TEDx Gene Sandoval’s Open the [Balikbayan] Box



storefront of ideas


Mayo Clinic Retail Storefront at the Mall of America?


Forget the Mall for a moment, this is how corporate healthcare, or anyone could occupy Main Street. A skunkworks right? Incubating ideas? Spurring innovation?



I found the following story on NPR:


Internet Exiles Stores On Main Street
by Alan Greenblatt
– January 6, 2012

Open any children’s book with a scene set downtown and you’ll see a picture of basically the same row of shops. There’s a bookstore, a pharmacy, a florist, a post office and a bank, and maybe a bakery where the kids can hope for a free cookie.

Nearly all those businesses are under threat from the Internet…

So I’d gladly welcome the demise of the strip mall, even those that are thriving are a blight on the landscape and civic psyche and I discount that these car-convenient shopping outlets fit in the Main Street category. And I disagree that the “question now is what type of Main Street business will come under threat next.” And though the piece did suggest that storefronts providing services will be more resilient than those peddling goods, the questions remain: what will Main Street v2.0 look like? How will it function as a receptacle and reflection of our values and what place will it occupy in city life?


[storefront] Olson Kundig Architects/SAM collaborative: Record Store

The timing of this installation, which could also have been any one of these dioramas: the neighborhood’s independent bookseller, hardware store, bakery (pump in the croissant aromas for that 4D experience), butcher shop or cobbler in another era, requiring the deposing of some beloved institution, by some kind of WarMartian, socioeconomic or technological (in this case: Vinyl –> 8-track –> cassette –> CD –> mp3 –> the Cloud) paradigm shift, and the tweet that tipped me off, coincided with the chronic frustration I harbor for what ails Main Street and the role the legions of our new economy’s cottage industrialists, hidden away in their class A basement home offices telecommuting in their fuzzy slippers, warmed by the hum and glow of their carbon footprint, play in our community’s own demise.

Space for Lease.


Made in USA.

[storefront] immediately resonated with me as an idea like Occupy Main Street, a shift of priorities and a kind of playing along, a role in the physical fabric of our neighborhoods, communities, cities. Suspended disbelief until which time another era can reflect and romance its authenticity.

Perhaps we can make stuff again, hang our shingle out there in the glare of daylight in full view, and wrap our arms and brick and mortar around our virtual realities and social networks and be, citizen.


Sahale spans from Baltimore to Seattle

We’ve called this side of Baltimore home, as we have Seattle and I am reminded today of a beautiful pedestrian bridge in Patapsco State Park, one we happened upon during a visit back in 2007. We are like the banks of this river, connected by a bridge in Maryland, designed and engineered by these fine bridge builders in Seattle, Sahale, to places that hold parts of our personal history, sometimes far apart, or down the street. Sometimes ordinary, extraordinary, or in the same places over and over again only to discover new depth and meaning, perspective.

Parade: an organized public procession on a festive or ceremonial occasion

In keeping with their mission to engage and inspire, at the end of yesterday’s performance on the Green in Chapel Hill’s Southern Village neighborhood, Paperhand Puppet Intervention invited the audience to join them in the celebratory ritual of parade.

The crowd was costumed in a U-Haul’s load of masks, under the sway of giant puppets all stomping down Market Street to the rhythm of the drums. I was easily swept up and away. Their mission:

Paperhand Puppet intervention is dedicated to bringing many styles of  puppetry and artistic expression to the Triangle area and the world.

These styles include: Giant puppets, masks, stilt dancing, rod puppets, shadows or silhouettes, and anything else we might make at any time.

Our vision is inspired by our love for the earth and its creatures  (including humans) as well as our belief in justice, equality, and peace.

We are committed to creating multi-scaled and multi-disciplinary puppet performances that support this vision.

Paperhand’s mission is to make work that inspires people, promotes social change, and is deeply satisfying for everyone involved.

The puppet shows we create are a synthesis of many art forms  including (but not limited to):sculpting, painting, music, dance, improvisation, costume/set design and theater.

We are celebrants.

We are activists.

We are puppeteers

Our will is set on undermining, and eventually, eradicating the  institutions of greed, hate, and fear that plague the world in myriad forms.

We will work all our lives uncompromisingly to these ends.

Architect swept up in the moment by Paperhand Puppet Intervention

Thoughts on diversity, diversity of thought

I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity lately while involved in an ambitious project to capture the thoughts and ideas of members of our local section of the AIA in an archive that celebrates the profession in the region and its strides toward a more diverse membership. Those that first came to mind for this series of ongoing interviews certainly are our thought leaders and trailblazers, though they spoke of those that came before them, and before them.

I am at once struck by how timely it is that the national conversation, spurned by the President himself, is also ours now, in the spotlight in our own profession. But perhaps it is instead only the next generation along the continuum of struggle and opportunity, that we find ourselves poised to shape the national character yet again, and maybe too the culture of our profession with ideas that come with the diversity of thought.

I realized in the process of collecting our interviews just how starved I was for the inspiration, encouragement and sentiments from our colleagues from the generation, or even the graduating class before us. How often are you urged to ‘keep moving forward’, ‘hone your skills, be prepared’, ‘be bold’, or hear ‘your time is now’? Words to live by. And coupled with the motivation to contribute, this is the WE not the ME, to this continuum of our practice-profession, through mentorship and leadership and the true spirit of giving back for those to come. I am enlightened and charged with renewed purpose. Real role models, real proof, that yes we can.

RENCI: The Renaissance Computing Institute Engagement Center

For information scientists (and architects) interested in visualization technologies, I pieced this together from http://unc.renci.org/. The Renaissance Computing Institute Engagement Center features three of these technologies in three different demonstration laboratories: the Showcase Dome, the Social Computing Room and the TeleImmersion Room.

From http://unc.renci.org/

The Renaissance Computing Institute Engagement Center, located on the south campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the focus of collaborations between RENCI and UNC. The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), a multi-institutional organization, brings together multidisciplinary experts and advanced technological capabilities to address pressing research issues and to find solutions to complex problems that affect the quality of life in North Carolina, our nation, and the world. The engagement center is a gateway to the resources of RENCI, and also provides unique resources and expertise that enhance the research and educational mission of the University.

 The Showcase Dome at the UNC RENCI Engagement Center offers an immersive experience for users. The dome supports a very wide Field of View (FOV), and promotes a strong sense of immersion, meaning that the viewer feels “immersed” in the data flow. This effect can be quite useful in analyzing spatial relationships between objects. The dome is already in use as a molecular viewer, as a showcase for art projects, and as a way to view immersive medical data. Upcoming users include UNC faculty in chemistry and gene therapy, as well as more arts and humanities users.

The Social Computing Room is a unique space on the UNC Campus that features: • A 360-degree wrap-around visualization display, with a 12,288 x 768 resolution. • Surround-sound audio. • Wireless mics and 360-degree camera coverage. • UbiSense 3D location tracking for people and objects. o An extensible architecture to support sensors, robotics, and additional projection/display equipment. o Extensive wiring with Cat-6 to support connection of any type of peripheral electronic gear. o Unistrut scaffolding to support physical placement of computer or audio/video gear. o Computer closet space for installation of rack equipment and additional computing hardware.

The TeleImmersion Room at ITS Manning uses two ultra-high resolution (over 4 times HD, also referred to as 4k) projectors to enable viewing of highly-detailed images and 3D data in either standard monoscopic mode or stereoscopic 3D. The room is also equipped with HD teleconferencing equipment. The room includes support for both interactive applications and streaming of 4k video. The Teleimmersion Room includes: • Two Sony SRX-R105 4k projectors for 3D stereoscopic viewing (native resolution: 4096 x 2160) • A 10’ x 5’ rear-projected screen • 3D stereoscopic scientific visualization • Viewing 3D stereoscopic photography and video • HD videoconferencing • Membership to CineGrid, an initiative exploring digital transmission of 4k images worldwide

Architect as Cultural Broker.

It does not seem a big leap for architects, since we engage in the service of our client’s unique needs on a routine basis, to overlay the lens of architecture and begin to surmise, the role of Architect as Cultural Broker. There are blogs already written on What is a Cultural Broker? and Cultural Brokerage.

As we consider our own profession and practice, do our standards for corporate responsibility espouse the People-part of the Triple Bottom Line’s People, Planet and Profit which is so well established in the everyday-lexicon, in the same regard as say Planet (sustainability) as recent green-washing trends project? Post-Katrina New Orleans comes to mind as having had the most potential and success for bringing out the very best in us and our profession, Profit aside, for the moment.


And when is our work in such diverse regions and locales and with clients from the full-spectrum of backgrounds, not to mention our work overseas or for that matter, work for the State Department for a certain few, a true cultural brokerage, or is our neglect (or reaction to real threats/global hysteria) just another form of cultural imperialism?

It was quoted in a recent Washington Post article entitled Hardened U.S. Embassies Symbolic of Old Fears, Critics Say that embassy design post 9/11 had experienced “the dark ages as far as the design culture was concerned.” Are they referring to New Embassy Compounds like the NEC in Turkey?

NEC Turkey
Fortified: NEC Turkey

It also mentions SOM’s celebrated Embassy in Beijing. But does it epitomize cultural brokerage when SOM states:

“Responding to the building’s diplomatic role, SOM created a secure space that is both welcoming and respectful of local traditions. To mitigate its scale, and create a light aesthetic, the complex was broken up into “neighborhoods” based on security and functional requirements. Simple architectural geometries, coupled with gardens and courtyards, symbolically fuse eastern and western traditions.”
NEC Beijing
NEC Beijing: “a light aesthetic?”
Back on the ground, Post-Katrina responses like Make it Right make cultural brokers out of architects. Small gestures (single-family homes in the Lower 9th Ward), one house at a time, reaching individual lives, families, whole neighborhoods, the city, with a kind of diplomacy of the heart, if you will. Compare this to the old State Department memo on Standard Embassy Design? What will be this Administration’s Standard for Diplomacy and Design abroad and what will be the role of the Architect as Cultural Broker? Jane C. Loeffler, author of The Architecture of Diplomacy: Building America’s Embassies, has given the matter considerable thought. She blogs more recently in Jane C. Loeffler: Building Hope Abroad and suggests a cultural shift afoot. And somewhere between Brad Pitt and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is an army of architects ready to make a career, making it right.

Prefab pioneer folds, now what?

Somewhere between dwell reaching the masses (again) with prefab and the conceptual “Edible House” by Rios Clementi Hale Studios (stacking prefab containers to take full advantage of vertical design, reduced footprint, embracing photosynthesis, thoughts of biomimicry), I’m stymied late, but better late than never, by the Christmas Eve, 2008 Boston Globe article that comes up in searches, Prefab pioneer folds,  describing the demise of dwell’s go-to prefab company Empyrean and their NextHouse for dwell.

I hadn’t myself made any direct association between prefab and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Very 2009! So it thrusts what felt  more like a cottage (literally) industry to me until now, into the light of today’s social, enviornmental and economic reality.

Joel Turkel’s challenge, as he writes in The future of prefab is an increasingly nonarchitectural problem , is that “real development for the industry 
will come from young designers who are able to approach the problem from a more globalized vantage point. This group is able to think in terms of complete front-to-back business models. They are aware 
of the needs and limits of manufacturing processes but also are versed in new technologies, entrepreneurial methods, how capital works, strategic partnerships, and the importance of marketing and branding. This group will not design buildings but rather solutions for distributed delivery methods like those promoted by Kent Larson at MIT, who is leading the way toward rationalized industry-wide changes to benefit us all, rather than just promoting an individual vision or aesthetic.”

So I ask, Prefab pioneer folds, now what? What better place to start a foray into nextgen prefab than here?