Green Rascal Design




The chicken house got washed out today. Since it is Friday, I figured that would be a good chore. The fluffies needed attention, and their house was really dirty. We never really thought about how much crap would get stuck in the cracks when we built it. Of course when we built the fluffy house it was a rush job since they were quickly outgrowing their box, so we didn't get to do much thoughtful design work before screwing it together. But now it is all clean and wet, and when it dries out I'm sure the fluffs are going to be much happier. Right now they're kind of upset because, well, they're chickens. They get scared easily by the hose.

It was nice to do something good for the fluffies since they lost one of their brothers the other day. Not that they liked him at all, but it's the thought that counts I think. It's been kinda quiet around here with only one rooster rascal around.

Garlic is a fine rascal. He's very good to the hens, and he likes being held. He is, however, getting plucked. We didn't know what was going on for a long time, but recently we saw little Sugar go right up to Garlic and yank a feather out. Now that we know what's wrong with Garlic, we have ordered some medicine to cover his wounds and make it hard for the hens to continue plucking his tail. I'd hate to lose Garlic because of some disease we could've treated. Thank goodness it's just hen-pecking.



We lost a rascal last night. I'm very sad to announce the passing of Lemon. He was a bit aggressive, but still loved. We will miss him.
me and Lemon
I'm doing something very rare today. I'm making coffee. Usually the only coffee I consume would be a tall iced mocha from Starbucks, and that only happens once a month or so. I'm really not a coffee person. But yesterday I went and got a package of mocha flavored ground coffee and some filters. Now the percolator is puffing along on its way to hopefully decent home made chocolate flavored coffee.

I saw an ad for a new carpet by Shaw Contract Group that is a "Cradle to Cradle" collection. I love Cradle to Cradle. There have been such carpets for a few years, but no project I've ever been on has specified it except maybe one, but the interior designer of that project was working out of Texas and we had nothing to do with what she chose. So now I might have the chance to specify my own Cradle to Cradle inspired carpet, and it's pretty cool. In general it's pretty cool. I'm hoping the color choices will improve sometime.

It's sad when the advertisements outshine the articles in a magazine. But I've always been interested in products. We used to do a lot of specifications, and I was in charge of collecting the samples and data on various options to help make choices between them. It was great fun. Now its nice to see sustainable choices becoming more available.

I think I'll get a sample or two of this Social carpet, and hopefully I won't spill my coffee on it.

Happy Birthday ADA


So apparently yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There was an interesting story about it by NBC Philadelphia where the investigator lived a few hours of her day in a wheel chair. Even the most ADA compliant bathroom seemed difficult for her to maneuver in. This makes me think more about all the ADA bathrooms I've ever worked on, and there have been many. I suddenly feel more for wheelchair-bound people trying to turn around in that little circle that we invisibly put on the floor while in the design process.

For some reason this also makes me think about the fit cities initiative in Manhattan. Fit City 5 convened in May. Many groups are focusing on trying to make the city more conducive to walking, exercise and non-motorized transportation such as biking. The tie-in for me was seeing that reporter trying to cross City Avenue in a wheelchair. If Fit City came to Philadelphia, I think that would be a good thing. There are a lot of good things going on here, but with respect to design we need to think more about being a more walkable city and a more wheelchair accessible city.

I like those city buses that lower themselves so the disabled can get on and off. It might be a huge pain for somebody in a hurry, but for a person in a wheelchair, I can see how important that is. In a city where public transportation still needs work, I'm really glad to see that bus sink to an accessible level. Now lets think about crosswalks and more bike lanes with clearer rules and etiquette for drivers who interact with bikers and so on. We have a lot to do before becoming ideal for not just Americans with disabilities but also anybody who wants to get around without a car.

Bad Rascal


Last night, while transporting him from the mobile unit outside in the grass to his bedtime box, my rascal Lemon pecked me in the face. He was clearly delusional and hungry, and he must have thought he was pecking Chris and not me. Nevertheless, he has to go. I now have a small patch of skin torn off and a little bitty scab. I don't care how small it is, it really hurts and it could have very easily been my eye. And I was being nothing but nice and caring at the time. I'm pretty upset and disappointed that I could put so much effort into raising and loving that rascal and end up getting pecked in the face.
It's Friday, so this morning I went out and tended the tomatoes. They've been growing wildly out of control for a good long time, and now that the fruits are starting to develop they are getting heavy and drooping. I tied them all up, and it's a horrid mess.

But it was a fun exercise in structural design. Chris wanted to use this tension system, so when the tomatoes first started to pop up I put one stake at either end of each row, and strung some twine between the stakes sorta zig zagging between all the plants. Well, now that they are big plants those two stakes are woefully inadequate. We've added a few stakes randomly in the interim. Today, though, I added some large stakes and reinforced the tension system, and tied it into the squash system because the squashes have now died down but their pyramidal stakes are still very strongly in place. I believe we might avoid getting blossom end rot on each and every roma tomato now that they've been lifted off the ground.

I also tended to the brambles, which is a whole other set of structural difficulties. The blackberries seem to be vine-like in their growth pattern, but they are thick and strong and resist bending unlike the tomatoes. I have a weird trellis system of stakes tied in squares for them. The branches of the blackberries sorta arch over and rest on the trellises, and at the ends of the rows I have to carefully coax them to bend back and go the opposite way again. We will need to replace these trellises, I can tell already. They need to be much taller. The raspberries, which are much more bush-like, are easier to tame so far. One was reaching out of its designated zone, and I just tied it back. There is one raspberry that is going out of control, and we need to get a trellis set up for that because it is currently using our deck railing as such. And those things have huge thorns, so I don't really want them infiltrating the deck area at all.

The Rascals are anxiously crowing today. I'm not sure what their problem is, but it is getting irritating. I shall have to escape the office for some time in a bit if they don't stop this racket! Perhaps they were upset that I was outside but not paying attention to them. They should just be quiet and enjoy the broken or green, squirrel tampered, tomatoes I've given them!
plum tomatoes and somebody's wacky trellising
No, not you. Me. We received a lot of feedback on the website since we started it, and some of it made me think more critically. Although I don't think we'll change anything in the near future, I do hope the site makes sense to people. It might be a little confusing. The other day I wrote about all the different things we do, and anybody who really cares can check that out because it does explain a lot I think.

I am an architect, and I'm expanding services in order to stay afloat. I bring a detail oriented sensibility to graphic design and other things. This might be an identity crisis, but I don't plan on going away any time soon. So I'm going to do whatever I can while times are tough. And I think I'm pretty good at it, too. Whatever we do.



So I spent all afternoon at home emptying and cleaning the old fridge and receiving the new fridge. I had to have the door closer on the screen door removed, which we still have not reinstalled. And I had to have the doors off both fridges for their respective exit and entry to the house. The old fridge is now out in the parking area on its back with the doors unattached but still placed on the opening to prevent rain from getting in. Our neighbors were all slightly inconvenienced, which is nice. And I had a great time talking to the delivery and installation guys.

The senior delivery guy was fascinated with the chickens. He said his wife wants chickens, and asked me if it would be okay to take a picture of them. Of course I said that would be fine. Since we spent all weekend working on the new cage and taking out the old cage, their habitat looks and works much better. I figure why not let Michael the fridge delivery guy take some pictures. I've caught a couple neighbors standing in the alley staring at our yard the last few days. I don't know if they're as fascinated by the chickens as our delivery guy or horrified by our terrible construction job. Hey, I'm not a builder. Our quality is not that great and I admit it. So there! Anyway, we had a nice chat about the chickens whilst waiting for the dispatch guy to call back with instructions about how to deal with the dent in our brand new fridge door. Honestly I couldn't care less that we have a dent in the door, but it took so long to find out what to do about it that we got a nice lengthy chicken talk in. At first the birdies were terrified by the fridges rolling past their enclosure, but then they calmed down. I explained that they are, after all, chickens, and anything mechanical in nature freaks them out. The delivery guys both thought that was funny.
PennDesign is hosting an international conference on aging and architecture this year. They will be having many speakers present what they've been thinking, writing about and doing with respect to aging. It's become a big topic lately with all the baby-boomers out there retiring and trying to age in place or sell their homes in favor of more age appropriate accomodations. In U.S. 1 newspaper's Insights and Arguments section recently I was reading Susan Hoskins' article about not denying your age and how ageism can sneak into well-meaning discourses. Ms. Hoskins' essay is a good read for anyone with aging parents or clients. It reminds us that older people are not diminished in some way. They are just different. And I hope that Penn's aging initiative keeps that in mind, and keeps the students on track and away from ageist beliefs.

I don't know how to design specifically for the aging, apart from ADA guidelines and such that is. It seems to me that some scientific study needs to be done on what older people find useful and not. Can we design buildings and environments that change as we get older? I'd be interested in what the "experts" have to say about it. It might be cost-prohibitive for most. But there must be a better way than the chair that climbs stairs for a person, etc. Well, when they figure it all out, hopefully they'll let us all know what they've decided.
My friend Brian Billings was discussing the business of architecture with me this morning. I don't often get into such philosophical discussions these days, so it was a good trip. I've been diligently sending out networking emails all day since, but every once in a while a memory or thought about 'architecture as a business' talks from bygone days sorta bubble up. I've known some architects who make it seem effortless to get things done, and others who work their butts off and make it known. I've known the artsy kind who prefer not to have a license, and the super technical kind who focus on details and answering RFIs. Business is rough for all of them right now, I'm guessing. They're saying things are going to change. Isn't business constantly in flux? It seems like it to me. I'm probably just not old enough to remember the days when all that changed was a particular architect's preoccupations.

I feel like architecture hasn't changed fast enough. A grip of years ago dean Fisher at the University of Minnesota was waxing philosophical about how architecture ought to be more like medicine as a profession. It seemed like all of us in attendance bought into the argument. It looked like we were all going to go out and change the world. But I haven't seen dean Fisher's vision coming true. There are instances like one office's wiki, but I'm not sure if they're sharing it with anybody outside their office. There are some aspects of architecture being shared such as Revit models of various pieces of equipment, etc. But in the medical profession, are they leaving some doctors behind with nothing to do? Do doctors have to deal with patients' representatives? Do millions of people go out and get surgeries performed by nurses? I'm being intentionally vague. The point is business as I know it leaves quite a bit to be desired. But we trudge on.

Welcome to my business, by the way. I'm looking for green architecture projects to work on. But I do all kinds of other things too, in case the other pages seemed confusing. Yes, they're works in progress. I do graphics because after 10 years of composing drawings, diagrams and text on a weekly if not daily basis for critics to rip apart (sometimes literally) I feel just about as comfortable in graphic composition as in drawing. I do art too, but I won't try to sell you that. I do jewelry because after building models of hotels based on liquid kevlar in 3D, metal doesn't seem so strange. I do feng shui interiors because after spending over six years working around interior designers it seems to make perfect sense to do so. I do gardens because those same years plus more I worked with a great landscape architect who made it seem like doing just the building would be a cop out. I do sustainability because without it we're all screwed, and they pretty much drilled it into our heads in college. I do the chickens as an example of whole design, sustainability, health and the fact that I love them. Is this a weird business? Probably. But it's Friday, and normally I'd talk about something light and airy but instead I got on the topic of my future as an architect and architecture business in general, and I couldn't stop myself.