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Sunday
Mar292009

Flood relief efforts and teasing

The Johnson household is doing what it can to help the flood victims in the Fargo area by taking in this pathetic litte group:

Dad stayed in Fargo to sandbag, protect the house, and minister to his church flock, but Mom. the boys and Willie the dog came down for an unexpected but very welcome visit. So far their home in Fargo is dry. Keeping our fingers crossed for them and all those living near the Red River.

Our big question - who is going remove all those sandbags piled up by the hundreds of volunteers when this is over and what will they do with the sand? Inquiring minds want to know.

Like most families, ours has tradition. It's sort of fun to see this one go multi-generational. When Carrie was small, I teased her that they put signs like this out just for her.

And now Paul gets the same treatment. As you can tell his ego is taking a real bruising.

I suppose everyone knows about when it is OK to tease and when it is not, but it might be worth repeating. Fun, even affectionate, teasing is about something that the person  feels confident (in this case Paul and his mom's intelligence). Mean teasing is poking fun of something about which the other person feels insecure. Easy as that.

There are those who would like to see teasing abolished completely. Are there are enough other sources of humor that teasing wouldn't be missed?

Thursday
Mar262009

What do our school buildings say about us?

"We shape our buildings; and forever afterwards our building shape us." - Sir Winston Churchill

Paul at Quoteflections quotes Jack Diamond of Diamond and Schmitt Architects:

Architecture is an expression of its time and place. It reflects the values, power, and dominant elites of the prevailing social structure and the relevant position of nation states in the global context. It even demonstrates the attitudes of imperial powers to their subject peoples.

Having just visited Paris, Paul reflects on colonialism and how the great buildings he encountered suggested its influence. But this quote struck me a little differently: to what extent do our school buildings show respect or disrespect for children? Do we adult overlords design spaces that purposely subjugate and control rather than encourage growth and individualism?

One of the ugliest buildings both inside and out has to be Minnesota State University's Armstrong Hall of Education.

Squat, square, and spartan both inside and out, it's windowless, right-angled and utilitarian classrooms couldn't have been very exciting even when the building was new in 1964. Might one not expect graduates of this school to think in straight lines and exhibit one-right-answer mentalities?

Designers of most educational spaces seem to concentrate on low cost contruction, ease of maintenance, security, and visual control. Comfort, aesthetics, and inspiration don't much figure into the design process. Hey, it's just kids that will be in these buildings after all - what do they care?

Here are two pictures from projects I've been proud to be a part of designing. Look at the pictures as see if you note anything they have in common:

Give up?

While it's a little dificult to see, both media centers use curves in their design. The St. Peter media center above has a curved circulation desk that mirrors the curved lines of the greenhouse above it. The Eagle Lake media center has a curved couch (and its unseen story area is curved as well).

There are lots of other ways to show respect for facilty users beyond creating interesting lines. Indirect lighting; varying eleveations in ceiling heights; real windows and skylights; warmth-creating wood and fabric surfaces; and comfotable work/study/reading areas, both social and private. And of course, a place to display art on either a permanent or rotating basic.

Our students are no longer the captive, "subject peoples" they once were. Few students have to attend your school with the growing number of alternative education options like charter schools, home schools, open public school enrollment, online schools, and private schools from which they have to pick.

Do we need to start designing schools for people with choices? And for children we respect?

Thursday
Mar262009

What does a librarian look like? - follow up

Here's a sneak preview of my son's proposed art work for my Head for the Edge book. I asked Blue Skunk readers to help describe "How do you draw a librarian?" a couple weeks ago.

What do you think?

and

See yourself in either of these?