This year it feels like spring came earlier, the cherries and magnolias are blooming at the same time and the forsythia is blossoming too. They normally are distinguished by the timing of when they bloom but this spring we cannot distinguish them from a distance. It is a rare feeling to see both at the same time. Just an hour before the sunset, already many people had left but still there are a lot of people in Central Park lingering and enjoying the blooms. Now there are no tourists but what if they had joined? These are all locals enjoying their park.
This party speaks perfect English. They are dressed up and made up, taking pictures of each other. The branch they are on seems like it is not high enough. Of course no alcohol, but the spring is making them wilder. They are challenging to reach the next one.
We looked for an empty cherry tree. But they are all taken. The canopy of flowers is a universally preferred space. We sort of gave up and toasted with our wine and cheese from close by. An illusion that we are in Japan enjoying the ephemeral spring came to me, but wait a minute there are none of those popular harsh blue plastic sheets.
On our way back , we saw a lot of temporary sheds built by restaurants in the parking lanes along the streets. In our last blog post we wondered where the customers would go in midwinter, in fact they did not go anywhere. We saw many people in these sheds even in real freezing temperatures. They are locals, not from Siberia or Alaska. We admired how determined New Yorker’s love their restaurants and chatting. Although they don’t need that determination tonight.
I knew this island was very close when I was a child but I have never been here. Until a friend invited me to visit I hardly thought about this island. The ２km of shoreline has a beautiful oval shape. The island has a population of 70 in this fisherman’s village. There is a small boat commuting for 15min between the main island 6 times a day.
The island preserves some traditional houses from a century ago, though the conditions are not good. My friend is an architect who is volunteering his time to repair one of the houses. There are no drawings left, over time several renovations were done so that now no one knows what it was like when it was built, which is the ultimate goal of this preservation. He uses his experience and his speculation based on the remainders of the renovated construction, the choice of material and the customary way of house building at the time. The process is a chain of finding evidence, hypothesizing, and finding more evidence to prove that again…a total forensic study in a detective story. The architect comes here after 3 hours drive from his office.
Here is a philosophical dilemma. If you precisely save the old structure, the house will collapse in the next big earthquake which is considered to hit here very soon. The last hit was a long time ago and the earth has built up a large preserve of energy by now. Then what is the meaning of this preservation of cultural heritage? It is a lie to reinforce the structure in the modern manner. So what to do? This is a practical problem.
The side of the island facing to Shikoku island is for fishing boats and houses, but the ocean side is hilly and covered with natural forest and an undistributed ocean view. The highest point of the island is in the center and has a small lighthouse and an abandoned viewing platform.
The quay is the center of the village, everyone comes and chats about the day’s catch and mends their fishing nets. This piazza like space is very unusual in Japan. There is a quiet but vibrant life, not like most local towns in Japan where the center is just an intersection. A woman who used to run a shop that faced the quay passed by and we chatted… I don’t remember what we talked about. This happens to be the city center but it is also the quay, the public life and fishing life overlap on this small island.
On the island there are 2 inns, one is just for sleeping and the other one provides 2 meals (of course all from today’s catch) for 6000 yen (60 usd). They will make accommodation for you after you call for a reservation. A spontaneous visit may provide nothing.
There are no policemen here. So the main boulevard becomes a woodworking shop. What is wrong to have a party even in the daytime? Anyway there are no cars nor even bicycles in the island. I captured a couple of happy men at the corner of the angle, pretending I am taking a picture of the house beside of them.
How many islands like this are there in Japan? It is quietly isolated in the ocean. A half day is probably enough to explore this tiny island, but I want to come back and stay overnight. Time will flow differently here.
When we are leaving the island, a fisherman handed a bunch of beautiful lobsters to the architect, apologizing that normally he can get bigger ones. There is a blow of the steam whistle from the boat. We must go…. A couple, the only tourists today were on the edge of the island on the other side of the bay. They understood immediately what was happening and started a “once in a lifetime” dash. Our boat saw them and returned to the quay. The couple’s hearts were bursting…. I hope not.
Two months ago, we talked about how restaurants in NYC are surviving in the pandemic by converting the parking lanes into dinning space for their restaurants. They had just started at that time, so the settings were rather primitive and raw.
Now they are getting fancy and permanent looking. The sidewalks have been taken over as dining areas. Pedestrians pass through the middle of the dinners. It reminds me of the streets in Europe…messy and vibrant. In fact, some parts are a bit too vibrant, they are too narrow for pedestrians to go through. You may get the virus from enthusiastic guests chatting at the tables. One bonus is you get to see what they are eating- staring at their food is allowed.
The biggest difference is the new roofs that have appeared. Guests need shelter when the weather is rainy or windy. Additionally, it is getting cooler now. We wonder how will they accept dinners in the winter, what will be the next layer? I understand it is the time for them to make money to maintain the business before winter. It also may be the time for us to show our tolerance … except when it comes to catching the virus.
There were several reports about people who refuse to wear masks saying that no one can force you to wear one. Probably they misunderstand that mask wearing is the same as wearing a bike helmet. If a traffic accident kills them without a helmet, it is their own responsibility, nobody gets hurt… except themselves. With the same reasoning they also may protest the obligation of wearing a seat belt. No authority has the power to force you. This is wrong, the mask is not just for you but also for someone in front of you. You may transfer the virus to someone because very often you don’t even know if you are already infected or not. The mask is not the same as a helmet or seat belt!
This inconvenient fact has been informed to everyone so often and so widely. It is a mystery that some people have not read it? or they don’t trust any information from outside? But do they have any alternative counter theory that they can support scientifically? Did they investigate their own counter theory carefully? In fact, it is a foundation of science to doubt any authority, but you need to create a plausible counter idea and study it with a critical manner if you think the authority is wrong. You need to have the capacity to welcome a disliked theory and have the ability to examine it. You cannot just blindly dismiss. This is another foundation of science.
Although, the authorities may need to reconsider how to inform everyone. The social distance varies with wind speed, direction, temperature, humidity, in shade or not and the strength of speech, so it cannot be simply 6ft, obviously. They might have underestimated the ability of the general public to consider this judging it is too complicated for them. In some cases 6ft is too much, and vise versa.There was no explanations how 6 ft was derived, no information that the size of droplet carrying virus is 1/1000 -1/100 millimeter and typical fiber mesh of mask is about 5/1000 millimeter ( sorry for imperial system users), it is like “believe me blindly”. But you have internet and if you think a little bit, you will understand that you don’t need to go down into the car lane to avoid me walking 20 ft in front of you (this actually happened often). Can people think scientifically, or the authorities’ underestimation is correct? It is a hard question to answer, but obviously the virus carried on the air cannot propagate with the speed of light.
Our local park, Glick Park was closed for almost 2 years for “renovation” and reopened this spring- after almost 2 years of not being able to access the park it has suffered; many plants did not survive. The parks are heavily used now by New Yorkers looking for outdoor space to relax, play and use as alternate gyms for workouts. The parks really are the lungs of our city.
Our community group, Alliance for Kips Bay asked for volunteers to help maintain the park and I am always surprised how many people are willing to help in the parks, it is hard work, involves dirt and maybe bugs.
The Parks Department is struggling for funding and many parks were closed during the peak of the pandemic when all resources were devoted to trying to keep everyone healthy, including the park staff. They cannot maintain the parks on the budget the city gives them, it is up to the residents to fill in the gaps. The Partnership for Parks is helping to support the volunteers who are organizing community lead clean ups with training sessions. The Partnership and the corporate sponsors provided us with gloves, masks and they even gave us a tape measure to make sure we stayed 1.8m apart.
It turns out that almost every park in the city has a dedicated set of volunteers that weed, plant and lovingly tend these public spaces. The residents of every neighborhood can provide this kind of support, working together with the staff of the park. We posted about another volunteer group at Dag Hammarskjold Park, another neighborhood park, a few years ago.
We painted one of the benches in the Pan-African flag colors, something that the parks department is trying to do in all the parks. (Don’t look too closely!) I find weeding to be very therapeutic, so satisfying to get out those roots, just enough of a challenge, a bit of exercise and a good looking garden when you are finished.
Yesterday on a weekend bicycle ride we ran into a volunteer working in Carl Schurz Park and chatted with her in front of a lovely flower bed by the Mayor’s mansion. (The highway running above Glick Park runs right under this garden). We found out that she is a horticulturist and this flower bed is beautifully maintained by her as part of a conservancy group that receives donations from the community. She offered to come to our park and give us guidance. We are going to organize an event for our volunteers. It will be a fun event! —–Come and join us, every park needs these volunteers !
Last Thursday I was one of the lucky community members able to join in painting “Black Lives Matter” onto Fifth Avenue. The words fill one city block and face the Trump Tower, which has become something of a tourist attraction, ( no idea why) , Aimed at him…No, No. Hopefully this message will get through to those tourists who come to visit that building.
The department of Transportation led the event with the mayor, his wife and other elected officials joining in to paint the bright yellow message. After straightening his tired back, the mayor stated ”Our city isn’t just painting the words on Fifth Avenue. We’re committed to the meaning of the message.”
This is one of 3 installations in Manhattan, all painted by volunteers. Members of all the Manhattan community boards were invited to help paint in this location, other spots are being organized by local groups with African American artists featured. This work was professionally and beautifully done by the department of transportation, as you can see.
I did not participate in any of the protests but I did want to show my support- it was a very mixed crowd in terms of race and age, black, white, brown, yellow, young, old; a pretty good representation of New York City.
For several years we have been organizing “parking day “once each year a car parking spot is used for a neighborhood park. It is a great way to take back space from the cars and remind us that the residents are the main characters in the city, but it is just one day a year.
After the pandemic had closed restaurants for several months a group of restaurant owners on 2nd avenue asked Community Board 6 to use the street in front of their restaurants for outdoor dining for their customers. Traffic is reduced, the streets are empty, and the restaurant owners are desperate to get back to serving customers- their one stretch of Second Avenue provided jobs for 600 restaurant workers. Isn’t it a brilliant idea? Our community quickly supported this idea and it became reality throughout the city this week.
It is so fantastic to see this street being used for something other than parking cars or routing trucks that are racing to leave the city. In Manhattan only 22% of the population owns a car, so where do all those other cars come from?… outside of Manhattan. This brings a fundamental question; do we really need such wide streets? Possibly, the other way around… wide streets have been inviting unnecessary traffic into the city. It was more than two centuries ago that the street width and density were determined when carriages were the main transportation. I wonder if the city designers determined the street width and network by predicting the traffic of the future. We speculate, they just dreamed of European boulevards which were not for functional reason but a demonstration of the power of monarchies. It is believed that the current street system is a highly functional design and contributed to the prosperity of American cities, but did we really need this width?
Here you can try a thought-experiment. Imagine that the width of the street is double the current one, would it generate traffic and more prosperity? Probably the answer is that cars would pack the city until they reached a daily traffic jam, with polluted air and noise… an unsafe environment. The point is there must be a good balance, and it is something that can be designed and evaluated.
In the past Community Board 6 had tried unsuccessfully to encourage pop up cafés on some of the smaller side streets but the pandemic has suddenly made taking over many parking spaces possible! We hope this will demonstrate the pleasure of using our public streets for other uses and that it will become a new norm in the city.
These days when you talk, you read, or listen all of the issues are filled with the virus. Let’s talk about something different. I found an unfinished post written exactly one year ago, about a small village in a valley 30 minutes from the west coast of Shikoku island.—–
We are in one of the many small valleys that open up to the coast. The next valley to the north recently became well known among Japan as an active village driven by the internet, Kamiyama. You can keep going deeper and deeper into the valley until finally you reach the other side of Shikoku island through a narrow minor road where just one car can pass. This valley is much deeper than one in the last post. The road turns back and forth in what seems like an infinite number of times until you reach a tunnel at the top. This used to be a major access to the deeper part of the valley. Houses hug the road.
After the zigs and zags this view opens up. The houses on the other side of the valley are all old fashioned, the landscape has not been invaded by new industrial building materials, even thatched roofs are surviving. The same landscape was here 100 years ago. (How can people make a life here? Hard to imagine agriculture on this hill. A different time is passing.) It is a matter of time before the invasion will happen. Wind power turbines are visible at the ridge beyond.
It may not be an insult to say these houses are shabby, but in a sense beautiful. The materials are cheap corrugated metal and deteriorated wood, yet much better than the fake products which are artificially mimicking masonry. Human eyes are superbly created, you will notice it is not real. The newly developed fake products are durable, inexpensive and clean at the beginning, but they all soon become shabby and dirty and no character. Why not produce a new design respecting their own unique nature instead of mimicking? It is strange that we feel these houses are not so bad even comparing with a small old masonry shack. Yes the individual houses are not so good but not bad as a group. It may be similar that individual buildings in Manhattan may not be particularly beautiful , but collectively creating beautiful landscapes.
Masonry buildings can be reborn when renovated even when very old, and are the basis for the continued history of the life in cities and villages. It is an open secret in Europe. Wooden structures can be maintained to some extent more than can believed, but there is a limit. If wooden structures cannot create a built legacy, many Asian towns will never be able to achieve a beautiful heritage. Probably we need to reconsider what is beautiful. Possibly it may not be the European concept, but surely not fake materials mimicking traditional materials.
We are at a factory in Mexico city. An automation line is accommodated in this big space. You recognize the book shelves along the conveyor, a book manufacturer? Sorry it was a lie we are not in a factory. It is in fact a library which was built several years ago. This linear space continues straight for several hundred meters. The library is designed around this linear void. The reading space is on either side between the void and the exterior windows, an ideal condition with light and views provided for the readers. The book shelves are hung in the void but never move. You go to the shelves to find your books through small staircases and come back to your seat. Mezzanine floors that contain only book shelves are sandwiched between the concrete floors of the reading spaces. Elevators stop at each floor as wheel chair users and the Librarians’ wagons need to access every floor. We realized this is not a typical library that we know very well.
It seems there is very little staff for such a large collection. Do readers return the books to the original shelf by themselves? If so, it will be big work for them and will they put them back in precisely the original location? In New York you are supposed to drop the book into a big basket or leave it on the desk not return it to the original shelf. We wrote that the ideal library has a flat single floor, but this is the other way around. What if you have many books to read in many genres? You have to go up and go down many times.
In front of the louvers is a reading area, avoiding the strong light, the garden is visible between the louvers. 読書席がルーバーの後に。強い光を避けながら、隙間から庭園が見える仕組み。
Exterior. This linear expression is more than 200m surrounded by garden. 建物の外観、これが同じ表情で200m 以上続く。庭園も一緒に並んで続く。
This looks like a high end restaurant. The surrounding garden is visible through the slot between the old building and the new. 高級レストランさながら。庭園の緑が新旧建物の隙間から。
Next day we went to a national library. Although it is different from what you imagine from “national” there is no check to go in and you traverse the building through several entrances. It was renovated from an older library which had 4 square gardens by adding large roofs. Shelves and reading seats are laid out in the squares. Through the gap between the old building and the new roof, sun light and a view of the garden outside are visible. The only support of the roof is by a huge central columns. This structure should be quite expensive.
Small archive rooms are accessed from the corridors surrounding the big square reading areas. These archives were recently renovated with a very high quality of design. I have seen them published in magazines and books. These archives are respectfully dedicated to the original book owners and house their entire collection and it is a huge collection. This demonstrates a culture that has a huge respect to or an obsession with books. I speculate Mexicans return the books to their original location responsibly no matter if it is faraway and up many flights of stairs. That explains what it is like at the new library. I should have asked about this system.
stacked book shelves-the floor is glass, hung from the ceiling without columns. Amazing craftsmanship of stainless steel. 書架は二階建て。床はガラスで天井から吊られている。柱無し. ステンレス細工は驚きの職人わざ
As you see, a mezzanine floor accessed through a small staircase is common in these new libraries. It seems to be the traditional way of designing a library and is an expression of their respect and affection for books, which is gone in Japan or New York where books are considered disposable or treated roughly.
The mezzanine is accessed through a stair case 階段をのぼって中二階へ
A dedicated space for Braille, audio booths are suspended from above. Yellow guide lines on the floor. 点字専用図書室。 吊られているのは音声利用の個室。床に白線。
Does it make sense to build such a beautiful library for people who can not see well? Probably the small shelves are to improve acoustics. The book collection is coming. 目の不自由な人のためにこれほどの美しい空間を作って意味があるのか？ちょっと不思議。小さい本棚のようにみえるのはおそらく反射音響の改善のためか？蔵書の充実はこれから。
There has been a debate if written language was developed in north and south America before the Spanish invasion. There has been a recent full de-coding of the 4written language in Maya civilization, but it seems that the Teotihuacan civilization did not need a written language. How come this love of books developed? It must be an interesting process.
Despite the horrible history of the Spanish invasion, it is interesting to see the many amalgams of native and Spanish cultures. Is this book culture a reflection of this amalgam?
A new library designed by the star architect Steven Holl opened several months ago in our neighborhood, well, the other side of the East River. A 15 minute ferry ride brings you to the east shore and into the middle of newly developed high rise housing. The library project started over 10 years ago and has finally became a real building. The unbelievably long term for construction did not surprise us, we are also designing a library project for the City of New York. That project started with a walk though in 2014, and we are now still in the schematic design phase.
We were excited to see the completed project as we remember the very early stage of the façade from a decade ago and have been seeing this building under construction from the other side of the river for several years. It is very powerful. Randomly shaped big windows carve holes into the platonic boxy building. It has such an abstract form, not friendly… no entrance on the riverside (park side), a discreet entrance at the street side.
The inside instead is quite complicated, probably intended to be a Piranesian space, mesmerizing, with elements of dramatic skipping floors, bridges, staircases and arches inspired by the historic visionary Italian architect, but actually also messy. What you feel in the space is very different from what the photos give us, the photos cut many things out of the frame. The design is challenging not because of the unusual façade or Piranesian space, but by the goal of consolidating and unifying them at the same time. We can see that the architect was struggling to achieve both. We read that these elements are not very well organized and not well synchronized with the random openings on the façade. In every project you want to bring something new to the world that will be a challenge but this was super ambitious.
Probably it is just our recognition that many things may not have been intended initially. We speculate that originally some bookshelves were installed at more reasonable locations. The current bookshelves are located in abrupt and somewhat disturbing ways, the circulation collides with them, and they steal the scene….
We heard that the 2 skipping floors along the staircase used to have book shelves, but they were not handicap accessible; no elevator or escalator so the book were removed from those floors to somewhere else in the library. Books are probably not the biggest draw for the library, when we were there almost every table was full with people using their laptops.
This library has 5 floors and maybe more depending on how to count the tiny mezzanines and each floor has a small floor area, the general reading rooms were divided into smaller branch rooms. 40 years ago, we were taught that the ideal library has one floor for librarians who return borrowed books, and organize…. they constantly move books from one shelf to another according to expanding or shrinking sections. Also you don’t want to be sent to the next floor at the end of a shelf by the sudden ending of the alphabet after feeling that the book your searching book is very near, and find no book like it when you get there and come all the way back to the original floor. Knowing this the architect chose this height to stand out among the developer high-rises that surround it. It is New York’s version of the Sydney Opera house with its prominence on the waterfront.
Probably it is too popular, which is a good thing….it is in the middle of a densely populated area. We recommend that this is the first building you visit in new York City, it is definitely one of the best public buildings in New York。
At this years New York Open House, a yearly event to see and experience New York buildings, Sandy was volunteering at the Ford Foundation building near the United Nations. The garden and their gallery are open to the public but many people did not know and took advantage of this time to visit. Many people came.
The volunteer’s role is to guide visitors and to explain the architecture. This opportunity to visit other areas was a courtesy provided by the Ford Foundation. Not all areas of the building were open but we as volunteers received a quick tour through the upper levels overlooking the garden showing us their goals and their activity. The foundation’s goal is to improve social justice and they are happy to remind the public of their mission.
Then my next reaction was a question “why is this so gorgeous?” The construction cost would have been exceptionally high, and the use of this footprint in this expensive city is extremely generous…. There is not so much floor area, commercial buildings could never afford it unless this spaciousness and richness of finish created more business, like banks or art museums. Banks need to show that they are safe and profitable. Art museums need to show their art collection is authentic and a ”must see” they need to entertain art lovers with their space. Unlike banks and museums one of our clients doing research to fight a serious disease wants to spend the majority of their donations for their facilities and equipment and some money for decent spaces for their staff. How much do we value space and luxurious finishes? It is all relative.
When we left the building, I was in a strange mood, a mixture of happiness because of the experience and our good luck and at the same time, unhappiness, why can’t everyone have this environment? Don’t we all deserve this quality of working environment? Can other not-for-profit organizations like ” Doctors Without Borders” which have noble missions have this office as their headquarters?
We found that the current MOMA Young Architects installation at PS1 will end today. We gave up all our other ideas of where to go this weekend and rushed to the museum. The installation is one of the experimental architectural pavilions that is selected each summer by MOMA from among fifty applicants. The winner’s installation this year looked interesting to us, it is like a Porcupine which has spiky hair. The edge of each hair is covered with blue tape which is not very visible in the pictures but is very effective, they create a blue envelope.
Many colorful hammocks are hung from the pipe scaffolding. For me, the hammocks look ad-hoc without any context, not well integrated with the porcupine…hmm, but why? Modern life is exhausting… the hammocks are all occupied…. The inside surface is covered with a mesh screen that has images of tropical plants. I thought the inward-facing spiky hair could be blue too. I speculated that probably the designers (Pedro y Juana Architects from Mexico) wanted to hide the messy structure supporting the spikes, otherwise, it loses its strength as an image, and they did not have a generous amount of money to provide more than the screen and red hammocks.
Though in fact, this design makes me comfortable …. it looks fair to me. The installations have become more and more extravagant each year. MOMA seems to give a set budget to the designer but then the designers have to provide more money if they want to do more. Of course, a bigger budget makes the result more fabulous. If you cannot provide that extra money your show would be shabby, and if you raise more money your show will be fantastic… actually, all architects know money solves “everything”. It does not sound very fair. Your ability to raise money determines the success of your show. This reminds me a little of the election of politicians in the US. The best money collector will be the winner. Although here is the dilemma —— if you have a great idea but the money provided by your supporting organization is not enough, will you give up your full presentation or use your own money? or fund-raise?
Anyway, if you don’t have an unlimited budget you will figure out what to do within the budget you do have. This is a challenge that sometimes provides us with a new solution. I now understand that these red hammocks were the solution. The short life of the installation of just 2 months for the summer program reminds me of one of the Shinto shrines in Japan. Every shrine used to be a temporary building to receive the descendant of a god (or gods) at the harvest. The shrines became more and more fabulous and costly every year, but then they started to reuse them for the next year and the next year….. After many centuries they gave up the tradition, except for Ise shrine. They keep the building for 20 years then demolish it and rebuild a new one, identical in design. The design has been handed down for more than a thousand years but the inheritance is the concept, not the building itself. The enormous expense is supported by religious faith.
The building is invisible because of the high fence that surrounds it. The explanation for this has been that invisibility or that fact that it is unapproachable gives us something sublime. But this idea that preserving a concept (with an object which embodies the concept) is the purpose, but not the physical object may give a better explanation. Linage in Japan means that in many art forms disciples must preserve their master’s design strictly without development. Ever young Ise shrine doesn’t fit the World Heritage’s idea— understandable.
For the last few years, it has become an early summer ritual to go to Jamaica Bay and help count Horseshoe crabs. Late May-early June is their mating season and at high tide, a crew of volunteers organized by the Audubon Society heads out to the beaches of Jamaica Bay to count. The eggs that they lay are an important food source for migrating sea birds.
この数年間、ジャマイカ湾へ行って カブトガニの数を数えて生息状況を調査するのが初夏のしきたりになっている。五月下旬から６月初旬の高潮が繁殖の時期。カブトガニの卵は海鳥の回遊に重要な食糧となるそうな。野鳥保護を始めたオデュボーンの名にちなんだ、オデュボーン学会によって毎年ボランティアが募集される。It is always a lovely trip, from Manhattan over the Brooklyn bridge and under the Verrazano narrows bridge to Plumb Beach. This year there were more than enough volunteers so I had the task of looking for crabs that had tags on them and picking up the garbage that is constantly being washed onto the beach.
目的地の海岸までの道中も なかなかの楽しい道のり。マンハッタンからブルックリン橋やベラザノナローズ橋を渡って、市の南端にあるプラムビーチに至る。今年はボランティアが沢山集まったので、楽な仕事をもらえた。再帰してきたカニを探す役と、岸に集まるゴミを同時に集める仕事。毎年何匹かのカニが捕らえられ、標識のバッジが付けて放される。It was unusual this year, high tide was during daylight. In previous years we had headlamps and were searching in the dark. It was the first time for me to have the mating rituals in full view. Females do not move, they dig into the sand and the males try to attach to anything that is not moving. I have no idea what is the next step for the bewildered males when they find out the object they attached to is just a human foot.
There was also a lot of surf, so the horseshoe crabs had to work that much harder and persevere. We helped flip some over that were being tossed around in the high waves. They do a very good Darth Vader impression. In fact their flipped side looks more grotesque. The Hollywood movie industry has successfully implanted an evil impression of this kind of creature on us…..They look aggressive and harmful but actually are much safer than New Yorkers. They are meekly floating on the waves, silent, almost cute.
It was interesting to see the sea life that has fastened onto the shells of the crabs, one was covered in seaweed, others had intricate sculptures of barnacles and shells. It means they hardly move, I guess.
My fellow volunteers were New Yorkers, happily embracing these alien invaders- they are interested in the water life that surrounds the city and the families wanted their children to learn about the rich natural life that a big city like New York has. As I said good night and left the beach the sky was still bright.
We are now at a small valley near the east coast of Shikoku Island, where plums are produced for liquor and ume-boshi, pickles. We were here 5 years ago too, but this time we went to the deepest end of the valley. In the last blog I wrote it is almost equivalently beautiful to the many beautiful villages in Italy. After removing my fantasy to Italy and nostalgia to Shikoku, I still think so. This landscape is everywhere in japan but this place has something special. There are no buildings which use industrial cladding materials. There is very little traffic. These two conditions make this valley appear to be frozen in time from 100 yeas ago. There is no way to cross the mountain through the end of the valley, so no cars from outside use the valley. There are no shops, no advertising, no parking, no vending machines (which are everywhere even many in the beautiful country side of Japan). The locals go shopping at supermarkets in the next closest village. The old traditional houses are not poor, they are well maintained probably because of the plum industry.
At a rice paddy I timidly spoke to the people working, pretending we are local from near by but just lost. We clearly looked like strangers. I rehearsed in my brain, preparing in my local dialect making sure not to speak in Tokyo dialect… ” Excuse me but what is the fence you are putting up for, why do you need it?”
After taking these photos, I realized they look as if they are from a Japanese garden. I thought Japanese gardens may be an abstraction of this landscape. Then no, no, I thought, eyes which have been seeing Japanese gardens find this landscape beautiful. Finally I thought, maybe it is both like an egg-chicken conundrum.
By the way, isn’t this bridge scarily thin? We went down under the bridge, and found that only three “I” beams are holding it up. You hardly see this thickness unless it is someone who is pursuing the simplest proportions of modern architecture. It also looks like a Japanese sword. We left there feeling like we had received a special gift got a godsend.
Sandy, the coauthor of this blog became a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, FAIA. The AIA New York chapter organized a celebration party for the new FAIA members. Wikipedia says FAIA is an architect who has made outstanding contributions to the profession through design excellence, contributions in the field of architectural education, or to the advancement of the profession. There are several categories, but her coverage spans design, education and community contribution, which is unusual and hopefully will be a new role model. The AIA allotted two minutes for speeches by new FAIAs at the reception. It is really hard to summarize what the achievements were in that time. 2 minutes flies past instantly. You do not have room to joke or tell a story.
(We found we were silly to believe that we needed to follow that rule, some people entertained the audience with jokes and “thank you speeches” for 5 minutes like the Oscars, they needed that special music to call them off stage. I hope people do not think all architects are like that.)
A few days later we organized our own reception inviting our friends and clients. We chose to hold it at the blue origami wall of the MS imaging center that we designed a few years ago. Actually the wall will be torn down in several months for an extension of this medical facility. The reception was also meant to celebrate the short life of the blue origami wall. Many images of this wall have been published, so today’s guests would know it but experiencing the space at this scale was quite different… everybody looked curious and asked us “ How come?” noting how sad it was that it was being torn down.
I have attended the women’s march for the last 3 years and I am always recharged and encouraged by the energy and hope— we all seem to think we can make things better.
There was a lot of whining this year about how there were fewer people and there was not a consolidated idea behind marching- but I really wonder if there needs to be. It was great to see a truly diverse group of women out there, and some fantastic signs, raunchy, funny, serious and so disrespectful sometimes.
I joined up with the women designers, engineers, architects, and landscape architects- any women in a design profession (or not) was welcome in the group. There have been several newspaper articles lately about why aren’t there more women architects? Lots of reasons and women architects are still often not paid as much as their male colleagues, but there were over 73 women willing to come out and march together under the banner of #women build.
One of my favorite groups that I shared several blocks of the march with seemed to be friends from high school. They were a completely racially mixed group of women, black, yellow, white and every shade in-between; they were singing and dancing and eager to change the world.
For this years “Open House New York “volunteer assignment I was sent to Queens and on my way home I discovered this wooden house, the oldest house in Queens, preserved for its significance in the history of New York. John Bowne was the author of the declaration that was the first step in confirming religious freedom for Americans and his family lived in the house for 9 generations.
A member of the family was the founder of one of the first nurseries in NYC who collected trees and plants from around the world. He is the one responsible for the wonderful garden and the collection of specimen trees. Many of their descendants have been spread across the country from this garden in Queens. The garden is huge compared with the typical suburban houses and the street is lined with large oak trees planted by the family. It was originally farmland but now it is surrounded by masonry low-rise apartments, so out of place in this dense environment.
In this garden I met two interesting women, one had been a professional gardener and the other was an architect who is also the caretaker of the house. The caretaker lives in the house and lovingly cares for the garden. The house is part of the New York City Parks Department system, but like most of the parks in the city the parks department cannot maintain it by themselves and they rely on volunteers. She was looking for more help to prepare for the winter
I brought another volunteer with me today. We are here to prune and trim trees. As some of the plants are rare and have historical value as part of the original planting, you have to be careful how to cut. This additional helper amputated even the largest branches. The architect looked a bit worried. Did he meet her expectation?