Tag Archives: architecture

Weekly Photo Challenge: Manmade

I love spending time outside, appreciating the breathtaking beauty of nature.  The brilliant blues of the waves crashing on the shore, bees buzzing near vibrant blossoms, colorful sunsets and more…  Yet, sometimes I find myself in places where nature’s beauty takes a backseat and I find myself noticing interesting manmade creations.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.  It wasn’t nighttime, so I didn’t get to star gaze and experience the telescope…but the building is spectacular!

IMG_6741

The beautiful sunny day created a perfect backdrop for the architecture of this building.  And from another angle, you can see the dome that houses the telescope.

IMG_6738

Indoors, there are many informative exhibits–open to the public, free of charge, everyday!  From the Foucault’s pendulum to the design of the windows, this is an extraordinary place.

IMG_6772

While I didn’t get to go in where the current telescope operates, this “retired” version was on display. I am struck by its intricacies and beauty!

IMG_6745

And looking out from the park, you can see the LA skyline from one side and then spy the iconic Hollywood sign in the other direction.

IMG_6748

And sometimes interesting isn’t necessarily beautiful.  A trip to LA is almost always accompanied by traffic–and this trip was no different.  But since I wasn’t the driver this time around, I could take some photos out the window.  I was interested in watching the train that traversed the freeway…although the moving car didn’t allow me the best angle!

IMG_6736

So take a look around for photos that feature the manmade.  Where do you find manmade beauty or objects of interest?  Is it in the architecture?  In the technology or transportation available?  Something right in front of your eyes that you hadn’t paid attention to?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #manmade for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Take a look at the manmade this week…what do you notice?  I can’t wait to experience manmade (or womanmade) through your lens!

Architecture as Inspiration

As I walked around Chicago last week I found myself looking up.  The buildings are tall and dramatic and command attention.  They reflect, they shine, they tower, they beckon.  And I noticed them in all their variety.

This billboard caught my eye, especially with the skyscrapers rising behind it, and I stopped to snap a photo.

DSC06018

And I started thinking about architecture and its implications.  I hadn’t thought about architecture as a conversation–across time or otherwise.  I notice architecture and have written about it before in some different ways including this post, but hadn’t thought about how architects consider existing structures when they design new buildings.  Chicago is such an interesting collection of old and new, with more classical pieces from the past standing shoulder to shoulder with the new and shiny.

DSC06038

I hadn’t thought about how space…whether the building fills the entire lot or allows space for people to walk in courtyards and open spaces below and between…can either make a city feel crowded and cramped,

DSC06572

or open and airy.

DSC06527

Or that reflections of other buildings can feel welcoming, like trying on what it feels like to walk in another’s shoes.

DSC06511

Or that echoing aspects of a previous and nearby architecture honors and acknowledges that structure as the field also moves forward (and up)!

DSC06566

Some buildings seem to take us back in time,

DSC06612

and some take us back into history.

DSC06714

And as I write this, I am beginning to see those conversations across time.  I am also seeing the ways that architects can ensure that newcomers are good neighbors and find ways to embrace the old while looking forward to the future.

DSC06678

Can architectural decisions change the ways we interact with each other?  Do those tall buildings whisper in our ears, reminding us to be good neighbors, to learn from our past, to reach out and welcome change?  Inspiration can come in may forms…including the buildings around us.

In the words of Winston Churchill,

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.

I know that architecture and interesting buildings inspire my photography…and now I am thinking about how it also inspires the ways we live, especially in big cities. Now I need to take some time and wander my own city center and explore its architecture more carefully!

Architecture: The Structure of Learning

We have a beautiful urban park here in San Diego.  Open space, trees, a lily pond, fountains, trails, museums and restaurants…including some ornate and historic architecture that dates back to the Panama-California exhibition in 1915.  In these storied surroundings, I’ve been spending time with a group of formal and informal educators investigating ways to improve school field trips through a project we call Intersections.  (I’ve written before about it here and here.)

As I spent the day at the San Diego Natural History Museum today, observing a group of high school students on a field trip, I found myself thinking about architecture.

IMG_4641

As the educator-researchers in our group discussed what we observed watching students during their field trip today, our conversation moved to the carefully planned structures that support students’ independence and dispositions toward learning.  Field trips have traditionally depended on adult-centered structures that keep students “on-task,” ensuring that the trip has documented educational value in the form of completed packets of answered questions rather than trusting students to be interested in what they find in front of them.

Over lunch, our Intersections leadership team chatted with an external evaluator–a part of our larger National Science Foundation grant– about our observations and tentative conclusions. And we found ourselves thinking about and talking about all the learning that happens that we are not able to document.  When we take students outside the classroom, what are we hoping for?  What can they learn that the classroom environment doesn’t offer?  And why then, do we keep trying to make field trips more like school?

As I look at this photo of a young woman using her cell phone to photograph an owl, I wonder how we encourage students to use tools and processes they use outside of school to support their own learning.  How will this student use this photograph?  What was she aiming for as she composed the image?  How can students’ digital lives interact in positive ways with their school lives?

IMG_4653

And as my colleague described her understanding of the development of social capacity, a concept important in her binational work, my understanding of the learning that happens on field trips continued to evolve.  A field trip is not a classroom lesson, it is a social event, a shared learning experience outside the school environment.  And while students certainly learn some content, they are also developing social capacity–as representatives of their school and class in a public arena.  They are navigating unfamiliar spaces, coming in contact with people they don’t usually see, interacting with adults–docents, volunteers, vendors, scientists, researchers–and exploring materials not present in their classrooms and schools.

IMG_4648

And in the best of situations they are figuring out how to interact with the space, people, and information in meaningful ways.  I loved this informal game I observed today…a chaperone and his group spontaneously started counting the animals they spied in this coastal sage environment.  Someone saw 9…and another saw 12, someone else saw 15.  They started pointing them out to each other, looking closely, naming what they saw.

IMG_4647

And another researcher watched a pair of students challenge each other on the native/nonnative quiz in the patio area.  The goal was to win…and the game was calling on prior knowledge and combining it with what they were observing in the exhibit.  And they were having fun…being social, laughing, enjoying themselves…and learning.

So what is the underlying architecture of a successful field trip…that structure that enables students to engage in learning on their own terms?  That takes advantage of the place and the richness of expertise and artifacts that aren’t present in the classroom?  And that honors the beauty and elegance of learning…not for a grade or a test, but because we are inspired and motivated to learn because we are learners–driven to make sense of our world, on our own terms.

IMG_4652