Please do not touch

Tonight we brought Little Guy to First Friday Scranton, the local monthly Art Walk.  It’s been a while since I’ve visited the event – unfortunate since I am a board member – but kind of acceptable since the arrival of my son.  It has certainly been a whirlwind, and finding time for ourselves has proven to be pretty challenging.

But now that he’s a bit older, we’re beginning to seek out things for him to experience.  It’s true that he’s in a stage where almost everything is absolutely amazing.  The other day there was some lint on the floor that proved to be one of the most incredible things in existence.  This was confirmed by the absolute fit that was thrown when I prevented the lint from being tasted. . . .

It’s true.  Everything is amazing.  I’ve been attributing this to the mere fact that he’s kind of new to certain experiences.  What else is he going to think?  Something in the refrigerator is COLD?!  That’s amazing!  Lights go on AND off?!  Say it isn’t so!  But. . . everything. . . is. . . amazing.

My thoughts drift immediately to some of the films of Charles and Ray Eames, particularly “Blacktop” and “Bread”.  If you want to dive further into what the focus of Charles & Ray were, check out “The design genius of Charles + Ray Eames”.  But none of this is the focus of my post.

In the film “Blacktop”, the focus is on the patterns of water and soap that flow across a blacktop lot while washing a childrens’ playground. . . yes, I am serious.  If you’re not in the “artistic” mood when you watch this, it can be one of the more ridiculous concepts you’ve ever thought you’d be watching.  When I first watched it, I was in the right mood.  You can very easily find beauty in the simplest of things if you know what you’re looking for.  The film “Bread”:  Take a guess.

So, back to this evening.  I can’t confirm that a 9 month old knows what he is looking for, but I do know that amazing things are happening every day right in front of his eyes.  I took him into a few venues today and “showed” him art.  He seemed captivated at times, bored and distracted at others.  Could it have been a reaction to what he perceived as “interesting” or “beautiful”?  Maybe.  He responded to the vivid, abstract, bold canvas, while he was easily distracted while looking at line drawings; a factor of the use of color, no doubt.  In all cases, he wanted to touch everything – probably wanted to eat it too.

I think back to my senior Architecture thesis which explored the possibility that your perception of art could be altered by the process of watching someone else experience that art.  All of that was wrapped into a design of the hypothetical Scranton Arts Center that explored the use of transparency to support the thesis.  11 years later, I literally saw this process in action as I held my son.  He looked at a painting, stuck his tongue out, and made a “pthwwwt” sound, to which the woman next to him replied “Ahhh, an art critic.  What’s he looking at?  Oh, I agree”.  Now, I know that he didn’t make her think that. . . but maybe he helped??  Thesis validated.

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Since the “Big Day” is fast approaching, we’re starting to think of ideas for Little Guy’s first birthday!  He was born around Halloween, so there’s lots of fun to come out of that, for sure.  Just today, my wife found an image of this cake though. . . . hmmmmmm.  I think we must do this.  Found at Interesting Engineering.

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Design-A-Job

I don’t remember ever deciding that I wanted to be an Architect.  My father was a Masonry Contractor – mostly residential work – throughout my entire childhood, so there were always plenty of drawings around the house left over from finished projects.  Sometimes I would take the old drawings and sketch on top of them, experimenting with shapes of spaces or trying to imagine what the exterior of the house would look like.  I also constructed an entire Lego empire in our basement that grew exponentially with every passing birthday or Holiday.  Once everything was set up perfect, I would take it all down and reconstruct it – over and over and over.

Many years later when it became time to apply to Colleges, I had to decide what my major would be and without hesitation, I started applying to Architecture schools.  I don’t think anyone suggested Architecture.  I don’t remember anyone pushing design or aesthetics on me when I was growing up.  I just knew that this was what I wanted to do.

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On site at Frank Gehry’s Vontz Center for Molecular Studies at the University of Cincinnati in 1999

Of course I can’t help but wonder. . . what will my son “be” when he grows up.  So far – at 8 months old – his skill set seems to lack focus.  There is a very strong chance that he may be a competitive eater based on the amount of things he tries to put in his mouth on a daily basis.  Lately he’s been getting better at yelling, so maybe some sort of announcer or someone who alerts boats that they are about to hit the shore. . . because I think that’s a thing.  My path makes me realize that with some influences and opportunities in place, there’s a chance that you can help guide your children into a direction. . . or maybe the mere attempt at guiding them sends them off in a different direction. . . how would you ever know?

What I do know is that I want to show this Little Guy the world.  Despite the fact that I had no idea that I was going to be an Architect, I can still think back and appreciate the various places that my parents took me (or sent me) when I was growing up.  Our interpretation of our surroundings and environment absolutely influence the way we think about things when we’re older – even if we’re not designing those spaces ourselves.  My hope is that I can at least instill an appreciation of the built environment into him so that as he travels thru his life, he’s not just walking around in a world that he takes for granted, but appreciating and seeing that there is thoughtfulness and design in the things we pass by every day.  It was my parents who gave me the opportunity to start seeing these things in my life.  Before I was even out of high school, I had traveled to England, Spain, Morocco, and an array of cities across the US.  All of this gave me the confidence and the hunger to keep exploring and I ended up in internships in Chicago, Santa Monica, and NYC because I knew these were places that had something for me to experience. . . and it was great!  I hope that we can start to show him at an early age that there is . . . a lot. . . . to see.

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I know it’s really an obvious pick, but I cannot speak about my childhood and Architecture without talking about LEGOs!  However, specific to the topic, I will mention the LEGO Architect Series.  At the moment, these toys are my worst nightmare as each of the individual pieces will get their shot at being digested if I were to present this toy to my son.  But. . . this one might be more for me at any given time anyway. . . .