PennDesign Theory 1.2 - Type

When Carl Linnaeus set forth in the 1750’s to classify all living life into kingdoms, phylums, classes, orders, families, genuses, and species he was setting a scientific precedent for the future of all zoology, botany, and biological sciences.  Boldly taking on the task- God’s first biblical task to mankind- that of naming all living life on Earth, Linnaeus nevertheless proceded undaunted, taking his best guess at the development of species and their relative relationship to one another.  Prior to Linnaeus, the study of nature was left to an elite class of educated gentry whose naming system and theories on biological classification differed as widely as the animal kingdom itself. Linnaeus’s classifications may have been naive (and perhaps even nostalgic), but they have lasted 250 years, with refinements along the way, to help us navigate the web of life with a common language and reference system-- allowing for a more refined and specific dialogue of inquiry, development, and discovery.

Carl Linnaeus and the relationality of types

Texts by Moneo, Vidler, and Corbusier delve into the concept of type and what it means to practice an art of subjectivity, customization, and delight in an age of scientific  enumeration.
Vidler walks the reader down a path of archaeological and anthropological discovery, beginning with an analysis of the earliest works of architecture- the pre-renaissance Temple of Solomon and other rustic houses of worship- contrasting their god-given proportions with those derived from piecemeal, organic development - namely Laugier’s primitive hut, constructed from the basest materials - the earth (foundation), trees (vertical structure), and branches (horizontal protection from the elements).  Vidler then addresses the term type, attaching the word in its earliest form to the works of Ribard de Chamoust, who defined type in regard to architecture as “the first attempts of man to master nature, render its propitious to his needs, suitable to his uses, and favorable to his pleasures,” (Vidler, 98) different from Chamoust’s concept of archetypes - those being the “fundamental elements of architecture” (99) - such as trees (vertical elements of the Primitive Hut’s architecture) which are merely types.  Pursuant of a better definition for type, Vidler takes the word back to its original Greek roots, where it meant “impression” or “figure” from the verb “to beat.”  Breaking from the theological inclinations of type, Vidler traces the development of type through the works of Blondel, Boulee, Ledoux, Durand, Pugin, and eventually to Qatremere who made the most scientific classification of type - “relative” type, he argues is non-classifiable, “as opposed to essential [type], in the uses to which it is intended” (Vidler, 105).  Perhaps taking a cue from the scientific enumeration that brought Carl Linnaeus to his scientific naming system 70 years prior, Qatremere states, “classification, as a fundamental and constituent problem of natural history, took up its position historically, and in a necessary fashion, between a theory of the mark and a theory of the organism.” (Vidler, 105). In this vein of historical progress, type becomes increasingly more scientific, and from Qatremere onward the style of classicism is seen as only one of many possible styles for architecture- its types are seen as a limited typology that grows as other styles are discovered, but all of whose archetypes remain those first and most foundational elements of construction - the earth (foundation), trees (vertical structure), and branches (horizontal protection from the elements).

The evolution of the ideal type:
from Paestum to the Parthenon, from the Humber to the Delage.
Le Corbusier, 1923

Le Corbusier takes a far more specific prose on type, organizing his thoughts on “man, a constant, the fixed point that in truth is the only object of our concern (Le Corbusier, Type Needs Type Furniture, pg 3). He stresses the need to see objects - indeed all objects - in relation to the human body, maintaining, “we must therefore always seek to rediscover the human scale, the human function” (p 3).  Though he stops short of defaming non-human-scale objects as objects unworthy of typology and use, he maintains the sacred nature of the human-scaled object.

Cold and brutal = right and true?

Moneo takes the reader on a pleasant stroll down architecture-typology-lane qualifying the developments of architecture to be seen best as “objects in their own right - as with paintings, but having elements made to evolve” (Moneo, 1).  Seen in this light, as well as the light of Durand’s infinite variation (a method of composition based on a generic geometry of axis superimposed on the grid) “the connection between type and form disappears” (29) as infinite variety merges with infinite variety - evolution within evolution - type stands in humble acquiescence, aware that dichotomy and categorization are futile devices in the face of myriad variety and customization.”

When nature is in control, the classification process yields a reading of life - to analyze the objective and genetic bifurcations of plants and animals alike.  When humans - and artfully inclined humans at that - are in control, the classification of various types and forms becomes nearly impossible - to analyze the subjective choices of stylistically-inclined individuals in the context of innumerable typologies, classification simply breaks down and yields to broad categorization of architectural tropes -  classicism, modernism, post-modernism, and the like - or a narrow analysis of objects within architecturally defined spaces - tables, chairs, windows, doors, etc.  In summary, I think that Moneo captures the immense task and opportunity that an architect faces when challenged to design a building in light of four millennia of architectural thought and creation: “the design process is a way of bringing the elements of a typology - the idea of a formal structure - into the precise state that characterizes the single work.” (Moneo, 3).

Works Cited:
Vidler, Anthony. The Idea of Type: The Transformation of the Academic Ideal. pp. 95-115


PennDesign Theory 1.1 - Standards

In ancient Roman mythology, Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings, and time.  According to scholars, he is “usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past".  In recognizing the development of contemporary architecture and design it is important to recognize three dialectic Janus faces of the architectural profession: first, the past and the future, second, objectivity and subjectivity, and third, transparency and obfuscation of structure and form.  By analyzing these 'faces' one may come to see a subtle yet profound connection between seemingly irreconcilable poles of thought.

The undercurrent of theory readings from this past week deal with matters of standards. How can architects maintain civil discourse and consistency of design without a generally accepted language of how buildings are made and how they can be understood by professionals and lay-people alike? Standards are defined as "something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model."

Wittgenstein's Haus Kundmanngasse

In the first reading, Richard Sennett's analysis of two Austrian houses reveals a string of architectural deviations- one, a cold and lofty symmetrical objectivism, intended to represent "the foundation of all possible buildings" (Sennett pp 254) and the other of a more playful and grounded 'new objectivism' - a house with a "structures that showed plainly their purposes and their construction in their forms" (Sennett 255). These two projects, Ludwig Wittgenstein's house on the Kundmanngasse and the Villa Moller by Adolf Loos, constitute the two extremes of craft routines and standards applied in early modern architecture.  Both houses emphasize an extreme dedication to perfectionism - in Wittgenstein's house an unforgiving consistency of 1:1 heights, widths, and materials that creates a sterile, standard model for what Wittgenstein believed to be the foundation for all possible buildings. Wittgenstein famously demanded perfection of construction dimensions, and faced with an unlimited budget for construction once asked that an entire ceiling slab be destroyed and reconstructed three centimeters lower to to provide what he deemed a proper and acceptible universal ceiling height.  Loos's Villa Moller on the other hand is far more subjective. Forgoing Wittgenstein's 1:1 geometrical rigidity, Loos cuts windows in a varying way, taking advantage of the way light plays upon exterior walls and creates desirous exterior views. A perfectionist in his own right, Loos relied upon on-site sketches and a limited budget construction budget to create a house that is not only beautiful in its use of standards and proportions (dissimilar to those of Wittgenstein's Kundmanngasse house), but more importantly incredibly liveable for its occupants.

Adolf Loos's Villa Moller

Following Sennett's perspective on standards and attention to detail, Richard Neutra details a history of craftsmanship- reflecting on the trials of early manufacturing in which standards of design had not been developed.  Consumers could not trust early modern manufacturing standards (many of which had not been tested to provide accurate and comparitive information.  The only value of a product lay in its performance, and "Fraudulent publicity[became] so interlocked with the business that first sprouted from machine production that the machine itself was branded by some writers as a curse" (Neutra, 54).  However, with the advent of mass production and a growing need for goods with which traditional hand-crafted supply could not keep pace, standardization was eventually accepted for its inherent functional concept. Machine-made parts and products, Neutra asserts, are simply the “essential prerequisite of continuous improvement toward machine-made perfection” (Neutra, 54).  But the standardization and mass-production of industrial parts and pieces is only valid in the architectural sphere so long as the parts and pieces are accurately represented in the end form of the house.  A steel frame house would not have been initially accepted if its outward complexion was not hidden by articles of handicraft and ornament -- Neutra maintains that in the “half-industrial, half-handicrafts methods of today’s petty building business... there is still reflected a good deal of that initial insecurity which earlier characterized, in general, incipient industrialization, with all its deficiencies.” It is this fear of mechanical and industrial failure that propagates much superficial decoration-- if industrial standards are taken seriously, contemporary handicraft can advance fully into the modern age, and, in closing, Neutra professes “only with standards as anchor [can] the typhoon of insecurity be weathered [as] industrialism breaks loose over the world” (63).

Jean Prouve's early work in prefabricated house components

Jean Prouve rounds out the trio of thinkers by exposing his beliefs on prefabrication; maintaining that factory-produced buildings lose an aesthetic appeal due to their conceptual distance from the site in which they will eventually be assembled, Prouve argues that prefab buildings are part of a standardized “ugliness” which “rules our surroundings” (Prouve, 99).  Rather, he argues that prefabrication can be beautiful, if given a hand-crafted attention to dimensions, ergonomic details, and material assemblage.  Anything less, Prouve states, leaves a wasteland of impersonal, factory-produced, cold, and sterile industrialized landscapes. “Can one really believe that people and children brought up in [such] surroundings could grow and develop more beautiful bodies and minds?” (99) Prouve asks, and given the intrinsic value of industrialized parts (Neutra), but the sterility that could result if too much is standardized and proportioned at a scale foreign to the human ergonomic (see Sennett’s Wittgenstein House) it is self-evident that buildings can maintain good proportion (a la Loos), be mass-produced (Neutra) but also lead toward a more beautiful and liveable architectural future.

Works Cited
Neutra, Richard. Survival Through Design. pp 53-71
Prouve, Jean. Prefabrication: Structures and Elements. Framework of Life pp. 98-104
Sennett, Richard. The Craftsman. Craftsmanship. pp 252-257


Illustory 2: What does Jesus mean to you?

A simple survey
taken with friends 
at Copley Square
in Boston

Two friends and I took it upon ourselves to go out
and ask passers-by one question:
"What does Jesus mean to you?"
I drew their faces while my buddy recorded their words.

what does Jesus mean to you?
an illustrated story

"Love and giving"
"A prophet"

"Jesus is my life, strength, purpose, health, joy, and wisdom"

"Son of God, savior"
Marcel (from DRC)

"A good metaphor"
Angie (not her real name)

"Awesome cool guy who I don't think should be forced on people by religion"


"He is awesome possum"

"A friend who walks beside you"

"Love and compassion"

"The center of my joy"


"The son of God"

"A spiritual guy"
Juan's Mom


"Salvation through his... through the blood of Jesus we're saved if we choose to receive it"

"Savior, son of God who atoned for our sins"

"Basically, son of God, one of the main figures in out culture, respected by other religions"

"A dude who might have existed. But I do believe in God"

"Jesus is the reassuring idea someone or something else has the reigns"

"Jesus is my life"
(Javier was the most amazing story. 
He cried after we asked him this question 
and we prayed with him right there in Copley. 
It was an extremely humbling experience.)


Overall the responses we received were not what I expected from a crowd in Copley Square at 5 o'clock.  I personally expected responses to be less open to Jesus than they were-- two weeks prior we had some very long and drawn out discussions around Boston Common after asking the question "what does God mean to you" and expected a lot of opposition against Jesus, which was simply not the case.

Although most responses were short we had the chance to speak openly about our own faith with many of the people we interviewed.


Illustory: Second Sunday on Main

took place this weekend on Main Street
an urban community in Cincinnati, Ohio

My brother and I took it upon ourselves to go out 
and bring a little social experimentation 
to the Main Street crowd: our challenge:

an illustrated story

Here's how it works-- 
my brother and I invited passers-by to share one sentence-- 
then we wrote down the sentence 
and then the passerby continued on their way
(I did a little doodle of the person so we could remember them)

We did this 24 times, 
and to keep the story flowing
we shared one sentence 
with the passerby
but only one sentence  
from the individual who shared before them.

Second Sunday Illustory
written by 
the good people of Over-the-Rhine

It was a beautiful day in Over-the-Rhine, but no one knew what was to come… 
Til they saw the boys in dresses, and they wondered what was going on. 
And that’s when they found the Cok3 
[Please send 89 cents to Coco Cola Industries] 
for a free Coco Cola hat
I’ll be a bad girl for you

If you treat me right
I’ll do whatever the hell you like; and I mean anything 
As long as you promise me a job and taxes go down [hahahah] 
I’ll be yours for the rest of my life
But only if we move to Alaska
I will take you to that one place where I’ll tell you the things that I never had the courage to do. 

I will show you the things that inspire me there and ask you to support my bravery
For it is you who is my soul mate and will carry me through this lifetime. 
But only if you stop closing the beer stand early
More people would stay longer
If they knew what I was thinking
They wouldn’t be fuckin’ smilin’ right now [laughter]. 

Every day you walk down to the well, one day, the bottom’s gonna fall off the bucket
So then you’re gonna have to play a game of basketball
Discotech, break the boogie neck. 
Holy shit, what do you add to that? 
And then, he died.
And that's that.


The Third Quality of Authenticity

It seems clear that the whole preservation and restoration movement is much more than a means of promoting tourism or a sentimentalizing over an obscure part of the past – though it is also both of those things. We are learning to see it as a new (or recently rediscovered) interpretation of history. It sees history not as a continuity but as a dramatic discontinuity, a kind of cosmic drama. First there is that golden age, the time of harmonious beginnings. Then ensues a period when the old days are forgotten and the golden age falls into neglect. Finally, comes a time when we rediscover and seek to restore the world around us to something like its former beauty.But there has to be that interval of neglect, there has to be discontinuity; it is religiously and artistically essential. That is what I mean when I refer to the necessity for ruins: ruins provide the incentive for restoration, and for a return to origins. -J.B. Jackson The Necessity of Ruin

PROMPT: What are the seekers of authenticity actually seeking?

To address the desires of authenticity seekers without first addressing the definition of authenticity itself would be a step misplaced.

“Authentic: not false or copied; genuine; real.”

This definition of authenticity applied to varied fields of study yields surprising findings. In the field of Art, authenticity is the “perception of art as faithful to the artist's self, rather than conforming to external values such as historical tradition, or commercial worth.” From the standpoint of psychology the definition of authenticity stands as an “attempt to live one's life according to the needs of one's inner being, rather than the demands of society or one's early conditioning.”

More generally, authenticity refers to the degree to which one is true to their own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures. Perhaps this definition of authenticity hits nearest to intention of what “authenticity seekers” are actually seeking in authentic historic communities. To begin, it is crucial to note in any subjective analysis that “we can only see spaces as authentic from outside them.” (Zukin).

"Slums so feared by the righteous middle classes continue to appeal to artists and intellectuals because of their reservoir of danger and decay as well as their tolerance of or unwillingness to police cultural diversity." -Sharon Zukin

The analysis of a community as “authentic” or “inauthentic” comes from a solid grounding in a variety of academic and social perceptions. One may perceive authenticity as truthful only to its historic cultural grounding—that is, the degree to which a community maintains to its original cultural traits and customs. Alternatively, a community may be perceived as authentic based solely on the state of its physical condition—that is, the degree to which built and infrastructural artifacts are still extant over time. This analysis not only mandates the physical presence of built infrastructure (buildings are still physically standing as opposed to being demolished) but also concludes that buildings must be in use respective to their original function (buildings originally constructed and occupied as residential spaces may still serve that same purpose in the modern day, and industrial/commercial properties in kind true in social purpose to their original built intention).

But there is a third quality; a quality that goes beyond the traditions of a community or the physical presence of buildings and infrastructure the community has preserved. I call this third quality “grit,” corresponding to the social and material evidence of the passage of time and diversity of population and use that transcend the original demographics that once existed and functions that buildings once served. As illustrated by Zukin, “new residents do not always share the same social status or ethnic background, but they do share… a desire to seek out aesthetic evidence of cultural diversity, and an occupational motivation to use the city streets for artistic inspiration” (Zukin).

This quote harkens to our original definition of authenticity as “true to personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.” If a community can likewise maintain its personality, spirit, or character, (in spite of physical, social, or economic externalities) it builds that quality of grit. That quality of genuine purpose which seekers of authenticity so adamantly pursue.


A song of spring

The sun rises earlier this time of year then it did in Winter. It sparks life in everything it once melted. The birds are the first to rise, chirruping their praises in hopes the sun will bring them another day full of worms and discarded lunch crumbs. Next buses churn out across one-way roads, and early-risers meet the crack of down early enough to call out to each other words of encouragement as they walk caddy-corner streets apart, striving (as always) to be early to work. But not too early of course!

rooftop view
(Photo cred Dan W.)
This is when I wake up. Or go to sleep, depending on the load of work I'm facing. Most often, I sleep and miss sunrise, which is most unfortunate as sunrise is really the first deep breath of life in any full-blooded day.  But I digress. In any given day I may bemoan my oversleeping, yet rise and strike forth on my trusty bike to climb the hill to campus. Greeting from my bicycle seat the thirteen or so homeless men and women I pass each day, I think it a blessing to pass through such a grounded field of local "veterans" with whom I can share my morning ride- if only briefly- through the simple exchange of waving at one another. The roads are packed with cars and a biker in my part of town find himself oftentimes the lone wolf. If by chance there are other bikers upon the streets we have fun winking, waving, and cat-calling one another to make up for any entertainment that storefronts and windows empty of people would otherwise provide. All this comes before the hill.

The hill.

That glorious, precipitous hill. A mass of land carved from the very bowels of the earth itself.  Daunting. Towering. Unforgiving. It is the single greatest threat to an easy morning ride. A man on his bike has but three options by which he may surmount it-- 
One: stare down the hill. With unwavering gaze, pierce the very rock upon which it rest. Unblinking, a rider pursuing this option must have the most rigorous of demeanors and the most steadfast of constitutions.
Two: avert all visual contact. The hill stretches upward and upward for but one mile, though its distance grows all the longer peering up the hill to see the next curve- the next fruitless switchback yielding switchback and switchback beyond. Adhering to the Japanese saying "after climbing a mountain... there is yet more mountain" those pursuing option 2 avert their gaze and pedal madly, in defiance of the massive climb ahead, if only to focus on the simple act of thrusting deeply their hip, thigh, calf, and ankle into each bereaved stroke of their metal mount.
Three: breathe it in and savor every moment. As the hill rises, views improve and one's pulse and perception are proportionally quickened. Like a thoughtful reader pouring through tender, tedious text to find the moments of joy tucked amongst a myriad of myopicisms, this is my preferred method of ascension.

looking up

Eventually the hill ends and the biker who once thought himself a lone wolf is surrounded by a milieu of pedestrians, mostly collegiate, each of which is striving (often blindly) to reach their destination.  Few wear smiles. More often they wear headphones. Though their urbanity is unquestionable somehow the thirteen homeless people at the hill's base seem friendlier than these academics striving to block out any 'unpleasantries' of their surroundings.

The day rushes by in a flurry of pens, papers, smiles, sketches, and snacks.  Classes drag and zip according to course content.  Lounging alternates with sprinting, and in any downtime hugs and theoretical musings take precedence over thoughts of the evening's chores and other trifling matters.  But classes end and the building empties. Sidewalks overflow with the jetsam of a swollen day. Many find their friends best company for the journey home. Many more find their headphones. I however find a sturdy bike my fairest companion, and depart with the release of a song or whistle matching pace to the thrust of legs driving axle'd rubber tyres into road.  The journey home is filled with thoughts of the day past. Did I miss anything? Were my concepts strong? Did I represent Christ in my words as well as actions? Have my best days yet to come? What of my friends? Where will we end up? Will I ever find fulfillment? Will I ever find that one special pers--THE HILL!

Another big cleanup day for UC PAN on Race Street. Unrelated.

And just like that, our dear mother earth drops off in a rush of trees, clouds, asphalt and parked cars. Sitting low, streamlined against the rushing wind, our dear rider grips his handle bars and drops into his most aerodynamic stance. Screaming for joy and batting tears from his eyes, he whizzes past men, women, and scurrying creatures alike. But alas, the journey lasts far too short! That same hill which took aeons to surmount at dawn now flies by in seconds.  With bleary watering eyes our fearless rider zips through a yellow light-- maybe a little too orange for his fancy. The same homeless folk he saw this morning return his heartfelt waves and greetings of a day well-spent.  As his final destination nears he concludes that despite the trials rising to the hilltop, it was worth the challenge for the thrill of the ride home. And home he finds. In all its tattered, battered glory.  With neighbor Tom and roommate Steve there to warmly greet, the day has never seemed more peasant.  It is days like this, in their joyous cycle of rising and falling, that so tenderly embrace the peaks and pits of life itself.

And that's all I have to say about that!


Parametric Urbanism

Input: the incessant feed of raw physical and numerical data providing a foundation upon which all proper and responsive parametric design thrives. Variations of innovative data response exist all around, from the simple mechanical technology found in transition lens sunglasses to the complex algorithm of preferential and personalized data tracking that drives suggestions and network connections in such social media giants as YouTube, Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Architecture is primarily a physical art aimed to provide a sturdy and socially responsive solution to shelter. At its core architecture thrives on the ability of a trained designer to ascertain the needs and requirements of his client and craft a structure to meet those needs all the while providing just the proper combination of stability, utility, and beauty. It is necessary for an architect to marry ecologically considerate forms functioning in harmony to nature with subjective beauty, as a design proposal lacking in either element will respectively be poorly responsive to its contextual or, quite frankly, just plain ugly.

Peter Eisenmann's City of Culture
ecologically considerate form or subjective beauty?
Eisenmann’s City of Culture: parametrically modeled

Granted, beauty is subjective and contextual approach is not absolute, but raw data processing (in the form of numerical analysis) is rarely undertaken during the process of design at which a building’s form is crafted in response to its physical context. Sure, it would be false to say architects do not take in a variety of numerical data. However other than the raw data of solar calculations, localized demographic analysis, and financial assessment (to name a few) architects practicing parametric architecture and parametric urbanism craft their buildings largely in a subjective process that depends more on client need and design instinct than on specific numerical analysis. However, in an age saturated with data and input of all forms, architecture is beginning to respond and inform its surroundings based on objective figures gleaned from such existing technologies as GIS (geographic information systems) and solar analysis.

So does this entail an architectural response fully responsive to numerical information gathered from digital archives and up-to-the-minute data input? Not in the least. Architects must still serve as the parametric interpreters of context to process objective/subjective data and produce a considerate response to the unique and capricious whims of vacillating and objective value-based input. Perhaps Tim Love says it best that at one end of parametric design is “gee-whiz formmaking” – that is, blobitecture, sculpture-buildings, all the frills of too-eager form giving; while at the other end of the spectrum lies “a [purely] metric-based emphasis on social and/or ecological relevance.” He calls for architects to strike a much more measured stance.

“It’s too often the case that the process of creating forms by inputting and manipulating data does not require the designer develop a nuanced and comprehensive design strategy; and the process itself can produce a spurious and easy complexity that masks the absence of that more expansive approach. In some projects, for instance, specific cultural, social, and physical contexts are deployed mainly as tactics for autonomous form making.” - Tim Love

As data coalesces and consolidates to a manageable level of processing, a vastly growing pool of “input” streams begin to emerge. Architects must now more then ever act with wisdom and discretion toward the tools and responsibilities of the profession; an architect must not be caught up on the pure pragmatics of parametric design to respond to yes/no 1/0 data inputs, neither should he be obsessed over pure form. A balanced approach is key.

The beauty of such advancement lies in parametric thinking. Certain materials and systems can react to input on the fly, whilst other more entrenched forms will likely not change over the course of their built-lifespan. Architects must act in either case to appropriately respond to long and short-term vacillations of context. Parametric tools yield a powerful method of processing data on both fronts. A well-constructed building can provide a parametric shell fully responsive in form to any aspect of its context. This form can be based on any number of processed data input streams. However, once constructed a building’s form is very unlikely to change and specific place-based material technologies come much more into play. Parametric design in this sense can be applied equally at macro and micro scales, in each case reacting as needed to any range of social, economic, formal, ecological, and material data inputs.

So what lies in store for parametric design? What does the future hold as architecture adopts the tenets of such an emerging technology? The key lies in one of architecture’s hottest metaphrases- “Yes is more.” Preached by Bjarke Ingalls of the Danish Firm BIG, “Yes is more” calls architects to embrace all inputs, and links parametric design as a viable – if not mandatory – tool in the progression of the field from simply its ability to be fully inclusive of all elements in a designer’s thought process to physically conveying them in the form and function of the building itself.

BIG's Danish Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010
Design process
integrates form and function

By responding to specific parameters and limitations of parametric design and by allowing buildings to respond and function in kind (adapting to shifts in climate, user location/preference, contextual keys, and input-based data response) architecture may grow to accommodate and spryly respond to the needs and ecological leads of our modern age.

Schumacher, Patrik. "The Parametric City." The Parametric City. 2010. Web.



My pastor in Cape Town was named Christo. He led (and as far as I know, still leads) Cape Town's CommonGround Inner City church as a warm-hearted but straight-shooting and to-the-point warrior for Christ.  During my first few weeks living in Cape Town I didn't meet a lot of Christians or "white people" in Bo-Kaap (that last term sounds incredibly racist now, but that's what people called it there!) CommonGround, a church attended primarily by "whites" from outside Bo-Kaap, was just a few blocks from my apartment and it was easy enough for me to get to church, but coming back I always felt as if I was going back into a real war zone of anti-Christianity. For all the strengths of CommonGround as an "inner-city" community of people surrendering their lives to Christ I hardly saw anyone from the church walk back and engage with the inner-city it was surrounded by.

One day while out on a morning jog through the Cape Company Gardens I reached the far south end of the park and stopped to stretch, noticing a man huffing and puffing toward my same terminal end of the path where I stood.  As he reached the end of the park and looked up, I gasped and realized it was none other than Pastor Christo himself!

Needless to say I was shocked. I thought Christo must have lived far from town and commuted in to lead the inner-city church every day. But this was not true. It turns out that Christo also lived in Bo-Kaap (very near to me in fact), and as one of the community's few Christians he was having daily interactions with Muslims - as a pastor and guide for CommonGround InnerCity, he was fully immersed in the community he pastored!

Though I have now fully moved in at my OTR apartment, I still have a lot of happy baggage around that I have been relishing and rolling around, hesitant to pack some of it away into drawers or cabinets to gather dust.  One such article of happy baggage is my sermon notes from one of Christo's most impassioned teachings, which I have paraphrased below (OK, try imagine this spoken with an Afrikaans accent as thick as Mrs. H. S. Balls Chutney):

I recently read about an incident in a national park in America where a devastating fire cause great damage and destruction. After the fire had settled, a group of game rangers walked up the mountain to assess the damage. They were surprised to find a skeleton of a big bird in one of the trees, almost completely covered with ash. Why did this bird not fly away from the flames, they wondered. Upon closer inspection they found  three little chicks – alive under their mother’s wings, which protected them from the flames. 

Psalm 91:2-4 read as follows: 
‘I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.’ 

As a gospel centred community we are increasingly learning to find refuge under God’s wings and putting our trust in Him. Let our lives bear witness to this to our city, wherever we find ourselves. 

So what can we take from this?  As I look back at this teaching and think how Christo was just like that mother eagle taking any scorn and rejection from Muslim neighbors (although truthfully he loves them regardless of their faith). I think how Jesus, in the same way the mother eagle died to save its baby chicks, died on the cross for our sins. He gave his body as a shield for us against the world's evils and his cleansing blood set us free from the condemnation of our carnal sins.

Now how is this relevant to living in Cincinnati. This city is no more protected than Cape Town. The same evils and challenges facing Bo-Kaap threaten Over-the-Rhine as well.  But our role.  To be the vanguard of community.  To not shrink from danger and personal and spiritual threat but to stand firm and boldly to love our neighbors as Christ called us to.  To be the mother eagle for anyone helpless and innocent of the community, even if it means giving our life and the easiness of our own lifestyles.  This is what it means to be in community.


I am not sure how to apply this, however, when the helpless victim is a man easily thirty years older than I am.  My good friend and local watchdog-downstairs Tom Banks (who always hangs his head out of his window and hams up the news with any passers-by, asking if people are safe and shoo-ing along anyone with ill intentions) was just evicted yesterday.  Tom is one of the greatest things about Over-the-Rhine.  Everything about him radiates "humanity," from the cheerful way he looks out for everyone passing by to the humble disposition he shows for strangers and friends alike.

As Over-the-Rhine is being gentrified and rent fees began to increase up last year, Tom began to be unable to pay his own rent. Skyrocketing cost-of-living expenses have finally won the battle of gentrification, and as I write this two men are carrying Tom's mattress out to the kerb, leaving him with only one blanket and the clothes on his back. I've never witnessed anything like this, and I'm not sure what to do.  Should I let him live in my apartment until the weather warms? Should I help him with means and shelter? Matthew 9:12 says "It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." And as the building stock in OTR is either labeled unofficially as "abandoned" or "gentrified beyond all reason" people like Tom, who bring so much life and love to this neighborhood, are being evicted. I'm not sure how to act but I believe that Tom is going to go into shock without a home. I honestly don't know if he will make it through the year. For my part I will look out for him just as he has looked out for me...

Please pray for Tom and the people of Over-the-Rhine. I can't be their mother bird to lay my own life out and protect these guys from forces far beyond their and my own control, but I'm giving my time and willingness to God.  Whatever happens down here, He in in control.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" Matthew 25 40



The Return


Well, a lot has happened since the Muezzin. I am no longer living in Bo-Kaap and plenty of exciting times have come and gone (though some have lingered and many others are bound to happen yet!)

Looking at all the "draft" posts I have lined up over the last two months where I told myself "hey Nate, go back and start posting again!" I dare say I haven't been the most reliable to share stories and experiences from an architectural perspective (sheesh there are at least seven strange stories I have been waiting to tell!)  BUT in the meantime Twitter has been far more reliable, timely, interactive, and - yes - slightly addictive -- @nammitt if you're into that thing.

So, unless there are any requests (Bueller? Bueller?) I'm going to make an effort to share a story every week or so. Hopefully. Starting off with this post and a fantasticly terse quote by Mr. Alan Keightley
"Once in a while it really hits people that they don't have to experience the world in the way they have been told to."
-Alan Keightley

Isaiah 6:8 "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Go be bold!