17 January 2012

Intoxicating trip down memory lane

Getting settled into our home....finally.....has prompted me to go looking for a few pieces of artwork, photographs, and keepsakes that have been boxed up with the idea that some day they would adorn our walls. Most of these are kept in a long tote in the basement. I pulled it out the other day and then my trip down memory lane began.

When I finished the trim in my office I created a photo shelf off the top of the door across the wall. This allowed me to display a couple of pretty slick black and white photographs from college; each of which has special meaning to me. When I went to find them, I found a few other pieces of paintings from college-4 decent ones that I've kept all these years-and I took the best of the lot for my office and told the kids they each had to choose one for their rooms. No one wanted the alien-looking guy climbing toward infinity.

Then I came across "the ugly picture" as my wife refers to it. It is a chromolythic print that hung in my great x3 grandmother's kitchen, from the late 1800s. It was given to me maybe 20 years ago and has been in storage ever since. I've sized it up for a frame but my wife says no way will that hang in our kitchen. I don't see this as a closed case-stay tuned for more on the ugly picture.

But what I finally landed on, and spent a fair amount of time reminiscing over were the drawings from my thesis while in the school of architecture. Your thesis project is supposed to exemplify everything you've learned in school and culminate with a kick-butt project. Your class is given a redevelopment site and you select a building site and program within that context. The year before us went to California for their project; the year behind us went to Alaska. We, well, we went to Milwaukee.
But that's ok. Milwaukee is a unique, blue collar, down and dirty rugged sort of city.......and it led to the inspiration to design a building that both embraced the industrial nature of the city, but tried to capture the spirit of progress in its downtown. The building program I created for the building? A micro brewery with loft style apartments. How does that not scream Milwaukee? My project site was along the river and next to a massive old power plant, and in the shadow of several national brewers. I'm not a beer drinker, and my parents probably would have been mortified if I had told them what would represent 5 years of college education. Regardless, I began to study the brewing process, and the research became an integral part of the thesis project. And for precedent, at least with the building form, I went out and photographed every grain elevator I could find in a 50 mile radius. And while on a college trip in Oregon that year, we stopped at a micro brewery in Mt. Angel for additional "research".

Did you know that beer first arrived on America's shores with the European colonists? The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in December of 1620, because, in the words of one diarist aboard the Mayflower "we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer." What did George Washington, William Penn, and Thomas Jefferson all have in common? They all brewed beer on their plantations.

By March of 1996, with graduation just a few months away, the program and general form of the building was set. I created a large "vault" between two massive brick end walls that contained the loft apartments. The vault was the brewery. A restaurant was dockside on the river and I created large dining rooms cladded in copper to give the effect of brewing vats. The plans and elevations were drawn with graphite and colored pencil. The model-I was always jealous of my buddies who did great models-explored materials as much as rusted steel to mimic cortin steel, copper, wood, and glass. And yes, the "vats" are tuna cans painted with copper paint. I even honored my two professors that year by depicting their faces on one drawing of two monks holding each side a a giant vat. Yes, my colleagues pointed it out to them.

The only thing I remember from my presentation.....which I cleaned up on......was that the jury thought the drawings were "intoxicating" and that it would have only been better had I served beer to the jurors. I made a mental note of that, but to this date have never served beer to my clients. Maybe one day, when I am a multi millionaire, I'll build it myself.

11 January 2012

Daniels: How high can he count?

In a bit of a celebratory, yet intrepid spirit I flipped the channel over to watch Governor Daniels' last state of the state address. And that lasted about 30 seconds before I felt nauseous and continued flipping through the channels. Ultimately I shut the tv off and started reading a new book called "Radical". Sounds about right.

The sole part of the address I caught was a comment that reveals his fixation that other states want to be Indiana. I don't find this to be true. It makes me think he has some form of inferiority complex-as though saying it enough may make it true. He relayed a story that a reporter asked him what kept him up at night, or maybe how he overcomes insomnia. His response was "I don't count sheep.....I count how many states I'm glad I'm not the governor of". And after he gave his smug little smile....I turned the channel.

But, that left me wondering, maybe concerned, exactly how high can Mitch count?

Because here are some stats that put Indiana pretty close to the bottom these days:

36th in unemployment

42nd in SAT scores

32nd in median income

41st in population growth

38th in personal health

40th in foreclosures

32nd in the poverty rate

This leads me to believe that Mitch gets pretty tired after counting to only about 12 or 15!

Where Indiana does shine is our 22nd place (just a little above the middle) for debt as a percentage of gross domestic product. I guess that's something to celebrate.

No, Mitch, I'm afraid that it's the governors of other states who are counting their lucky stars they don't have Indiana's problems. And this may be why people don't want to live here anymore. You and Mr. Bosma balanced the state budget all right-on the backs of everyone paying more in sales tax, our public schools, and our cities and towns. You're not a miracle worker, you're a charlatan that's gotten 6.5 million Hoosiers to drink from your punch bowl.

09 January 2012

a psalm for the new year

Time is Yours, oh God. The passing of each day, the movement of the heavens above, the surge of the sea and rolling of the land below, these were established from your throne.

We cannot still the waters nor hold the heavens in place. We cannot add a day to our lives, nor see what lies beyond our eyes. You know all things, and the days of man You have numbered.

But we rest in your mercy. Just as the morning frost clings to the earth on stem and branch, so You embrace us. Just as the sun warms the earth, You set your face upon us. Just as the rain breaks the thirst of dry ground, You give life to your children.

Strengthen us like You give power to the wing of the eagle and leg of the deer. Give life to my arm, that it not fail, and direct my thoughts that You may delight in the work of your servant. Let us not weary in establishing justice and acting from mercy.

We are but reeds in the field moved by the breeze, but You are the breeze. We are but the sound of waves on the shore, but You are the mighty sea. We are but hatchlings in the nest, but You are the eagle. You are awesome, oh God.