“give a damn,” architectural design

 

Architecture for Humanity - Design like you gi...

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Was puttering around when I overheard a conversation on MSNBC with a member of Architecture for Humanity.” Intrigued by the organization’s participation in helping rebuild devastated communities, I googled it. Perusing its website, I was impressed by its mission to improve the lot of those whose lives have been upended by natural disasters, including Katrina, Haiti, and now Japan. As a not-for-profit group, “Architecture for Humanity” is striving to refocus the stereotypical image of architects as being employed by only the rich and famous, to a more philanthropic one of helping those in dire need. This is a cause worthy of the donations being requested.

By showing an active interest in Architecture for Humanity, you are part of a growing grassroots humanitarian design movement helping to change the perception of the role of the designer. In most circles, architecture and design is seen as a service for the privileged. Our profession is guilty of embracing this ideal. Design should be a profession of inclusion whose talents help those who need them most. It is time for you to change the perception and design like you give a damn.

 

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

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I think they’re putting a call out to those in their profession, as well as to those of us who give a damn about the world in which we live, and the less fortunate who are trying to carve out a place in which to live. Forget mortgages and foreclosures, these people probably have no ground upon which to stand, let alone a temporary roof and walls within which to find shelter.

makes you think…about the bare essentials…and those who don’t have them…hugmamma.

 

 

japan, an editorial opinion

As if reading my mind, the following editorial opinion “Sturdy Japanwas in today’sWall Street Journal. I’ve reprinted it here in its entirety.

No nation escapes unscathed from an earthquake of the magnitude that struck Japan yesterday. At least 1,000 people have died. For all that damage, it is remarkable how well this island nation of more than 126 million people has withstood the fifth largest earthquake since 1900. Registering a stunning 8.9, the earthquake near Sendai produced a 30-foot high tsunami that hurtled toward some 53 countries.

Despite these powerful forces, one cannot help but note how relatively well prepared the Japanese were to survive such an assault from mother Earth. Japan stands, literally, as a testament to how human planning and industrialized society can cope with natural disasters.

A country that experiences hundreds of subterranean vibrations annually, Japan has been earthquake-proofing its buildings since an 8.4 earthquake in 1891. Until 1965, Japan limited the height of buildings to a little over 100 feet, but with the pressure of urban populations, the height limit was lifted. Japan’s wood residential houses were vulnerable to a tsunami on the coast, but its tall buildings seem to have held up well against the quake.

Minatomirai, Yokohama Japan See where this pic...

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In 1993, the Yokohama Landmark Tower was completed at 971 feet tall, a remarkable height in a country prone to serious earthquakes. It was only possible to erect such a building if one had the skills and wealth to access the most sophisticated techniques of modeling and engineering.

In late 2007, the Japanese completed the world’s most sophisticated early warning system for earthquakes, which was credited Friday with signaling Tokyo’s residents–via TV, radio and cellphone–that a quake was coming. The warning system gives industrial, energy and transportation facilities time to shut down before a quake hits. The biggest concern as we went to press was the ability to cool the reactor cores at nuclear power plants that were shut down automatically as the earthquake hit. The U.S. is sending some coolant materials.

阪神淡路大震災(東急ハンズあたり)

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Japan now faces significant rebuilding, but less than could have been expected after enduring its strongest tremblor in 300 years. We’d now expect that similar warning systems would be developed and installed in the rest of the world’s quake-prone nations.

Contrast this preparation with poor Haiti or the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, which killed some 70,000 people. Haiti has the excuse of abject poverty caused by decades of misrule. China has wealth but a government answerable only to itself. Sometimes the hard phrase, invidious comparison, is apt. After its disastrous Kobe earthquake in 1995, Japan instituted a multitude of reforms.

Japan itself has experienced some bad press of late. Its economic growth is stagnant, and its inept political class has become an embarrassment to its great population of productive citizens. But make no mistake. Japan remains a great industrial power. Despite the destructive effects of yesterday’s quake, the self-protective benefits of Japan’s achievement as a modern nation was hard not to notice.

supports my theory that the japanese work hard to sustain themselves…through good times…and bad…hugmamma.

“witch doctors,” do you believe?

With Halloween just around the corner, I’m reminded of something that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I’m in the midst of reading Orson Welles-A Biography” by Barbara Leaming. Written with his complete cooperation, it really is “a dazzling, intimate portrait of a legend.” Never one of my favorite actors, I must admit that I’ve altered my opinion after reading 396 pages of the 630 page book. Welles was really the genius he was touted to be! Unfortunately his diverse talents overextended him physically and mentally, so that his failures were as huge as his successes, both personally and professionally. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Through a series of fortuitous events, 20-year-old, recently married Orson Welles made his New York directorial debut in the midst of this country’s Great Depression. In 1935, Hallie Flanagan, head of Vassar College’s Experimental Theatre Workshop, was appointed as national director of the Federal Theatre  project. As part of FDR’s Works Progress Administration, the FT was charged with providing work for the nation’s unemployed theatrical professionals. Because Flanagan “was not a member of the Broadway commercial establishment, but an academic with a taste for experimental and regional theater,” and because, by rule, 10% of actors, musicians, playwrights and technicians “could consist of theater people who had not been receiving relief, thereby ensuring the presence of expert professional talent to counterbalance the inevitable amateurs who found working in the theater more appealing than a government construction project,” Orson found himself among this elite class of professionals.

Charged with mounting a classical production, Welles, upon his wife Virginia’s suggestion, chose to stage   “an all-black Macbeth by transposing its action from Scotland to Haiti, a startlingly new setting with important artistic advantages, not the least of them the rich possibilities for music and decor. … Preferring not to anchor the action too firmly in Haiti he had in mind a mythic island more like the fantasy setting of The Tempest than any actual place. But as Orson saw it, there was a significant gain in realism as well: by alluding to Haitian voodooism the production could make credible the role of the witches that modern audiences of Macbeth often have trouble accepting.”

At Harlem’s Lafayette Theatre,  Orson’s Macbeth opened to a mixture of  gang members, respectable black bourgeoisie, and Manhattan’s chic downtown crowd. When the curtain rose on “the intricate jungle settings, piquant costumes, and sensuous lighting,” the audience broke into “wild applause and gasps of pleasure.” And the critics’ reviews were just as ebullient. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times wrote with enthusiasm  ” ‘As an experiment in Afro-American showmanship the Macbeth fairly rocked the Lafayette Theatre, …If it is witches you want, Harlem knows how to overwhelm you with their fury and phantom splendor.’ ” The New York Daily News’ Burns Mantle hailed Macbeth as ” ‘a spectacular theatre experience. …the most colorful, certainly the most startling, of any performance that gory tragedy has ever been given on this continent.’ ”

In contrast, Percy Hammond of the Herald Tribune wrote ” ‘What surprised me last night was the inability of so melodious a race to sing the music of Shakespeare,…The actors sounded the notes with a muffled timidity that was often unintelligible. They seemed to be afraid of the Bard, though they were playing him on their home grounds.’ ” One of the African drummers, who accompanied the ranting of the three witches, made a voodoo doll in the critic’s likeness, hanging it in effigy and sticking it with pins. When told by the lighting director that Hammond was entitled to his opinion, the African replied ” ‘He’s bad man.’ ” Humoring the man over beer and pretzels at a local bar, Orson agreed to his drinking companion’s decision to put a curse on the critic.

“The African made one stipulation: the responsibility for Hammond’s death would be Orson’s alone. As a pretzel disappeared into his mouth, Orson nodded agreement. The rest of the company, Orson among them, watched with amusement as the voodoo practitioners blessed their drums before pounding on them backstage for several days. He barely gave it another thought until, shortly thereafter, he gasped to learn that Percy Hammond had just died.”

One of these times I’ll tell you about my “big-aunt,” who was a “Kahuna,” a Hawaiian witch doctor.

makes you wonder…hugmamma.

good samaritan #4

If you’ve read “no more pain, only friends,” you know how grateful I am to have found a great dentist in Dr. Quickstad. His unrelenting calmness with staff and patients is a comfort, in what could otherwise be a very traumatic experience. I sincerely wish I’d discovered him sooner; I’d have had him in my life longer.

The “bonus” in knowing Dr. Quickstad is that he has regularly volunteered his services at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Haiti. He has helped that island’s people long before the rest of the world rushed to their aid after the recent, devastating earthquake. He and his wife will return to Haiti this fall, to again be of service for a week. In the spring, donations were accepted which Dr. Quickstad matched, up to $100. More than $3,000 was collected for the benefit of the Haitians.

no fanfare about the man, he just does what he does best…hugmamma.