Localogy: A Waimean Weekend

IMG_2079_1This last weekend we found ourselves in the Hawaiian version of the American west: Waimea. A town in the crest of a valley of rocky cloud kissed hills and lush rolling grasses, where stop signs read “whoa.”. Needless to say its my favorite place on this island.

Boisterous and skilled Latin American vaqueros arrived in the late 1800′s, teaching the natives and foreign cattle hunters techniques of handling the dangerous longhorns. Hawaii’s unique breed of cowboy, the paniolo, derived his name from these Spanish Espanoles.

The era was short, lasting only as long as the wild longhorn were plentiful. By 1841 Governor Kuakiki had placed a kapu on killing wild cattle. The casual “beef establishment” as it was called, gave way to more controlled business of ranching. Parker Ranch, so visible today, was one of the first ranches to be formed. John Palmer Parker built the original headquarters seven miles out on the plains at Mana, along the main route to Hilo. Tame longhorns roamed unfenced, devastating crops. Both the wild bullock hunters and the farmers departed. Waimea town was quiet and empty.

And that with the exception of parts being a hipster’s tropical paradise is basically how it stayed. Stark expansive landscapes, good coffee, and cool fronts make up the majority of modern Waimea and wouldn’t you know it, it’s also home to the Big Islands only Pumpkin patches.

Not expecting much, I must say I was astounded to pull into the 8 acre lot with a clear view of Maui on my right and both a you pick sunflower plot and giant corn maze to my right. All and all, moving back to the mainland is long overdue but this last Saturday, it was pretty damn nice:


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Localogy: Synesthesia For Beginners

1The big island of Hawai’i at 4,023 square miles is only slightly larger by area than Maryland, and Rhode Island. However, it’s also only about 20% populated. Once containing the largest pineapple plantations in the world as well as the only contingent of the United States that produces coffee, it goes without saying that the island’s ability to yield is rather fierce.

I’m no stranger to farmers’ markets, they’ve been one of the single most defining contexts of the last 5 years of my life. As we all know, there are markets and then there are markets. The Hilo Farmers Market is one of the best I’ve seen, it’s so intense in fact I usually liken it to momentarily giving me and most other people synesthesia. From jackfruit to spam masubi [spam and rice], there aren’t too many things you can’t find under the tarp tents on bay front.

When students achieve the final stage of our program, one of their privileges it to take a weekly trip to the market after processing the facility’s recycling. We give each a certain amount and tell the group that a percentage of the total must be spent on produce or treats for the community [the other students at our program] and the rest can be divided out as a group or individually based on their consensus. Each time students go to the market for the first time it’s like a classic psychology experiment; you can almost see the inner monologue in their heads trying to work itself out while they’re senses are bordering on overload:

 “How much is it ok to spend, what’s ok to buy, how do I work with my group to get the most of our money and experience, ahh!?!”

Though without fail each time the students do amazingly and bring a wonderful bounty back and still manage to gorge themselves on things they’ve been daydreaming about for in some cases months. It’s a beautiful moment to share with them, and a wonderful way to build rapport with exceptionally intuitive and intelligent young people who respond and affirm to things as simple and foundational as trust and respect.
Students are not, the Hilo Market is one of the foundational Big Island experiences, and if you ever make your way out to the island chain, you must take your senses for a test drive.

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Localogy: The Great Wall of Hilo

Hilo 1Ironically, this is my first entry even though I’ve lived on the Big Island of Hawai’i for over a year. Hilo is a strange place, it’s somewhere between a city and a village. All around the city there are artifacts, shrines and secreted nooks full of every kind of thing you could imagine, much like Japan where in behind a Laundromat there are 2000 year old statues of the Budah.

Hilo has a rich history, after King Kamehameha gained control of Hawai’i he celebrated the Makahiki [Hawaiian New Year] in Hilo and used it as a staging location to build and launch his forces towards the unification of all the islands. Hilo was also where he had his first seat of government. It was here that he created the ‘Kanawai Mamalahoe’ or Law of the Splintered Paddle in which even during times of war amnesty was granted to women, children and the elderly. One day while camped near the mouth of Wailuku, the king desired to visit an old friend who lived nearby. He gathered his servants and instructed them to stand guard over his canoe while he was gone. An hour passed, and then another, and finally the servants grew uneasy waiting for him to return. Suddenly one of the men from Waipi’o said, “I know what we can do, we can weave a rope and secure the canoe so it doesn’t drift away.” “Make a rope?” replied the others, “How? And with what?” The servant was smiling as he said, “I’ll show you,” Gathering ti leaves, he formed two chains and began twisting each leaf and then twisting them together to form cordage. “Such twisting,” he told them, “is called Hilo.” After using the rope to secure the canoe, the servants went out to search for the king and found him a short while later. “Where is my canoe?” He shouted. “You promised to stand watch and by now it must have drifted off!” The servants explained to him how they had secured it, and Kamehameha nodded in approval. Upon seeing the canoe the king said, “From now on, this place shall be called Hilo.”

Located less than 30 miles from Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Hilo has seen its fair share of struggles. Kilauea has been emitting lava since 1983 with previous eruptions in both the early 18 and 1900’s. It is responsible for the destruction of numerous homes and property, and most of the lava makes its way to the ocean. Upon reaching the water, and then cooling and expanding, this process has enlarged the island at least 500 acres since it began to flow. Hilo is also situated at the inlet of Waiakea Bay, making it dangerously susceptible to tsunamis. In 1946 a tidal wave swept half the town inland then dragged the remains out to sea. Residents rebuilt and constructed a 2-mile stone breakwater upon existing reef to protect the harbor. However, in 1960, another wave destroyed a major part of the waterfront and adjacent beach. Those that have remained through 200 years of pitfalls have had to start fresh and rebuild multiple times. It is these individuals and families that have a special connection with both the city itself and the aina [or land] on which it stands.

This week, Syd and I made it to the breakwater. There are talks now of carving out holes in the wall to let the bay replenish itself. Since the age of sugarcane, 5 separate mills all along the Hamakua coast dumped their waste into the bay, which is why the water within the bay is murky, and yet just on the other side of the wall it’s crystal clear.

Here are some photos from our journey, more entries to come….

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Localogy: An Architect’s Perspective

[‘Weiss/Manfredi concept is the best of four options’: a response]

by Matt Teismann


On January 26th the architecture critic for the Plain Dealer wrote a piece about the Kent State Architecture Building Competition. I, as a practicing architect, would like to offer an architect’s perspective. First and foremost I am not affiliated in any way with any of the four finalists, and have no motive nor intention of altering a decision by the committee, nor could I.

It is true that there are many factors that go into the design and production of a building, however, sometimes in the practice of design, architects and critics alike get distracted from what is, and has always been, the most important aspect of architecture: spatial experience.

I am reminded of my fourth year in architecture school. I was in a lecture hall and the professor had asked ‘what are the components of the perfect chair – a three-legged stool?’ At first the obvious answers came pouring in from the students: legs, a seat, and so on. I, however, offered an alternative answer: the empty space for the person to sit. After all, a chair is nothing more than an opportunity to sit. And what about the person to sit in the chair? Without the occupant the chair would be useless, it would have no actual purpose and thus would not be a chair (it would only exist as pieces of wood).

It was clear to me that the architecture of the chair would not exist without the space to experience the chair, or the person who sits in it. This is similar to buildings. While experiencing architecture a person is in the real time and space; it is literally happening. The viewer is actually touching the walls and feeling the warmth of the light, rather than merely observing it from the outside. Architecture is our vessel for real experience. Somewhere over the course of the last 100 years, architecture has transformed itself to merely an art of formal expression, losing sight of what is actually the purpose of experiential habitation. Architecture now is talked about more with the plastic arts, such as painting and sculpture, than possibly at any other time in its history. This is not to say that the visual impact of architecture hasn’t been a focus of the past, even during the 19th century the unending debate within architecture circles was about what style to apply to a building, rather than how it should unfold experientially.

I, thus, propose we review the competition entries also on their interior spatial merit. While each of the proposals treated communal space differently, each proposal includes large gathering spaces for formal and informal meetings. These ‘break-away’ spaces are located near major circulation paths and the primary studio spaces. Crucial to academic discourse, these spaces function not only for group discussions, but more importantly they are places where students, faculty, and administrators alike can bump into each other and have a quick and informal discussion outside of the standard class environment.

Similar to the prestigious Yale School of Architecture, designed by Paul Rudolph, at least three of the entries have a large center space used for exhibitions, pin-ups, and of course the dreadful jury. In particular, the entries from Weiss/Manfredi and Westlake Reed Leskosky showcase a central space surrounded with unique seating, architectural stairs, and studio spaces. With light pouring in from above, these spaces are airy and open, representing the change in educational design over the last 30 years. They are rewarding spaces to inhabit.

Whether or not these building are ‘glassy’ or monumental is relatively insignificant, as is the affect of transparency on public perception of the profession in the 21st century. These are esoteric and psychoanalytical guesses. What is truly the most important aspect of a university building, or any piece of architecture for that matter, is the quality of the human experience throughout the building. That is after all how we enjoy architecture, from the inside. This is especially important for the students of the architecture building.

Architecture students require a diverse, stimulating, and yet comfortable space to spend the late nights working in studio. In fact, if Kent State is going to ‘regret’ something in the long run, their regret may be not choosing the building that satisfies the core architectural experience for the students and faculty alike. One that not only functions well but is beautiful and pleasant to be in.

I think we all should remember that the College of Architecture and Environmental Design is not moving from Taylor Hall because the building is ‘brutalist,’ ‘ugly,’ or opaque. CAED is moving because they have outgrown Taylor with enrollment, and the building no longer functions efficiently as an architecture building in the 21st century. As a former professor at CAED, I know first hand the experience of walking through, and teaching in, Taylor Hall. I am convinced that the selection committee will consider all aspects of the architecture, not just the public perception of a facade.

For the original article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer please visit: http://blog.cleveland.com/architecture/2013/01/the_weissmanfredi_concept_is_t.html


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Motuv is proud to announce the beginning of a new endeavor in the vein of localogy and the exploration of placemaking. Amanda Lee and Katie Carlson will be heading out across the country on a tour of the myraid things that make so many of the destinations all around us both special and unique. From migrant work to community building and everything in between, they will seek the phenomenology of place and how vivid the very sensory stimuli can be anywhere and everywhere with the right kind of eyes. Follow them at: MOVING MILES

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