Posted by: hick0188 | January 19, 2012

we’ve made contact…

Well, we’ve made direct contact!  Not the Jodie Foster kind, rather I received a response from Mark, the Superintendent of the Mahtomedi School District.  We are planning to meet next Tuesday at Wildwood.  I’m pretty excited to meet him and begin to have some discussions with some of the players who are directly involved.  I think he is interested in meeting as well, I think this relationship can be pretty good for all parties involved.  I keep questioning in my mind what I’ve already written in other posts, so if I repeat myself, just blame it on my poor memory.  I’m pushing 30; so I’m no spring chicken anymore.  Or as my grandpa said as he was approaching 75, “I’m not 70 anymore.”  I guess they don’t quite hold the same weight, just forgive me if I repeat myself.

Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting my Pecah Kucha style presentation.  I just finished it and I think it should be pretty entertaining.  I realized that if I did try and upload it, nobody would get it, as the verbal is such a big part.  I was just practicing a little in my head, it’s tough to stay on track and talk to the images.  (Remember, it is 20 slides with a continuous 20 seconds per slide.) 6:40 total.

Weekend goals and assignments:  region/site analysis, adaptive reuse precedents/research, 100 words each of three categories (I have it written at studio, but I’m not there tonight, so I don’t remember what they are)

PS.  I got over to the rec tonight for some basketball, it does wonders for the sanity, and I hope to keep this up for the entirety of the semester.  It probably couldn’t hurt the waistline either!!!

Posted by: hick0188 | January 18, 2012

back to school…

I went to a restaurant tonight; let’s just say it rhymes with “He-man fin,” a place where I continually get adequate-at-best food.  For some reason I still go back from time to time.  After I finished eating, I read my fortune cookie and was impressed with the timing of the first portion of the message.  It read, “Now go to it!”  I thought that was a great omen for my first official day of my thesis.  It is very ambitious and forward thinking, the second part of the message however…I’m not so sure.  The second part read, “It’s ready to be pick.”  I’ll just stick to the first advice!

If you look close, you'll see a 'He-man fin'

Now that I’ve digressed an appropriate amount to peak your interest, I’ll get to the task at hand.  Today was the first day of class, both for my TA (teaching assistant) position as well as for Studio (MFP class).  The TA stuff this morning was fine, I was a TA for this class last year, so it should be fairly straightforward.  Studio began with an added bonus for me, our section is located in the position that I was in last semester, therefore I didn’t have to move my desk or the mini-blinds I have on my window.  So, we started on a good note.  Now to the project…

I met with Dave at the end of studio; I was worried that he might be running on fumes, as I was the last student that he met with.  This will be the typical situation for the semester as we set up times to meet; I chose the last slot of the day, which is where I like to typically go.  I do hope that being the last one doesn’t leave me with a tired critic, which I don’t necessarily expect.   When I spoke with Dave, I basically spilled my guts for about 10 minutes, about how I got to this point.  He seemed to think this can become a good project and seconded (maybe ‘thirded’) the sentiments that both Mary and George have had about making sure that I don’t get distracted by what the so-called client is looking for.  Rather I need to determine where my project will go, and it may deviate, but to not allow myself to do things just to please others.  I am aware of this, but will need to keep this in mind throughout the process.

I was encouraged to look at other abandoned schools that have been reclaimed and reused for something new.  I can see this being very helpful; doing a good precedent study will be at the top of my study list for a while.  Also, there are some ways in which I would like to frame my project, providing some sort of focus such as: water, daylight, sustainability, etc.  I have some ideas as to what that may become but I need to continue my research before I get too crazy into one thing.  Plus, I think there should be different levels of a lot of good ideas, but with emphasis on a select few.  Additionally, I will be researching the city and neighborhood in great depth in the next few weeks.

I feel like the suggestions given today are what I would have anticipated, I suppose being in my third year and working for a couple of years in an office, it should be of no surprise how one begins a project.  I’m excited to get into some of the site analysis and precedent studies.

Lastly, we were given our assignment for Friday, which is a presentation in the style of “PechaKucha.” Essentially you have 20 slides and 20 seconds each.  So, we will be producing a quick presentation about what we are planning on doing our research on.  I’ve got a few fun ideas to keep it interesting, we’ll see how it goes.

PS.  I’d like to figure out a way to upload larger files to this blog, let me know if you have any great ideas.  I’ll look into it a little more on this end.

PSS.  Don’t worry, I didn’t miss the bus:

Posted by: hick0188 | January 17, 2012

off and running…

Well this morning started with a voicemail from George.  I’m not sure how I missed his call, but I did, because all of a sudden I had a voicemail.  I listened to it and then called him back.  After a little work, we finally had a good half hour long conversation about the potential for the project.  George seems like a pretty genuine guy, so I am glad he has been my first contact.  His personal agenda lies with affordable housing and a group called MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing) .  I can tell he is a man of strong faith, that of which I can appreciate, personally being raised in that type of environment also.  George serves on the Mahtomedi Planning Commission and has some contacts on the school board.  He has already made contact with a few gentlemen whom I hope to speak with in the coming days.  One name that has come up, is Kevin Donovan, he is a Director on the school board.  Also, the Superintendant of the Mahtomedi school district, Mark Larson, has come up in conversation.

I imagine Mark and Kevin will be my direct contacts and I look forward to beginning conversations about this project with them.  Until I do speak with them, there is plenty of upfront research I can do.  Also, tomorrow will be the first day of class, which will be good to start to discuss with my professor.  I think that will be a good conversation to have at this point in the semester.

Posted by: hick0188 | January 17, 2012

the real deal, i think…

I think I have come across my “diamond in the rough,” a project that has come to me in an unusual manner, but immediately sparked my interest.  It is not necessarily the most glamorous project; it does not reside in some foreign land or soar to great heights.  It does however achieve some of the goals that I believe I have secretly and maybe even subconsciously been searching for.  A couple simple qualities including:  a realistic client, actual site I can visit, ability to transform and reuse an existing structure, and lastly the potential to design an athletic complex in some fashion.

As I had been having second thoughts about my previous idea (Wilson Place), I had begun to frantically search for projects and ideas that would appease my sense of what this thesis would bring.  I had reexamined a few of the items listed as runners up, finding none that I was immediately sold on either.  I took another look at the class thesis website created by Gayla  and to my delight came across this lonely little ad for a potential project. Here’s the link to the description that I read, #2 on the left under ‘Possible Spring Projects.’

After reading the description, I did a little detective work, which involved going online and seeing what the site looks like.  Also, I downloaded the City of Mahtomedi Comprehensive Plan 2008-2030:  A Vision to Sustain Our “Small Town” City.  I scanned the document and began to get a sense of what the city is about and where they are going as a community.  I do have a little personal history with Mahtomedi, but I will save that for another day when things slow down.

I emailed Mary (Guzowski) right away and was happy to hear back from her pretty quickly.  This turned into a good discussion about priorities and what I want to get out of my MFP.  Our discussion brought up a few good points that I hope will transpire positively.  First, making sure that I frame my project based on what I want to get out of it, insuring I focus on my interests.  Secondly, in pursuing this project, I need to make sure that I focus on my first point and not allow the “client” to direct my thesis more than they should.

In my mind, there is a fine line drawn between my thesis and their project.  Although I would like to use their school and site as a basis for my MFP, they in turn would like to see me come up with ideas for how the site can be redeveloped.  I guess when I write it like that, it seems like we should be able to have a pretty symbiotic relationship.  My one concern is program, the initial description listed several program possibilities, only a couple of which truly interested me.  I fear that I may be pushed to look at some of the other programs that don’t interest me as much.  With this said, I think it will be important to do some significant research upfront in order to discover what this school should become.

Well, after my discussion with Mary, I was feeling reassured that this would become my project, so I took a little field trip up to Mahtomedi to do a few drive-bys.  I drove around the town for 2-3 hours, which is a long time considering there are only 5 sq. miles in the city limits, 1.4 sq. miles of which is water.  The site impressed me, 8.5 acres off one of the semi-main roads in town.  The building itself is larger than I anticipated and the site has a little more topography than I thought also.  I am pretty excited about this site and have already been coming up with some fun ideas.  I continued to drive around and get to know the city a little better.  I came across a couple of churches that certainly made an impression on me.  Particularly, take a look at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church by Locus Architecture as photographed by Peter J. Sieger

I’m moving forward with this project, I’ve contacted one of our initial contacts, George Gorbatenko.  He has begun to contact a few others in which I hope to be in contact with shortly.  I believe there will be some upfront meetings with school board officials, maybe even the superintendant.  Also, I would like to meet with some of the city officials in order to make some contacts at that level.

I only say ‘I think’ in my title because I haven’t technically heard back from the people I should probably hear back from before I just claim this as my own.  But with that said, I have faith that this will work out and I will hear back tomorrow!

Posted by: hick0188 | January 17, 2012

the prequel…

As I have thought about thesis (let me just say, thesis and MFP are interchangeable in my vocabulary, so don’t get confused) for approximately the last 9 months, I have come up with plenty of ideas.  I think there has been some self-imposed pressure to come up with the most brilliant and world changing project, that I may have overlooked a few good ideas in search of that special gem.

I will begin by discussing my first runner up (in honor of my fellow Wisconsinite, who won Miss America last weekend).  This project began as a possible extension of a presentation I created for a class I had last Fall, “American Housing: Histories and Cultures,” with Kate Solomonson.  The project allowed for a pretty broad range of topics related to housing; I chose to research and eventually create a presentation of an historical house that is located in my hometown of Menomonie, Wisconsin.  The house is called ‘the Wilson Place,’ and was home to three very significant families in the history of Menomonie. Additionally, the house itself had undergone very drastic stylistic changes through the years, beginning as a Colonial, then a Queen Anne, and exists today as a Mediterranean Villa.  Also of note, during the first major remodel, the grounds were landscaped by the firm Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot (Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm as taken over by his son and step-son).

Wilson Place

All of this was very interesting to research and learn about, however, my problem came in how to turn that into a thesis project.  I had ideas (and would still like to contribute to this beyond school) about helping to get the house certified under different historical preservation designations.  I thought there could be some meat in determining what it would take to get National & State Historical Registration.  I became concerned with my ability to both continue to look at this project for the 15-week term of my thesis semester as well as in some way have a design element to the project as well.  I spoke with Gayla Lindt, one of my MFP advisors (kinda) and she thought that it was possible to make this project work for a thesis.  I don’t doubt her, as the suggestions she gave me were good, i.e. designing multiple versions of the future for the house, however, I have different ideas for how my thesis might develop and that wasn’t necessarily what I had in mind.

I think this is important to mention here, I don’t know exactly how the project I have chosen will end up, I think the starting point and ending point 15 weeks from now will be very different.  I think that ending point will be pretty far from where I anticipate it going also.  With this said, it’s possible that I would have really liked where a project involving the Wilson Place ended up, my decision is based on my apprehension as to how it would begin.

I don’t believe this will be the end of my involvement with the Wilson Place project.  I truly do want to be involved with the historical preservation and designation of the house.  It is too great of a house and holds too much significance to just go away.  And I’m afraid that unless there is some additional funding in the future, that is what may happen to it.  I chose to do a presentation of the house rather than a typical paper because I would like to contribute the work I did to the historical society in town in order that some of the information that was gathered will be documented beyond my academic setting.

Below are some other ideas (sites, buildings and specific programs) that were in the running in the last year.

Miss Congeniality and the other runners up –

Hamm’s Brewery, Minneapolis

Saint Paul Saints Stadium

Vikings Stadium (even though I dislike them strongly)

Metrodome, Minneapolis

Terrace Center Theater, Robbinsdale

Soria City, Mississippi (Community Design)

North Minneapolis (Housing/tornado relief)

Posted by: hick0188 | January 16, 2012

and so it begins…

the beginning

I would like to welcome you to my Masters Final Project (MFP) blog.  I will be using this blog as a means to work through my thoughts by writing, document my progress, seek help and ideas from others and probably provide an outlet for myself during this last semester of my college career.  I don’t know what to expect with the blog and only have a few other expectations about MFP in general, so this will be an interesting and exciting few months ahead.

I am ready to begin this process and I’m in luck as we will begin officially on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.  So we are just shy of two days until blast off, so strap in.  I’ve already noticed that I will write this as if there is a large following of readers although I am fully aware it’s pretty much going to be me and my inner monologue who are keeping up with this.

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