Tag: ISU / Ames

Spring in Rome

I arrived in Rome earlier today (Thursday) for a semester study abroad with about 55 other students from my class. We are staying in apartments in the middle of the city and the College of Design has studio space just across the river at Piazza delle Cinque Scole. The semester goes till the end of April, after which I plan to travel about 10 days and return home from London on May 11.

My flight schedule began in Cedar Rapids and went through Detroit and Amsterdam on the way to Rome. All my layovers were quite short, but Detroit and Amsterdam both have very nice airport facilities. I landed at Rome’s Fiumicinio Airport a little past noon today. The view coming in for the landing was like a painting, seeing rolling meadows spotted with old cottages along the sea line. The airport, at least the part I experienced, was quite unimpressive. My plane did not pull up to a gate, rather we exited far way on the tarmac and took a bus to baggage claim.

I met a couple of my classmates and we took a taxi into the city to our apartment to check in. The ride was a great first look around the city. Most of our apartments, including mine, are in a former convent, now housing study abroad student apartments as well as those for the general public. In the middle is a great courtyard. Every corner there seems to be another nook or passageway to discover. We found a stairwell up a roof top terrace, complete with kitchen and a terrific view of the surrounding city.

I look forward to spending the next four months in Rome, learning and exploring through studio and classes, as well as getting to understand the city. It is an incredible change from the normal urban arrangement in America and the term “old” takes on a whole new meaning. Almost everywhere is remnants of past centuries. The interaction between these ancient structures and and new infrastructures for a modern polis is fascinating.

I hope to post much more as I get to know the city better and report on my work in studio and other explorations. I started a new “Rome” category that will contain all these relevant posts to come. Ciao.

Interlock House webcam

The Iowa State Solar Decathlon has debuted a webcam today, providing a live feed of the construction progress of the Interlock House. The building site is in a warehouse near the ISU Research Park. The house will be built in to module sections for transportation purposes and the whole house will be about 40 feet long by 20 feet.

> ISU Solar Decathlon 2009: Construction Webcam

New brick and chains on campus

New brickwork and barrier chains have been installed outside of Friley Hall and Union Drive Community Center (UDCC) on the Iowa State University campus. The new brick replaces large dead, dirt spots where years of heavy pedestrian traffic has done its toll. I am always happy to see new brickwork on campus instead of all concrete sidewalks. It gives the already beautiful campus added character and visual interest.

However I can’t say the same for the new metal chains. These pedestrian barriers are found all over campus restricting pedestrians to sidewalks as to prevent creating “cow paths” in the grass. A debate has sparked on campus after a Facebook group was created arguing over-use of these chains that many deem uglier than a few cow paths. I agree that some chains are necessary around campus but it now seems they are going up just anywhere and everywhere. These new chains between Friley and the UDCC look haphazardly placed amid a few small shrubs and a tree at either end. Mulch has been worn away around shrubs as thousands of students cut through daily going between Friley and the UDCC where a dining center is located.

In such a high traffic area the landscaping strip at UDCC would be more suitable as a small strip of brickwork, like what was just installed nearby. The two trees could easily be preserved and maybe even a third one added, with space in between finished in brick. This would allow pedestrians passage, require little maintenance, and enhance the entrance into the Union Drive residential community. Instead of restricting pedestrians from cutting through by erecting unsightly metal chains, the Department of Facilities Planning and Management should work to identify and respond appropriately to pedestrian movement around campus.

Design Inequity

I am currently in Iowa State’s Design Core program, which all first-year design students must take as a prerequisite for their respective programs. I have had some frustration with the studio projects having little to do with architecture or space, and being more so just art projects. I realize I just have to get through it and stop complaining, but I’ve come to a conclusion regarding environmental design verses art. Contrary to the College of Design’s suggestion that all design is fundamentally the same, all types of design are not equal.

Art is certainly important, but it is simply an expression or a statement. Environmental design (architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, CRP, etc), on the other hand, is more than just an expression, but also a critical function of our daily lives. Furthermore it is more permanent that art and it’s responsible to the common good of everyone, not just the artist. This is why I have frustration with the combined first year courses at ISU. It gives me little opportunity to implement fundamental design principles in the kind of design I’m passionate about and better able to excel in. Environmental design and the people it serves is what I care about. I am out for much more than just a statement.

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