Green Rascal Design

I'm a member of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. It upsets me to hear that the Commonwealth is planning on cutting conservation and preservation permanently. So I just got done writing to all my senators and representatives about these funds they are considering cutting. We're not going to support such actions. I would be okay with a temporary downgrade of support for one or two years, however eliminating four beneficial conservation programs in a historic state like Pennsylvania is not acceptable. Our historic and natural resources are key reasons why I decided to stay in PA when moving elsewhere would have been much more financially beneficial. I can't even think of anything else to say in regards to this matter because it is simply wrong!

A Creation a Day


Today's creation was quick and dirty. I'm not sharing it with anyone except the competition judges, so there!

On Saturday we submitted a design for a local record label's 15th birthday competition. That one may make it here to the site because I'm actually smitten by it. Is it weird to be so proud of one day's work? I think it might be.

Hopefully it will cool down enough for me to go upstairs to the painting studio and work on some analog stuff for a change. I feel like I'm going blind from staring at a computer screen all the time. I have a big nature painting sitting up there that needs to be finished. I was working on it a few months ago but haven't done so in a while because there was so much else going on around here. And I think my acrylic skills need serious work. So perhaps if I go up there with the intention of completing something it will actually get done. One can hope.

There hasn't been much else going on around here besides gardening. We put up some frames to contain the giant squashes and brambles, and I guess that was an exercise in creativity. The big sustainability issue of the week is our refrigerator. It has not stopped running in about a week, and we turned it down to the warmest setting and it still didn't stop running. We're disappointed because we were hoping to get to our chest fridge idea before our old one died. But now we have to get a new fridge, and it can't wait for me to figure out how to do the counter-top door idea. I have it designed in my head, but we have to go get parts and make a mock up... There isn't time for all that. And in all honesty I'd prefer to do the chest fridge when we are prepared to redo the whole kitchen. The room is just too small for it at this time.

Meanwhile, we'll be entering in more competitions. Some will be unofficial and we won't actually submit anything because we're not that interested in winning, just the process of doing them. And with so many entries, such as with today's submission, chances of getting paid are slim. So here's to fun times!
So it's Friday; let's keep it on the lighter side. The chickens are happy that it's not as hot and humid today. The sun is out, but there is enough breeze to make it comfortable for me. I'm not sure about the chickens. They're covered with feathers. But it's better out today than it was yesterday for sure. They were miserable!

The garden is doing very well. We have 20 or 30 squash growing, and we didn't even plant them! They're volunteer squashes from the compost bin. This fall we really must give the chickens all the squash seeds! We have some that look like butternuts, spaghettis and acorns. And we have one giant squash that's green and stripey which I don't remember having last fall. They are taking over the swiss chard area though. I really hoped the swiss chard would have done better. The kale is enormous. It seems to like leaves being cut off. So we're eating kale much too often. The spinach is a bust for the most part. Tomatoes are starting to produce fruit finally. The peas didn't do much. Our bush beans are doing very well, and the Chinese yard beans are catching up nicely. I'm not sure the status of the pepper plant. All the brambles are doing well now. I thought one of the blackberries was dead, but it popped up a leaf recently. The strawberries stopped producing fruit, but that's okay. The potatoes are flowering, and we need to add more dirt to their box. The rhubarb is hanging in there. Nannyberries are likewise struggling with too much sun. The currants seem to be doing well. And my elfin thyme is okay. I haven't planted the rose vine yet, but it's doing okay in the pot. I should find a place for it this weekend for sure. The figs that I haven't planted yet popped up a couple leaves, so I'm hopeful that they'll make it this time. The cherries are fighting off bugs like there's no tomorrow, as is the little honeycrisp tree. The granny smith tree is going to produce a good bag of apples, and it's just amazing. The kiwis are doing alright. The big ones are growing nicely and the other two are just trying not to die.  I think all the flowers in the front have died. But all in all things are doing fine.
On the topic of grass, there is a book out called Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg from Metropolis Books. I tend to keep the edibles in the back yard, though. In the front yard I plan to put a rose that I received from my good friend and mentor, Brian Billings. I'm hoping for more roses. Also I plan to plant thyme in the front yard. I suppose that is edible, but I don't think we'll be eating it. The thyme we picked out stays short. And we named our house Taimu Niyoi, which means "thyme scent" in Japanese. Chris was taking Japanese class when we were thinking about what to name our house. Anyway, in ancient Greece it was a high compliment to say you smelled like thyme because it meant strength among other things. I digress. The point is that I saw this book, and am anxious to look into it further. I saw other books I'd like to read, but I can only read them one at a time.
I hate grass. Grass is one of those few plants that I really think are worthless. It has no biological value as far as I can see. Now, there may be some scientist out there studying how grass grows or something in an effort to use biomimicry to make the world better, but until they come out with a study about how we can use grass to better the world I am against it.

You might think I'm crazy, and I admit that I can at times have crazy opinions. But here's why I hate grass. First, I already mentioned the lack of biological value. It is a monoculture. It crowds out or kills everything it can including my vegetable garden and apple trees. I suppose it is really interesting how grass tries to kill trees and thus why we must maintain a huge area of boring mulch around each tree we hold dear to us. But really, that's as far as my interest goes at this point. Stating that it is interesting. Again, this is something for scientists, not designers. At this stage in the game, the behavior of grass is not useful to me as a designer. Secondly, people use harmful chemicals to make sure their grass is weed free. Really? Do we need to do this? It's pure aesthetics for one, and grass IS a weed for another thing. Why are people so obsessed with having a completely weed free lawn to the point of poisoning other species in the process? This just does not make any sense. And in this economy, when everyone's belts are tightening, why would anybody spend good money on weed killer? Lastly, the energy put into cutting, edging and otherwise maintaining a perfectly manicured lawn is unbelievable! Gas powered lawn mowers and edgers used without fail every other week from the last frost to the first snowfall add to our dependence on oil. Electric models help, but electricity costs something too. And I'd rather be spending it running a heat pump to make my office cooler, dangit! Also, if you're doing all this maintenance yourself, then you're not growing your own food or spending time with your family. You're cutting GRASS! It is absolutely absurd to cover all the ground surrounding your house with something that continuously grows at such a rate that you have to cut all of it down by 1/3rd at least every other week so it LOOKS nice.

As a designer, I'd much rather have a yard of thyme. In fact, that's what we plan to replace this horrid grass with as soon as the budget allows. I'm sure the neighbors will be pissed, but honestly I don't care. They piss me off with their daily grass cutting! Geez, if they could only just get together and all cut their grass on the same day at least that would be less annoying if not better for the environment. But no. Thank goodness somebody is cutting their grass right now as I rant. And I'm sure as soon as that person is done, another person will start up their weed whacker to make up for it. I only hope they're consuming enough water to keep from getting heat stroke in this weather!

Save the planet; plant a tree.
Interesting that I can't comment on a comment on a post. But anyway, the last comment brings up an interesting subject.

For one, I've always thought just the opposite about repeat vernacular buildings. I mean, it is boring, I agree on that. However I don't think our ancestors would have built the same thing over and over again if it didn't work. I thought the same thing in Eastern Europe. "Gee, I wonder why they built everything exactly the same." And then I decided there must be a reason. People don't do things for no reason, at least not serial buildings. At the very least it's out of cheapness, or low cost like in the cookie cutter homes out of Sears catalogs or whatever. Just because I don't know what the reasons are doesn't mean they aren't there! I believe historically humans had a lot more intelligence than we give them credit for. Just look at the Incas and the Mayans...

Some things I've been thinking about lately have to do with the way modernity has royally screwed up everything. I heard last night that the size of dinner plates went from 9 inches in the 60s to 12 inches now. They're right! Dinner plates are HUGE now. Even the dishwasher in my house doesn't fit the new dinner plates we just received as wedding gifts! No wonder Americans are so fat. Honestly! The picture of two eggs and two strips of bacon on a 9 inch plate versus a 12 inch plate says it all. On a 9 inch plate it looks like a meal. On a 12 inch plate, well you can fit a lot more on there. How about 500 calories extra?

That brings me to these new school chairs I was reading about. I love new products and technologies, but these new fancy chairs for high school students are really depressing. They made a point to make it strong enough for a 300 pound kid to plop himself down in! They're bigger and have wheels. Pretty soon we're all going to look like those blobs in that space ship in the movie Wall-E. I think if anything we should make a point to keep the old chairs, or one-arm-bandits as they were called in the article. Make it more difficult for kids to squeeze in and move their chairs around. They need the exercise. And they need a reason to not engorge themselves on a full 12 inch plate of whatever fatty badness they can get their lazy hands on. Ok, maybe I'm a bit harsh. But I don't think that making chairs for high school kids that can withstand 3,000 lbs of force is a good thing.

Use the smaller plates, please! They started out that size for a very good reason, and they became bigger for no good reason whatsoever.



1 Comment

I read today about the Diana Center designed by Weiss/Manfredi Architects. Immediately I remembered Marion Weiss showing the plans and renderings to us in my last studio at Penn. Marion was one of the best studio professors ever, and I'm so glad I took her class. It's really cool to see her built work after having seen it years ago in, what was it, the detailing phase perhaps. Reading this article brought back so many memories of my teacher Marion ripping pieces off my drawings and models to show what she thought would be helpful. Oh to get back to that mode of working would be lovely. But I suppose I'm 20 years away from my goal of becoming like Marion.

I saw something recently about an exhibition of work by an artist who challenged himself to create something new every day. Of course it isn't a new thing to do, but the interview brought the concept out of the recesses of my memory. Perhaps that's the thing to do. Although I doubt I'd want to do all architecture all the time. Lately I've just been creating meals every day, which I suppose can be included under the creativity heading if I made it up or tweaked it somehow. But mixing that up with other things sounds like a good idea to me. And I wondered: what would Marion Weiss do? I think that would be an entertaining question to pose when faced with a creativity crisis. She always accused us of being in the midst of a crisis. Hey, this is as good a time as any to say WWMWD? copyright: me. lol

So is this the first day of my challenge? I suppose it should be, but I dare say I've been creating things every day (just about) for a while now. Website, blog and so on... But getting serious and really specific about it is really the best way to go about things in this day and age. Heck, you can't even network without being super specific, I just learned on Thursday. Turns out I've been networking all wrong for months! Imagine my chagrin. Not that anybody is paying attention. Maybe I'll get back into jewelry and add that to the list of services. My ring does get oodles of compliments after all. Anyway, with respect to my list of particular preoccupations, I suppose I shall create something every day. Hopefully after some time of doing this it won't seem like so much work! Right now it seems like an impossible challenge. Although, I guess if I really thought about it for some time I could come up with plenty of things I've created lately. Forgetting that task, lets just say "I'm going to create something new every day." Channel that Le Corbusier or Ben Franklin spirit!
Yesterday I went to a career and professional boot camp partly by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. It was very informative and I had a chance to network with some interesting people. So I was there all day and into happy hour, and I didn't have a chance to write. I wonder if I could access the site on my phone if that happens in the future.

I read an article about Chicago's Inland Steel building in Metropolis Magazine last night. One would think that the great and powerful SOM would be able to complete their exciting master plan to update the building and attain LEED Platinum status. Unfortunately the fact that it is a historical landmark building has made that impossible for the time being. I really found this article interesting. It gave me a thought. Clearly there is a disconnect between what owners think and what the National Park Service and other preservation commissions believe with respect to retrofitting historic buildings with new green technologies. Who is working on this problem? Can I help? As a LEED AP, and a young architect in general, I feel great sadness when an owner who is ready, willing and able to do something awesome for the environment with their building is tied down by red tape. This is a travesty of the highest magnitude in a country with so much knowledge and wealth. Why is our system so bassackwards?



So I finally got up the courage to start a blog after thinking about it for, actually, a few months I think. At first I don't expect anything. I don't have a focus. At least, I don't have a conscious focus. Like all my work, I plan to feel my way through this blogging thing. Feeling my way has almost always worked up until now at least. Lately, searching for work has been very difficult. My whole career of about 11 years has seen architecture decline. It's never been easy for me. And now that I'm doing this start up thing it's not only difficult to nearly impossible but also scary as heck. But one never knows unless one tries. So enter Green Rascal Design. I am an architect. I'm a trained architect at least. I am beginning taking the architectural registration exam(s). It's a weird feeling since I've heard a few trained architects say they don't want to be licensed. I don't understand why. Perhaps it's just insurance related. I was very excited to get my authorization to test, though. So for now I can design but not sign. That's fine. I can do a lot of things. Perhaps that seems like a problem. Again I'm not focusing. Honestly I'm tired of focusing so much. I have focused on becoming an architect for over half my life. Now architecture is down the tubes, and its time to unfocus a bit and see where it goes. Thus the other rascals. Architecture has a lot to do with graphics and interiors and energy and theory, and by golly I plan to do at least ONE of these things while I'm taking my tests. So I suppose I shall put links up soon to a couple things that I've done online. And then we'll do some galleries. Clearly I have one supporter already (thanks mom). And I'm off to do some work. not paid work yet, but research and development. Perhaps tomorrow I will talk about the chickens and the whole Rascal thing. Speaking of the original Rascal, I have to go see what he's up to.
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