Thursday, January 28, 2010

Capp Street: Albany Waterfront

Twice in the last month I've managed to put Kevin into a panic concerning my safety. I love to walk and explore and sometimes I'll leave for a walk and wont return for several hours. This month, I've spent hours walking around one place - the Albany Waterfront. I want to "figure it out" - see who is there, what is there, and why. It is an unusual space; at times seeming purposely composed and at other times as though the whole park was created on accident. It is full of tension and opposing forces. I am drawn to the tension - frequently musing about how to resolve its strangeness.

This week, I took my camera along and tried to capture some of these relationships by photo. But first, I'd like to give you a better idea of where the waterfront is located. The first map shows the SF Bay area...

This second map shows the waterfront park up close - the dots and numbers correspond to where I took the photos.

This first photograph captures the tension between Beauty/Water/Solitude and Traffic/Busy/Noise. There is a sandy beach, waves gently crashing into the rocks with industrial fragments/waste and a freeway lingering in the horizon. The noise is inescapable.

The next two photos symbolize growth versus decay. Both are happening at once. Bricks poke up out of the ground as you walk... Concrete chunks sit in the water... yet both are surrounded by green, growth and vitality.

I was very surprised (though in retrospect I should have not been) to see people secretly living on the waterfront. Some of the side trails led past several tents. People claim some of the land as their own and carve out their unique space. I didn't take many photos because I felt intrusive. Thankfully it was early in the morning and nobody really seemed to be awake.

Visitors, on the other hand, were primarily dog walkers/joggers. They didn't venture too far out onto the peninsula - perhaps they had previously wandered too far as I had.

A large part of the waterfront is fenced off for restoration projects. One of the photos below shows signs put up along the beginning of the fence. A wood fence is only used near the entrance - it soon turns into the standard metal wire/chain link.

This photo shows two paths - I noticed this as I was walking out, back to my own neighborhood. The path to the left, unpaved, belongs to the restoration while the path to the right, manicured and mowed, belongs to the neighboring racetrack. I find it ironic that there are two paths right next to each other. Did the racetrack decide to just ignore the existing path in an attempt to pretend it didn't exist?

As I wandered further out I found larger piles of waste, including bundles of twisted metal, molding stretches of carpet, and discarded insulation. At the tip of the peninsula I found sculptures (made by visitors or residents?). This perfectly represented the tension between sculpture and junk. To one it is merely a medium for creative expression, to another it symbolizes the end of an idea.

I have seen random pamphlets around Albany inviting proposals to develop this land. I wonder what will come of it... will it become more "civilized" as it's neighbor, the Berkeley Marina, or will it maintain it's junk/raw character?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Designers to create change

Cameron Sinclair, of the Open Architecture Network, says, "We believe that where resources and expertise are scarce, innovative, sustainable and collaborative design can make a difference." And he isn't the only one who believes this - as there is a growing grassroots movement of designers who are embracing the opportunity to create change in the world. Paul Hawkin, in his book, Blessed Unrest, expounds on this movement. It is a movement without centralized leadership, a movement of nonprofits, a movement of compassion and action. (See video below - approximately 5 minutes long.)
It is very inspiring and motivating to learn about this movement of people. Cameron Sinclair said they started this type of work because nobody told them they couldn't. They wanted to use design and architecture to create change, rather than to create "jewels" they could admire for themselves.
To me, as a design student, this seems rather logical and obvious. Perhaps it is due to the acceptance and application of "design thinking" or perhaps it is simply a matter of timing - I was brought into school after this movement had began so I don't fully understand the implications of the contrast with before.
"Design thinking" is a term that CCA often uses that I believe represents the type of thinking mentioned above. Design thinking addresses complexity, systems, context, consequences... rather than designing isolated and individual items to make a profit. Perhaps there is a subtle but large change in motivation taking place that leads to a different destination or end goal - one that strives to maximize the amount of positive change rather than acquire the largest profit (regardless of positive or negative change created in society/culture.) If so, it is an exciting time to be a part of the design world, as roles adapt and expand with ideas.
On a more personal note, my husband is the president of a non-profit organization, called Mosaic, in Berkeley with a similar mission. The organization's motto "Mosaic is a movement of dreamers, poets and activists passionate about the future. Our aim is to bring dignity to humanity’s spiritual journey and to empower people to create a better world." (From the website: Mosaic strives to connect people and ideas to action through leadership development, self-awareness, volunteer opportunities, creativity workshops, and spiritual revival.
Last summer, my husband, Kevin, organized a team of architects, engineers, and humanitarians to go to Southern Sudan to build a school. The project has actually been posted on the Open Architecture Network under the name Jalle Primary School and on the partner organization website: Mosaic partnered with Rebuild Sudan and EMI (a volunteer engineering organization) to design the school last May. After their return, we've focused on hosting fundraisers and sharing the stories of the Sudanese people. We hope to plan another trip during the summer of 2010 to begin construction and address other issues such as water access, infrastructure, etc. I did not go on the first trip, as the timing interfered with another project I was working on with an architecture firm, however, I look forward to learning more about how design can create change, whether it is local or global, and how business strategy can support and encourage these goals.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Moo - politics and cows

(I saw this while doing some research on politics for one of my classes this semester - what do you think? I like it.)



You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful.


You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So?


You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor. You form a cooperative and tell him how to manage his cow.


You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk. You wait in line for hours to get it. It is expensive and sour. CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE

You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.


You have two cows. Under the new farm program, the government pays you to shoot one, milk the other, and then it pours the milk down the drain.


You have two cows. You sell one, lease it back to yourself, and do an IPO on the 2nd one. You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to analysts stating that you have downsized and are reducing expenses. Your stock goes up. Life is good.


You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows. You go to lunch and drink wine. Life is good.


You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains. Most are at the top of their class at cow school.


You have two cows. Yet you don’t know where they are. While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman. You break for lunch. Life is good.


You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which are two. You don’t milk them, because you cannot touch any creature’s private parts. You get a $40 million grant from the US government to find alternatives to milk production but use the money to buy weapons.


You have two bulls. Employees are regularly maimed and killed attempting to milk them.


You have a black cow and a brown cow. Everyone votes for the best looking one. Some of the people who actually like the brown one best accidentally vote for the black one. Some people vote for both. Some people vote for neither. Some people can’t figure out how to vote at all. Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which one you think is the best-looking cow.


You have millions of cows. They make real California cheese. Only five speak English. Most are illegal. Arnold likes the ones with the big udders.