Friday, September 14, 2007

Survey, Murvey!

I am posting out of frustration more than anything. I was so excited about my paper and getting the surveys completed but I am not having great luck. Some of the schools who were planning on doing them have since decided not to. Currently I only have one school completing them and possible a second, but still waiting to hear back from them. I have now sent the survey to all of my email contacts so those with kids or who know kids can have them fill them out. I also belong to a mom’s group of 150+ members so I have reached out to them to have their school age children and friends fill it out. Is it normally this difficult to get research done? My daughter has students doing research at her daycare and I always let her participate. A lot of the parents from the one school who is participating aren’t letting their children be involved. Researching the family further has led me to come across the fact that most of the parents who say No are divorced parents. Hmmm… wonder what this tells me? I think one thing I should have done different is not mentioned the divorce aspect on the letter that was sent home to parents. I should have just stated that I was studying children’s perceptions of home and left it at that. Next time I guess huh?

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Ok, so let me start with major mental block or what. I read the email and said great, by Thursday no problem. I just reread the email and it says BEFORE Thursday. WOOPS!

Any who… I have read my first article and I have put together my survey that I plan on distributing to as many schools as I can across the nation. I have Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and New York covered. I am posting the survey so I can get input from you all on the questions. I am keeping it pretty simple as I will have to read through all of these in time to report on them in my paper. I plan on distributing these surveys hopefully by the 7th and receiving them back by the 14th. So any comments you have regarding them please post them early so I can revise them as needed.

After reading the first article I am getting really excited about this paper. I have talked to many people about it and they respond by “Wow… that is intense. What a great topic.” So… I know I have my work cut out for me but I will get it done! One statement that stood out in the article was this: “… and reflected the untested but strongly held belief that children would be psychologically harmed if they had more than one home.” All I have to say to that is I am glad that they remarked that it was untested because I have a hard time believing this. The article went on further to remark that kids who experienced joint physical custody were impacted the least out of divorced children. A bit contradictory. So I still tend to believe that we can create a home or two that can help children adjust to the divorce. I guess as my research continues I will unveil if this is true or not.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Countdown to Sleep ... 2days 23h 8min

So...where do I begin? What is on my mind tonight after this long distance program began 16 days ago? SLEEP, SLEEP, and more SLEEP.

On a serious note, I am rather excited right now. I was feeling quite discouraged after my first few days here at the on site portion of our program. I was feeling like I wasn’t able to bring to the table what I have been online. I for one am one of those people I discussed that are able to communicate better online than in person. I believe that is because I tend to need time to think out my thoughts. It is a process for me. The first few days here the process wasn’t running smoothly. After having a critique with Ted a few hours ago (the second in one day) I am once again feeling motivated and upbeat.

I have been thinking a lot about the different articles that we have been reading for theory and they all continue hold the same connection for me. What can we do as a society to rid or discourage the act of segregation? How can we as designers impact the society with our designs to discourage this? Then again, are we supposed to? Maybe that isn’t for us to depict, maybe it is. I am struggling with this question. I am really intrigued by many of the currant cultural conditions, not just segregation but the impact of other conditions such as divorce and children and what this is contributing to our society. I don’t know if any of this is even making sense, but I am hoping you can follow my train of thoughts on what may be another sleepless or minimal amount of sleep night.

Here are the two main things I am thinking about if I were to narrow them down.

What my topic will be for the theory paper. I have narrowed it down to about 4-5 ideas that intrigue me right now all dealing with either children/family conditions or an item of segregation or shall I say recent attempt to abolish a segregation.
How the discussions we have had in studio are directly tied in with the theory class. I know that this has been done in an intentional manner, but I don’t believe I have ever had two classes so closely tie together as they have in this situation. There have been numerous discussions in studio that have brought the theory discussions into play and vice versa.

I anxiously await (I am by no mean sitting around waiting) the end of the week for sleep reasons, but I also can’t wait run with all of the above information.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Visit to Bedford

So I promised you all some photos and I did the best I could. I was there during "rush hour" and the trees have grown in the town like you wouldn't believe.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Why We Buy - Part I

When I first read the syllabus and saw the title of the book for this weeks reading, I thought to myself, how in the world does this relate to Architecture? A few days later I had it in my possession and I read over the back of it, still thinking to myself, I really don’t get why we are going to read this for our Architecture theory class.

I started the book yesterday and after completing the first two sections, I am finally beginning to realize the answer to that question. As I have found in the other two readings thus far, this book is really bringing up some issues I have never really thought about. Do many of us think about the art of shopping? I know I just go to a store and do my thing and then leave. I don’t really think about the design of it or the advertising, etc that goes on behind the scenes. I for one am probably one of the people they talk about in the store that doesn’t read the signs. I may every once in awhile but most of the time when I am shopping I have two kids in tow and am way to busy or distracted to take the estimated 4 seconds they refer to people taking to reading a sign. The best statements in the book that I have come across so far are “It’s a three dimensional TV commercial. It’s a walk-in container for words and thoughts and messages and ideas,” and “A great big three-dimensional walk-in TV commercial. And just as if scripting and directing a TV commercial, the job is to figure out what to say and when and how to say it.”

I for one have never designed a store. The company I work for does mostly residential and the commercial projects we have worked on have been institutional or just the shell for the building to then be broken into separate retail spaces. The only concept I have had to think about in this context is the structure and making sure that a column isn’t coming down right in the middle of a prime retail area. I haven’t dealt with a layout, so I am very excited about the studio project.

I now understand why this book. To start with, so far I do see exactly how it is going to tie into studio. Second, I understand the impact that we as Architects can have on the success or failure of a store. I look forward to completing the second half of the book and learning how to study others in order to design a better building for the consumer.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Duncan's Landscape... A Westchester County Village

This article really sparked an interest for me. As I first started reading it, I began to think about the different villages I have visited and how unfortunately this really does seem to be how our societies are living. It’s not that I never realized it before this article, but for some reason I never really gave it deep consideration.

I’m not really sure where to say that I grew up as far as a type of location. I definitely never considered it the county but I have heard people who have come to visit refer to it as just that, or “the middle of nowhere.” Growing up and attending public school I was exposed to many classes, races, ethnicities, etc. I definitely was not in the alpha group by any means but I wasn’t considered to be in the beta group either. So where did that leave me? Is there possibly an alpha/beta group? This article as well as Bickford’s article would lead us to believe that the answer to that question is “No.”

I married into a family who decided to adopt many children after having three biological white children of their own. Prior to adopting they were probably considered to be on the outskirts of the alpha landscape. Once they began adopting children, who were multiple races, their landscape shifted to beta. They did move to a more suburban area out of the large county landscape they had previously been living, and the organizations they belonged to began to decrease. They were never considered high class and were always working class; however, upon adopting the racially different children, some members of the different organizations they belonged to began to separate themselves from the family. Looking at this situation only reiterates some of the points in these two articles that there is a clear segregation between the areas that we live in.

Prior to reading these articles, I never really thought of the suburbs or the CIDs or PUDs as middle class, and the simplistic buildings located outside of town as the higher class, in fact, I considered them the exact opposite. These articles made me take a step back and reconsider my perceptions. As I began to think about this I realized that the way they are perceived in the articles makes complete sense. To start with we all know that the market for land is astronomical. That fact right there raises red flags when it comes to value of the different properties we are discussing. A simple house on a large acreage property is going to be valued much higher than a “McMansion” located in the suburbs. The aesthetically pleasing large buildings are not what drive the values in our economy today. So, sure you might have a simple house, and you might fight to keep that house and make sure there are no changes in your “neighborhood,” but you will still be the “higher class” that others are striving to become. Others will continue to purchase the large houses that look like a million bucks, and do cost a pretty penny I might add, but their location, or landscape, will still place them in the middle or working class. It’s similar to the idea that you drive by a rundown residence and there sitting in the driveway is a shiny BMW. Today people tend to believe that if they portray to the public that they are well off it will present new and higher opportunities for them.

Unfortunately, as these articles state, this is not completely accurate. Sometimes it does, but more often than others it doesn’t. It has been researched and found that it is very hard for people today to make a step up in the class system. We still have the segregation as these articles point out, Duncan’s more factual than Bickford’s, and it is still hard for some to cross over to another class no matter how hard they work or how much money they have. I liked that Duncan pointed out that although the wait list for the country club is 10 years, if you know the right people, the wait could only be two. Power is who you know in most situations in today’s society.

So I end with this. As I said before, I don’t know which landscape I grew up in. My husband I have not purchased our first house yet, and won’t be looking for another 5 years or so. However, I don’t know where I will end up. I don’t want to be considered in the alpha because I don’t like that it is so segregated. However, I want more than the beta. Like I stated at the beginning of the response, is there a middle to these and if not can we one day create one?

Oh, one more note, I now live about 15 minutes from Bedford and plan to make a trip there, hopefully today, but definitely this week. If I find anything interesting compared to this article I will be sure to post it or let you all in on it when we see each other in Boston.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"Constructing Inequality: City Spaces and the Architecture of Citizenship"

Susan Bickford’s 2000 article “Constructing Inequality: City Spaces and the Architecture of Citizenship” raised many thoughts and issues for me while I was reading it. The second time around I was really able to make a connection between the article and many things I have faced both in the professional world and the educational world. To keep this already lengthy blog shorter I will attempt to minimize some of my thoughts.

The first item that came to mind was the common Planning board, Zoning board and Town board encounters I have faced in my many site development projects over the past few years. I believe some of the points that Bickford made regarding imposing self interest and being vulnerable when it comes to change directly relate to the individual municipalities I have faced in my career thus far. Many boards have even directly stated that if they divert from the “Norm” that has been in place and put into place by someone prior to them, that they will create an uprising because the citizens have become accustomed to the “Norms” and do not want to see change in their neighborhoods. This is understandable to some degree however there are situations where I have to disagree with this practice. Many chain businesses have a prototype building that they begin with and I understand local municipalities attempting to change the building slightly in order for it to mesh well with the neighborhood, however, many towns are forcing the representatives of the businesses to completely convert the prototype to “fit” into the town’s standards (the “Norm”). There is a point that this process crosses over the line in my eyes. If I am out of town and am attempting to find a business that I am familiar with and can’t find it because it has now been converted so much to the “local Norm” that I don’t recognize it, I tend to get perturbed. I don’t understand converting everything to look the same, etc. and to not allow diversity into our communities.

A specific project that comes to mind that really discouraged me and turned me against HOAs a few years back was a client of mine was attempting to utilize his land to the capacity allotted by the town zoning ordinance. It was in a commercial district that boarded a residential district. My client had provided an easement across his property to residential property behind his that was now operated by a HOA. This article really made me consider this project even further. My clients were in front of the planning and zoning boards for over a year and the boards finally called our clients while out of session to express to them that they were concerned and would have to turn our project down if the application was not withdrawn. We would have understood if the project was not going to be an asset to the community or even worse would be a detriment to the community, but even according to the Planning Board it was the direct opposite, the greatest asset that had been presented to the board in awhile. However, they said that they had to think about the politics behind it. The fact that the HOA and the gated community it represented contained too many voters for them to go against. This in my opinion is exactly what Bickford was getting at. The HOA had their private and self beliefs that were to be followed and they were then integrated into the community. The article stated “…whose perspective must be taken into account when making political decisions” which is exactly what took place in this situation. The article also stated “The freedom and security of some people is increasingly encroached upon as others attempt to secure it for themselves” which also occurred on this project. The HOA was able to suppress the freedom my client had to increase the value of his property all because they were concerned about the well being of their community. I should probably mention that the property currently contains a bowling alley on it and was stereotyped by the HOA as being a dirty, drug and alcohol infested facility which as the article mentions, forced the two parties to be categorized.

I think that unfortunately we live in a me society where we are not open to change because we are taught that change is uncomfortable. Today’s generation has this concept instilled in them as well as the belief that they are all number one and their self beliefs should be placed above all else. Unfortunately as the article states it is increasingly impacting the way we live in the residential form and as I demonstrated above it is starting to make its mark on the commercial world, AKA public space. I can only hope that one day these beliefs will change and that people will be open to change and most of all to diversity. Until this happens we will continue to be impacted by one another’s self indulgence.