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!



Hugs of Various Sorts

I google searched some pictures of hugs. And this is what I found.

This one's pretty cute:

This one's sustainable:
This one is maybe a little sad?
This one is maybe a little bit scary:

This one is romantic:And this one is just plain awkward:



A Sense of Plaza

These pictures are from a plaza we found in Old North in front of a church on 11th and Carr. It's a pretty sweet plaza. We really like plazas. And what's not to like? They're nice spaces designed to facilitate interaction between people. This one, however was empty til we got there. Then, it was really fun for a while.
According to DJ, this is probably the sweetest spot in St. Louis to skate at, as evidenced by this handrail. I think our love of plazas started wayway back when we watched this movie:

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long

I was trying to come up with a word for the emotion that Margie has at the end of Fargo, but couldn't think of one and eventually used two words to place it within a spectrum of feelings. Trying to communicate is a mad struggle every second. Being a person is both really difficult and enjoyable at the same time because words are so imperfect and not comprehensible enough. It's interesting to talk to really eloquent people (Liz Kramer, Julia Weese-Young, etc. etc.) to see how they do it. If I had a superpower, it would be that I can communicate far better than I can now.
I'm hugging life today, are you?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Into the Darkness

Dependent Study heard about this via Ecology of Absence, and I think we're gonna try to go? You should peep it. Basically, it's a documentary movie about urban exploring and the people who do it. We're sort of doing some urban exploring,during day. But it's interesting and its at Webster University. So, we're taking this as an opportunity to:

1) see this awesome movie
2) take a bus adventure to Webster
3) explore Webster

Come, yeah?


Crown Candy might be a problem

We ate lunch at Crown Candy today and noticed two important things: 1) for an area so devoid of population and nearby jobs, the place was packed. There were people waiting at the front of the store to get a table. 2) We decided that the vast majority of the customers were not from Old North. Some were wearing business suits, hinting that they came from downtown. Anyway, these phenomena led us to discussion of the larger problem of gentrification in areas like Old North. Even if there is affordable/low-income housing in Old North, if there is enough desire to live there the locals will be forced to move out because the cycle snowballs until everyone wants to live there and prices can't help but go up. Crown Candy itself is not the problem, in fact the Malts are delicious and it's an amazing place, but if people are willing to drive from far away just to eat lunch there, and if Old North becomes as desirable as it seems it will, people will pay big money to live there, which will totally change the area.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


<- Some 2002 STL graffiti
Every time I ride the metro I stare out the windows at the concrete walls whizzing past and look for new pieces of graffiti that have cropped up since the last time I rode that way. I love graffiti a lot. Wait, I should qualify that: I love good graffiti a lot. Let me now define "good": good graffiti is not done on buildings/structures/places which would otherwise be beautiful without the graffiti (I know everyone has opinions about what is beautiful, but some are easier to pinpoint than others). For example, I don't like it when there is graffiti on brick buildings or old buildings. Actually, it's pretty hard for me to think of a building on which I approve doing graffiti. So where should graffiti be done? I think that all underpasses, all concrete walls that run next to train tracks, and train/metro cars should be viable grounds for graffiti art. They are pretty ugly as is, so adding color can never hurt, and has the potential to be beautiful. I'm not saying I think graffiti should be made legal. The illegality of graffiti is what makes it appealing: it's risky and exhilarating. The point of most graffiti is to leave your mark on a place, artists merely write their names in ever more complex and interesting ways. The status of a piece is elevated by its complexity and difficulty of location (like if it's on the side of Eads bridge or something). I think that graffiti needs to evolve. Artists have the potential to reach a vast audience (young and old alike) with their work, and they should take advantage of it. Graffiti should be a means for The People to voice their opinions in a very public way. Doing graffiti that has some sort of message (a good message of course) can affect a ton of people. I think it would make a lot of people's day if a big fill-in of "SAVE THE METRO" showed up on the side of some underpass on the way to downtown.


Let Me See You Bounce That Bounce That

The Skandalaris Center in Simon Hall helps people do things to help people.
In the past few weeks, they've just come up again and again in helping fund community-development-type initiatives, especially WashU grads trying to make things happen in St. Louis.
I briefly talked to II Luscri (most awesome name probably ever) about this event that they have about 5 times a year called IdeaBounce. It's where they pick out 10 or 15 people's ideas from the ones submitted on their website, give them a two-minute elevator pitch, then pick five winners and give them 100 dollars. The real point of the event is not the Benjamin, but the connections the people can make with the people that attend the event. Apparently some guy got a job overhauling an entire company's website because he pitched a cool intracompany idea sharing web thing at IdeaBounce. And of course, the Burning Kumquat was at IdeaBounce once upon a time. Ideas presented in snippy snappy talks, yummies, and all these people you can talk to? What more could you ask for?

It's on September 18, Thursday at 5:00p.m. in
Room 310, Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom, Anheuser Busch Hall (law skool)
This one's environmental-themed! In association with this year's Freshman Reading Program, which was organized by my super awesome ex-advisor Alicia Schnell.
Sorry about the excessive name-dropping, but you should definitely come.

Lift for Hug Life

pictures!! Over the weekend, we worked with Architecture for Humanity-St. Louis on the Lift for Life Academy greenhouse project. Again, it was my first time visiting a project Hitomi and DJ had been working on over the summer and I was impressed yet again. The LFL charter school serves St. Louis City kids and provides them with a middle school education (grades 6-8th) starting this fall, they will begin to offer 9th grade courses, adding another year of high school each year until 2011.

Anyway, this project is really cool because the greenhouse is designed to eventually be taken apart and repurposed when the Academy begins to expand its buildings. It's great that there is an organization in the city devoted to offering top-notch educational services to kids who cannot afford to buy a private school education. From what I've heard, the public education system in the city is not so great, so it's excellent that there is such an opportunity here for these kids. Of course, it would be great if there was more than just one LFL-style educational institution in the city or- better yet- if the public education system could get its act together and perhaps begin offering a meaningful and worthwhile education to the children of St. Louis. We cannot expect our cities to grow and flourish if we dont first focus on educating the people who will one day be voting, living, and working in those cities. It's irresponsible and idiotic for us to believe that we can get by without an adequate educational system.

dont you think?



Monday, September 8, 2008

Mo Money Mo Problems

One really frustrating thing about staying involved in academia is the amount of manipulation and competition that sway true learning. It's pretty obvious that money plays a big role in how a scholastic institution is run. If your middle school was in a struggling school district, you hardly learned anything in class because your classes were too big, there weren't enough books to go around, and the school administration didn't have enough resources to organize a sane school day. In college, funding becomes a big deal, especially for a private school (which I attend), and every aspect of its education and operation tend to lean towards what the investors want, or what the administrators think the investors want.
I'm not saying this is a bad thing; I think it's good and honest that an organization with people putting money into it tries to listen to those people keeping that organization afloat. It only gets tricky when things like genuine curiosity in a subject or a thirst for learning becomes hindered by the monetary and logistical concerns of the educational institution. This can be also interpreted as specialization in a field by each school being a strength in the American school system. It's still hard as a student to cope with the realization that your school would rather listen to an old guy that may not even live in St. Louis to make decisions about what affects you every single day.
Another interesting facet of academia is the research industry. It's a crazy mix of pure curiosity, big-money greed, and philanthropy. A lot of researchers research things they don't really care about or for in order to make a living; a lot of researchers go into a field of research to try to solve a problem. Apparently a surprising number of cancer researchers had cancer as children and was inspired by their recovery aided by cancer research and treatment. Even if you aren't a scary greedy cash money monster, if you have two kids to send to college, you need to keep your job no matter how much or how little you personally have investment in your research. A lot of researchers (like my dad) really enjoy the process of discovery and creative problem-solving that is inherent in research.
Money is a really difficult thing that gets imposed on everything people do nowadays. It's refreshing to think about society without money or constraints of endowments, but it's also difficult to imagine how the current global culture would function without currencies. But on a small scale, I'll bake you brownies and you can teach me how to grow fish in a rain-collection barrel. Deal?

North City Farmers Market

This weekend, we took a trip to the Old North Farmers Market to have a chat with Julia, the coordinator for the market. It struck me how excited people were about the farmers market. There were people of all sorts there who seemed really happy that there was fresh produce in their neighborhood. And that, I think is a really special thing. We all deserve to have fresh food available to us, no matter where we live or who we are but somehow, St. Louis thinks it's okay for a large swath of the city to get by on fast food. Even though this famers market is tiny when compared to Soulard's or Maplewood's farmers markets, it seems to me to be the most genuine and effective. Not only is the food grower-produced (meaning that the person selling you that food has a meaningful relationship with what they're selling you), but it provides food to a part of the city that is drastically underserved by the major grocery stores and food providers.

Living in a city requires a certain level of interdependence that is vital for the functioning of the city's fabric as a whole. It seems that this city is very much intent on effecitively cutting out one segment of the population in terms of the reciprocation they need in order to be healthy enough to contribute to the city's wellbeing. But the North City Farmers Market represents a very important challenge to that thinking. It is helping to literally sow the seeds of tomorrow in the fallow earth of today.

For that reason, I appreciate this market a lot. It's a no brainer and it's about time.



Sunday, September 7, 2008

Built and Building

Jackson Park and Tyvek in Old North

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Weekend Commute Memories

One of the best repeated memories I have from my childhood is this: on Saturdays when my mom was working, sometimes she would let us kids come up to her workplace and hang around. My brother and I would hop onto the train, walk a bit to her work, and she would give us stuff to play with (paper clips? minesweeper? markers galore?) before she gave us money to go eat somewhere. We would always think about it for a little bit then end up going to a nearby Moss Burger. Tea would happen, office supplies would be further messed with (usually color-coordinated), then we'd take the train home.
My mom always talked about the wisteria trellis pergola that was near the train station that bloomed during the spring months.

It's really devastating for me to think that some people that ride the Metrolink have memories of scenes from the Metro, everyday going back and forth to and from work, that might not be perpetuated. This is a romanticized perspective on trains and public transit, but I think this kind of thought process underlies all appreciation of small things in life.

Crown Candy

Last night, the Dependent Study kids took a trip up to Old North St. Louis to have a conversation with Claire Wolff of the Urban Studio and Mikey Naucus of... lots of stuff. A synopsis/video of that inspiring conversation will be posted within the next few days as we figure out Final Cut Pro and get some intracurricular work finished up.

For now, I'll leave you with some pictures from our trip to Crown Candy immediately following the meeting with Claire and Mikey. We were trying to kill some time waiting for the bus, so we got a malt. I was SO down to try the 5 Malts in Half an Hour Crown Candy Challenge, but I was dissuaded by my colleagues. Regardless of that fact, Crown Candy was a great and yummy experience! It had been my first time both to Old North St. Louis and Crown Candy, but boy was it enjoyable. I felt there was a sense of progress there I have only dreamt of in other parts of St. Louis. There seems to be a sense of community there, a community that cares about not only where it's been, but where it might be headed. I think that sort of concern is what makes it a special place. And its people like Claire and Mikey and Phil Valko who are going to help take Old North St. Louis into an interesting direction.

Here are some silly pictures we took at Crown Candy. Until I can figure out my camera, we'll have to live with blurry pictures. I think DJ was in the bathroom or something when we took these pictures?

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