Expansion in Downtown Raleigh


I didn’t like downtown Raleigh when I moved here in 2009–I was working two jobs, the scene was small and close knit, and, being a government center, was dead past 5:30pm. After Raleigh Denim moved downtown in 2010 (I was working there at the time), I noticed that many storefronts were going under renovations and filing with new restaurants and shops.

CAM Raleigh opened next door, Capital Club 16Neptunes and Kings kept the Martin–Salisbury corner busy, the trifecta of Beasley’sChucks and Fox dominated the Martin–S Wilmington corner, Raleigh Times expanded next door to include a rooftop, Bida Manda brought Laotian food to the South, Videri Chocolate and Tasty Beverage brought traffic to the old train station, the warehouses were acquired by Citrix for their new headquarters, the AIA NC built their new headquarters across from Peace College (my office, Frank Harmon Architect, built and rents from the AIA NC), Seaboard Station expanded with Tyler’s Taprooma cafe, and a burger jointC. Grace lit up GloSo, and Dos Taquitos Xoco is almost open, CityFabricCompostNow, and ReDress Raleigh moved into Boylan Heights, Trophy Brewing is coming to the Morgan St. shopping center (next to murder mart), the Fiction Kitchen is setting up, and the Person Street developments of Rapid Fitness, PiebirdRaleigh City FarmMarket’s new location, and an upcoming market, and the various little boutiques that have popped up around downtown… I’m sure I missed someone, sorry.

Being part of the downtown community and watching it expand and thrive has been a great experience. All the bars and restaurants I go to are locally owned, are involved in the community, and have a similar set of values. What’s even better is living so close to downtown and walking or riding everywhere.

I can’t wait to see who is going to start what next… there are so many projects and ideas and floating around downtown, you can feel it.

Animal Behavior: Collective Movement and Shapeshifting

Animal behavior is fascinating – how are thousands of birds or fish able to communicate with each other well enough to swirl and bank in perfect harmony, creating vortexes, undulating lines, and spheres. The underlying theory is that individuals take cues from their neighbors on where to move next. This collective movement acts as a survival mechanism by keeping the group safe from predators and weeding out weaker individuals regaled to the periphery.

Invasive to North America, settlers released 100 European Starlings in Central Park in 1890. Since then, their population swelled to over 200 million. We call starling formations “murmurations” and fish formations “schools”.

Compare bird and fish formations to collective human movement… for us it’s called a stampede and usually kills people. Some may argue there is evidence of collective movement in large urban centers but rarely is the entire group traveling together, except in a parade or rally, and never executed so well.

Source: Audubon Magazine and Ecology Magazine

Anselm Kiefer, an Artists Reflection on the Third Reich

Born in 1945, Anselm Kiefer’s attitude is heavily influenced  by World War II and the role the Third Reich played in the destruction of a people and a continent. Kiefer creativity arises from his dissatisfied with post-war culture and Germany’s reluctance to discuss their wartime atrocities. He started his career in 1969 with a photographic series called Occupations, which featured him saluting in full Nazi garb, a criminal offense in Germany.

The theme of many paintings is death and decay; many paintings are fiery and dark, have heavy use of German and Jewish mythology, and appear damp and moldy. His technique of layering paint and using additional materials, such as straw and lead, lend the paintings much depth and texture. The paintings are quite large, often on 9×12′ canvases.

But art should be full of intriguing questions such as this. Art really is something very difficult. It is difficult to make, and it is sometimes difficult for the viewer to understand. It is difficult to work out what is art and what is not art. All this can be hard work.

Anslem Kiefer

Click an image to view a large format slideshow.

sources: The Guardian and Saatchi Gallery

Check out my new job at Frank Harmon Architect!

Hello loyal followers, visitors and one-time hitters,

I want to apologize for my absence the last week and a half… I was previously posting almost every week day, a feat I was very proud of. However, two weeks ago today was my first day at Frank Harmon Architect, PA, a nationally acclaimed architecture firm in Raleigh, NC with a focus on sustainable practices. Check out the projects on our website and especially Frank Harmon’s “Journal“.

Here is a view of our office on the 3rd floor of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) building our firm designed and completed in late 2011.

I’m excited about the opportunity to work with such great minds on interesting projects, to be surrounded by creativity, and to face these new challenges head-on.

Here is my head shot for the company PR stuff courtesy of my friend and colleague, Courtney E. I think it turned out all right, especially given the previous 39 shots!


I won’t tell you how to vote and hopefully no one else has. Ideally, you have come to your own conclusion, without interference from peers and family, super PACs, commercials, billboards, the “news”…

Vote because it will get you out of work for a little while.
Vote because the bakery gives out free cupcakes.
Vote because in remembrance of those who do not have a voice.

If you don’t vote you concede your right to complain.

Check out an unbiased Comparison of the Democratic and Republican Platforms on topics ranging from foreign policy to the environment to trade with China. Even if you have voted, check if your values align with those of your chosen party.

Thornton Dial – Don’t Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got To Tie Us Together

A solution for small closets: an Open-Air Closet

I have a tiny closet and ran out of space long ago. The cheapest solution is hooks but it is ugly and in randomly placed holes from the previous tenants. I have thought about clothing racks but they are bulky and cold. Then I realized all my wooden hangers have swivel hooks and can hang parallel to the wall, or on the door. All I need are towel racks or even curtain rods…but what if it was an entire piece instead of a wall installations?

A bench with shoe storage would act as the counter balance for the back piece with two racks for hangers. If the back piece was odor and/or moisture-absorbing that would further enhance the functionality of the piece. In addition, this piece acts as a display for my clothing and shoes.

P.S. This is my 2nd Sketchup, the first being a side table from June.

Design Review Questions You Should Ask Yourself

Jason Fried came up with a list of questions he asks himself while designing. Stepping back and reviewing an idea is difficult, especially if other people, and their time and feelings, are involved. Guiding questions have always helped me and this list has a lot of good ones. I posted a partial list here, the entire list is on his website, 37signals.

  • Is what it says and what it means the same thing?
  • Do we want that?
  • Why do we need to say that here?
  • If you stopped reading here, what’s the message?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • How else can we say this?
  • What’s memorable about this?
  • Who needs to know/see that?
  • What’s the payoff?
  • What’s the simpler version of this?
  • What does a more polished version of this look like?
  • What’s missing?
  • Does that make it clearer?
  • Does that make it easier or harder?
  • Would this be better as a sentence or a picture?
  • Why is that there?
  • What matters here?
  • What would happen if we got rid of that?
  • If we got rid of this, does that still work?
  • Is it obvious what happens next?
  • What problem is that solving?
  • What makes this a must have?

Toshiro Mifune & Akira Kurosawa, best team in cinema, Ever.

Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, a Japanese director and artist, collaborated on 16 films over the course of 18 years, during the height of Japanese cinema.

Clint Eastwood, the cowboy, picked up his Man With No Name archetype from Toshiro Mifune, the oft bandit and roving warrior, with a gruff, emotive, presence.  His versatile skills are seen while spitting and snarling during Rashomon,  sweating in a terrified rage in Stray Dogs, or compassionately taking care of the sick and poor in their last film together, Red Beard. 

Akira Kurosawa impacted New Hollywood’s Golden Age of directors like George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. His films are carefully thought out; the mise-en-scène is carefully constructed. His nihilistic nature explores morality, set with a keen stylistic edge. Did I mention he wrote the majority of his scripts?–multi-layers plots, complex characters and fantastic dialogue (I need to learn Japanese). Kurosawa is a master of cinema.

Kurosawa and Mifune bequeathed a vast and varied critically-acclaimed work of art; of their sixteen films, fifteen are part of the Criterion Collection. Some may not like subtitles but the visual beauty and superb acting transcends words. The sets are minimal because of both Japan’s culture and Kurosawa’s set direction, and allow Mifune much freedom of expression.

I am proud of nothing I have done other than with him.
-Mifune on Kurosawa

I am a person rarely impressed by actors, but in the case of Mifune I was completely overwhelmed.
– Kurosawa

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HuluPlus has a special section for the Criterion Collection as well as North American Video in Cameron Village, for my fellow Acorns.

The Kurosawa–Mifune Collection – via Listal
Drunken Angel (1948)
The Quiet Duel (1949)
Stray Dog, (1949)
The Idiot (1951)
Rashomon (1950)
Seven Samurai (1954)
I Live Fear (1955)
Throne of Blood (1957)
The Lower Depths (1957)
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
Yojimbo (1961)
Sanjuro (1962)
High and Low (1965)
Red Beard (1965)

Sources: Moseisly Cinema, Kurosawa School of Film, ToshiroMifune.org, The Criterion Collection

Repair Urban Sprawl and Strip Malls

I can’t remember where I found this image but it is a great solution to boring, one-dimensional strip malls. The courtyard could provide greenery and seating for restaurants and function as an open-air market. In theory the rooftop gardens and solar panels will save money in the long run but may be overlooked by the developers.

Strip mall development in 2012 was 5 million square feet, down from 200 million square feet in 2006. However, continuation of development is absurd considering over 11% of strip malls in North America have been abandoned. The concessions we and our cities have made for cars is unbelievable and should not be tolerated. Repurposing existing strip malls to accomodate the wants and needs of local citizens–hopefully with locally-owned businesses–should be at the forefront of our agendas.

Atlantic Cities

Earth & Bamboo School in Bangladesh

Hand-Made School in Rudrapur, Bangladesh

Architects Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag designed and planned the Rudrapur school and students, teachers, and volunteers built it at a cost of $22,835 USD! The foundation is brick, the lower walls are loam and straw, the upper walls are bamboo with a galvanized iron roof. The total area of the school is 3,500 sf and the design allows for natural light and air ventilation.

Heringer was a student volunteer with a Bangladeshi Dipshikha, an education center for rural children, for a year in 1997. She kept in contact with the school and was later asked to help build a new school using local materials, completing the project in 2005.

The local Bangladeshi do not think this project is possible to recreate because of the equipment involved. However, in a developed country, where construction equipment is abound, this type of sustainable construction can easily happen!

It is amazing what basic elements and physical labor can do! In the United States so many great projects do not have the funds to realize completion. These beautiful international projects prove that a large budget is not needed to build beautiful creative spaces in our communities!

The center cutout reminds me of Safe Haven Orphanage’s library

source: AKDN.org

Robi Mobile Library, Germany

The Robi Mobile Library, designed by Linie Zweii, allows children to access books when a traditional brick-and-mortar library isn’t available. This concept could easily be adapted for the U.S. public school system. When the government cuts funding, activities that create well-rounded, healthy children are the first to go, like recess, lunch, and libraries. It would be better to browse a library once a week than not at all.

A library on wheels could circulate to schools, churches, parks, the YMCA… it could operate on a schedule much like a food truck, but with a membership. Book returns could be installed at those locations so children can return books 24/7 to keep continuous circulation.

Source: Fast Company

7 Psychopaths – a new cult classic

…and here’s to another violent comedy by Martin McDonagh, director of In Bruges. 

A screenwriter (Colin Farrel) is trying to come up with a film about 7 psychopaths that turn from their darkness and into the light. Unlike most Hollywood movies, it won’t end in a big shootout but instead with a peaceful conversation. Marty’s friends (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell) try to help him write the screenplay while hiding out from their killer (Woody Harrelson). There are a lot of guest spots with Tom Waits, guys from Boardwalk Empire and Big Love, and the girl from Precious. McDonagh also gets in a few hits to Hollywood and it’s penchant for sex and violence.

Every major character in 7 Psychopaths has an unexpected side, making them either weak or badass. In terms of dialogue, gratuitous violence, and character development, there seems to be an element of Tarantino but McDonagh traces it to Preston Sturges, a writer, director, and producer from 1930-58. I also noticed that the camera frequently panned diagonally from the top left corner to bottom right as did major “lines” in the sets, such as hills. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything but I notice things like that.

Check the trailer then watch the movie, in theaters this Friday.

Monstrum’s Awesome Playgrounds

Monstrum, a Danish design firm, builds thoughtful imaginative wooden playgrounds all over the world. They create playgrounds with child development in mind, building to challenge and stimulate the child. Not only are they great for kids, but as an adult, I certainly appreciate the aesthetic and inventiveness.

Sadly, many schools in the United States are cutting recess and playtime with major drawbacks in children’s health and behavior. A study by the Elementary School Journal in 2008 found that almost 25% of schools did not have recess. I find this more perplexing with childhood obesity rates on the rise– 20% of 6-11 year olds were obese in 2008. Plus, many studies have found a strong positive correlation between child’s play and self-esteem.

“I get this feeling in my legs when they want to run and that feeling moves up to my belly and when that feeling moves up to my head I can’t remember what the rules are.”
– Nadav, 7, Pittsburgh


The Futurist Manifesto by F. T. Marinetti

Marinetti was an Italian poet and the founder of Futurism, who later became involved with the Fascist Party and fought for the Axis powers in WWII. Although I do not agree with the Futurist Party, I thought the manifesto was very interesting, especially the below excerpt. The manifesto was originally published in 1909 on the cover of the French newspaper, Le Figaro, a daily founded in 1826.

MANIFESTO OF FUTURISM, 1909 by F. T. Marinetti

  1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
  2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
  3. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.
  4. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
  5. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit.
  6. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
  7. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.
  8. We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  9. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
  10. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.
  11. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds.

See the Manifesto in it’s entirety here or take the jump.

Continue reading “The Futurist Manifesto by F. T. Marinetti”

Cabin Trip and Gear

This weekend I’m going to a 100+ year old cabin deep in the Piedmont wilderness with 8 close friends. It is heated by a big-bellied wood stove, lit by candles and gas lights and the outhouse is a 2-seater out back. I’ll be back Monday!

Here is the majority of the gear I’m bringing à la The Burning House.

8″ Bean Boots, camera, Camo Smoke, Sigg, Notebook, Sketchbook, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, 2 Tshirts, Raleigh Denim Nash jeans, homemade handkerchief, compass, flannel shirt, 31 blade Swiss Army knife, hunting knife, and hand axe.

David Mach, artist of excess

Scottish-born David Mach, a member of the Royal Academy of Arts and Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools, London, is known as an “artist of excess” for using everyday objects–such as magazines, coat hangers and matchsticks–to create amazing sculptures. The wire coat hanger sculptures fooled me at first; I thought they were photoshopped.


Guy Laramée: The Great Wall book carvings

Guy Laramée, a self-professed anachronist, is a Montreal-based multi-disciplinary artist. His most notable works are landscapes sandblasted into old books. The pieces invoke the feeling of a time forgotten, of places that may have existed but no longer do. The detail is breathtaking and I would love the opportunity to see them firsthand.

Continue reading “Guy Laramée: The Great Wall book carvings”

Robert Capa, War Photographer


If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough – Robert Capa

Robert Capa documented 5 wars before stepping on a landmine in the French Indochina War, a precursor to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He first gained recognition in 1936 for a photograph taken during the Spanish Civil War, The Falling Man. His notoriety came during World War II, landing on the beaches of Normandy with the second wave on D-Day. Unlike the majority of troops landing on the beaches that day, Capa volunteered. He took well over 100 photographs but only 11 survived a lab accident. These photographs appeared in Life and became known as the “Magnificent Eleven“. He also covered the Second Sino-Japanese War, the liberation of Paris, post-war Soviet Union with John Stienbeck, the Arab invasion of Israel, and excursions with “Papa” Hemingway in Idaho.

His life is fascinating and if you want to read more about it, check out Blood and Champagne by Alex Kershaw or Slightly Out of Focusa memoir by Robert Capa.

The Falling Man


Hemingway after a car crash in London

Continue reading “Robert Capa, War Photographer”

Compare the 2012 Democratic and Republican Platforms

Amit Asaravala compiled the Democratic and Republican Party Platform documents into a fantastic comparative chart. I know it’s long, but if you have the time, read this! There is always more than one issue at stake when voting.

Make sure you’re registered to vote in your state; there are a lot of laws that might prevent you from casting your ballot this November.

I moved some less talked about–but very important–issues to the top and placed the rest after the jump.

2012 Democratic Party Platform 2012 Republican Party Platform
Source Document 2012-National-Platform.pdf 2012GOPPlatform.pdf
Foreign Policy: Foreign Aid [W]e will continue to respond to humanitarian crises around the globe. [p.29] Limiting foreign aid spending helps keep taxes lower, which frees more resources in the private and charitable sectors, whose giving tends to be more effective and efficient.[p.46]
Commerce: Minimum Wage We will raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation. [p.10]
Education: Sex Education Democrats support evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education. [p.18] We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education….[p.36]
Environment: Climate Change We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change…. [p.20] We also call on Congress to take quick action to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations….[p.19]
Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers. [p.21]

Continue reading “Compare the 2012 Democratic and Republican Platforms”