Some mornings during my shower and while I prepare and eat my breakfast I like to listen to a podcast. This is usually something inspiring about human performance optimization or when I am feeling really indulgent, a short story from my favorite SciFi podcast, Escape Pod. I have been a fan of this podcast for the last seven years or so, since very early in their existence. I have taken many wonderful books and author recommendations from the stories to introduce in our sci-fi book club. Many of the short stories have touched me deeply due to the variety of creative themes, eccentric and committed narrators, and exuberant hosts and editors. I found myself wiping tears from my face while consulting onsite at a large office during a reading of Flowers For Algernon due to both the superb narration and the powerful story of a tragic friendship. I had a similar experience this morning (though in my own home) with episode number 689, Spectrum of Acceptance by Nyla Bright and narrated by Maxine Moore.



The story of a faraway colony of Earth that has become a bastion for the neuro-atypicals to explore alternative models of social organization and interaction in pursuit of a meaningful fulfilling life. Since this is a sci-fi story and it takes place on a faraway planet that is set up to support human life, it is no surprise that technology plays a significant role in supporting the complex and diverse society of slightly off baseline people looking for a culture of acceptance. I like that technology integration helps to smooth out some of the more complicated issues with people who may have a harder time being self-reliant without support forming a culture around being who you really are in service of the whole. This allowed me to focus on the subtle quirks of the main character trying to navigate the complexity of her NT emotions in a very foreign environment and calling to attention many things like subtle touch and eye contact that it is easy to take for granted. I also felt uncomfortable (in the good self-reflective kind of way) as the story made me think a lot about how these things, touching and eye contact, along with long drawn out emotional narratives that obfuscate intentions and distract from clarity, cause me a lot of anxiety each day.


Probably my favorite aspect of the story is the protagonist's quirky manner of reminding herself to clarify her thoughts and speech when it comes to metaphors. I couldn't help myself from experiencing the Earth ambassador as slimy and dense, but no he is just narrow-minded, self-important, and unovservant. Or are those metaphors too. The fun game of language, of the imagery that plays in our minds, and the question of are those inferences, interpretations, flashes of insight and predictive models even in the slightest degree-based in words. Words themselves each being a symbol of meaning far greater than the combination of letters and correct pronunciation. It would have bee nice if she began to discover through her encounter with the slimy dense earth man that she need not judge and correct her figurative language, but that there is also value in self-reflection and working through the metaphor to get at deeper meaning that can be shared with others on common ground.


The sacrifice her mother makes to offer her daughter what she knows she needs really got to me, though maybe from the opposite direction, as I greatly appreciate love and affection from a distance. Often just being in silence is completely fulfilling and speaks volumes to me, but probably not everyone. Different strokes for different folks, as they say, and as long as we say it with complete acceptance of those differences as both valuable and meaningful to the richness of life.


As the Vulcans say, infinite diversity in infinite combinations.


I repeat this line to myself quite often during my teaching. I look at the diverse and complex students each day with fresh eyes and optimism in the potential for unique and unexpected thinking. While I am charged with making sure they can in some way be versed in specific skills and concepts, the thing I enjoy most about teaching is guiding them to those outcomes with a broad and gentle hand. Experiencing the journey and trusting that with time and effort the gap between where a student begins and where I think they should be is crossed not by a bridge or zipline to answers, but filled in with questions and discoveries.


...and one more thing from the story (i hope by now you have taken the time to listen to it for yourself so I am not spoiling anything).


"We cared for people’s needs on Acceptance.  You need, really need, you ask. Otherwise, you serve."

This line comes toward the end of the story and is something I really connected to as a frontier outlook on life with the twist of service. Everyone is making their own way in their own way and respects that as a culture enough not to abuse support systems. Likewise, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for any help you need since the entire culture is devoted to being of service whenever necessary. The dichotomy of rugged self-reliance and a devotion to service is aspirational. It would require a lot of discipline and I dream would offer exceptional freedom as the story suggests.


This story also made me remember some of the storylines from Peter Watts's Blindsight. Many of his main characters have conditions of neuro-atypical expression, but the society of the future has found ways to accept them and give them meaning through occupations that take fuller advantage of the evolutionary potential of conditions like multiple personality and sociopathy. Blindsight was one of our favorite books in SkyFi and I should probably go back to it for a deeper dissection. Interestingly, when I went to Escape Pod's site to link to the story I saw that episode 690 just so happened to be The Things by Peter Watts. I know what I will be listening to tomorrow morning.


End of Log


The following video was a micro-lecture provided for the ARCH202 Intermediate Design studios at Pratt Institute as an introduction to concepts and techniques of architectural analysis through decompositional drawing and video-based representation. The first segment documents examples of forms of decomposition in architectural analysis drawing such as X-Rays/MRIs or layered transparent systems, scans, overlays, fades, and exploded relationships. I worked with diagrams with a fixed view (oblique or axonometric) and began to reconstitute the decomposed elements and systems into primitive video compositions.

The remainder of the video is intended to showcase several examples of video as a medium of architectural representation. The sections generally align with the predominant techniques of x-rays/scans, fades/compositions, and explosions/decompositions. A few of the examples are from my own work or works of students from the past fifteen years, but most are referenced examples found on YouTube or Vimeo. The intro segments that explore Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion were extracted and animated from our Representation 2 course, Architectural Interfaces, which I am coordinating this semester. These are simple animated gifs created in Photoshop from series of drawings and diagrams output from Rhino.

Since graduate school, I have often produced short presentations in video format. It is a medium I enjoy working with, manipulating time and sequencing for an emotional effect that heightens the experience of the content. It is also a good way to keep a presentation to a strict time constraint, if a presentation is to be seven minutes, and I create a seven-minute video, then I must be disciplined in my verbal presentation and finish with the video. With a little more work I will even integrate the presentation as narration, but this isn't always as effective as a live performance.

Below is a general transcript from my lecture (though after several rehearsals I didn't read any of it, but I am pretty sure I covered all the points :):

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Let's begin with a few projects that you are all probably familiar with.

Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye is an often studied precedent of 20th-century modern architecture.

It exists between building and diagram, his five points, with clear formal, tectonic, programmatic, and material systems.

The video of a student's analysis (from youtube) implements several representational techniques to analyze the key elements and relationships of the project.

(try to ignore the strange hyperspace plans background)

The program is highlighted in planar and volumetric color overlays.

Architectural elements assemble based on layers of the plan, groups of similar elements, and clipping plane fades.

The simply rendered floor plans fade and composite to reveal material and program in connection to environment and provide a notational map of the spaces.

[PAUSE]

All of you have at least 80% of the skills to put together a video-based analysis and narrative like this. The only new representational techniques are camera animations and clipping plane animations.

[START]

We can start with what we know. Focused 3D views, isometric or oblique, that establish a platform of drawing layers to scan the architecture.

Animating overlayed elements and systems build complex integrations of parts-to-whole as we x-ray the architectural body.

Colors and tones organize differences and produce emphasis.

Layers become frames in time, decomposing the architecture.

[PAUSE]

A great place to start is with the classics, such as this exploded / sliced axon drawing of the Villa Savoye by Francis Ching.

Once you establish the decomposed elements and representational system, you can combine the assets to rich effect in a video or gif format.

[START]

The following are a couple of projects by OMA that offer more contemporary examples of architectural decomposition diagrams of building systems.

The Seattle Public Library - this model diagram of solid/void, circulation, and envelope gets straight to the primary ideas.

While simple in concept, the architectural consequences are quite complex.

OMA does a lot of analytical drawings to decompose the elements of the project and describe/represent the complexity of the systems - structure, slab, core, skin - x-ray.

[PAUSE]

We see both the x-ray of the architectural body and the exploded map of its inhabitation.

[START]

This circulation map is an exploded MRI scan of the complex circulation and activity connections through the building.

The CCTV Headquarters:

This project goes even further in the cataloging of decomposed elements.

We can see another complex assemblage of form, program, structure, and circulation.

[PAUSE]

A series of decomposed structural components isolated in a catalog of x-rays of the overall form documents the parts in context to the whole.

[START]

The program catalog has even more depth to its isolation of elements, categorization, and local and global contexts.

By compositing the series of isolated elements we can explore multiple connections simultaneously in the x-ray fade animation.

We can analyze architecture as a functionally integrated system of interconnected and discrete elements.

---

From here on I decided to speak with the flow of the video, highlighting techniques and consequences of storytelling through the medium of video. Many, probably all, of the video excerpts are speed up by 150-200% to work with the time constraints of the lecture and isolate the techniques over the narratives.


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Beginnings

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During my graduate studies at Columbia GSAPP I had the opportunity to take several visual studies elective that introduced me to video as a representational and generative design tool. Since my undergraduate degree was packed with rigorous technical courses on structural systems, building environments, lighting, and mechanical systems I was able to opt-out of a few similar courses in grad school. This freed up a little extra space for me to explore extra electives, and for reasons now long lost to me, I took two classes with Prof. John Szot: Video Video and Cinematic Communications. These focused on technical aspects of working with video in tools like Aftereffects and Premiere, combining live DV video footage with synthetic computer-generated scenes, and developing a narrative in the medium of time, images, and sound.

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Video Video Based Analysis :: GSAPP :: 2005 :: with Singjoy Liang

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A rough attempt at compositing a speculative architectural facade system developed in our housing studio with a live video recording. Integrating the speculative with the real to give the viewer a space to integrate possibility with reality. The tectonic system and video composition were produced by Singjoy Liang and me in the fall of 2005.


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Cinematic Communications :: GSAPP :: 2006

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A short assignment to construct a video dialog with New York City. For me, this became a sort of music video grappling with my reactions to the pedestrian street landscape of NY during my first couple of years living here. Time and Overlay are the primary techniques, the video is cut to have a loose connection to sound events in the music and a dialog with the words of the song.


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Cinematic Communications :: GSAPP :: 2006 :: with Singjoy Liang

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The final assignment for this course was a video-based documentary of a condition in NYC. Singjoy and I were doing a project n Brownsville, Brooklyn in the Fall and had discovered an interesting group of people at a local community center that entertained our project. We both learned a great deal from the many interviews we had with the life long residents of the neighborhood, greatly enhancing our appreciation for the growth and evolution that has taken place in the density and complexity of New York.


What do we do with all those photos?

On travels, weekend adventures, commutes, and just around the house, I often grab the convenient personal computing device (aka iphone) and point its image capture device (aka camera) at something visually interesting. Those photos get automatically uploaded to the cloud via iCloud and Dropbox (and probably other services I have forgotten to disable) to be saved as bits of data forever. I do quite often pull up recent photographs for reference in conversation, occasionally I dig through the archive to use in a lecture, and I organize archival images from big trips and studio reviews. But many just sit there in the catalog, feeding on electrons, waiting.

In a recent fit of procrastination, I was searching for some image to drop into a lecture for a bit more personal touch and got sidetracked organizing a year or more backlog of uncategorized images. I came across a few pictures from a short trip up to New Paltz that Lauren and I took last April to get a few hikes in and see my friend Kira. The rushing water and magical rock rift jumped out quickly to trigger my memories of the weekend, but this foggy treeline was completely foreign. I think it's a nice image (with a little cropping and levels adjustments) but I cannot for the life of me remember seeing this or taking a picture of it. The day was warm and very muggy with spring moisture rising from the ground, we were on the road early for breakfast and to beat the heat of the day, but nothing about this fog. Fun, something unexpected, something to explore without an emotional context, but also something I know I must have seen and reacted to.

I think I will make it into my desktop for a while, and maybe play with layering it with some of the other highlights from the trip.

The thawing Catskills had the river flowing strong. The sound was overwhelming in the ravines and brought a deep heavy meditative rhythm to the hike.

We came across this massive rock outcropping riven in two by the slow creep of water and the subsequent invasion of tree roots. The moss and lichen provided a majestic contrast to the wet grey stone, so much so that I decided to play around with the image and practice my giffing in Photoshop.

Voyage onward!

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