December 12, 2010

I just got back to the southern land (thank God). The cold was definitely not serving my mental state well :) But just being two days done with school, I can say, this was the best semester at CMU Design yet. I think I learned more about who I am as a designer, for example, how design crosses so many different disciplines and is unable to be defined narrowly within professions. I actually wrote an article on Imprint (Printmag's design blog) on this idea. Through researching and designing in my thesis project, I also saw how different types of design (communication, interaction, information, architecture, etc) all work together to most effectively solve (or attempt to solve) the wicked problems of the world. It is not just one isolated design field that encapsulates good design; rather, it is many design fields coupled with non-designers and design research to uncover the best solutions and innovation. So, even though I've always known the effectiveness of multiple design disciplines involved in one project, I'm starting to put it into practice and experience how beneficial it is.

Friday, we (the 2nd year design grads) had our thesis poster session that documents what we've done this semester and our next steps/questions for next semester. My project is about designing for people to overtake (through social impact) the Western Diet and enter into a new space of 'Sitopia.' You can download my poster here.

And, finally, I did a joint project between my information design and prototyping classes where I attempted to illustrate to individuals the current problems with the western diet system while simultaneously teaching them how they affect the system and how the system affects them. At the final crit, I received a lot of feedback on how I can make this better, which I plan on doing over the holiday. But, for now, this is what I have.

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November 12, 2010

Fall 2010

So this semester has been a doozy so far. Yeah, I said it, a doozy. The summer ended faster than I could blink my eyes and here I am mid-november not remembering how I got here. Anyway, I thought I'd give a quick update on work stuff and school stuff.

Work stuff:
Jeanette and I finally finished Squash & Beyond today (woo hoo!) We did our best to make it as fun, energetic, user-friendly, and interactive as possible given our client's needs and our time constraints. Zafi, owner of Squash & Beyond, was really happy with the final outcome, which is the best part!

Towards the end of the summer, I teamed up with my brother to re-design my family's grocery store website, Calandro's Supermarket. He and I worked together to make it clean, fresh, and informative. We also caught it up with the times by incorporating social media and allowing more customer interaction. On the old website, customers couldn't find anything they needed nor could they easily send messages and requests to the store. This is hopefully just the first iteration of Calandro's new website. We hope to continuously make it better.

And, for school stuff:
I've been working on my CMU Design Thesis, which attempts to illustrate the Obesity and Food problems we have in the United States. You can track my progress on my thesis blog.

And, lastly, I just did my first full scale Flash project in my prototyping class. It is an exercise tool to help you find new fun activities depending on your mood! You can check it out here.
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July 29, 2010


I figured I should post something interesting to my blog since I haven't done any blogging this whole summer.

In case you were wondering, it's been the best summer ever. I've taught a lot of yoga, I went to Seattle to present GURU to Microsoft, and most importantly, my CMU classmate, Jeanette Leagh and I have made a mini design firm (Leagh + Calandro). Between the two of us, we've gathered a couple of design projects, taken over the CMU Grad studio space, and gotten to work!!! We've seen projects from start to finish, we've honed client relations skills, and we've experienced the greatness of the CMU design process. We hope to brand our little company if time EVER permits :)

About a month ago, we made a videosketch for the company, BectranApps. It (in a bright, colorful, and quirky kind of way) illustrates the problems with the paper credit application process. Our client was amazing in giving us free range over the visual style and he was also very helpful in guiding us in understanding this credit application pain. Jeanette and I had ABSOLUTELY no idea what credit managers do... Now, I feel like I could be one (errr. maybe that's going over the top, but ya get what I mean).

Check it out (fyi- vimeo did a really good job of washing the video out a lot... so sorry about the whiteness and brightness. the colors are actually quite beautiful):

Next, I worked solo on a CD song art project for my dear musician friend, Peter Simon. The song is called, Awake and Dream. It's a beautiful song, and Peter makes beautiful music.

Check it:

And, currently, Jeanette and I are working on the rebranding and redesign of the website for the company, Squash & Beyond. It is a summer camp and international touring camp for teens who want to get better at their squash game. Apparently, it is the best squash camp in the country with one of the most not-so-great web presences in the country. Jeanette and I are doing some major facelifting on this one. I will post some images in the future as we aren't far enough along in the design process for noteworthy image posts.

We are also currently spec-ing out a redesign of a pamphlet that goes along with BectranApps video sketch for potential Bectran clientele. It's going to be a sweet info design project :)

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June 1, 2010

Don't use Comic Sans

For all of those type and colour junkies out there (yes, coloUr), check out Facebook.

Helvetica with Comic Sans from Sarah Calandro on Vimeo.

Color & Communication
Kristin Hughes and Mark Mentzer
CMU Spring 2010 Click Here to Read More..

May 9, 2010

Flex Time Standards Act for Information Workers

Sarah Calandro
Design Seminar II

I am living in Los Angeles, CA working for an architecture firm. I'm supposed to be in my desk chair at 8:30 am (sometimes, I am about eight minutes late). I check my gmail, then my office email, and then I open powerCADD to begin a day of click-clicking on my mouse. Around 10 a.m. I refill my coffee mug in the kitchen, have a two-minute conversation with a co-worker, and then I return to my desk. I have a set of reflected ceiling plans that need a lighting fixture placed in the center of every room and two feet offset from all four corners. The building I am working on is 65,000 square feet so this is going to be my activity for the next three days. Andrew Bird and his delightful sounds keep me efficiently clicking on my mouse for the next two and a half hours. After a productive morning, it's time to stand up, stretch, and go find lunch. I walk across the street with a co-worker for a turkey sandwich from Vons supermarket. One hour Iater I return to my desk, spend five minutes checking my gmail, then my office email, and I return to my lighting fixture activity. About thirty minutes in, my focus begins to deteriorate. I think about the jog I plan to take after work and how this would be the perfect time to take it. But I am confined to the office, so instead, I take four separate trips to the bathroom to keep my blood circulating through my body. An hour later, the tryptophan from my turkey starts to set in so I go to the office kitchen, make cup of coffee number three of the day, grab a chocolate chip cookie, and then return to my desk. I've been saving my new This American Life episode for just this moment. I put on my headphones for sixty minutes of stories about people who fear sleeping. Yes, it takes my attention away from my task at work, but it also keeps me from nodding off to a half-lucid dream about lighting fixtures.

In 1938 when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, the term 9 to 5 was coined and the full time 40 hour work week was set in place. It was originally created to prevent industrial workers from working too many hours, getting tired on the job, and getting underpaid for their work.(1) This benchmark has sustained itself for 70 years and has become widespread across office cultures of all kinds. For a workplace that is about physical work, this standard is efficient. The employee constantly produces, but because she doesn't have to be thinking creatively or analytically for eight hours straight, she can maintain productivity. I have a friend who works in a printing press. He spends his days pulling paper, sorting paper, keeping the printers moving, labeling envelopes, etc. etc. Yes, his job gets monotonous, but his efficiency in production doesn't go down because he's bored; he keeps things moving nonetheless. He likes his schedule. Get in, get it done, and get out in eight hours (and if it takes longer than eight hours, get time and a half pay). The Fair Labor Standards Act flows quite nicely with this work system.

As society shifts from the Industrial Revolution to what is now being called the Information Revolution (2), this 9 to 5 benchmark is becoming less and less suitable for both our work environments, for our mental productivity, and for our overall life balance. We are entering an economy where information jobs are outnumbering the physical labor jobs from the ages of manufacturing. Productivity is dependent on mental clarity; workers are required to use their brains all day and the rest of their body is static. Technology is also advancing in such a way that national and international collaboration is possible. Google Wave, Skype, and even more fancy technologies allow for "in-person" meetings across large distances. And, obesity and non-communicable disease is on the rise with physical inactivity being one of the primary causes. (3) Sitting in an office chair all day only makes this problem worse. So, now I will pose the question: Why has the 9 to 5 benchmark for full-time seeped into information-related careers and why hasn't what I like to call a 'Flex Time Standards Act' been passed?

When I started my first full-time job, I was told to be at work at 8:30 am every day and that I would be able to leave at 5:30 on most days. I would also have a one-hour break during the day for lunch and I could take it at any time so long as it didn't interfere with office meetings. I realized very quickly how many hours a day I spent dazed out not paying attention to what I was doing. I probably averaged four to six productive hours of work a day. But even then, I still managed to complete the work required of me on time and with high quality. So, why did I have to sit there clicking on my mouse, (all the while building up blood clots in my legs and overdosing on caffeine to stay awake) if I wasn't being productive for the other two to four hours?

Many companies will argue that it is important for collaborative projects to be done in the same space at the same time in order for the outcome to be its best. It is also important that clients and contractors can contact a specific person during standard office hours. When all parties are on the 9 to 5 schedule, all parties can collaborate between the hours of 9 to 5. Coordination for setting up meetings is much smoother when employees are already planning to be at work during the office work day. Alternative methods for collaboration (i.e. the use of Skype Video meetings) is a decent substitution, but the effectiveness of a meeting is never as good online as in person. Also, employers want to know that their employees are working when they say they are. When they see them in the office clicking in front of a computer screen, they must be productive. Right?

Through talking with people and working with people, I have found that when it comes to productivity, every individual is different. Every brain has mental clarity peaks at different times throughout the day and it isn't necessarily even consistent daily for each individual. Mental clarity and productivity can change based on a number of different factors be it diet, number of hours of sleep, life situations outside of work, the work that is being done, etc. Some days engagement in higher level strategic thinking for eight hours straight is possible. Some days, only three or four hours is possible. I'm not saying that individuals don't get routined in their natural working style; they definitely do. I'm just saying that every day can be different and if work schedules followed the ebb and flow of the human body, productivity could dramatically increase.

In the past decade or so, many large scale companies are picking up on the importance of a flexible working style and are giving employees more freedom with their schedules. They realize a happier employee is a more productive one. They also realize that more and better work gets done when each individual works at their own pace and on their own set schedule and style. At Sun Microsystems, Inc. an "Open Work" program is in place. Employees work when and where they want. Thus far, the employees enrolled in the program have averaged a 34% gain in productivity. Best Buy Co, Inc. offers a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) where employees don't work a set number of hours; rather, they work to achieve certain goals with an expected level of quality. They work as much time is needed and are paid for the quality of the work they do, not the time they spend doing it. Employees again work when, where, and how they want to. PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. also has a flextime option available for their workers; 25,000 of their employees are enrolled to work flex hours, job-share (share responsibilites with co-workers), and/or telecommute (work from home). "A 2005 study by the non-profit organization Corporate Voices for Working Families found that a compressed work week pilot program at PNC resulted in: work that had previously taken two days being done in one day; absenteeism dropping from 60 days to nine days; improved customer service; and the company saving over $100,000 in turnover costs." (4) Is this not enough to convince those companies that are still mandating the 9 to 5? Well, not yet...

Many employers of information workers will argue–and they have a point–that not all companies get the best of the best workers–you know, those workers that are loyal and dedicated to their work (the ones who work at Sun Microsystems, Best Buy, and PNC). Employers think that if they offer open scheduling for their employees, they'll be taken advantage of. And it is probably true–many employees probably would take advantage of this. There are many work environments where a more free style of working just wouldn't do the company enough good to outweigh the bad. But, I think in many cases there are ways around this. Employers don't have to offer this to everyone and they can offer it based on merit–which may even benefit them. Employees can earn flex time and in order to keep flex time, their work must not suffer. It must get better. There must be a motivational system intact. Of course, an individual will take advantage of flex time if they aren't dedicated to the company and have nothing to lose. Though, I firmly believe that when a good leader is in place, generally speaking, employees will be motivated, loyal, and proud of the work they do. They won't take advantage of freedoms given to them. They will simply work harder to keep those freedoms.

I would say the benefits of a flexible working style for those professions within the Information Revolution far outweigh the 9 to 5 standard. I propose the Flex Time Standards Act for Information Workers. Routine is good. But a fixed routine without consideration for an individual's needs is not good. If I could choose my working schedule, I would get a lot more done during working hours and my work would be of much higher quality. I would wake up at 6 am every day, work for 4 hours, engage in an outdoor physical activity, eat lunch, relax, and then I would return to work around 1 or 2 pm for four or five more hours. I would definitely not choose 9 to 5 with a one hour break in the middle. If you were given the freedom to choose, what would be your working style?

1 "Federal Employees and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)." US Office of Personnel Management. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. .

2 Brent, Edward. "The Information Revolution." Mizzou - University of Missouri. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. .

3 "Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health." World Health Organization (2004): 2-4. Web. 16 Apr. 2010.

4 "5 Flextime-Friendly Companies." Jobs - The Largest Job Search, Employment & Careers Site. Web. 23 Apr. 2010.
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April 25, 2010

Blaise J. Calandro, Jr. (my dad)

A Narrative History
Design Seminar II

On a Spring day in 1956, nine-year-old Blaise and his brother Charles exit the school bus at 4142 Government Street-right at the edge of South Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Blaise's routine is always the same. He enters the front screen door of his family's grocery store-known as Calandro's Grocery. The words "Plee-zing Food Store" are written in bold letters across the top of the white-painted concrete block building. There's a white and green striped awning above all six windows and the entrance door. From the bustle of the street, the four short aisles of product can be seen and Vennera Calandro, in her yellow and blue flower print apron atop her A-line cotton knee-length dress, stands behind the cash register, waiting to help the next customer. Her blackish brown hair is wavy and tucked into a bun at her neck. Her pale olive skin and brownish blue circles under her eyes make her look tired. But, she always has a smile on her face when her boys get off the bus and come into the store. "Hey mama," Blaise says to her as he grabs his moon-pie and Coca-Cola from the store shelf."

Some afternoons he goes to Duby's Field to play football with the boys from the neighborhood. Anywhere between ten and twenty kids will be out there picking teams and Blaise-because he's one of the fastest and most agile-is always picked first. Other afternoons he stays at the store to work doing a variety of activities for a reimbursement of $1/day. So, he decides to spend this afternoon organizing glass bottles for soda bottling companies to come pick up and reuse. Customers pay a fee if they don't return their used bottles to the store, and bottling companies won't pick up the bottles if they aren't sorted by brand name. So when customers come to do their shopping, they drop their bottles in the large wire bin that sits at the store entrance. Over a few days, the piles can turn into mounds of brown, green, and clear bottles with syrupy residue stuck to the bottom. One of Blaise's jobs is to carry these bottles around back and organize them. He has a routine for stack-and-sort that he's repeated so many times that it's seamless. Even though he'd prefer sports over work, he has a responsibility to his family business-and he's found a way to make it fun. He pauses, gazing intently at the bottles, and thinks back to the Dr. Pepper jingle he heard a few days before on the radio. He sings, "Drink Dr. Pepper. The friendly pepper upper. hmm hmmmm." He picks up an RC Cola bottle and places it to the RC Cola stack. Pauses. Does a little shake. And reaches for the next one. Stack. Shake. Hum. "The friendliest pepper upper in toooooown." This small routine done in the alleyway of Calandro's Grocery to the hum of refrigeration motors drowning out his high-pitched voice, is the start of a lifetime of self-satisfaction through productivity.

In the early 1900s, both sets of Blaise's grandparents came on a boat from Sicily to the States. Like many other families processed through immigration at the time, their last name was morphed from Calandra to Calandro at Ellis Island. At first, they settled in the rural towns of Tickfaw and Independence, Louisiana-where Vennera D'Anna and Brazil Calandro met and got married. Soon after, the newlyweds ventured to Baton Rouge with a vision and determination to succeed. Their Italian Catholic heritage was not welcomed by their Protestant counterparts-they had to live on the suburban outskirts of town, they weren't welcomed by many of the neighboring families, and elitist social clubs were not about to let the 'dagos' in. Oftentimes, Protestant white women would drive up to the front of the store in their Cadillac Devilles and-without eye contact-say to Blaise, "Hey. Son. Go get me a carton of cigarettes and a head of cabbage." Their upperclass attitude infuriated him-but reflecting back he says, "The way to overcome the stigma is by making something of yourself. And that's exactly what my parents did. And they instilled it in me." His family had no choice but to work hard. The store was the center of their universe. Little did Vennera and Brazil know just how successful their vision would be.

In 1963, when Blaise was a high-school junior, he maintained his athletic abilities from childhood-he was one of the best runners on the track team. But sports weren't his only talent. He had an intellect that gave him the curiosity to fix most anything from lawn mower motors to broken radios and televisions. The value and pride he found through work at an early age imprinted a work ethic that rose above most others. "I refused to let anyone think I owed them anything. I wouldn't even let my parents give me things. My dad and I had an unspoken deal-I would rather work for things than have them given to me. I don't want to be indebted to somebody because they gave something to me. I think my dad really respected that about me." Everything Blaise did, he did with utmost commitment-his motivation being simply the challenge to do his best. "I'd get so frustrated if I knew something could be better and I couldn't figure out how to make it better. The challenge was enough for me to work and work until I got that thing -whatever it was-to perform at its best. I guess that's why I pursued engineering-to create, make better, and fix what was broken. And I guess that's why I took on the challenge of making an already successful grocery business to be even more profitable." At that point in time, Blaise had decided that he didn't want to rely on the family business for success. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps to make a life from the ground up. "Daddy was good at everything he did. He had a lot of street smarts and was a tremendously strong role model. To be as good as dad you had to be pretty damn good. To be better than him was almost impossible."

In 1968, Blaise graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. For the next twenty-five years, he worked as an engineer for Ethel Corporation, Bernard and Burke, and Calandro Engineering and Electric-a freelance company that he started. When he was 31 years old, he got married to Debbie Parker, a southern belle from Natchez, MS. Until they had their two children-one boy and one girl-she worked full time as a registered nurse. Blaise had decided early on that he didn't want to work in the grocery business, and he followed through wholeheartedly. His only responsibility at the store-by then known as Calandro's Supermarket-was electrical maintenance and repair; a job that his father paid him to do.

On Saturday, April 23, 1993, Blaise and his family were in Natchez, MS for the funeral of Debbie's mother. That morning, he spoke to his dad on the phone. "We'll be there in a few hours. We're just leaving Baton Rouge. I love you, son." Blaise was somewhat taken aback when his dad said that he loved him, as this was usually an unspoken sentiment. About an hour later, Blaise received a phone call from the Mississippi State Police. A man in a red Toyota truck had fallen asleep at the wheel after an early morning fishing trip. He crossed over the white line of the two lane highway just in time for Brazil to say to Vennera-who was driving, "Honey, watch out." Blaise's mother spent the next six months in the hospital and the next year in rehab. His father, Brazil Joseph Calandro, Senior, at a healthy age of 82, was immediately killed.

Around a thousand people attended the wake. And hundreds more, the funeral. Blaise hadn't cried so intensely since he was a very young child. His respect for his father, and all the achievements of his life, was more apparent than ever before. Brazil started as an outcast minority. His dedication made the Calandro's name well-known within the confines of Baton Rouge. His father's death marked a transition point in Blaise's life. His career as an engineer came to an immediate halt when he was left with shared ownership of the business with his three brothers. He felt a responsibility to make his father proud, to help extend this Baton Rouge tradition into the future, and maybe even help make it better. "It was a challenge for me to go in and contribute. I had to go in there with humility and learn something that I didn't know much about. When Daddy died, the operations were messy and inefficient. And my brothers and I had to troubleshoot a lot to get things moving again. It felt good to get other people motivated and on board with change. I think Daddy would be proud of me."

Now, 63-year-old Blaise spends his days at Calandro's Supermarket #2, located at the corner of Perkins and Siegen Lane about seven miles southeast of the original Calandro's at 4142 Government. This is the new South Baton Rouge, where business is booming and the wealthy are moving. Nowadays, the customers love every bit of the Calandro's tradition in their hometown. They come to the store sometimes just to pick up some homemade Italian meatballs and say "hello" to Blaise and his brothers. Each day presents a new set of fixable challenges-from spilled milk on the floor to broken refrigeration equipment. Every now and then, Blaise might pull out an old memory or two to get him through the day. "Drink Dr. Pepper. The friendly pepper upper...
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March 24, 2010

A bit about why Architecture (with a capital A) is awesome.

Information Writing
Design Seminar II

Have you ever stood outside of a very tall building, looked up at it, and wondered how, in all of its complexity and largeness, that it came to be? Have you ever been to a museum clad in curved glass with funny looking angled panels on the roof only to go inside and find that the light most perfectly blankets each piece of artwork in the most precise way? If you are inside now, look around you. Did you know that the space that you're in was once a preconceived idea in the creative mind of an architect? Maybe you have thought about this before but haven't had any answers. I am here to tell you that these daily interactions you have with the built space around you are a product of hundreds-maybe even thousands-of years of architects striving to create the perfect space.

In the early days of civilization, architecture was simply a way to protect the human from the disorder of the natural world. In other words, to keep the rain and the bears out. It slowly evolved into a field where art and science merge to a fuzzy place somewhere in the middle. It is scientific because it is, in its very nature, technical. It involves heavy materials being hoisted into the air and placed on top of structural elements that humans must safely inhabit. And at some point-probably as Greek architecture evolved-it became an artform. Not only was it important to the greeks that heavy stone be placed on top of large columns to maintain a safe space away from nature, it was important that the perfect proportions represent the cosmos (or heavens). Many Greek temples were sacred spaces built to honor the gods. And then when Christianity came to be, these values filtered into the Gothic and Renaissance churches. Architecture wasn't only to keep the bears out-it was an artistic cultural collaboration to embody God.

Architecture today has become even more complex in its definition than back in the day. Many of the early values of architects are still important-including proportion, truth of material, relationship to nature, the meaning of vast open space, etc. But now, we have the addition of environmental awareness, digital prefabrication, structural technologies that push the boundaries of what can be built, and a million other things. As a student of architecture and then a professional in the field, I have learned a lot about both the science and the art of architecture. And I have learned that the architectural pioneers from history, and even from today, are the ones that understand the science of architecture, and simultaneously, strive to pursue the art of architecture in every project they encounter. It's not about engineering a box or an oversized sculpture for people to hang out in; rather, it's about forming a space that connects the inhabitants with something larger.

So, what constitutes good architecture today? Well, that's a very involved question and I could continue the detailed history from ancient greek architecture all the way to now to fully explain it. But I don't want to bore you, so I will be brief. Good architecture can be done in an infinite number of ways. It is not solely the conceptual process of design nor is it the final building that represents good architecture. It is some marriage of these two things where intentions, boundaries, and values are set up in an artistic, freethinking design process that considers three-dimensional form, space, light, journey, curiosity, etc. and then combines these with the technical methods for building. Both sides of this marriage must be fully developed for good architecture to occur. A good architect will never let a mechanical duct fall below the ceiling line (unless it is intended) nor will he use a random mess of materials on the facade of a building. A good architect will even spend time on the design of a bathroom-an area that is often an afterthought. A good architect will recognize his limitations and work creatively within them. A good architect will respect the environment, the materials, the context for which the building will be placed, the client's motivations and desires, and most importantly, the inhabitants who will experience the building on a daily basis. A good architect will learn-over years of practice-to take a multitude of factors into consideration and, hopefully, will contribute to making architecture-and therefore our physical world-better.

From the early days to now, architectural shifts are largely a result of pioneers pushing the limits of the current state. Some of them include Leonardo da Vinci (yes, he was an architect), Filippo Brunelleschi, Michelangelo (yes, also an architect), Andrea Palladio, and Le Corbusier. Each challenged how architects designed with respect to space, materials, form, nature, etc. Today, it seems we have a growing number of pioneers. I wish I could tell you about them all in great detail, however, I will touch on just a few prominent ones that you may have heard about-Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn, and Frank Ghery.

In the mid to late 1800s, most buildings were decorated boxes completely separate from the organic nature on top of which they were placed-and then Frank Lloyd Wright came along. He was a catalyst to change the way architects think about space. He linked architectural space to the horizontal organic space of the natural world. So, to put it simply, he lowered ceiling heights to intensify the horizontality of nature-it literally flows into and through his buildings. He also found a way-through the Usonian Prairie Home-to bring good architecture to people who-in most cases-could not afford it. Simplicity of structure and material and a step away from unnecessary expensive decoration helped make this possible. Some of his most famous dwellings include Fallingwater, The Robie House, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Louis Kahn, an architect from the mid-1900s, challenged the way architects thought about building form and truth of material. He valued honesty in how he used materials and this honesty became the decoration of the building. For example, his concrete forms at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA have small holes and unsmoothed edges showing the story of how the structural concrete was formed in the construction of the building. At the Salk Institute, a small stream of water travels from the center of the courtyard westward to a waterfall overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Though I hate to dumb down Louis Kahn, the master of space, material, light, and form, this stream is much like an infinity edge swimming pool. It is perceived as a continuation of the ocean. At the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, TX, Kahn engineered light and curved concrete in such a way that the concrete sparkles like silverish gold. He taught architects that using material merely for its aesthetic was completely dishonest to the inherent nature of the material. Rather than painting a material to make it beautiful, allow nature to inform the beauty of the material. Let concrete be compressed, let steel be in tension, let bricks stack, and leave space between materials for expansion and contraction. "'You say to a brick: 'What do you want, brick?' and brick says to you: 'I like an arch.'"1 In his simple way of understanding materials, light, and building form, Kahn is looked to as a master.

In architecture today, there is an imminent change in the process of building. You may have heard of Frank Ghery before. He is currently pushing the limit of how and what we can build. If you've ever been to Los Angeles, CA and seen the Walt Disney Concert Hall or if you've been to Seattle, WA and seen the Experience Music Project, you should know what I'm talking about. Frank Ghery's buildings are massive curving metal forms. They are what some architects call 'Blob'itecture-which is architecture that looks as though a blobby gel-like substance was blown up to a large proportion for humans to inhabit. I won't discuss the controversy over whether or not this 'blob'itecture is spatially well designed, but I will say that Ghery has sparked a revolution in what engineering can do for architecture. Before Ghery, curving and blobbing forms made of steel and glass were pretty much impossible. Determining many curving steel beams with no regularity or similarity is so complex its not worth the time or the money. So, how does Ghery-and other revolutionaries of today-do it? Well, as of now, the process is quite involved and has yet to be refined. But it basically requires a complete change of standard building processes. Typically, two-dimensional construction documents are brought on site and constructed from the ground up. Ghery's buildings must be digitally machined and constructed off-site-a process called digital prefabrication-and then taken on-site to be chunked together like a puzzle. As time goes on, prefab will become more and more feasible, and maybe one day, will become the norm. If this happens, Ghery, and a few of his counterparts, will be considered the impetus of the movement.

In considering the early days of ancient civilization, to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome, to the revolutionized built world of today, how do you think architecture affects your life? Well, architects have changed the way you interact with your physical world. Wright realized that the format of the modern, middle class lifestyle and its relationship to nature did not match the boxy ornate architecture of the day. So, he changed it. How your family interacts both on the interior and exterior of your home may be different if it weren't for him. Kahn changed the way light, form, and materials interact, and he challenged simplicity and the sublime. If it weren't for Kahn, cities may be more plastered than they already are with fake decorative details, and the beauty of concrete may not be as appreciated. If it weren't for Ghery, engineering may never have been challenged so drastically. And we may forever build from the ground up rather than with new digital prefabrication technologies. To put it simply, architecture literally shapes what your world looks like and how you feel in it. It directly (or indirectly) affects almost everything you do. So, next time that you're standing in front of a really tall building, think about the thousands of years of architects and buildings that preceded it and ultimately made that building what it is.
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