Sunday, February 8, 2009

I'm taking out my pencil

With this blog, I call for a humane architecture--one that considers people to be the primary source of our juice.

For now I'm framing this as a simple approach, a simple idea: to extend my hand, to offer my name, to listen to a response, to know some one.

To ask: Does such knowing--to be on a first name basis--does that matter to my work as an architectural worker and architect. Does it matter to you? Might it matter to us?

Inspirations? Absolutely. Some new people, first time. Some long friends, interwoven beings from past lives. All role models, big brains, great guides. Their house, shack, cell, squat, cardboard box, rv of interest to me. Maybe to you.

Here's a few. Thelmon's broken-down Chevy vanhouse in Indianapolis. Keith's porchsquat in Flint.



Top: Keith Austin (center). Bottom: Keith's squat, Flint, Michigan. September 2005.

A warning from Michael Orange in Camden: "There's serious creatures around here, in these buildings. Don't be fooled."

The SRO Mary Martha manages in San Luis Rio Colorado for border crossers caught and returned. Emilia’s “meanwhile” house (la casa mientras tanto) in Panama City, Panama. In Buenos Aires, the woman living in a squat built into a doorway of the country’s national theater, a man living (for years) in a bus shelter.

Some I’ve seen. Some I can’t imagine.

Construction worker houses, Colombo; construction worker camps, Abu Dhabi. Cage houses in Hong Kong. Zero yen houses in Tokyo, Osaka. Istanbul’s gecekondu.

Car living everywhere. Pavement living anywhere. Prison cell living right here.

Imagining, present tense, that I have something to learn from Thelmon, Keith, Michael, Mary Martha, and Emilia. Imagining, future tense, that I might have some knowledge to offer.

Having some awareness that one billion people live in informal slum settlements worldwide. But not interested, really, in one billion, millions, thousands, hundreds, or even tens.

Interested, instead, in just one.

One person. One architect. Onesmallproject. Repeat.

I close this first post with several stanzas from “Praise Song for the Day” as written by Elizabeth Alexander and read at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

Maybe I’m ready to begin . . . alongside the woman and son waiting for a bus, the farmer in the field, and the teacher.

I know these people. In many ways, I am these people.

I’m taking out my pencil.

Begin.


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