The best ever valentine

Two years ago today, I returned to London from Ivrea, leaving behind the guy I may or may not have been dating; I was about to fly back to San Francisco. My good girlfriend, C., was my valentine date at Wagamama.  We invoked the cone of silence and she told me about a promising date she'd had with a lovely mutual friend–she couldn't wait to see him again. We parted ways and I headed back to the hotel, setting my alarm for 5:00 a.m. so I'd make my flight from Heathrow to SFO.

Early in the morning, I had 60 seconds of email connectivity before the connection crashed. I found an email from Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, titled "Congratulations!" I gasped. Eeva is the head of the history/theory program in the Yale School of Architecture. I got into Yale. I got into Yale! I. Got. Into. Yale! It was too early to call friends in Italy, too late to call my parents or East Coast friends. So I called John and Maggie and gleefully shared the news. From the airport, I called Jenn and Tristam ("Wicked!" he said, half in sleep). My flight back to the US was filled with peace and happiness.

As for my dinner date two years ago? She spends her life with the guy she told me about. And me? I'm celebrating my Valentine's Day again with Enrique, one of the five people who got a congratulatory phone call and note two years ago. Funny how that date turned out for me and C.

(This time around, Enrique and I are on our way to dinner at Thali for Indian food from Hyderabad. We're braving the elements for naan.)

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QotD: Beam Me Up

If you could make a magic wish for a futuristic gadget or high-tech innovation, what would your item do? 
Submitted by Red Pen.

Ironic that this question came the day of my Smart Materials class, taught by the terrific Michelle Addington— I even mentioned the Vox QOTD there. We were asked to bring to class examples of the following in an immersion exercise:

1. an example of a smart material or product used in a ubiquitous “architectural” setting

2. an example that illustrates your own image of an” intelligent” environment

3. a material or product that intrigues or delights you regardless of its application

Very cool to see what people brought in… for me, my #1 was Cedric Price's Generator, the subject of my thesis, and Not So White Walls by Interaction-Ivrea student Dario Buzzini. I didn't need to bring that one up, though, because the professor did! Very cool to see work I know so well in a totally different context.

For the ideal intelligent environment, I brought in a picture of the Sensorama to indicate what I don't think is intelligent — it's not an environment you peer into and experience, but rather should be all around you. I likened it to a really good kitchen. Maybe it doesn't look different at all; it just feels better. Like cashmere. Only not on your pots and pans.

Speaking of which, for #3, I brought in a ball of yarn that my stepsister Darci gave me (and I haven't fully knit up). It's fuzzy and forest green, immensely soft. It's the wonder of acrylic, not the stuff from the 60s and 70s, but a whole industry of fantastic acrylic available now. I also tossed out a hat I made not of acrylic but of cashmerino (it is what it sounds like): an intense Turkish pattern in light blue and chocolate brown with three corners. I'd love to find ways to knit or weave smart materials into something more than just a surface application. And I'm very keen to see Sheila Kennedy's textile pieces that do this.

I'm very excited about this class. Since my thesis is about responsiveness in architecture at an earlier moment in time, I'm keen for current examples. Moreover, one of my goals in keeping a foot in interaction design and another in architecture is to bridge fields in a personal manner, to work in both fields. This will be a way to do so.


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Critical imaginaries

School has started and that means the guest speaker colloquium organized by the five people in my class has started. We're really excited about it. It's called "Critical Imaginaries" and focuses on visionary representations of architecture and space in differen media: music, film, literature, video games, image, theory. 40 people showed up for the first session with Brown University's Dietrich Neumann, a visiting professor here this semester (he talked about panoramas). It's just a 12 person course, so that's a great sign.

Next week, DJ Spooky, aka Paul Miller is coming. I'm thrilled and can't wait to meet him. We'll also go see Lebbeus Woods (amazing visionary architect, professor at Cooper Union) in his studio, visit MoMA's architecture archives and receive a tour from Chief Architecture Curator Barry Bergdoll. When we're in New York, we're planning to do a Big Game, Crossroads, with the wonderful Kevin Slavin of area/code. Ralitza Petit, whose dissertation at Harvard's Graduate School of Design addressed Everquest and its architectural space, will talk about architecture and video games.

We've also got Ed Dimendberg, Jonathan Crary, Sylvère Lotringer, Reinhold Martin and Ben Nicholson.

Unfortunately, here, I'm fighting off some kind of bug. I'm not entirely sick but feel like it's just about to happen. For some reason, I just couldn't sleep last night, finally getting up at 4 a.m. and staying up till 6. I'm working from home today but the water's been turned off in my building while they do repairs.

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Cedric Price books

Re: CP
Cedric Price - The Square Book (Architectural Monographs (Paper))
Cedric Price: Opera (Architectural Monographs (Paper))

Since June, my mind's been on Cedric Price (1934-2003). He was an eccentric British architect whose work combined theater, tools for social change, and a lack of interest in traditional concepts of form and beauty. Most of his work was never built. He is best known for the Fun Palace (1962-64), a proposal for a flexible leisure center, and the Potteries Thinkbelt (1965-66), a physical educational network on rails.

I'm working on a later project, Generator (1976-79) as the subject of my masters thesis. I'm using it as a hinge for exploring responsiveness in architecture, though I think that the impulse toward responsiveness goes back to the 16th century, if not earlier. Price is credited with creating the first "intelligent" building, or rather, site. The machine intelligence came not from Price but John Frazer, who proposed attaching sensors to Generator's structures; a series of computer programs would interrogate the sensors and if they weren't used frequently enough, would become bored and suggest new layouts on the site.

Very little has been written about Generator, just a few pages here and there and a few articles in 1979-80. As such, there's no real record about it, no webpage to link. So in November, I spent a week at the Canadian Centre for Architecture's Cedric Price Archive, looking at every drawing, reprographic, sketch, engineering drawing, memo and letter they had on Generator. I've also interviewed one of the figures involved, Polariser, and will talk to John Frazer at some point this month.

There aren't a lot of books on Price; the first monograph on him comes out at the end of the month (by Stanley Mathews, the only American to have completed a dissertation on him). Aside from that these are the books I refer to very frequently and ironically, do not yet own. (They're the source of numerous library fines.)

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