Monday, April 22, 2013

UNIVERSITIES




In The Sydney Morning Herald National Times 21st April 2013, Daniel Flitton has an article titled ASIO justifies 'black hole' for refugees: see
The article addresses the dilemma that refugees who have been granted asylum but have receiced a negative security report from ASIO, find themselves in. ASIO does not have to give any reason for its assessment, and the refugees are unable to seek asylum in another country having been so classified. This leaves them in indefinite detention with no apparent hope of ever being released.

The problem is circular and very frustrating, so much so that a group of detainees have been on a hunger strike to bring their circumstance to the public.

The report quotes the University of Sydney international law specialist Ben Saul who is pursing a case against indefinite detention with the United Nations. He is reported as saying that "It was impossible for a person to effectively challenge a case if details of the allegations against them were not outlined."

That this very obvious circumstance requires such a specialist to make the point is astonishing. It reminded me of a previous public statement by a Professor of Architecture: see


Our educational institutions need more rigour than this dispaly of what looks like pretentious silliness. It might perhaps make sense within the walls of academia, but it all sounds just self-evident nonsense to folk looking in. Are universities so isolated and introverted that they have lost touch with the ordinary, the everyday? The situation reminds me of that listing in the original Fowler's Modern English Usage that young school boys all enjoyed: 'bull.' The item seemed to offer some support for the playground's bad language. Somewhat disappointingly, as an example of 'bull,' Fowler gave the following statement: "John don't come down from the roof because I have taken the ladder away." This is 'bull.'

It seems to me that universities might be full of it! Hopefully this is not true.






Monday, April 15, 2013

WHAT DOES A NON-PRACTISING ARCHITECT DO?



It is that time of year again - renewal of registration for architects. In Queensland, Australia, this is an annual event with an annual fee. Just how this fee is spent, and on what, is never made clear. Is it just wasted on administration? Hopefully it is not spent on the travel, accommodation and restaurants that some other professional body fees seem to fund. Yet again the terrible graphics have arrived.* Does anyone care?



Why does a body that is supposedly interested in design, in policing the quality and performance of the profession, have this terrible presentation: such awful graphics; such a crude logo? This identity, the Board’s image, is truly astounding and does beg the question concerning any serious commitment that this body has to quality. It really should set the example for all. Is CPD merely an administrative game to keep some bureaucrats employed? Is this where the fees go? Is there really any point?




After perusing the messy forms, the one title that sticks in the mind is: ‘Non-Practising Architect.’ Here one is asked somewhat cryptically to ‘Tick to choose non-practising’ in order to formalise this status with the statement: ‘I declare that I will not practise as an architect in Queensland.’ What does a non-practising architect do after paying a fee to be policed by the State? Nothing? If one were not practising, why would one ever choose to pay to be put under the scrutiny of the Board of Architects? What might be the penalty if one did practise after declaring one would not? Removal of registration as a non-practising architect would hardly seem to be a punishment. This strange category seems to have been created so that a person who holds an architectural degree can use the word ‘architect’ as a label even when not practising. Is this so?




There is not only a silly irony here, there is also the serious question about what a non-practising architect might do or not do within the rules of this grouping. This can perhaps be phrased differently: What does a practising architect do? One might assume the answer to this last question would give the list of activities that a non-practising architect should not get involved in. But is this so? The doubt about what a non-practising architect might be allowed to do is not resolved with a simple or a straightforward answer. These matters have been discussed previously.* There is a real complication with managing the activities of the architectural profession as it is so diverse in its specialisations. These divisions not only exist in a practice: manager, detailers, designers, specification writers, CAD specialists, etc.; but also in other activities that architects undertake: court cases where expert opinions are sought, education, and writing about architecture as theoretician or critic, and more. The profession is broad in its interests and expertise: such is its delight.




This depth of involvement makes CPD an extremely difficult concept to define. What might be useful for one could be totally useless for another. If it is difficult to explain what an architect does, it is just as perplexing to schedule what a non-practising architect does not do - indeed, should not do! How is it possible to police an individual when there is no list of matters available to indicate what a person who is a self-declared non-practising architect might not get involved in? Is one asked to register to do nothing, and pay for this privilege, just to be able to use the word ‘architect’ on one’s letterhead for some sense of prestige, if there is any left in this profession? This attempt to manage the use of the word ‘architect’ appears to be silly when one knows how the word ‘architect’ is bandied around meaninglessly in our language, e.g. the architect of … .* Then there are the qualifications that seem to hold no restrictions: e.g. ‘Landscape Architect;’ even 'Hair Architect.’ The usage generates no murmurs or stirrings within the Board.




What is it that this Board seeks to control? I have seen no clear or useful statement to clearly indicate just what might be involved in the idea of registration and CPD for the profession today. If this information cannot be made unambiguously specific, then what is the point? There seems to be no point if this control is only to protect the use of the word ‘architect’ when it is used by all and sundry in various different ways without challenge. If the purpose of this regulation can be made clear and precise, then why has it not been? The whole affair appears to hold that strange sense of: other professions are doing this sort of thing, so architects might as well do it too.




A friend in the UK is an accountant. He has to undertake regular CPD, but his registration is international, not merely for the UK, or for a small area of the UK. Here in Queensland, registration is State specific. It is simply parochial. It looks like it is inept. Why have it? Is it to ensure the quality of outcomes - perhaps of practitioners? Is it to protect the public from charlatans? Is it possible to do this with a set of boxes that have to be ticked? A quick look around the State does not give one confidence that the Board has done very much with regard to outcomes.




Considering the breadth of the interests in the architectural profession, how is one to ensure that each interest is being usefully enhanced by any extra CPD activity? Who is going to gauge this? Who has the breadth of knowledge and understanding that can assess another’s expertise, and the gaps in it? Then, of course, as has been previously discussed,* there is the matter of maturity. My UK friend says that the accountants’ registration office in Britain has a category for mature practitioners who are not asked to undertake the activities that a newcomer to the profession might be told to engage in; and these accountants are not asked to declare themselves as ‘non-practising’ either. In Queensland things are different. It seems everyone has to go to silly sessions even if they might know more than the presenter, just for the points - and at a good cost too - all because of the rules. It looks as though the Board has established a new business for those who might choose to exploit the position.




In all of this chaos and mess, what is one to do? Given that one is responsible for one’s own CPD and that one knows what one might need to improve, to complete or to expand one’s interests, or depth of understanding, one can then surely assess one’s own involvement and honestly tick the box to indicate that CPD requirements have been fulfilled. How else might CPD be useful? What happens if the second box that declares that one has not completed the requirements is ticked: ‘I have not completed the minimum 20 hours CPD between 1 April   etc.’? Is one examined to see if the activity that one has been involved in is or has been useful or relevant? By whom? Who could tell? The issues are not clear or certain at all, especially when the Board does not accredit any point-accumulating CPD activity.




Then there is the threat of deregistration if one makes a ‘false’ declaration: ‘the Board may cancel an architect’s registration . . .’. This might have some impact on a practising architect, but one can still declare one’s qualifications, e.g ‘Bachelor of Architecture’ and write it as Bachelor of ARCHITECTure. It is no worse than the Board’s own graphic! Or one might call oneself a ‘Design Architect’? Why would this be different to ‘Landscape Architect’? One might promote oneself as ‘The Architect of Desires - bringing dreams to life as buildings’! Why would this be a problem when ‘architect’ is used so wildly willy-nilly, and when the matter of what an architect does is so difficult to define?*




It is all a messy situation; and still one does not know what a non-practising architect has to do, or not do. Is it really possible to police an architect when the profession includes such diversity? Is it useful? Is a Board of Architects really necessary? What are the benefits for the profession and for the public in having a Board when matters are so vague and indiscriminate; and when the Board’s graphics set such a terribly poor example for all.




If the Board is seeking more recognition and respect, then it has to do much more for the profession that check to see if the boxes have been ticked.



*See:







P.S.
Why does the logo for the Board’s new graphic not appear on the Board of Architects of Queensland site: www.boaq.qld.gov.au/ ?


 NOTE:
For an example of the random use of the term 'architect' see the following report from The Australian 29 May 2013 that begins with: 'The architect of the dawn service site at Gallipoli . .  '
Is the Board concerned?

19th April 2014
Yet another astonishing use of the word 'architect': 
CIA torture architect breaks silence to defend 'enhanced interrogation'
see:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/18/cia-torture-architect-enhanced-interrogation

8 JULY 2014
See also:
 and

http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/cell-architecture.html  

23 September 2014
Earlier this week there was yet another astonishing adaptation of the word 'architect'. The television report spoke of a past prime minister: "Menzies was the architect of Australia." One will have to stop collecting these usages, as they are becoming just too familiar and diverse. The point has been made.

13 MARCH 2015
Just two more found jotted down from 30 June 2014, for the record:
" . . . come back with an architecture and see if it works" -  Kevin Andrews speaking about disability welfare on ABC 7:30 Report.
He later explained: "He'll come back with an architecture - proposals to restructure the system."
Later on in the evening, more:
" . . . the architects of the Nazi holocaust." ABC Media Watch.

29 MAY 2017
Yet another! Will it ever stop?
ABC News on-line:
The architect of the  deadly Lindt Cafe siege had a long and documented history of dangerous behaviour. 
The quote is referring to the gunman Man Haron Monis. The use of 'architect' in this context does nothing but disrupt any clear understanding of what an architect might be or do.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

QUIRKS - ARCHITECTURAL IMPORTS & PARADISE



Quirk (Architecture): an acute angle or channel, as one dividing two parts of a moulding or one dividing a flush bead from the adjoining surfaces. (Dictionary.com)




A quirk is a small articulation between. The pieces included here as ‘quirks’ fall into the gaps ‘between’ in the same way. They gather and divide. While appearing as various insignificant items as a quirk does, eliminate the quirk and everything changes. The pieces are sundry asides to stimulate . . . - well, just to stimulate.




IMPORTS

The recent (April 2013) advertisement for Dr. Who on ABC TV proudly boasts the new series as being “Express from the UK!” It reminds one of immigrant folk in the 1950’s and 60’s who used to speak whimsically of “home” and “the old country,” and boast about how everything was much better there - even the syrup: Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup; “Ah! Nothing like the CSR stuff!” And those bananas! Fyffes!: “Far more tasty!” Indeed, everything was better in the “UK.” Certainly there was no vermin like the flies, mosquitoes, midges and cockroaches in this God-forsaken land of floods, fires and famines. The New Chum's Farewell to Queensland, a long, inventive curse, expresses these sentiments. It concludes:

To stay in thee, O land of Mutton!
I would not give a single button,
But bid thee now a long farewell,
Thou scorching sunburnt land of Hell!




Once travel became available to all, it did not take long to discover how completely wrong all these perceptions about the UK were, and still are - yes, in every way possible.




It occurred to me that this TV programme promotion also appropriately described the staff of one of the newest schools of architecture in Australia - possibly selected using the same criteria as the old visions that saw only things superior when ‘Made in England,’ the preferred message on any purchase in the 50’s and 60’s: real quality, not like the Australian trash!




The strange irony is that after these teaching appointments were made, our Prime started Minister is raging on - it could be a feigned ‘political’ fury - about foreigners taking “Aussie jobs.” There is no necessary connection; but she has sworn that she is going to fight the 457-visa system that is “putting Australians at the end of the queue.” One could ask, “What queue?” in the same way the question has been put for the boat arrivals who have been said to be “jumping the queue.”




As an aside, just a couple of days ago, a boat loaded with 67 people from Shri Lanka arrived at Geraldton in Western Australia. It was the first boat for many years to reach the mainland. This boat takes the total number of arrivals to over 4,500 for the year 2013, and it is only 11th April!



One could also ask why there is no one in Australia who could play an important role in architectural education in this country. And now I recall how one applicant for a position in a school of architecture in Brisbane reportedly turned up at the interview in an Oxford blazer when he had never been near this University. Ah, the power of perceptions. Yes, he got the job over a ‘local’ boy!! No blazer! As the promo said: “Express from the UK!” The implications remain: this has to be better than anything Australian can produce!



Will we ever learn to stop cringing at the ‘old country,’ it accent, (and others to - the problem has expanded to include those from other shores), and its regal stories, and start believing in ourselves? Are we still burdened by the ghosts of the British ‘masters’ who managed the colony full of convicts? If we don’t know it now, it should not take long to discover how completely wrong all these perceptions about the UK are - yes, in every way possible.







PARADISE

This sign was not a promotional advertisement for any TV show even though the BBC’s The Paradise has just finished its run (April 2013). The sign sat beside the highway just east of Grafton in a poor attempt to match ‘the strip’ at Los Angeles. This was a bush setting that lacked any urban identity. The road was just an upgraded track meandering through gum trees and scrub. The huge panel declared in large lettering: “25 minutes to paradise.”



Well, if only. Another quick look at the sign before it was left behind revealed that ‘paradise’ was the settlement of Wooli, a little sleepy hollow on the mouth of the Wooli Wooli River - no this is not a typo!




When asked on a recent showing of Q&A, an ABC TV programme where the audience gets to ask the questions, the Muslim representative was asked, (by the host Tony Jones this time), if the Muslim vision of heaven had houses, streets and the like. “Yes,” was the response.




Goodness, maybe Wooli is ‘paradise’? Who knows? A wonderful old beach shack behind the dune by the ocean could indeed be heaven itself. Such are the Wooli shacks, modest but beautiful pieces of architecture.




We should not modify our definition of architecture just to incorporate the brash, smart and new, or the grand, pompous or pretentious old buildings as Pevsner liked to promote it. Memorably, he declared that a cathedral was architecture, but a bicycle shed was a building. Architecture is more than landmarks made by heroes: much more. We need to come to understand what ‘paradise’ really is as buildings; that there is no difference between a building and architecture other than a descriptive one: different types if you like; not necessarily different qualities. We have no trouble using ‘art’ for all and sundry varieties, in the same way as we accept the varieties in religious experience. Why do we struggle so hard with architecture; to try to make it so unique? Indeed, paradise could very well be at Wooli!



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

MYSTIFYING GORILLA CHASES & ARCHITECTURE



They were both playing with their tablets - the grandchildren. Such are games these days that young folk see their recreational amusements as activities to be undertaken in tandem rather than in any personally interactive situations. The two were sitting in the one room, on the one bed, each playing the identical game on identical tablets.




“What is this game?” was the question used to break into the intense and concerned silent concentration punctuated by the bangs, thumps, skids and growls of the audio effects.

“Oh, it’s a game where you have to run from the gorilla that is chasing you. Oh, no; I’m dead!”

“Gosh, that sounds scary.”

“You have to run, jump, turn, duck to keep up the speed so that he doesn’t catch you.”

“Oh; and how does the game end?”

“It doesn’t.”




Sitting down beside one player allowed the intricacies of the game to be observed. The 3-D runner started from the blocks followed by a huge black gorilla, and charged off down a track that turned ninety degrees frequently, and sometimes broke apart to enforce leaps. Level changes were achieved with suspended cables that could be slid down or along. The game was fast, continuous. Slow down and the gorilla loomed up again close behind, almost touching the runner. Make one mistake, and the runner was dead, having leapt into oblivion or fallen into it. The explanatory text was blunt: You’re dead! Better luck next time! . . or sentiments similar to these.




One had to keep manipulating the runner to ensure that every leap was precise, every turn accurate, and every slide exact. Along the way, as if to complicate matters - or is it just to add ‘interest’? - coins or tokens were arrayed. With a subtle tilting of the tablet, the runner could ‘collect’ these golden pieces in an astonishing blurring buzz that looked like the flicking of pages. The count was added to the accumulated total on each occasion. As an encouragement to the player, this currency could be used to purchase various other runners to get involved in the chase with differing performances and outcomes, all requiring some subtle variation in manipulation or some extra gadget to assist with the escape.




“Have a go.”
”OK.”

“Press this to start,” and the little fingers flashed in like the snap of a starter’s gun, well before one had time to assess the situation, let alone the strategy required.

You’re dead! appeared in no time as the runner charged off into the distance of nowhere, much to the delight of the children.




“Have another go,” and the same finger started the gorilla with as much enthusiasm as previously, with the runner getting to and turning the corner, and the next; and the leap too; only to discover that the ducking manoeuvre had not been anticipated. You’re dead! appeared again. The tablet was handed back graciously, in double death, with the explanation that one might learn better by watching those more skilled than me.

“There’s another one too,” came the excited voice.

“What?”

“There’s another chasing game.”

“Show me.”




After a few finger flicks, train tracks appeared. The scenario was that the boy runner was being chased along the tracks by a railway officer. The offence was never stated. The task was not only to evade the chaser, but also to miss the trains and carriages that were travelling along or parked on the line.




“Show me how it is played.”

The game started with a button press and the boy ran, zigzagging along to miss the trains charging down, and then leaping over parked carriages and barriers, while having to duck under others. It was identical in theme to the gorilla chase. Golden coins were distributed along the track so that the boy runner could ‘collect’ them. Again, these could be used for ‘purchasing’ things like a power board that would facilitate flying, and similar items.

“And how does this game end?”

“It doesn’t.”

“Gosh.”

Indeed, watching this game being played showed that it would go on and on as long as there were no mistakes, trips, crashes or miscalculations, simple fatigue or other diversions. Instead of oblivion, the boy was always finally grabbed by the scruff of the neck by the monster officer who looked much like the gorilla in uniform.




What do these games encourage? What example are they setting? The playing of a game with no end was mystifying. It was merely an endless participation, a happening, that was there to be initiated whenever, and finished however, or when one made a ‘mistake.’ Then it could be put aside to be started again sometime, sooner or later - whenever. This was a different scenario to games that I could recall, games that had rules for engagement, a process and an outcome that was defined by the playing of it. Card games and board games come to mind. To give up and walk away from an unfinished game had something impolite about the act - desertion, the dropping of a commitment to participate. Such an outcome was frowned upon.




It was not as though the difference lay in the numbers playing. Many of these games were for two or more players; others were for one - solitaire: games that were designed for one to play. Still, these had rules, processes and outcomes that had to be complied with. These were an inherent part of the game; indeed, they were the game. To ignore these only allowed one to consider oneself, or to be declared by others, to be a cheat. One game for one comes to mind: the simple triangle with fifteen holes and fourteen pegs. The task is to remove jumped pegs in a sequence such that only one peg is left remaining on the board. These games are sometimes presented as puzzles.



1

2    3

4    5    6

7    8    9    10

11  12  13  14  15




They usually have some nice geometry about them, and some intriguing twists to their outcomes. They always have strict rules, like cribbage, that involves both playing cards and a board. There is nothing irrelevant about these games or in them. They hold a rigour and necessity in their patterning: see below for the ‘answer’ to this triangle puzzle. To participate in such a pastime, there is a beginning that implies an acceptance of the circumstances involved, an implementation of the rules, and an end, all in accordance with due process.




The idea in this overview of games is that architecture has at times been seen as a ‘game,’ a puzzle, a response to a set of conditions using a pattern of facts and circumstances. Indeed, it has been seen as an involvement in a process where one has accepted a certain situation and set of rules and conditions. Architecture, its making, holds the sense of a searching for a resolution that includes the prescribed circumstances seeking a response as guideleines, in whatever complexity that these might choose to present. The response can involve the making of the parts of the puzzle to allow the whole to be put together. The term ‘kit of parts’ identifies the system and its pieces that can be assembled within the rules, somewhat like a Lego building exercise. These can conceptualize possibilities that try to attend to the situation originally posed. Indeed, Lego offers a wonderful analogy for an architectural system - open and inclusive at the same time, allowing for a maximum of flexibility in combinations and outcomes. Brickwork has something of the Lego brick logic, as do other building systems.




But it is not only the making or the building system that holds some sense of rational logic. Modernism grew from concepts such as Sullivan’s ‘form follows function,’ an idea that promoted the ambition for each part of a building, and the building itself, to achieve a form appropriate to its particular function - its demands. There was nothing random in this intent. In a similar manner, more poetically, Kahn gave expression to making buildings with parts that wanted to be that way - “what a thing wants to be.” This idea touched on the possibility of the shaping and making of an object as a way of giving form to its ‘internal necessity,’ a term conceived by Kandinsky. These approaches had rigour, anticipated a certain logic and resulted in an expression that could be identified as an end - the answer to the problem set.




The processes held the patterns of a puzzle just as the conceptualisation and the resolution of the detailing and documentation of a building does. One might explore the broad intent, but the sense of knowing each part, dimension, material, relationship and performance in precise detail requires an approach that is careful, understanding and precise. There is little that is vague or irrational in this piecing together; and there is an end to the ambition also: an achievement.




The tablet games of pursuit hold a different intent: they just keep going. What implication do these have for architecture today? Are we seeing more architecture as an ‘event,’ a ‘happening,’ being there just because it can be? Is architecture replicating the structure of the games that keep going until some ad hoc happening terminates activity? Is there a new randomness being entertained in new work? I am thinking of Dubai, of Gehry, Hadid, and similar outcomes - see http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/o-gehry-oh.html  Is the detailing of places now becoming less rigorous, just being put together to make the part and the whole, however, whatever, irrespective of what the pieces might want to be or how they might want to function together - or need to function as a whole? The question hinted at in The End of the Architect? - see http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/the-end-of-architect.html - needs a response: what is the theory and design of this technological age? If we do not know what we are doing, why and how, what does this mean?




On a broader scale where one might use St.Paul’s ‘faith, hope and charity’ as a general framework to assess a circumstance in life - on the basis that there is some native coherence in this trilogy - the computer pursuit games require faith, but this seems quite limited, internal and exclusively personal: faith in oneself. The games have very little charity - or love. They are really bitter chases into oblivion with the aim to just keep going as long as one can to put off the inevitable: promoting cynicism? As for hope - what hope is there when a game has no end? Just the hope that one might be able to continue, knowing that the end is nigh? Just beginning a game does imply a need for some hope as it does faith, but it gives hope, like faith, a very limited and contrived identity and future rather than offering the delights of the open-ended proposition with the possibility of redemption in a resolution.: a coming together of the pieces, parts and participations: precipitation.




Are our buildings suffering from the same shallow personal intent and private visions as can be seen here? Must attitudes change if more substantial, inclusive outcomes are to be achieved? Is this new amorphous structure a fuzziness that needs interpretation? Is this 'fuzzy logic' in architecture? What does this mean? What gorillas are chasing us? What demons are we seeking to avoid?





See also:






ANSWER:

There must be numerous solutions depending on the location of the hole.

They may indeed all relate to this solution by beginning at different locations in the sequence.

Some experimentation will be needed in order to discover the pattern.

It gets tricky because of the various symmetries in the diagram.

This solution has a nice inversion about it.

It starts with the hole at the apex and finishes with the one peg in the lower centre hole.

Just knowing one solution gives one confidence to discover others - maybe rearranged sequences.

It also gives more substance to the puzzle by making it more than a decorative enigma.

Here is one approach:

(refer to diagram for position numbers)

Move peg 6 into hole 1; remove peg 3.

The code for this sequence is:

P6 - H1 - XP3

Now the rest:

P4 - H6 - XP5

P10 - H3 - XP6

P1 - H6 - XP3

P11 - H4 - XP7

P2 - H7 - XP4

P13 - H4 - XP8

P4 - H11 -XP7

P11 - H13 - XP12

P14 - H12 - XP13

P6 - H 13 - XP9

P12 - H14 - XP13

P15 - H13 - XP14