miércoles, 8 de junio de 2016

Local Art

I dont want to be a hypocrite anymore. I only want to consume local art. There has to still be something special about place. Even though all of our wares do not come from Charlotte, there has to be something unique about the soil, air, water, roads, etc. The only thing they cant sell us is location.

martes, 28 de abril de 2015

Black Architecture


This is a paper I wrote for a Diversity in Design Competition:

Keep Saggin- how a rapper, Lil B, encapsulates the essence of Black Architecture

Is there such a thing as Black Architecture? If architecture is defined by the built form of semi-permanent buildings, there is no such thing as Black Architecture. If architecture is defined as a mark of culture, then it can be found in sagging pants.

As a race of people, this including any person in this country feeling unable to express themselves fully, blacks have not established any new architecture. As an aspiring designer this is a blessing and curse. It shows the inherent disconnection of anything historical involving the black experience. Our history is only tied to being oppressed and tortured. As Malcolm X put it, they took our names, our religion, our language and our national identity when we came to America. We cannot go ‘back to Africa’, on one level because our racial lineage, like everyone else, is pulled from so many countries and places within and without Africa, that it doesn’t make sense. On another level, the time spent here in America has been enough to set a brand new trajectory of culture that simply does not exist anywhere except in the United States. Here is why this matters: the place we call home is the place of all of our nightmares.

So what does this have to do with design? I believe design is the mode of expression, how to physically encapsulate the zeitgeist. Understanding this, and understanding black history, a history of oppression (whether real or imagined), we can look at the ways in which culture and design sensibilities develop.

The crown of cultural expression is in the built form, architecture. It serves as the ultimate ‘permanent’ show of a freedom, a sovereignty of a community. As a people, we have not yet reached this plateau. I’m not saying black people do not have houses, I’m saying a prescribed program based on a ‘western’ ideal has always been used to develop these buildings. There isn’t free expression, it is assumptive and aligning to an overarching power structure that is not representative of a certain experience of a group of this nation.

So, what happens when the crown of expression is not achieved? Everything under it is over achieved. That is the reason our cars are coated in ‘candy’ paint, why they have 28” rims, why the stereo needs to be blaring. It is the reason our clothes are so vivid, patterned, baggy or skinny. It is why our music has so many curse words, such illusions of grandeur. It is why we have an entire vocabulary and word structure. In essence, it is loud. We are screaming at the oppression. Our expression is a response. We are trying everything we can do to say, “We are here”, in absence of a physical representation of that.

What is inherently ‘bad’ about sagging pants? You can point to prison culture. You can point to statistics about gang affiliation or crime or violence. You can say it’s not merely a coincidence. Sagging pants is the essence of Black Architecture. It takes a system of dress, and is simply about altering that system towards signifying identity. It is making something when given nothing.

The song ‘Keep Saggin’ by the artist Lil B is about deconstructing and explaining the harmlessness of the sagging pants style.

He starts the song with:

‘Keep talkin’ the past, but we livin’ in the future’

I interpret this as him saying, the meaning of sagging pants can be new, it doesn’t have to be dragged from the prison or criminal culture.

‘Got hated on with my niggas in here
But understand that shit, it's what I wear
You act like-whatever, but truth is there
Family at war and troops is dead
Feel me? Why I'm saggin I won't answer man
This is just my kilt’
‘The earth - no love - this is how I feel
Everybody tryna say I belong to this
You belong to that, we in the group with this
We gon' call you that
And we gon' act like this
You gon' act like this
You don't understand’

Lil B is being judged unfavorably for a simple fashion statement. He brings up a valid parallel about the Scottish kilt. It is just as jarring in this society for a man to wear a dress as it is to sag. The only difference is, the kilt is respected because it is worn by a sovereign people. He mentions family problems and violence encapsulating the culture he lives in. And notes that while the truth is presented of his environment, they brush it off and still judge and prejudge.

‘The door started open when my cash got right
They should've open doors for my people last night’

The only way to be accepted culturally is for your monetary worth to be significant. He wishes they would just accept the blacks for who they are instead before they attain status.

‘Live your own life and don't worry bout acceptance’

The nature of the sagging of pants is a direct affront to what is deemed appropriate for acceptance in society. Lil B advocates an acceptance within, and an acceptance and understanding that embraces differences in culture.

‘And I'm not with the rape or the hood
Going to the hood, and shit on the hood
Oil refineries, the water no good
It's a lot of love but no money in the hood
No focus man, when they come down too
Rather stay in your house, than go walk around’

He mentions the poor conditions that people live in that shows the necessity of any form of expression to satisfy the spirit. The air, water, visuals, and communal spirit, are tainted in this environment. At this point it is a show of survival, a pride in this, which makes sagging turn into a badge of honor.

‘Wear my saggy pants
I'm a keep saggin, I'm a keep saggin
Fuck that it's fashion’

Lil wraps up the song with these last lines. Sagging is simply a fashion statement, just like high heels or a suit and tie. Yet the society we live in restricts sagging from schools and the work place for its arguably false connotations. And if the connotations are true, Lil B is arguing that if you can understand the struggle, you can understand the need for expression that sagging of pants offers.

Sagging pants is a mark of culture, it is a mark of a person who can define themselves. This runs counter to the history of being black in America. The struggle for sagging pants is a microcosm of the struggle of acceptance, representation of a race in a society that it is oppressed in. Sagging pants is what the black experience is about. Sagging pants is Black Architecture. 

domingo, 8 de febrero de 2015

Occupy Shawnee Apartments

Email I received from my apartment complex concerning my window shade:

Hello Hasheem and Darrell,

I noticed that you have a brown window covering in one of your windows.  We require blinds to be kept on all windows so that the appearance of our property from the outside is uniform.  

You will need to purchase a new blind for your window by 9am Monday, February 9th.  If you need help installing it, please let us know and we will have maintenance hang the blind for you.  
The blind color is Alabaster and the size for the bedroom window is 47 x 48.  You can purchase these blinds at Walmart, Lowes, or Home Depot.  

We will be installing a new blind on Monday if you have not purchased one by the deadline above.  If we replace the blind from our inventory, we will have to charge your account $57. Again, we will be glad to hang your blind if you purchase the right color and size on your own.  

Please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.  

Thank you,

My Response:

I have the blind. I hand crafted my 'light regulator' to beautifully illuminate the interior of my private space. It is a piece of my expression of self. And I am proud of it. I strive for a world where we as a whole are not afraid of being different and expressing who we are. The fear of being different is what holds us back from true happiness and equality. The need to be 'uniform' is a weak endeavor. Whose appearances are we keeping up? Who really cares how something looks if it isn't harming them? How is this any different than having a vase in my window? Or Christmas lights up? We have to be brave enough to be proud of our uniqueness. 

However, I will take it down and replace it with the industry standard blind I have been provided by Monday. I am an honest person that respects the authority that has gifted me with a space to stay. 

My hope I that maybe someone walking by has been inspired by my work. And if that has happened, that is all that matters and the 'brown covering' has served it's purpose. 

Their Response:

Thank you!

martes, 23 de diciembre de 2014

Research Week 2 Summary


Podshare is a 'hostel' company that is attempting to put a twist on typical hostel typology, out of San Francisco, I believe. They offer a communal type of sleep space where you get a bed, TV, some storage on one side, but on the other is a hall with other roomies. There are also bunk beds above them. They provide towel, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, wifi, community kitchen, bathroom, shower, computer station. Their mission was to "create more privacy than traditional bed, without closing like a Japanese capsule". Their plan is to build a network of these across the country. There is also a membership number that is unique to the user, it is theirs for each future podshare experience. In the time they have been in operation, 90% of the users have been travelers, 5% temporary housing, 5% transitional housing. The overall goal was to give a sense of authorship to the hostel experience while offering a communal experience.

Takeaways - I wonder how much justice the sleep aspect of this set up is given as you sleep with an open view to complete strangers. I know, I know, we're all friends, but as far as SLEEP goes, it should be no doubt a safe environment. I get excited for things like this because just imagine the ideas that are allowed to be exchanged. If they are successful in given people what I have been calling 'faculty', the sense of feeling in control of your lifes actions, If they are able to achieve this, and everyone feels expressive, the ideas would be beautiful. But... travelers in general that would sign up for something like this would already be willing to be expressive. I am wondering how to enable the average work a day person to appreciate this type of lifestyle. I am wondering if a situation of 'vagabond' life could be attractive as a life for someone who isn't already a rebel. MAybe I'll be wondering that forever.

Villa Spatiale

This was a concept by Yona Friedman in which the city becomes more compact and goes upward. It would essentially be a grid of cubes suspended above the ground level where people are allowed to plan their own housing. He believed in a 'fundamental right of self expression'. He believed the flexibility of a housing situation enhanced the freedom of choice for the individual.

Takeaways - I began my thesis with the idea that life was for the ground plane, and rest was for the vertical. That is what drew me to this mans work. The 'cages' he designed were purposefully giving the ground for trade, activity, sharing of ideas, while the sky was reserved for the individual. I will probably research him further into his ideas for self expression and the like.

Adolf Loos - Architecture 1910

Adolf Loos wrote an essay talking about the profession of the architect. He broke down the difference between the master builder and the architect. The builder takes the present and puts a building together only for the purpose of usefulness. It is a more scientific process. He believes the architect is tainted by 'ornamentation' and indoctrination. The architect worries about how their building stands in relation to the history of buildings and other buildings in other parts of the world. The architect also seeks validation in publications. Both of these aspirations are detrimental to the actual building that is being put up, as long as he receives acclaim, he doesn't care if the building performs.

Loos also spoke on culture. His definition is: Culture: Balance between our physical, mental and spiritual being which alone can guarantee sensible thought and action. So basically, being in touch with the vibration of the universe and being present. This flies in the face of the way most of us think about culture and tradition. We generally call something traditional or cultural if it is what people do over and over again, usually non-essentially, artfully. But Loos is saying culture is alive and it is only in the present, you are culture.

Another point he made that I liked was; Only the real example has the power to influence as opposed to drawings or publications. This means only the built form, only the object can teach, not the article talking about the object. That is the purest communication. So to build for validation of publication and to 'get your work out' doesn't mean anything according to Loos, because those that might know your building on a web page can't 'know' your building in the real sense of all 5 senses.

Takeaways - I like his definition of culture. We are all futurists, some of us are in denial though. As people, our natural desire is to do things that matter, that other people notice. To exist. So why would people be so quick to be 'traditional' to 'blend in'? I don't know. I wish I could figure it out. Now, I'm not saying be different for sake of being different, but let yourself lead your way and do new things if your essence wills it. I bet if you knew that doing something new would win you acclaim and validation everyone would be 'avant-garde'. But for some reason, general culture is geared towards acceptance of sameness. To make sure I am 'normal'.

Here what I have to say about that:

If you can feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and think 'I feel the sun on my face', then that is all the culture and tradition you need. You are human, move on and create new!

The Lottery of Birth

I don't really remember the details of this documentary, but it mainly just validated everything I've been thinking about. Here is the imdb summary:

THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH is the first in a three-part documentary series entitled 'Creating Freedom' exploring the relationship between freedom, power and control in Western democracies. The series draws together interviews with some of the world's leading intellectuals, journalists and activists to offer an alternative perspective on today's society and the future we're creating. We do not choose to exist, or the environment we grow up in. Our starting point in life is one of passive reliance on forces over which we have no control. THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH shows that from birth onwards our minds are a battleground of competing forces: familial, educational, cultural, and professional. The outcome of this battle not only determines who we become, but the society that we create.

Takeaways - There were some ideas sparked about 'other-culture' as I have been thinking about it. There just needs to be an option of systems, that's all I want.

It's a Wonderful Life

1940's movie centered around a man that had to put off his dreams indefinitely to help others.

Takeaways - It was a nice movie, but it was kind of haunting that he had to be happy with his struggle, I guess I am used to the completely happy ending model. I guess the takeaway was that life has achievements that aren't as clear as winning a gold medal. The struggle is the achievement? And you can't know that until you die? Ahhh.

But anyway, during the movie, he was a man that gave people loans for houses. He was honestly for the goodness of people, whereas the other man in town was the classic heartless developer. It shows a sort of example of the choice I've been going on about. The bank the main character had wasn't the best about getting the money out, but it was more of a communal system, whereas the heartless guy's was secure and everything. The main character even went so far as to build a tract of houses for the community at discounted rates. Imagine the unity and culture of the place with that amount of shared trust.

lunes, 15 de diciembre de 2014

Research Week 1 Summary

Minimally Invasive Education-

The idea is that learning isn't something that needs to be forced, and that learning is something that transcends class. These slum children were able to conceptualize and learn 'advanced' material simply through curiosity. Incentive isn't a monetary monopoly. Existence is the umbrella. He talked of a self organized learning environment in which the children were able to set up their own path.

Takeaways- Imagine these children setting up a new system? Imagine these SOLE's outpacing traditional education time and time again. This could change the entire discourse on education and be a rumbling for culture. Now given FACULTY, these children will grow up and discern the world in a refreshed angle, rather than racing to conform.

Utah Homeless-

The state of Utah has a program to offer people homes with no strings attached. There is a program they are recommended to undertake but there is no pressure as there will be no revocation of their residence. The article states that it costs $16k to deal with a homeless person, and $11k to simply house them. The striking piece of the article was the reformation it talked about in addicts and abusers.

Takeaways- I believe there will be a day when we are able to realize that offering instead of coercing people will be the obvious choice in creating a safe and happy society. When people are given the option to do as they please, they feel a sense of responsibility to be part of the caring community that gives them life. That's why religion works so well.

POL- Degeneracy-

Common people in a forum taking about why culture sucks. They often came to the same conclusion that the economically driven projects squeeze out the value in suburbs, strip malls, etc. While these things are more convenient and are better for your dollar, they inevitably leave something to be desired. Life is a hard thing to build. They also touched on how beautiful the old town squares were. I think this has to with care in building and the closeness and accessibility of the places there.

Takeaways- Common people do feel the loss of bad design. Design is important in part because people feel their identity tied to it. They mentioned feeling like their civilization had gone to shit. They kept bringing up other civilizations like the Romans and Renaissance as envy. There is a fundamental problem when  you have present civilians wishing they lived in the past. There is so much opportunity given our technology to create for ourselves a much truer representation of the life we'd like to lead. And yet the designers who society has trusted to deliver are coming up short.

TEDx Tiny House-

Housing Cost is on average 27% of Income, we spend 2 of 5 of our working days paying for our house. Average house costs $50,000 for a down payment. A tiny house costs $35,000. Since 1973 housing size has increased 60%, while our households are smaller. Were given around 30'x30' per person. He talked about the proximity to others fostering relationships. Families now live in the same house technically, but have enough space to avoid each other.

Takeaways-  Why are we so easily fed this culture of living in castles? Do we really stop to think why we need the space we have? Can we think how oppressive too much space can be? We are so afraid of not having, that when we do have, we make sure we have too much, just in case. This addiction is so bad that we crashed the economy in 2008 buying McMansions, for no reason! They weren't good Architecture, the neighborhoods were sterile, there was no culture going on. But the prospect of being a land-owning lord was so attractive. These tiny homes give faculty, as they provide adequate housing needsm freeing up obligations and resources to maintain a cavern and allowing you more time to explore your world. Paying less on a house in turn frees you to change houses and dare to change your life more easily. More change, more expression, more culture.

Torre de David-

This is a community that has arisen in light of a financial meltdown. They occupy a tower that was going to be built for banking that stopped production halfway. The people in the community initially had the place rent free and there was a dangerous mood in there. But, it was still better than living in the slums. They eventually established a communal leadership system which was able to rid the community of bad things. The people here do not have to worry about break-ins and theft, etc. There is a bond of trust. There are many services and activities that occur here. Inhabitants are tasked with building their own dwellings.

 Takeaways- Imagine the view of the world the children of this place will have existing in a communal society that has built them. They have watched everyone around them have faculty and build their own dwellings. They have seen everyone 'employed' with different tasks and making their own way. What happens to culture here? Will people feel the need to hang onto old habits given a completely new paradigm (that is vertical!). Can this tower become a bastion of culture and innovation? New music, dances, fashion, shoes. Imagine if a shoe is built to handle walking up all those stairs, and what the society could learn about shoe design from that endeavor and spread to the world.

Fred Hampton Speech - Power Where There's People-

Hampton speaks on building a society that is not under the thumb of another society. He mainly speaks of socialist ideals and the lengths needed to protect those rights. He speaks upon a global revolution of many downtrodden people from all walks of life, instead of just blacks in america. He pushes for a society that is not reactionary to the capitalism which puts them into the sad state, but a society that forgives and promotes love for all. The most intriguing element was the Breakfast for Children program. And oddly, how the government was shook by it. This program provided free breakfast for the neighborhoods children, fostering a sense of community and a platform for dissemination of helpful information.

Takeaways- Hampton was attempting, and to a certain extent creating a culture (not counter culture) in another culture. He was attempting to provide an option of life for people that had no choice. Freedom comes when given a choice. The odd thing is how frightened the government was about these communist ideals that were becoming very attractive to the downtrodden during this period. Were they afraid of not being able to control and subjugate these people anymore? What was the real danger? Sure, it is easy to pass it off as 'they are a terror group', but what Hampton was pushing for and later killed for was the idea of a peaceful community that could do for its own.

Imagine the pure culture that can arise when people are given the option of paths?

You could say we have that largely now, but when you really think about it, that freedom only exists outside the hours of 8-5. We only have one system of gaining a life for yourself. Which ironically is what capitalism fights against. Imagine having an alternate system of establishing a life for yourself besides slaves for a dollar? How happy would those that work be if at least there was the option to work or not. Coercion breeds oppression.

You could say that artists and the rich have the freedom to choose. I would disagree. Artists are paid at the end of the day by benefactors who have to use this one system. An artist can't be popular if he doesn't play to the desires of this crowd, and this crowd's desires are inevitably tied to the dollar. The same goes for the reach. The rich have had to contort their lives to take in a stream of cash from one system. Their desires have been marred by a life of constantly keeping up appearances. That is why culture has always came from the bottom. The bottom is where people have nothing to lose, so they may as well be expressive.