Jun 012005

(All photos for this are posted here)

On Friday of our Central Coast vacation we went to explore Poly Canyon. Poly Canyon is a nice outdoor area behind the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo. We walked up the side of a hill to check out the landscape. It was quite pretty, as the yucca were blooming. Have to watch for poison oak though, the stuff is everywhere.

Besides being a nice nature walk the canyon also holds a number of architectural projects from the school. These range in age from the late 60’s to just last year, and in scope from small tests to full dwellings. I had to check them all out. Above you can see the bridge at the start of the poly projects, a new tensile structure, and a deck-like cantilever structure that is about 20 years old.

Above is the standard geodesic dome, a fully functional washroom made with earth (earthcrete?), the underground house (which looks a hell of a lot like a 60’s idea of what a martian’s house would look like), and the stick house (which is starting to crumble).

What surprised me the most about the Poly Canyon projects was the scope of some of them. Above you can see the Bridge House. Peering in the windows one could see that it was fully furnished and operational at some point. Roaming partiers had done some damage to the inside and the building was now locked up. But it is still a great looking building – I’d live in it! I’m not sure what the gear on the roof is – weather station, network stuff?

Above is a cement pavilion, a strange tri-arch structure made with straw and mud, and a brand new (2004) observatory platform.

The second project that really amazed me was the shell house. Above you can see the front side of the house in the first photo, the edge of the house in the second, and the back of the house in the third. The house was designed and landscaped quite well. It looked great, even though time and partiers had taken a toll. The house has a rounded triangular roof that opens up the three ends of the house. Even though the roof covers the front and center of the house, the house has windows behind it. The design feels very private, but open and light at the same time.

The first photo is looking inside the house at the center, the second is looking along the center of the front of the house, and the third is looking down from the upstairs loft. The first photo shows the kitchen end of the center piece of the house, to the left is the living area of the center piece which had some built in shelves and seats. The other side of the center area was shelving units, a closet, and a full bathroom. At the back of the house I found a abstract shaped cement lattice that curled up above the center piece of the house. I couldn’t resist, so I climbed up it. To my amazement, the top was a loft – just enough space for a bed. I loved it, the house was so very different from a standard layout, but felt familiar. All the characteristics of a great design.

The first photo is the greenhouse, the second photo is the inside of the greenhouse through a glass block, and the third photo is the modular house. The greenhouse was an interesting building, the chimneys had scoops that swiveled in the wind. The modular house looked like another interesting project, but there was a sign up saying that it was a private residence now. Lucky!

I’m a bit of a architecture nerd, so it goes without saying that the whole thing is fascinating to me. But I think even the average person would also find it to be a really interesting place to explore. I highly recommend the $4 parking fee on campus to go for a walk and check it out.

May 292005

(All photos for this are posted here)

Friday, May 13th. Anna and I went to see John Prine at Spreckels Theatre. I wasn’t very familiar with his music, but Anna convinced me I would like him. She wasn’t wrong. John Prine has a Dylan-esque voice. In other words, not the best in the world. But it perfectly fits his great story-style of song writing. I really enjoyed the concert.

I also really enjoyed the venue. Spreckels is an amazing location. The old offices wrap around a very grand old theatre. The offices themselves are quite cool. Glass doors, tiny hexagon tile hallways, original bathrooms, and huge windows that actually open. The offices could easily pass the set test for a film noir/detective movie. Curiously, a lot of these great offices seem to be vacant. I wonder why there was so much prime office space left unused. My only guess is that they are less desirable since the building has no central air. But with a almost steady breeze from the bay, I think it would be just fine to work here. I wish I could get away from the AC in my office. Makes one tempted to set up shop, the building and location are quite amazing.

The theatre is definitely the star of the building. The decor is very extravagant and has some great plaster work. The paintings aren’t fantastic, but their scope and setting set them apart. I am very impressed this has survived in downtown San Diego, where everything seems to be torn down to make way for condos. If you ever get a chance to see a show here, do not pass it up.

Lots of links here for info on J Spreckels. A brief bio from here:

In the first six years of the new century, San Diego would recover the population it lost in the crash of 1889. John D. Spreckels, the sugar heir who had invested heavily in San Diego, would remain a San Francisco resident during those years, and pour millions of the Spreckels family money into a city he would dominate, sometimes in absentia, for the next two decades. Spreckels owned the streetcar system, two of the town’s three newspapers (The San Diego Union and the Evening Tribune), most of Coronado and North Island and the landmark Hotel del Coronado, which had been built at a cost of more than $1 million in 1888 and which Spreckels had taken over when its builder had been unable to repay a loan of $100,000.

Interesting how boom and bust San Diego has been and continues to be.

Jan 242005

Anna and I saw Finding Neverland at Hazard 7 last night. It was my first time back to Hazard since Madstone died off. They seem to be keeping most of the good things about Madstone, but I wonder if they are going to survive as a regular theatre by charging 9 bucks. There are better seats out there for that price. I just hope they keep doing the latin film fest.

We both enjoyed Finding Neverland. It had a slight tearjerker formula, but I enjoyed the story. My favorite element of the movie was the mix of fantasy and reality. A similar feeling to Amelie or Big Fish in that one person was seeing something that others were not. Great visuals and the acting was well done, some of the better performances by kids I have seen.

Prefab Fab. Residential Architect covers modern prefab pushers and the potential they offer. Good information, but nothing groundbreaking.

Theo Jansen’s animals – immense multi-legged walking critters designed to roam the Dutch coastline, feeding on gusts of wind. I’ve wrote about him before, but wired gives him another look.

Good to see environmental rules and the proliferation of discarded devices push firms to design gadgets that are easier to recycle and safer to dispose of.

Your daily “we are screwing ourselves” report: report warns point of no return may be reached in 10 years, leading to droughts, agricultural failure and water shortages.

Mar 142004

Watched Radio Favela at the latin film fest last night, loved it. Was the story of a pirate radio station in the slums of Brazil. After 20 years, they just got a licence a little bit ago.

Just got back from doing the MS Walk and eating at Jimmy Carters. Both were good. The MS walk was pretty big and was a fun time. They put a lot of work to make it happen.

Australia’s F/A-18 pilots defied the orders of American commanders and refused to drop their bombs on up to 40 missions during the invasion of Iraq.

US revealed to be secretly funding opponents of Chavez.

The government is taking the first steps toward a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in computers and foreign languages.

LitraCon – concrete with embedded glass fibers that can transmit light.