27 Nov 2013, 3:54pm
Photos Thirteen Thursday

Winter, Wonder

So this is winter. What have we done? The shovel and the shove of snow by the old ones has begun.

  1. street scene
    Another bank higher and a new one, what fun.
  2. traction 1
    finding a certain traction
  3. PB272656
    Just a little snow on the trail. Keep pedalling
  4. snow tires
    snow tires
  5. snowy wires
    snowy wires
  6. chainlink
    fuzzy links
  7. Stellae Boreales kids classical concert is just one of many Christmas in Ottawa events. Now that we have snow, the season can start. It has my permission.
  8. going tobogganing
    ready set,
  9. bench
    sit. pause.
  10. falling snow
    snow falls from snowfall.
  11. peek
    peek a tree
  12. PB272622
    on a similar note
  13. And on a different note, make your own Tudor costumes, or make a flat cap? I feel like they must come from hat trees. Make one’s own hat. Imagine that. What else could boost happiness? 10 things

This is a sort of late Wordless Wednesday and an early Thursday Thirteen.

Quote: “To write is to think and to live — even to pray.” ~ Thomas Merton wrote in 1958 in his journal

23 Nov 2013, 3:12pm

Go with the Flow Chart?

okay, that's funny
Okay, that made me chuckle. I have a weak spot for flow charts.

Walking downtown I saw a Sussex Street store has a liquor licence certificate in the window of the reno. I expect it is not staying a shoe store but for those like me who abhor shopping for shoes…If I were given to drink for courage, that does sound like a good pairing of services.

I figure my shoes have another few months before they fall into pieces. And until strangers start ordering me to do something about the state of my shoes.

Until then, let them leak. Somewhere in the basement I have shoe goo. But maybe that time of need is past. We have snow so no more puddles for a while.

I missed 13 Thursday again. Actually I missed Thursday in general. Went out with a migraine. We both went out. Only I came back.

Migraine is lost but I’m still in a flat-energy migraine trough. I used to push myself in this stage, but I learned I can work up discipline and tense all my muscles for the heave-ho, stand and grunt with scrunched eyes and when I open my eyes find all the heavy lifting of others has already carried the piano away.

I’m tired and have done nothing other than lean my intention. Great emotional energy spent but I get a tiny fraction of normal productivity. And no product. Better to sit with monkey mind boredom in the dark and wait for the other end. Rest until mind, body and whatever other sector is ready to go again. Every flow chart arrow points to the same end. Full stop.

Quote: “Just as you would not permit a fellow employee to steal a piece of office equipment, you shouldn’t let anyone walk away with the time of his fellow managers.”
Andrew Grove

20 Nov 2013, 4:05pm


uncle and dad
Dad at age 16, if the date on the photo’s right.

dad 1961
1961. Almost a decade before dad met mom.

July 21st, 2009 was his funeral, but Oct 26, 2007 he had head trauma and his first death.

Finally this year when I dream of him I can see his face like it’s a visit. We are in a warm shared space. I keep serving him meals, doing his chores. Making things right to the man he was in his 50s and 60s.

There have been over 1500 views of the Dad slideshow. People are going for the soundtrack but still, that’s surreal. And why didn’t I video his voice even if it was a gruff, ‘put away that camera’?

Wordless Wednesday

Quote: “”Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”~ RIP Doris Lessing

Martha Schwartz: Landscape Architect

She started out by saying she never meant to be a landscape architect. Her uncles, cousins, father, son, husband are all architects; it’s like a congenital disease. She planned to go into fine arts but then she encountered earthworks and so smitten wanted to explore that. One thing led to another…

What is the landscape? We think of it in pastoral terms. We think of it in terms of purist erasure — Landscape is the world without us humans in it. It’s the remainder of leftover areas we don’t ruin. Or it’s when we make nice walking gardens. Trees, birdies, clean rivers and chilly hills.

But the landscape is a bigger circle encompassing every environment we’re in — the highways, the parking lots, the service areas, the sidewalks, the towers, the open pit mines. They are still the landscape. And we spent, statistically, 7 times more of our time on highways than in parks. It is what we create that then creates positive feedback loops in health, social lives, economics and environment. On some level we know that non-commercial space, like time off, pays for itself in a way. NYC’s Central Park brings $623 million/acre to the city because people want to see the park. It wouldn’t make economic sense to parcel any of its green space into any kind of “development”.

In a project she did in Toronto, Yorkville Park, having the park and public space has increased property values around it and increased the amount of shopping done because people want to be there. The green space takes its cue from the Victorian era houses and makes a collector’s box as if the landscape were each in cubicle of Canadian shield ecology. At the same time she remarked, it is better to do something that some hate and some like than something that people don’t care about because if people are blasé it won’t be maintained. If a project is taken to heart by some people, then it will be integrated into lives. For example, Grand Canal Square in Dublin, Ireland was a plaza to go in front of a waterfront performing arts centre. Even in Ireland’s economic downturn, the area was not effected economically because it served people’s needs for a space that worked.

She adds curves and colors to the built environment and green it but does so with a sense of whimsy that is considered from a design point rather than just random play such as in Ireland’s square which plays with colors and geometric shapes that mark outdoor areas.

Public spaces, whether commuter suburbs, or mixed use street plaza life govern the rules we employ against each other. Cultural change, she contends, happen in public space, not when we are sequestered and ghettoized.

She tries to tie in the project to its context. She talked about “creating a “there” there” as Stein put it. In a project going up in China she used sight lines to shape how people walked to see the model homes. The construction of the new homes was blocked from view by a wall with a vista with a cutout to see the distant hills. Along the path there are trees planted and metal sculptures that evoke Chinese lanterns and provide shade. The walk to the model home is so popular the developer has decided to keep it as a park.

Her commission in X’ian, China is a fascinating walled garden where none of the walls are parallel, most dead-end in the maze. You are always under the canopy of willows and approach them but never see the base of any trunks until the end. The end of each wall is mirrored.

Greenery is characteristically done unconventionally, like Vienna (pictures 5 and 6) or Minneapolis.

Another project for a tower in Abu Dhabi was to make a green roof. The hitch was typical. The architects did their work and left and then it handed over to handscape architects but the design load of the building didn’t consider the possibility of a green roof. Her solution was to give dimension with mounds of greenery and water trickle feature along the seating, but the green are all panels that at thin planting on a foam core to give shape without weight.

Also in Abu Dhabi was a beach with special demands. People want to be separated by gender so males can’t access women and children, and so the immigrant labour can’t access the employer class. As well the beach front is tucked in between the ocean and a freeway because infrastructure for transport was designed first and leisure and daily life second.

In Jakarta, her firm is working on Pluit City. Jakarta has a lot of problems in the sense of it sinking worse than Venice. In Jakarta they’ve emptied their aquifers and have to catch rain water to supply local water needs. The project reclaims land, builds seawalls, replants mangroves which were all cut down which should help stabilize the coastline and regrow the fishery.

She’s doing multi-family housing in Japan with a funky stone form of fish among bamboo.

In this interview she talks about renewing mines,

We worked in Winslow, New Jersey, on a clay quarry that had been a dump for 30 cars. It was a degraded and socially dangerous site. With the client, and an ecologist, we regenerated it so now it’s an informal nature conservancy. Now, people want to know if they can buy the land to develop it into housing (no). But the point is, that now, there is a whole new set of possibilities for the site and the town.

They resculpted the 500 acres creating ponds, mixing in wood chip with clay so it could grow. It went from being a waste area to an area that migrating flocks use on their flight path. It is now trees and local species have moved back in. There are 11,000 clay quarries in New Jersey but it takes will and desire.

Martha Schwartz (of Martha Schwartz Partners of London, UK and her firm, Martha Schwartz, Inc. in Cambridge, Massachussetts with projects in over 20 countries) was the speaker on November 4, 2013 at the National Gallery of Canada.

She has received a couple pages worth of highly regarded awards and prizes including the Cooper-Hewitt Museum National Design Award for her body of work in Landscape Architecture, Women in Design Award for Excellence, Boston Society of Architects, 2005, an honorary fellowship from RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), and several design awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, including residencies, tenure and an honorary degree.

But more importantly for this she was one of the most articulate of speakers the series has had and she organized the lecture into the half of principles of why landscape matters and then details of a few projects. And she did so with smatterings of humour, and with loads of enthusiasm and inspiration.

I was wishing through the talk that Mayor Jim Watson should have been there. He would have enjoyed her ideas, spirit and talk. Perhaps he was there. It is open to the public and a full room.

Quote: “You have beautiful, living and inanimate materials, and one can create something that has cultural resonance. The narrative or idea can be about anything. All great art is, essentially, a very personal statement or inquiry. A built landscape is not required to look or mimic nature. If we are creating it, like any other cultural art form, it can be what we wish it to be. There’s no law that says it has to look like nature. What if all the books or movies or plays were about one subject matter or were dictated by the government? It would be stopping the evolution of culture. Without realizing it, people have very clear notions of what a landscape should be, while we’re much more open about what a building can be because we know it’s a cultural artifact.” ~ Martha Schwartz [via]

P.S. The Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism present forum lectures irregularly through the regular university year.

Nov 18th will be the next lecture. It is by David Leatherbarrow of the University of Pennsylvania. He does research on history and theory of architecture and the city. His books include: Books include: Topographical Stories, Surface Architecture (with Mohsen Mostafavi), Uncommon Ground, Roots of Architectural Invention, On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time, and Masterpieces of Architectural Drawing.

14 Nov 2013, 9:11am

What’s New with Pussycat?

what's there?
What’s that?

look at that
Something’s on the window sill.

a sleeping squirrel
Oh, it’s a sleeping squirrel.

And then what happened?

She lay on her side of glass and napped as well.

The world’s oldest animal is the quahog unless you could sponges.

What is “universal” human cognition on fairness and dimension isn’t. “The content of our thoughts and their process are intertwined.” In British Columbia Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan took some standardized tests to other cultures. “studying the cognitive development of folkbiology in urban children would seem the equivalent of studying ‘normal’ physical growth in malnourished children.”

I was going to write a long 13-idea post, but then my flex-spots that a re large enough to synthesize something complex filled up to basically next Tuesday. And my shoulder’s back to being a mess for extended typing anyway. I don’t know what’s up with the leg and foot cramps either. Body is chattery as a parrot and makes half the sense. I’d love to have cat-pounce-on-laser pointer energy. Ah well, back at it.

Quote: “The first obligation of the writer is to be interesting. To be interesting; not to change the world.” — John Barth

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