect, photographer and master draftsman, on Fourth Street the other day. I had the good fortune to be on collaborative teams with Ken at Hanns Kainz' office for about 10 years, on the pencil (vs. mouse) side of the digital divide. Ken's drawings are exquisite examples of hand-drafted orthographic drawings. A medium both aesthetic and practical, his drawings translated gesture, bullshit, and schematic design into something that can be priced, measured and built. Contractors who bid projects based on his drawing sets should have bid low just for the privilege of working from those documents! Instead, because the drawings communicated design so thoroughly, they bid higher since they anticipated their work would be subject to the same scrutiny. What a bind. This image will hold a place until I get my original Ken Sek scanned.