30 June 2009

artifex defined

artifex : latin : author, artist, artisan, maker

some key players on the last night of celebration in the stone village of valldermosa
photo courtesy of tony

two weeks ago when i first told people i was going to mallorca (one of the balearic islands off the southern coast of spain), most of them asked if it was for vacation. or honeymoon. or both. sure, a mediterranean isle with sun, sand, and its fair share of fun might be just that, but it was actually for a stone masonry workshop hosted by artifex balear. that response raised even more eyebrows, and even i didn't know exactly how to explain what it was outside of learning about stone houses in the vein of the flintstones.
i finally got some answers - and even more questions posted - once actually in spain for the past two weeks.

i was greeted at the airport by the enthusiastic miguel ramis, the stone mason maestro who started artifex about 20 years ago. he's the epitome of the self-educated man in the sense that, after years of dissatisfying work in marketing management, he turned to the trade of his father - stone masonry - and started to learn the craft himself, do investigative research, and eventually start a masonry school. and he really did his homework! although i can't really read spanish (only pretend to - and hopefully will remedy that soon), the school's website is chock full of photos and descriptions on just about every facet imaginable of traditional stone masonry. and more.

but his ideas were having a hard time getting off the island, or even spreading to those on the coasts (artifex is located in inca, near the center of mallorca). in come luis berrios-negron who, with his fellow mit alum michael ramage, collaborate with miguel to find ways to not only keep the stone masonry tradition alive, but see how it can become relevant to contemporary practice.

one of the cool things about the workshop was the fact that this question is still left unanswered. we had loads of experts in the field, from well known architects (ex. tatiana bilbao, juan herreros, our dept. head yung ho chang) and architectural curators to water resource experts and stone masons come and speak about their various approaches to stone. some were, of course, more practical or esoteric than others. but the question still stood:

how is stone construction relevant in the 21st century? and what innovations can come of it?

that kept on popping up throughout the 2 weeks, and the answer was constantly: it's for you to go and find out.

food (or stones) for thought... overall the words i've used to describe the workshop have been "cool, amazing, awesome, fun, tiring, inspirational, eye opening, frustrating," but more descriptive words, photos and stories to come as i process them.

12 June 2009

coming up

[courtesy of someone i forgot to take note of]

1 more day of work, a train ride home, and a red eye flight between me and this on sunday!

11 June 2009

[bostonian #2] : boston's only democratic store

so i was eventually able to find a pair of women's steel toed boots, but definitely not until i had combed through internet sites and called stores all over the area, asking with increasing desperation about these boots i never knew i would ever need. my typical conversation with a hapless store clerk:

me: "excuse me, but does your story carry steel toed boots for women?"
clerk 1: "what?"
clerk 2: "oh no. no we don't. do not."
clerk 3: "we do online...?"
clerk 4: "no, but have you tried XYZ?"

the last response (thank you, EMS) was what lead me to hilton's tent city over near north station, an area above the haymarket that i have never explored. i can't say i saw much once in the neighborhood, but the store - a simple storefront on a small side street - was chock full, floor to ceiling, every corner filled with anything you would need - or didn't know you would need (hence the steel toe) for exploring the great outdoors. really, if i hadn't been in a rush to find this one item, i would've stayed longer and dreamed about the many camping trips yet unplanned in my mind. but i got to business, and although the women's boots ended up not fitting, i did find a small pair of men's that could be used for hiking and didn't remind me of oil rigs. the staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, too, which made the trek more pleasant.

then the next day i was told we no longer needed steel toed boots.

ah well - at least i know where to find them in boston next time around. and if you're blessed with access to the suburbs and need to protect your feet on a construction site, you could find a pair at:
  • walmart
  • dick's sporting
  • sears (call first)
  • timberland (call first)
or search zappos.com or redwing.com first.

10 June 2009

becoming bostonian #1: a different route

i'm not sure yet if this will become a constant feature i'll write on, but "becoming bostonian" seemed like a good way to label the little discoveries in this here (still) new city of mine. many of these will probably be all-too familiar to true residents, but hey - new to me is what counts. onward!

- - -

[courtesy of denig design associates]

today i decided to take a different route to work, to walk on foot rather than take the T one stop to back bay station. i had heard about the southwest corridor park just the other day from one of my coworkers, but never realized that one of the access points was directly across the street from the mass ave T stop. it was supposed to have been the southwest expressway, but thank God that never went through - stepping into it was like finding a peaceful, (non-yello) brick-lined oasis as a relief to crazed boston drivers.

the park itself stretches from back bay station all the way out to forest hills along the orange line. although you can still hear and feel the periodic rumble of the train underneath, it's still pretty quiet, with flowers and trees planted along the way. walking along it this morning felt like the first time i found the promenade plantee in paris - almost a secret route through the heart of town (cheesy i know...a "secret" thousands of other commuters, dog walkers, and bikers already know about). makes for an easy 4.7 mile bike ride or long walk on a weekend.

so, why did i take the T again?

09 June 2009

what about the working women?

i haven't included a substantive update lately, but life post-semester is relatively relaxed - for once! it's a strange and freeing sensation to be in what we might call the "real" world after so many months and hours wrapped in all things architectural (or, even more specific, all things studio): studioness. now there's a bit more time to walk at a leisurely pace and explore this place called boston and cambridge, which i've only glimpsed in brief spurts since the fall when i first arrived in new england.

last week was my first working at the Green Development Center of the LISC, a program within this national non-profit with their boston office located just where the back bay meets the south end. i'm finding more and more during my lunchtime explorations what a great neighborhood this is - one direction the shops and hotels of boylston and newbury, the other direction the victorian rowhouses and sidewalk cafes of the south end.

the work has also been interesting and pretty different from the type i've done in the past at architectural firms. my organization works in community development (such a broad term), helping neighborhoods become more sustainable (also a broad term) - mostly in the economic and social sense, but now moving to address building practices, which is where i come in to lend some technical expertise (to me, "expertise") towards research, education, and overall advocacy for green building (and to get people to stop using the word "green" so liberally).

on the side, i'm also trying to figure out the fun things to do in boston over the summer and found this design guide put together by the blog design*sponge. it's pretty heavy on the home furnishings side of things, but seems like a fun start for exploration.

and...for other random things occupying me, i'm in the process of preparing for a 2 week workshop in mallorca, which requires steel toe work boots. FRUSTRATING process! this cat-and-mouse chase just sends the wrong message about women and construction... but now i'm off to investigate the ONE store in the public transit-accessible boston area that might actually have a pair.

wish me luck.

04 June 2009

a doting aunt

today it was official: IT'S A BOY!!!
(in case that gives you the wrong idea, i'm going to have a NEPHEW!!!)

i was at work when i got the news and couldn't keep from yelping. then i had to run over and tell my fellow intern the news :D

can't wait to be a doting aunt!! too bad my nephew will be born oversees...but hopefully a trip over there sometime this year will remedy that.