July 2010 Archives

Mies van der Rohe gas station

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Yesterday, some other architecture geeks and I made on of Montreal's sacred pilgrimages. We visited the gas station on Nun's Island designed by Mies van der Rohe. This is the stuff of my early design history teachings. Along with Westmount Square, it's one of Montreal's modernist landmarks. It's been out of commission and boarded up since late 2008 (see more from Spacing Montreal and the CCA), but the structure still stands, even though birds have built nests among the signature black beams. Below, photos of a most perfect little gas station.


Even black hats need to stay current

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Today, I had the dubious pleasure of having the following site forced on me: Screenshot-Security Analysis - Mozilla Firefox-1.png
It did all the usual things, informing me that my computer (one running Ubuntu Studio, with a customized version of the Xfce desktop environment) was infected with a whole pile of nasties. It also did me the service of attempting to force a download of something that purported (but of course, would not) fix the problem.

What struck me about the site was what a nice job it did of looking like a standard version of Windows XP. Now, I know XP has been popular for quite some time (since 2001 or so), but it's running out of steam. Microsoft is phasing out support, it hasn't been available for purchase for a couple of years, and new computers (other than netbooks) just plain aren't coming with it any more. The folks running irritating pop-up, forced download sites need to get with the times and move on.

Ghost horse

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Because I have important work to do, I've drawn this ghost horse instead. Illustration is, if not a cure for writer's block, at least a handy distraction.


Dispatches from Banff: 3 (a letter to my funder)

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Below, the last dispatch from Banff (previous dispatches here and here). It was written almost two weeks ago, July 1. Not only is it a dispatch from Banff, it's also become the letter I sent to my funder, RBC, to thank them for paying my way. Here it is.

Starbucks, Canada Day, red and white everywhere. It's all almost over. In less than two days, I'm skipping town. They're playing an easy listening cover of a song by The Clash. And the place is packed with people, a police officer walks in, finds the line too long, walks out. Yesterday, I opened my studio to anyone who cared to look. Let them duck under the webs of string that physically illustrate my thought processes, put the sounds of ground squirrels on repeat, tried to make myself make sense, in four minutes or less. A month of this, of building something, although I'm not quite sure what, ends in groups of people coming through my studio, listening to my explanation of myself, walking out to get another glass of wine when it's all over.

Since my fourth day here, I've been meeting people in the dining room, finding interesting strangers to push my thinking in different directions. They have. From that fourth day, from meeting one person, talking, learning, has sprung a practice or some. From that one person, the idea to make connections. From that one person, the idea to talk to strangers. From that one person, layers of meaning. From that one person, so very much. Now multiply that. Every day. Every meal. Every chance encounter. All the everything that comes from constantly seeing newly. The different perspectives that don't belong to me. The newness, the newness, the amazing, wonderful newness. Every single day. And I want to keep it. But I think: in Toronto, am I allowed to talk to strangers? The permission. It exists here. In the dining room, strangers are for talking to, for meeting, for visiting with. Strangers are for bringing to my studio to look at the walls, look at the progress, spark new ideas. This place is about strangers.

Sitting in the Starbucks in town, with the Canada Day revellers, the locals and the tourists, it's not the same. The next seat over won't be taken by an interesting stranger, eager to talk. It will be taken away to another table, to accommodate the usual. Already, I feel a little more urban, a little more apart. This is the first time I've stepped into a Starbucks in a month. Slowly, slowly, my old routine sneaks up. I can feel the city infiltrating. A five dollar drink at eleven in the morning, just to get out and walk somewhere, the routine that breaks up the routine. No mountains, no river, no red staircase leading down to the forest, no strangers at breakfast. Just tall, tall, tall buildings, grass and paths in Queen's Park, my great big city, broken while I was gone. And email. Every five minutes, prompt replies. Logistics. A phone that isn't roaming, that takes calls and makes calls and texts and buzzes.

This month, I've been lax. I've lived inside my head. I've tried to make my thoughts visible. I've explored and found and seen. And there's so much more to develop. Now, out of the trees, out of the constant new input, I'll go back to my great big city, to my concrete and mid-morning coffee breaks, and I'll work. If I can keep hold of all these connections, the realizations and mental constructions I've built in Banff, I can make them real. Now, I go back and make these things ready for the light of day.

Connecting ideas with yarn

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During my month in Banff, I wrote a lot of stuff on the walls while trying to figure out what exactly I was trying to do (see here for transcriptions and photos of some of those early writings). I was then handed the realization that my working towards figuring out what I was doing was, in fact, a proper doing all by itself. Alongside that realization, I was also handed (on a platter) the idea of seeing what the connections between my various writings might be. So, towards the end of the month, I started to connect up those ideas. Below, documentation of the spider web that my studio became, in an attempt to better understand the interconnections between the various bits and pieces of my mental process.

Libre Graphics #0

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libregraphics0.pngIn the run up to Libre Graphics Meeting 2010 in Brussels, I had the pleasure of working on the very first edition of Libre Graphics Magazine. Thanks to the thoroughly excellent design skills of Ricardo Lafuente and Ana Carvalho, the magazine got to press on time and looks great. It's now available for download here.