Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 4)

On the Table

It is interesting how passionate ideas and ambitions seem to flow freely at times when there is limited time to invest in them. I need to challenge myself to re-seek those ideas, create new ones, and ultimately produce. Below is my list in progress, as always, in especially abstract terms.

  • Explore (here and there)
  • Write (a book perhaps, or blog)
  • Make [build] something
  • Engage (community)
  • Impact [positively]

Colored Pencils

Color Pencils

Today I found a small box of assorted colored pencils that I retrieve from my grandparent’s house in Sioux Falls years ago when my grandfather was no longer able to live on his own. I remember taking an array of random trinkets that seemed old and cool to me, but really did not provide much usefulness once I took them home. They sat in my closet, on my shelf, in my drawer for years, occasionally getting shoved around when I had an impulse to [re]organize.

Anyway these colored pencils, concealed in a rigid white box made of cardstock, were one of the few things I decided to bring with me to college this last year. Over five previous years of moving in and moving out, I began to realize the majority of stuff I brought, I would never actually use or even think about. Finally, as a super-duper senior, give me my four year old, vintage MacBook Pro, an ink-based writing utensil in my pocket, and whatever book I was kidding myself to read at the time, and I’d be good to go.

One nice thing about not having a lot of random, especially small objects I don’t use, was it was relatively easy to maintain a neat and orderly living space. Only the dust bunnies building villages over the terribly scuffed hardwood floor under my bed ever created much mess. The onset of dust could qualify as one of my biggest annoyances, at least as far as housekeeping goes. This is one thing I used to hate about having many little objects on display; the collection of dust over every surface and crevice made cleaning arduous and time-consuming.

My desk is a large table, second-handed from my brother who originally got it at a school surplus sale. At rest, my desk should be void of anything except my lamp, cable modem, wireless router, and a clear space for my laptop. Needless to say, this was never really the case. It quickly became cluttered with school papers, important snail mail that I ignored, and the daily pile of must-have, pocket-stuffers like cellphone, keys, iPod, and of course a trusty pen. I used to be a Pilot Precise guy, but switched over to the slightly bolder Sharpie Ultra Fine Point this last semester.

So those colored pencils (I bet you’re wondering if I have a point) – I came upon that box today, sitting on the top shelf of my humble bookcase, while putzing around my room. The box had a variety of brands and colors of pencils, whose previous user must’ve loved to chew on because there were teeth marks all over.

A few of the pencils were striped and had two colors – one at either end. These were Sunset Dual Kolor[s] by Empire U.S.A. Another partial set in the box was of Venus Paradise color pencils. I also had a nearly full spectrum with short stubs, no longer than two inches, of Pedigree Crayon Pencils. According to my exhaustive, five minute research on the internet, the Venus and Pedigree pencils were produced in the early 60s, and the Sunset Dual Kolors go back as far as 1930, but I’m sure these can’t be that old. Still, interesting, kind of. Yes?

As you may have guessed already, the Mac-mote in the cheery, colorful photo above was not originally in the white cardstock box. I actually placed it there to keep the pencils from rolling when I photographed, as the box’s bottom bowed up slightly in its center. But I like the contrast and the sharpness it infuses.

2010 Year in Review

2010 has been an extraordinary year for me. I had an incredible experience studying abroad and living in Rome, Italy, during the first four months of the year. Along with 55 or so of my fellow classmates from Iowa State, I had the chance to live, learn, and engage in the heart of ancient Rome, gaining invaluable insight and great appreciation for the lifestyles and customs of other cities and cultures. The extended stay afforded me the opportunity to travel beyond Italy to six other countries (Norway, Czech Republic, France, Germany, and United Kingdom) and to explore several significant European cities such as Prague, Paris and Berlin.

During the summer I was fortunate to have my first architectural internship, in Cedar Rapids. I spent much of my time writing, making diagrams, and talking to people in the studio to create new and revised project summaries for the firm to use in marketing and promotional materials. It was a great experience that developed valuable new professional relationships. Over the summer I was also able to keep up on developing projects in Cedar Rapids and watch the progress of the new eight-story federal courthouse ascend on the downtown skyline.

This fall I returned to Ames for my final year at Iowa State. I will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Architecture degree and look forward to whatever comes next. I hope to find a full-time intern architect position in a firm and start working toward licensure.

The new year also marks the fourth year of Urban Thinking, which I established in January 2007. Traffic to the site increased significantly during 2010, with more than 6000 visitors, compared to just 3000 in 2009. I had 69 posts with higher frequency in January and during the summer, as shown in the posts per month chart below.

Architecture + Life

Fall semester begins tomorrow at Iowa State. I am back in Ames for my last year, 5th year in the architecture program in the College of Design. I am looking forward to being back after spending the spring in Rome for study abroad and the summer in Cedar Rapids interning at OPN.

My internship experience this summer gave me a wealth of new perspective on my career in architecture or whatever it may come to be. This was possibly the last summer I’ll be living in Cedar Rapids, or perhaps just the last summer I’ll be living at my parent’s house. I am constantly begging the question whether bigger and better things are really out there, elsewhere, other than here; or is bigger and better simply what I make of where I already am. I honestly believe the answer could be either but have yet to come to a conclusion without experiencing more first.

Of course a career in just about any profession is not static and it is not odd to change what you are doing a number of times throughout your life. Regardless, where ever I end up, I want to be in a place where I can be rooted to my community and truly be engaged and belong. This seems a difficult notion, alongside the prospect of an uncertain future, which is both exciting and a bit disappointing at the same time. I have always been a planner, despite often poor execution of them – at least in the short term.

For long I have attempted to figure out where and what I intended to be doing in the future. It is perhaps comforting, but more so, it is something to look forward to. However, trying to plan your whole life out in bullet points can be demoralizing once you get past a couple of years, and particularly in the old age years, as nearly every aspect of life (family, friends, relationships) that gives people lifelong joy is, to a large extent, yet to be determined or discovered.

Certain expectations about life also muddle this planning and require constant modifications to ones’ plan. Companionship, particularly, cannot be blindly written into a five or ten year plan. Aside from these more serious matters, there is no problem to have specific dreams and desires, but an understanding and acceptance of them changing is a necessary accompaniment. My ideas of what I’d be doing beyond college has changed almost annually ever since high school, and to every change, I have found them to be good and generally more refining.

Perhaps this is not so unusual and I am just more aware to analyze my ambitions than most. The idea of career development and goals has always made me uneasy, especially as I get closer to that stage in my “career.” I consider my personal and professional goals essentially one in the same. As an architect, it seems, they would almost have to be. Architects should be invested in their place (community) with a desire to serve and contribute just as they would as citizens, otherwise they are just working to work and might as well be the ubiquitous business person with an anonymous job.

So with that I am looking forward to my last year as an undergrad, and am becoming much more accepting and comfortable with not knowing exactly where the future will take me. I have new tendencies of where I might like to start out but I am learning that the outcome, and more importantly the journey of “career development” will be much more beneficial if I keep an open mind and resist my innate impulse to make a decision before one is needed or even plausible.

I value the experience and insight I have gained from my experiences working, living and exploring in all the places I have. Cedar Rapids, Fargo, Ames, and Rome are all places I have called home and each one I appreciate for the things I have learned there and the impressions they’ve made on my character. They have shaped my perception of community and urbanism and provided a benchmark to move forward from and discover or create something bigger and better.

Regarding my blog, which has developed into a largely Cedar Rapids-focused report on urbanism and transit development, I’d like to get back to a more analytical approach. Over the course of my blog, I have written a number of key posts that tend to be more in-depth and thoughtful writings that concern a greater idea or expression beyond the subjects alone. As I get back into the school year and my posting frequency inevitably goes down, it seems an appropriate time to accept this change and look forward to a bit less content, but much more substance.

New Blog Design

Urban Thinking has a new look. I created this new design to better reflect my own aesthetic approach and give Urban Thinking more of an identity and a visual branding. I also intend to use this site to publish and communicate my architecture studio work, as well as other the projects. At the moment, however, the portfolio page is still under development. An enormous thank you goes out to Michael Dorman, who meticulously coded the entire new theme according to my visual specifications. Let me know what you think.

Purple Grass

Purple Grass

Ever wonder what it’d be like if the grass was purple instead of green? Well I have; the thought often comes to mind when doing yard work. I decided to take a photo while mowing the lawn today to compliment a witty “Living the Dream” post, but decided to change focus after playing with the hue adjuster in Photoshop.

2009 Urban Thinking

Happy New Year. Urban Thinking went online in January 2007, and I’ve been blogging for three years now. 2009 saw around 3000 visitors and 72 posts, a 160% increase from 2008. The graph below shows posts by month for the past three years. Posting is typically higher in the summer and goes down during the school year. Somewhat inevitably the 2008 flood has driven a heavy focus on Cedar Rapids. An increase in CR posts since the flood has paralleled my own increase in civic involvement. Specific topics I have blogged about often include the Veterans Memorial Building / City Hall (which I worked at for three summers including the flood), various planning meetings and open houses, and of course CR Transit. Listed below are my top five posts from 2009, that I feel were the most substantial and garnered the most response.

1. Figure Ground Development Patterns   06.30.09
2. The Flood – One Year Ago   06.11.09
3. Mays Island no longer suitable for City Hall   07.26.09
4. Better Transit for Cedar Rapids   10.23.09
5. Why CR Transit Needs System Overhaul   07.12.09

Biking Distance is Relative

I took a leisurely bike ride – about 20 or so blocks – to Noelridge Park tonight. I have never really considered Noelridge to be close to my house growing up and certainly wouldn’t call it a park serving my neighborhood, but the way there was pleasant and did not take long at all. It just goes to show that having a connecting grid of residential streets and more bike-friendly thoroughfares makes everything seem much closer together and accessible on a bike. Think of all the little trips that, by default, we just drive to when we could bike (or walk if close enough) to instead without taking a lot of additional time. Of course, it’s all relative to the type of street environment and how contiguous neighborhoods are. Recreational cycling is a good way to discover biking can also be a legitimate means of getting around.

New Bike Taxi in Downtown IC

Two University of Iowa students have started a late night bike-taxi service in downtown Iowa City. “ic Ecocabs” provides service only to the immediate blocks around downtown – avoiding some very steep hills west of the Iowa River. A very cool idea that adds even more diversify of transportation in this eco-minded college town. See photos and more from The Daily Iowan.

> The Daily Iowan: Students create bike-taxi business
> ic Ecocabs

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