I have begun writing a parametric script  that will diagram emergent systems on the ground of my studio site in New Orleans.  This definition currently produces a field of points that is related to the block size of the Treme neighborhood, and then isolates only the points on empty lots and lots that have undergone a lot of ineffective re-development over the years since the 1960’s.

I hope to use this definition as a framework for diagramming my intervention’s relationship to the ground.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


1. According to Meadows, elements, interconnections and a function or purpose are necessary components in systems. Describe the elements, connections and/or functions or purpose in the Chesapeake Bay watershed system. Diagram the system including these elements.

2. Describe how your diagram and understanding have changed since your first diagram of the Chesapeake Bay watershed system.

Originally I produced an ecological diagram.  It turns out the Bay Game was much more urban in scope, and so I now have a better sense of the tenuous relationship between watershed boundaries and socio-political lines.

3. How do you think delay affects the efforts to improve the health of the Bay?

Delay creates a number of problems for the health of the Chesapeake Bay, mostly due to economic pressures.  Many exhaustive efforts can be swiftly undone by economic pressures on a constituency, even if the long term health of the bay would lead to improved wealth and quality of life for the people who are, at the moment, destroying it.  An analogy might be seen in the health of the US economy.

4. What was your perceived understanding of the goal/s of the game? Did you think the overall goal/s “fit” with your goals as a stakeholder and citizen? Describe how your understanding of the goal/s affected your actions within the game?

I appreciated experiencing the system of managing the watershed on the scale that we were working in the game.  However, I had no clue how to make an educated decision from round-to-round.  It would be interesting to approach the situation from a more informed point of view, to see what would change in my actions & in the resulting health of the bay.  Incidentally, my group ranked #1 by the end of the game, so that raises questions about how much we can rationalize these kinds of decisions.  Maybe impulsive “gut” reactions are not so bad.

In order to explore some of the practical aspects of building in New Orleans for our studio project this semester, I propose to research how constructed wetlands can be incorporated into building structure.  Specific aspects of constructed wetlands I would like to focus on include what different types of wetlands might be needed under different soil and building conditions.   Where are constructed wetlands and rain gardens successful at recharging groundwater tables?  Is this possible in New Orleans, and if not, then what else can constructed wetlands provide for the urban landscape?

I also am interested in exploring soil typologies and how they change when the systems that produce them are cut off or altered in some way.  For instance, it might be interesting to visually/systematically explore the process that forms and compacts the land in New Orleans, construct the resulting process when the formation process is cut off, and then try to identify other control points in the system that cause soil compaction and subsidence.  Perhaps this could lead to an analysis of “response materials” that might suggest a new method of building on a land that is undergoing the type of shifts that New Orleans experiences.

After reading a few of the selections regarding thermal systems for this class, I’ve begun to think that a lot of the Site/System/Building issues are more closely related to contemporary explorations of clothing, technology, and cultural history than they are to contemporary architectural discourse.  “Green” seems to walk a kitschy line.

As a testament to this proposal, I submit a dearth of TED talks regarding climate control and the built environment.  The most interesting thing I found after searching for “architecture” was a sweet talk David Byrne gave on how architecture helped music evolve (acoustic system here, though, not thermal ones.  Although this raises questions about the the thermal properties of sound…)

Anyway, what I’ve found most compelling about the readings so far this week is the idea of a series of thermal envelopes that act as buffers for both the structural components of the built environment (so that they can weather the weather better) and as a way to ease the heat management burden of our most basic thermal barrier, our skin.  Additionally, the idea of using the physical properties of materials as part of a natural machine is enticing.

I was struck by the abundance of visual representation in Michelle Addington’s article, “Phenomena of the Non Visual.”

She begins the article by describing methods of orthographic representation so clearly that no illustration is needed.  I responded to this with a set of illustrations (just to highlight how easy it was to pull from her succinct descriptions.)

These examples provided an immediate reference for the reader– they allow for the imagination of spaces and conditions within the mind, which is a very powerful thing.  Orthographic descriptions are great for writing and talking because they utilize culturally familiar terms and allow for a “vivid” (visual) description of a condition.

Addington proposes that these images describe a “fixed and constituent” condition, and that visual terms are harder to come by when trying to describe the “fluid and contingent” conditions of architecture.  This leads to neglect of a significant portion of architectural issues– at least neglect of the discourse on these issues.

Should we really be surprised though?  We have more words to describe the visual condition than any other sense.  Such available details inherent in our language suggests that we will always be predisposed to describe things visually, and perhaps instead of trying to describe things explicitly through other senses, we should look to metaphor in our phenomenological descriptions.

Addington sort of acknowledges this when she states, “The visual avatar becomes the language, and the only language, through which we can communicate that which is ostensibly private and personal.  But we cannot draw what is perceptually present through the means of orthographic projection any more than we can draw what is physically present (with ‘physical’ referring to the phenomena, and not the artifact.) As such, our representations of interior environments remain stunningly simplistic.”

This statement can be true in conventional practice, but within the history of visual arts, it is woefully incorrect.  Paintings, sculpture, and other art forms tap into synesthetic relationships without using the descriptive verbal components often required by analytical drawings & diagrams.

By putting such a high emphasis on a kind of academic analysis and etymological obsession with pinning everything down in a systematic specificity, we lose the “subjective simultaneity” that Addington aims to describe.

Instead of attempting to derive a hard-lined description of the “non-visual,” we should define it in a roundabout way that can be interpreted in a variety of metaphorical, synesthetic, and phenomenological ways.  By creating a fuzzy description full of metaphor, analogy, and ambiguity, we allow for the representation of an action boundary as something more than just a wiggly, double/triple line.

Essentially, we need to let poetry into professional practice.

Nobody is going to hire me when I get out of this place.

An offering to the blog gods, before I forget to post it.

The New Orleans water management system revolves around the control (failure to control) how water engages the urban condition.

Aside from the incredible drainage canals present in the quickest-subsiding neighborhoods, my favorite paradox is the groundwater/tap/sewage condition.

It turns out that the efforts to 1. pump water out of the city to maintain a dry ground plane, and 2. the containment of water & sewage in underground pipes– are actually resulting in the funding of freshwater springs throughout the city.  Lovely!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“The system works really well until it doesn’t, and then it doesn’t work at all.”