Thursday, December 25, 2008

Blogmania from Rural Studio

I am just now realizing (in a flurry of excitement and a tinge of jeals mad jeals!) that each of the newer Rural Studio projects have blogs!! Some of them document the process really well, from the site to the design process to the construction. It's really really cool. The Lions Park Concession Stand one has fun fun sketches and photos.
Maybe we should do that more often?
Hugs Mcgee

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chouteau Ruins

A few weeks ago, DJ and I were biking home from an Architecture for Humanity event and we stumbled across this set of ruins. Its about a block south of Chouteau near Lafayette Square. Its surrounded by some small houses on two sides, an alley on the other, and an abandoned, also overgrown lot. We were left awe-struck. Obviously, this building is really old. But why is it still standing? Or maybe, more importantly, HOW is it still standing? It's such a beautiful, old creature. Was it once a home? A shop? Or something more sinister? Who knows?
Now, it's returning to the earth from whence it came. We're going to do some investigation and attempt to discover its provenance. We'll keep you posted.


Antonio Pacheco

Friday, December 5, 2008

So Groc

We've mentioned in prior posts that we're working on designing a co op grocery store/kitchen incubator/artist's studio in Old North St. Louis. Our project is moving along slowly, with many fits and stops. But ultimately, it is moving forward. We're taking this existing building on 13th st and St. Louis ave. It sits on a large lot and has a small community garden funded by a grant from Missouri Foundation for Health. Our main goals with this project are to 1) provide a venue for healthy, good food in the Old North area, 2) create habitable, pleasant space, 3) reuse this old building in an interesting way.
Here are some images from the work we've completed so far.
That's an elevation DJ drew of the north side of the building. The grey part is the artist's studio. The boxes on the roof are greenhouses and the red part is the actual grocery store. The original building was built in the early 1900s. There was an addition made (the artist studio) in the 70s. At this point, much of the building was clad in ugly brick. Since the artists studios are distinctly different from the original building (where the grocery and incubator will be housed), we didn't feel right keeping the ugly brick veneer. Instead, we're proposing taking the brick off and exposing the concrete masonry unit construction.
This is a drawing Hitomi made of the same elevation that takes DJ's ideas further. Here, the blank, windowless walls are cut into to 1) allow light into the space, 2) help with ventilation, and 3) break up the facade, giving it a more human, less monolithic scale. Hitomi proposed the idea of cutting these notches into the wall (the lower half of the drawing) to do just that. We're thinking of covering the walls between these notches with advertisements for the grocery or simply, pictures of veggies and maybe installing benches along these spaces, as well.
This is a drawing I made that we all helped photoshop. It's of the loading dock/east/west facades. Here, we're exploring rooftop access and how that could work. We're proposing having a staircase that leads to the roof but begins inside the building. We're proposing this for safety reasons (Roofs are dangerous, you cant just have random people climbing up there willy nilly) and because it's kinda cool.

We made a rough Sketch Up model. It has helped us quite a bit with figuring out some of the spaces, but we're still far from done. The following screenshot looks down into the building. Please not the elevated deck/covered eating area on the right (south) side of the image. This deck will help to soften the transition from the inside of the building to the garden on the opposite side of the lot, as well as help enclose and define a playground we're proposing for this part of the site.

Here's a plan. Again, it's rough. The bottom rectangle house the grocery (far left), incubator (square-ish thing near the center), bathrooms and an office/storage space (far right). The rectangle above all that stuff is where the artist studios will be (note hitomi's notches along the uppermost/northern wall). The deck is the angled form at the very bottom.

I know these were all pretty superficial analyses of the building; we're still trying to work out all the kinks. So, please, forgive the roughness. But we'd love some feedback!

Hug Life,

Antonio Pacheco

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Go r-e-a-d a b-o-o-kay!!

Michael Pollan came,
and he said (something like)
"Is a building a piece of art,
or is a building a reaction and adaptation to its surroundings?"
(apparently the theme of his book A Place of My Own)
Although I don't agree with his woodchuck management methods, Dependent Study is having a Pollan intensive period; it would be fabulous to have you along.

There are Multiple "I"s in Teamwork

I just finished Storming Caesars Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty for a class. It's very informative in the history of the specific area and the program the author focused on (Westside Las Vegas), but the meat of it is the personal growth of the women leading the change in the impoverished community. It made me feel better about a lot of things because it documents people that don't have specific training or education in terms of getting political, financial, and social support for starting community-based antipoverty programs. Similar things are going on in St. Louis, with Urban Studio and a lot of other new things that I come in contact being initiated by motivated people that manage around different obstacles in getting to their goal.
It relates to the idea that companies and firms are beginning to be less homogeneous, that engineers, social workers, architects, businessmen, and whoever else would be working on a same project to bring their expertise into the same goal. I find that really really exciting, but as of now, a lot of grassroots movements lack the variety of resources, so individuals end up doing multiple of those tasks by themselves. Maybe after this generation (which I think is focused and very specialized) grows up, the grassroots movement can have a more dynamic, cohesive momentum behind it.
Maybe maybe?
love, Hitomi

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Apple Break 11/11

We're having an Apple Break tonight!!
It's and rainy out, so we might have it indoors.

We just got these nifty new posters from our friend Kevin McCall.
He's got talent; We've got apples.

So, wherever you are in the world, take 15 minutes tonight, find some friends, have an apple, and relax.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some Yummy Quotes

"I do not put my faith in institutions, but in individuals all over the world who think clearly, feel nobly and act rightly. They are the channels of moral truth." -Rabindranath Tagore

"Beauty will not come at the call of a legislature, nor will it repeat in England or America its history in Greece. It will come, as always, unannounced, and spring up between the feet of brave and earnest men." -Ralph Waldo Emerson (on the cover of Louis Sullivan's copy of Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works)

Knowledge is Power

Sadly, Proposition M did not pass. It was a really close margin (52% for no, 48% for yes with the difference being under 20,000 votes), and I can see glimpses of hope in that. The only thing we Metro supporters can do is to try to come up with better ways to fund and support it in the near future.

Things I noticed from the comments on the Post-Dispatch article online were that people were unaware that the city had already passed a similar tax measure in support of Metro years ago, the leaders that misused funds in the past have been replaced, and that revenue from fares do not run the Metro or any public transportation system anywhere. It's a failure on our part to properly educate the public, but Metro also could not advocate for themselves at their stations. I think it makes a huge difference if people truly understand the issues and consequences at play, which is very difficult to do from a short proposition on a ballot. It's frustrating that hope was such a large part of this election, and many propositions (M, 8 in California, etc.) failed due to voter's unwillingness to give these issues a chance for whatever reason.

Thanks for voting. We'll keep fighting/loving.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Proposition M and St. Louis

The only serious political advocacy I have ever participated in is for Proposition M on tomorrow's ballot. This issue seems entirely dire to me; if it fails, I know St. Louis itself will not be able to recover. The idea that punishing poor management by removing funding is preposterous. If the Metro system doesn't get enough funding, they will be forced to cut services, thus decreasing reliability for the riders, and in the end (which won't be so far away if it is to come) the entire system will have to shut down due to lack of ridership. Of course I want the Metro to be managed better so that it can run more trains, buses, and Call-a-Rides more frequently and more cheaply, but the current situation trumps this concern. Prop M is not a heart-attack prevention plan; it's a defibrillation, and it's the last try.

Public transit has allowed St. Louis businesses to hire more employees who had no way to commute to their jobs before it existed. Public transit made St. Louis more conscious about the effects of traffic on both people and the environment. Public transit funneled tons of Cardinals fans together into the Stadium station every summer. It lets me go places that makes me feel like I live in a city that's worth saving. Unfortunately I cannot vote (in the U.S.), so I'm hoping that the joy I feel of riding public transportation has reached enough people in time for tomorrow.

Please please vote,
p.s. Let's go on a Metro adventure when Prop M passes, yeah?

Sample ballot can be found here. Prop M is the second from last measure on the ballot tomorrow.
Video testimonials about the importance of Metro (including one from Miz Metrolink herself!) here.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Aren't we all doing it for the kids/future generations? Whatever we're doing?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Metro Adventure

Last weekend, a few of us headed out on a Metro Adventure to Maplewood for lunch and MacKenzie for some thirft store shopping. Maplewood was a really cool place with a nice Main Street/shopping area. There were quite a few locally-owned restaurants, specialty shops, boutiques, and a bike store! The bike shop had bubble gum pink grip tape. There was also a cool spice shop that sold $70 saffron and a DJ store that had strobe lights and sound equipment.
We had lunch at this Cuban restaurant, Boogaloo. It was sosososo good. The picture below is of their bar. The seats are suspended from the ceiling and swing around a bit. When we're old enough to get drinks, we'll come here for sure.
We took the Metrolink to Shrewsbury:
And then, we took the bus to the thirftstore.

All in all, a good time. You should ride the Metro.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Prop M

Why Public Transit is A Social Justice Issue (and Why You, as a caring person, should care about proposition M)

I don't own a car. I guess, if I changed the way that I budget my money, I could be privileged enough to own an automobile. But some because of finances, and some because of personal responsibility, I choose not to own a car, and to avoid driving as much as possible. For me, this is a choice. But for so many others in our community, there is no choice. Public transit is their link to the rest of the community. This isn't just the disabled and the poor. What about the elderly? Youth? Others who have made a choice to live a life without personal transit?

Public transit is not just about being able to get to the baseball game or to the Landing for a night out. It's about getting people to jobs when there aren't any near home, and to the doctor when there isn't an adequate clinic nearby. It's about going to work in a way that doesn't damage the environment. It's about interacting with your neighbors!

We need public transit. Even if you don't ride it, we still need it. Proposal M will raise $80 million annually for Metro, which will prevent service reductions, fare increases and employment cuts and allow for expansions of MetroLink and potentially the development of Rapid Bus Transit for the St. Louis region. Metro provides an invaluable service to our community, and we must support it. A YES vote for Prop M is a YES vote for St. Louis.

-Miz Metrolink

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hope or Hype

The leaves in St. Louis are just starting to turn. It's almost as if they know it; the chilly winds of change are blowing. The sort of symbolism I see in these leaves makes me hopeful, but they foreshadow the unknown, something new and different. And I think we all know this. Or at least, we hope that a few speckled and crunchy leaves actually signal the coming of autumn and not some fluke coldspell followed by another six weeks of summer.

Saturday morning marked the third time I had seen Barack Obama speak and although his speech was pretty standard, this appearance was of such monumental proportions that it meant so much more than usual. The settings for the speech were epic in both magnitude and proportion; excitement and anticipation ran high, you could feel it in the air. I had never really seen so many hopeful and positive faces on a chilly saturday morning. These faces were framed by the stout towers of downtown St. Louis on one side and the Arch and Mississippi River on the other. And in many ways, this speech was the sort of speech I have always been dying to see: a major figure, speaking within a monumental architectural setting, to a vast crowd of adoring fans. It's the stuff of movies and history, the sort of stuff you only hear about, but never witness. But saturday, I witnessed this vast specticle of a political event and was left quite impressed by the sheer humanity of it all. On that beautiful St. Louis day, 100,000 people came out to listen to a person share their vision for the future. And they did so hoping and praying that his vision would indeed come true, with the awareness that his ability to fulfill that vision was in their hands.

But I feel a certain sense of anxiety over the whole situation. What if we lose? What if the message we're all fighting for simply isn't enough to enough people?

But then again, what if it is?



Saturday, October 11, 2008

Old peeps

I started reading this book Heat Wave about the heat wave that happened in Chicago summer of 1995. It talks about how certain groups of people were more prone to dying in a heat wave because of lack of social attachments and other factors that can't really be expressed in numbers all that well.
One of the first factors the book discusses is the increase in single (divorced, widowed, never married, etc.) elderly individuals that live by themselves in cities. It's a developed country trend in recent years; I saw a television program about how a ungodly percentage of Japanese households will become single persons older than 70 within a few years, not to mention Italy's crisis over its upside down age pyramid. The book talks about how a lot of elderly folks don't have children or resources that can take care of them daily, have health issues already that prevent them from traveling outside the home, and fears the urban environment due to crime presented in mass media that might be the only source of information about the outside.
The book goes on to talk about cultural communities that managed to keep each other alive, among other things, but I haven't read those parts yet. The descriptions in the book is sorta terrifying, because it makes me feel like there are a whole bunch of people living by themselves that don't talk face-to-face with a person for weeks at a time, can't grocery shop on their own, and feels content in that type of situation. I'm not going to pretend I understand everyone's feelings or rationale for doing what they do (because I don't), but it feels like modern isolation in its most extreme.
My friend Natty does this program at WashU called S.A.G.E. where they visit senior citizens around the city once a week (I think the program changed a bit this year, so they're doing more tasks for individual old people, not so much fun activities for a group). I think the elderly peeps really enjoy the visits; if you've ever visited your grandma or grandpa, I think you would understand.
Two of my favorite people in the world are my grandma, who makes me yummies and cat pouches, and my grandpa, who can talk with me about architecture and politics and sumo (he's 80 this year). It's ridiculous how much wisdom and knowledge and sheer experience old people have. It's not just the scariness of lonely seniors, but the loss to the rest of society where older people lose touch with their community and young people can't benefit from their wisdom. I'm not sure how, but family ties and programs like S.A.G.E. that connects young with old seem like a very good idea in terms of fostering healthy community life and passing on priceless experience.

hug your grandma
(also Antonio is an old person, according to the cartoon above from here)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

We're not good Christian people

We three were walking down the street yesterday morning, and this small lady just comes up to us and asks for a group hug. It was really sudden, so Antonio and I just went for it, and DJ patted her on the back. Then she offered to sell us a freaky movie on a DVD. She just needed money for food.
It's difficult a lot of times how people begging need to be creative to get people to give them money. I tend to just give money away because 1) I don't need the money I have in my wallet at that moment and 2) if you have the guts to go up to a stranger and ask for money (AND offer a freaky movie in return), then you're pretty bomb in my book. Those are probably terrible reasons for me giving money to people, but it's also hard for me to understand how my voting or working for certain organizations can help the same people in a direct way. It seems like bureaucracy gets in the way of resources that people need from getting to them. There are certain places and organizations (Centenary that FeedSTL works with, What's Up magazine, St. Patrick Center/McMurphy's Grill) that affect homeless or needy people in a direct and constructive way, but waiting for policy change is so frustrating and seems indirect.
It might be that I'm impatient (even if I'm officially the patient one) and rather hand someone money than not, saying handing out things doesn't help the poor, and policy changes will be able to deal with the poverty problem in a better and more efficient way.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Values not Incomes

Richard Baron of McCormack Baron Salazar spoke at the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition Kickoff today on the WashU campus. The posters came up couple of days ago, and I'd already heard Mr. Baron speak in one of my classes last year (I think he's friends with my friend Jodie also), so I went for the heck of it.
It's really exciting to hear him speak, because he's this old guy with a funny voice (funny in a good way) that talks non-stop for an hour and a half about building housing and financing them so that it becomes a successful, mixed-income housing development in the most blighted areas of the country. He has pretty awesome jokes and anecdotes as well.
Some things he deems important are:
  • forest people, not tree people (collaboration and diversity in thinking is key)
  • that it's easy(ier) to start something up because everyone's excited; you have to have your finances figured out before you start so it doesn't crash right after the first year
  • that people can live in the same community because they have the same values, not incomes
  • building for people means you gotta be able to listen to them
I particularly like the last two. His projects are all very interesting, and the way they carry out the long-term aspect of housing developments is innovative and gutsy. It feels good to see young and old people react to his work in an energetic way; I'm Wall-E getting a boost from the Sun.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Earth Beneath Us

Sometimes I feel like a bike is a non-polluting car. I feel pretty isolated when I'm on a bike; it's irritating and scary when people jump in front of you. Patience in transport is lacking in the collective modern mind, I believe.

Hitomi is the pink robot that invades plazas.
However, one thing I really, really appreciate about bikes is that it makes me aware of the topography of St. Louis more than any other form of transportation. I walk way too slow to notice subtle ups and downs, and being in a fast vehicle (car, bus, train) undermines those changes greatly. Biking is the perfect way to go fast enough to feel the burn when you're trucking up a hill and enjoy the scenery and the breeze when you're coasting down a gentle slope.

Clayton road is difficult. I like the speedy ride from the Burning Kumquat to Givens Hall. I bet my friend Steph knows the shape of St. Louis from biking so much.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


how do we let this happen? why?

These pictures come from a building we found in Old North a few weeks ago. We saw it quickly go from being somewhat standing to... well, a pile of broken bricks and gnarled wood. It really struck me as something terribly profound and saddening, that a building could so quickly go from space to object, building to rubble. And it made me sad for St. Louis because I know this situation is far too common in this city and cities like it. I wonder how this happened and why we let it happen, still. Because we do still let it happen and it does, every day, every week; all of the time.

It made me wonder what we cherish as a people in terms of our history and legacy. Do we cling to simple-minded notions of a more chaste and simpler past or do we seek to preserve the physical remnants of those prior times by continually and creatively adapting and reusing them
But we don't, we havent. Throughout our recent history, we have allowed people and jobs and life to migrate from historical places to new ones, often at the expense of those left behind and at the expense of the natural environment. Through our laws and opinions, we reshape the landscape each and every day, little by little, rarely looking back or thinking about how today's actions impact our children or our grandparents. We have chosen to live our lives in the absolute present, searching for meaning and happiness in the sprawl and highways. And this old house, and every brick pile like it in St. Louis, is a direct result of that narrowly-defined way of life.

Will we ever change?

Well, yes. That's the whole point of what we're trying to do, I think; Change. I believe that it is our job to change the way our culture views the cradles of this contemporary society. That is, it's our job to convince people of the life thats left in those cities and educate them as to how they can contribute to and enrich that life and vitality. We can do this through not only examining what's there today, but envisoning what might be there tomorrow. This building represents a missed opportunity in such an endeavor. And yet, it can still serve as a tool for education because it is a casualty and just as we venerate and learn from both the castualties and survivors of war, we can learn from and through the buildings we have denied a future.


Antonio Pacheco

Saturday, September 20, 2008

PUBLISH something REAL

We spoke to a guy today who is starting a new campus publication with the intention of being a "no bullshit" source of information/news/music/art/etc. Our quick conversation made me think of the state of publications on the Wash U campus and in the world as a whole. What has happened to the quality publications that stirred up so much great thinking/controversy/creativity in the past? Archigram is one example that comes to my mind: six guys come together and start producing a magazine with images that challenge the core fundamentals of the institution of architecture. What happened to that? There is something very powerful to be said for spreading information through publications that you can pick up and read. The internet has made it so that most people would prefer to start a blog (like this one) to get their ideas out rather than invest the time, effort, and money in starting a real publication. This gives rise to tons of blogs just like this one, that have a hodgepodge of ideas and irregular posting schedules, without a cohesive uniting idea. A real publication forces really innovative thinking because people actually feel like they are a part of something bigger when they read them. Essentially, I give mad props to whoever starts a real publication like that because I think it's long overdue, especially in St. Louis (and if anybody knows about any please holla).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Building Profile: Grocery Co Op

The following pictures are from the building we're looking at in Old North. We've been asked to help design a grocery store/ Co-Op for this building. It seems like a really interesting project and I'm excited to take part in it. Right now, theres a bicycle building workshop being run out of the building in conjunction with the Old North Farmer's Market grant. It'll be interesting to see how we incorporate the past and current uses for the building in our attempt at rehabilitation.

The building itself used to be the distribution center for this horseradish company (!!), but that was a few years ago. It's been vacant til the bicycle shop moved there. It's a really big building that has lots and lots of space, but it's kinda dark. There's a cool refrigerator thing inside that really rocks. Ideally, there will be enough room (and there is) for the grocery/co-op and the bicycle shop and perhaps even some other sort of artsy space. There are nice concrete floors throughout the building.

It's maybe not as flashy or outwardly beautiful as some of the other buildings in this hood, but that's part of its appeal for me. It's like taking in that scruffy-looking, not-so-cute dog that follows you home. You know? Except we followed it home. and it's not really scruffy, just... bricky. But you get the pictures.

Hopefully, we can make something useful and awesome.

Hug it out,

Antonio Pacheco

Coltrane can visit Bowles Plaza

We had this discussion about plazas in my section for a class today (oh wow), and it made evident food is really important in plaza use, especially at WashU. Food, being one of the seven pillars to good public urban space design in William Whyte's Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, holds a special place near and dear to my heart. Not only do I think food is yummy, I believe it can create community, preserve social connections, and nourish the body and mind.
One plaza that has gone from hopping to nopping is Bowles Plaza, which was adjacent to the main eatery on campus during the day. Now, since the new university center was built, and it has a funny food court, students have no reason to visit the old Bowles. Bowles plaza is one of those places where you wouldn't expect people; it's gray and concrete, hard and windy. The giant steps that make the quarter circular amphitheater are hugely giant. It looks pretty severe. But when Mallinckrodt housed the awesome food court, and the weather was nice, Bowles would be packed like sardines in a can. People would walk down to and up from the building and greet friends that were sitting on the steps.
The new university center outdoor seating area has none of that charm; it's fragmented with awkward open space, it has artificial amenities like a fake fire pit and rocking chairs (we're grandmas and grandpas, I know.), and a mini-Bowles that do no justice to the original. People still sit there, because the food court is just inside the doors. This is the great power of food that I'm talking about, but I'm thinking someone should design an easy route connecting the new food court to Bowles and reviving the giant steps for all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

hip hop hurray poodle


Monday, September 15, 2008

Apple Break

We're having our first Apple Break of the year tomorrow in Steinberg Plaza. Please come!


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