Archive for the Alternative Architecture Category

Why Would an Artist Architect write a book on Economics & Politics??

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Economics, Environmentalism, Organic Development, Philosophy, Politics, Sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2017 by Drogo

Wealth inequality is on the rise.

What does that mean for regular people?

Rising wealth inequality nationally means the rich are getting richer, more drastically than before; and the poor are getting poorer, which means they will soon have the rights of displaced Native Americans from 100 years ago. Imagine how that might affect minorities like many blacks and natives who already have the poverty of third-world countries, but are required to pay the fees of first-world plutocrats and corporate cronies?

Most of us are still feeling the Great Recession in our daily lives. The national economic ‘growth’ data that popular economists use, shows that after the corporate bail-outs sectors of our economy grew. Can you guess what percentage of the population benefited from that growth? About 1%.

Many of us middle-class people are losing our wealth when we try to sell our homes because of banker-real-estate fraud on the buyer’s behalf, devaluing old homes in areas of slow growth and using tax money to build new developments which makes a few rich while we get poorer without as many jobs, because money has been drained from the middle to go to the top.

I remember when I first noticed corporate take-over locally in the 1990’s when Walmarts began ‘out-competing’ all the mom-and-pop small family owned stores, and almost monopolized the market even for large franchise chains. Cable-companies made fortunes stringing wires around the country, into rural areas, competing with ‘WV state-flowers’ and antenna TV. Larger companies replaced smaller ones, every-where.

It is time to change the system, but it is not all or nothing. There are elements of alternative systems every-where in history, and around us in America today. If we do not have a right to live, our leaders do not have a right to rule, because they enforce the laws that make us unable to provide for ourselves, laws which we need to take responsibility to change.

Power for the people, and by the people is a constant struggle. ‘Power to the people’! We have to take the power back, from the plutocrats. Economics and politics are combined in America as a corrupt form of crony ‘State Capitalism’. No conspiracy or theory is needed to explain the reality of how corporations function, it is notoriously blatant and commonly accepted as ‘just the way things are’; so without defining every popular economic term that Madoff and Greenspan advocated, I will try to high-light the problems that affect most of us and propose solutions.

“People Power!!!” – AMM (Appalachian Mountain Militia)

I do not expect people to take my word as total truth. I want average people to get interested in how our system works, by helping them to feel that they can make a difference simply by beginning to question the establishment in intelligent ways. I am not a professional economist, I am studying finance as a hobby. For this book I am able to put forth theories by other economists, scientists, and philosophers; by rewording or quoting them. There are millions of people that disagree with my opinions, and I will not include all the information that a basic or advanced economic book would; but I will do my best to interpret and phrase jargon with references as best I can.

I designed and published SCOD Thesis in 1999 to address alternative ways to live. I was mocked by some students and professors for wanting to build a ‘commune’. It was considered absurd to be interested in village design that was not able to be financed by rich clients or the government, for ‘profit’.

I accepted the responsibility that I was a radical rebel, and system out-cast in college when I began to learn more about adult subjects, and got a clearer impression how the business world worked. My experience as a college graduate trying to ‘earn a living’ by selling myself to anyone willing to pay me, was even more discouraging and depressing.

As a drafting assistant, design partner, professor of architecture, and architectural adviser I was so in debt that any money I made had to go directly to pay debt bills, and did not allow me to save for the basics of middle-class property and personal benefit expectations that were promised to come to everyone that played by the rules of the system (higher education = more income). I found those platitudes to be hollow, even for many like me who wanted to find a life-long career within ‘good’ firms. Well it was clear the world for practicing architects was changing from what it had been. I did work with my father for years, and as partners we completed many designs and built many projects; however we made very little profit.

My father and I were successful designers, but that success did not transfer financially. Part of the reason capitalism did not work for us, was that many clients were poor, and even the rich wanted to save money. My father out of the kindness of his heart and joy to serve others, and enthusiasm for his craft, would charge fees that may have gone further during the 1970s. Combine low pay with the rise in cost of living, inflation, and this is why my mother had to support our family by working commercial retail at Walmart and teaching at schools; both jobs luckily she enjoyed as best she could. I worked many other jobs besides architecture, sometimes 5 jobs a month, and always actively found back-up jobs and projects that kept me busy. Despite only having one family car and very few luxuries for middle-class, we saw our wealth diminish no matter how hard we worked, and no matter how many clients we had.

I lived within my means, on the budget of a lower-class individual, while striving to serve the public as a middle-class citizen educated by ‘higher institutions of education’. I did not ‘drop-out’ of the system, the system was not interested in using me for the purpose that my education, psychology, and skill-set allowed. I still continue to live in this way, which I feel is the best I can do with what I have available to me.

I do not say these things to complain that my family suffered more than lower-class people, or disabled people (who can easily be disenfranchised by society and the system). I am not comparing how we lived to how other classes live, the point of being honest about my middle-class family experience is to show why I believe that alternative economic systems are important. I have always been interested in the definition of economics, and silly questions like “why do we say ‘trade & barter’ if those terms are synonyms?”. My favorite question as a child was “what makes a unit of something worth anything?”; or more humorously “can we just start using bottle caps or shells as money?”. I still think those types of questions are good.

Professionals whose public speeches, books, and conversations I have studied include Dr. Dean Baker, Prof. Noam Chomsky, Prof. Mark Blyth, Prof. Michael Hudson, politicians Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Jeremy Corbyn, and many others.

Regardless I think it is always good to hear that other people suffer from a type of economic exchange we could call the ‘oops I should have asked for more” syndrome. So I will try to include a few of those stories too for you. Enjoy the most boring theories you never thought might affect you, and keep on keepin’ on.

If I understand some economists correctly, they are saying we are living in a period like the 1920s when all growth was in the stock market; it was considered ‘capital gain’ but was really ‘striping assets’; which resulted in the Stock Market Crash and Great Depression. No pressure people.

Jeremy Corbyn in the Labor (Labour) Party in England, makes Bernie Sanders look like a centrist about public policies.

“For the many, not the few.” – Corbyn Labour party platform

“Our challenge to a rigged system, is bound to meet hostility. Change always involves taking on vested interests. The stakes are very high.” – Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour Party 2017

Great experimentation with individual and social action must take place now! I have been writing and publishing essays on Teaching, Colleges, Jobs, and systemic economic problems and solutions. In 2017 I am producing a series of recordings and essays on ‘SCOD Economics’. This Economic series includes interviews and biographies across disciplines, and intends to address both present injustices and futurist hopes.

We will discuss injustice within our educational and political system, that adversely affects people with alternative thoughts or theories that are not accepted by the conventional establishment corporate ideology frame-work that contains and controls most of the World. We are given their propaganda that “we can all have any job we want, so long as we try hard and get good grades”. Our reality based on my experience is more like “most of us can have at least a minimum-wage job with few benefits, for a limited amount of time, without job security, pathetic interest for savings accounts, the job we find may be against our own interests, and those who cannot get good grades or are bad at following orders get nothing and will probably end up in jail or homeless”. Despite these problems which I have personally witnessed and experienced, the final goal of the series is to plan for a better more sustainable tomorrow for future generations; even if the series conclusions are largely ignored within our life-times. Historic record has some worth.

From the book – SCOD Economics: Alternative Economic Theories

Economics affects everyone, even those that do not want to be concerned with money or finances. This book is a summary of alternative economic commentaries that emphasize democratic ethics. The Sustainable Cooperative for Organic Development believes in valuing human lives as responsible environmental stewards for our biosphere called Earth, and seeks ways to allow for biodiversity in civilization as well as the ecosystem. We believe in less monopolies, less corporate crony politics, less corruption in government, and more ways to support various ways of life and provide future generations with the ability to provide for themselves. Please let’s work together to leave something for the children that is worth inheriting.

 – Drogo Empedocles

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Faery Architecture

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Fictional Stories, Sculpture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 10, 2016 by Drogo

Faery Architecture – from Harpers Faery Chronicles

Homes are often an important part of our life sagas. Also homes can tell stories through the architecture and art on the walls. Dwellings are places where stories are told and rigamaroles take place, which we interpret. Faery architecture uses organic shapes and natural materials, altered by magic.

Faery home shapes are traditionally round in various ways. Popular inspirations for circle plans with curved walls and domes include the Sun, the Moon, and tree trunks (cylinders). Ovals and ellipses are found also, like giant eggs.

Faery earth building materials are usually wood, stone, and mud. The mud is best applied as a mortar or stucco clay plaster. Wooden branches, sticks, rope, and décor are gathered from bushes, trees, vines, river reeds, meadow thatch, and wild flowers. Rock is often quarried or mined by dwarves or gnomes, and used to with or without wood or mud. Rock can hold wood, or be held by wood. These materials were used independently, or in any combination.

Faery style: ‘Round Rock, Round Mound, & Bound Bough’

Round – sun, moon, tree trunks, eggs

Wood – bushes, trees, reeds, vines, flowers

Stone – shale, lime-stone, and calcium-quartz

Soil – mud, clay, mound, berm, silt-gravel, sand

Faeries can build and live in more human types of buildings, and will still make their mark on them. Rectangular masonry, timber-frame, and half-timber structures may be modified to distinguish them physically as ‘fae’. One way is to add ‘eyes’.

Faery gypsies, pioneers, and scouts often craft make-shift structures that look like fallen branches or vine covered bushes. Moss is a very earthy plant, and lichen is an algae fungus; both of which are used along with ferns commonly on faerie mounds or berms.

Smaller faerie homes were often just hidden from sight; in trees, mounds, or under cliff rocks called mini-bluffs.

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NIKE: Nuclear Incidents Kindle Enlightenment

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Fictional Characters, Memorials / Obituaries / Epitaphs, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2016 by Drogo

[Essay for NIKE T-shirt design]

N uclear

I ncidents

K indle

E nlightenment

Davros lives! The Cold War was over, and the archetypal design war was on! The underground silos for NIKE nuclear missiles were flooded and silently waiting on the outskirts of campus. The technicians of NIKE became genetically cultivated to be a new breed of outcast architects. They marched forth from the icy North Lot, bent on extermination and rule of the Earth. Davros sent seekers to comb the Jetty, searching for model supplies. The white-caps had multiplied, spawning sports fans like a vast sea of soapy dish water. The white-caps became a grey race of skippies. NIKE is removed from time, held in suspension in a parallel dimension; perched on the edge of oblivion. We watch for survivors and plan our thought crimes. The day will come when we will storm forth again from the snowy North Lot like a cloud of ice locust, and commence the dawn of a brave new world of double-think.

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SCOD Hybrid Design

Posted in Adaptive Reuse, Crafts, Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2016 by Drogo

‘All or nothing’ is the same mentality that causes gridlock in Congress, and starts wars. In historic and environmental circles, there are many hypocritical idealists and intolerant purists. Puritanical authoritarian attitude leads to inhumane imbalances in politics, as found in Nazis, and my ancestors ‘the Puritans’ who not only killed witches, but also stray Quakers. As radical as Bernie Sanders seems compared to main-stream Hillary, or far-right Trump; he still would barely scratch the surface of our socio-economic problems or ecological design work that needs to significantly change the paradigm. But Sanders would be a good start to help shift pop-culture a bit further to the left socially, as Obama allowed somewhat.

The SCOD way of reasoning, is that it is better to preserve larger portions of nature when planning architecture. If over 50% of a farm can be kept for growing food, and wilderness conservation for-ever (as long as can be predicted reasonably and indefinitely), then regardless of the details of any historic, artistic, or ecological architectural combinations; the master plan is a success overall.

Hybrid cultural appropriation and poly-synthetic blending is a natural part of history. Race is an artificial term, to distinguish superficial differences between homo-sapiens. New-Age multiculturalism celebrates social and religious diversity, and encourages exchange and adaptation. Enlightened New-Age spirituality runs parallel with advances in science; such as the importance of bio-diversity, relativity, quantum theory, and mathematical fractals.

Cultural pride is not hatred of others; what this statement means to me, is I can love Celtic music and mythology, and not hate other cultures. I can even love cultures that are not my own, and adopt what interests me into my own celebrations and studies in life; regardless of snobs that say I am not worthy because it disrespects cultural purity. Obviously I can be sensitive to cultures that have been abused, but I am fine with Africans wearing torcs and crowns like those in the museums of Europe. I would love that. We should share and celebrate each-others historic cultures, while helping to create new World cultural traditional blends. None of it was ever pure, and we will continue mixing and remixing all things.

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Architectural Psychology

Posted in Alternative Architecture with tags , , , , on May 28, 2015 by Drogo
There are many psychological factors in architecture; because buildings are often made by humans for humans to use for many reasons. I say often, because I believe that art and architecture are also practiced by other animals like beavers and birds; which I may address later in further digressions. Architecture is sculpture for shelter and living in; so it is functional art.
When I taught Environmental Architecture and Historic Preservation classes at Shepherd College, psychology and philosophy played a part in my lessons. As Professor Daniel Puchala indicated when he approached me about guest lecturing on this subject “the effects that architecture has on a person’s well-being and work productivity level” are worthy of study and certainly very important.
Most people are consciously or sub-consciously aware of architectural psychology in their daily lives. We feel various emotions as we react and interact within our homes, offices, workshops, and class-rooms. Even as we approach structures, they evoke feelings within us.
Assuming that self-awareness and existential philosophy is important, I would like to provoke our brains to think about architectural psychology. What are the emotions we feel around or in various physical constructs? How should we process these feelings regarding built structures and space? Does the architecture in our lives hinder our functions or does it enhance our well-being?? Certainly the feng-shui of our lives is mixed and complex, as the Yin/Yang Tao symbol indicates in abstract simplicity.
I want to ASK you, how you feel about different buildings, structures, and spaces. Then we can compare the design intention, with the actual function, and our personal power to utilize it. So let us first address how feelings relate to architecture. Psychological associations play a HUGE role in design. The mental aspects relate to, and go beyond the physical function of structures. How do you feel about your home, inside and out? How do you feel about your surroundings, urban or rural?? How do you feel about the places you take daily trips to consume, work, and play???
Where are you when you feel your daily best? Where are you when you feel your daily worst? Are there architectural design factors you would change about your life, if you could change them? There seems to be a give and take in life, in that we can shift from setting to another; some designs may be better, but other features may be worse; yet the challenge of life is to accept the mixed bag we are dealing with or have been dealt, as best we can; until our situations change. Some lives and spaces are constantly changing.
Spaces are defined by materials around them, and also by the air itself. Air quality is important for any creature with lungs, both the flow rate, and the chemicals and particles in it. Scale is also important; some people are larger or smaller than others. ‘Occupancy’ is how many people can safely fit into a space, at maximum capacity; considering both space scale, and load bearing on the structural engineering.
Structures can be temporary or permanent, and those labels are used to indicate the time period of their existence ‘in situ’ or on site. Some ‘temporary’ structures were built supposedly for only a limited fleeting use, but remain for years; and other more ‘permanent’ structures fall apart or get demolished much sooner than expected. The Law of Entropy states that nothing lasts forever, all things decay in time; but some architecture will last longer with less maintenance, than other less stable designs. Sustainability deals with the desirability of temporal or permanent designs.

Generic Design Process: by Stowell Architects

  1. Accept – the situation & recognize the problem; Clients
  2. Analyze – what it is; Site Survey; existing conditions study
  3. Define – plan how it will look, how it goes together
  4. Select – the correct plan; sign contracts; settle payments
  5. Implement – build; get legal approval; schedule contractors
  6. Evaluate & Maintain – follow up studies
AP Project: Design your ideal bed-room. Draw on paper 4 walls, floor, and ceiling; or however the room is defined (spherical, octagonal, or outdoors). Uses include sleeping, dreaming, waking, dressing, socializing, etc…

Tornado Architecture

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Organic Architecture, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2013 by Drogo

BUILD UNDERGROUND!!!

As an architect, this has been my consistent advice for all people living within tornado areas. Sure underground construction costs a few thousand more than most crappy track houses, but it is worth it when you know that having a normal house makes you an easy target for the common natural disasters that occur in that area. Government (State or Federal) should get with it, and supply financial incentives to get most homes underground now! There is no reason to wait. If you want to keep your house and most things in your house safe, you need an underground house; not just a separate storm shelter or basement.

I would never live in an area that has tornadoes without living in an underground house, if I had any money or respect for life at all.

– Drogo Empedocles

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Savannah, Georgia

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Historic Architecture, Organic Architecture, Recommendations & Tributes, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Drogo

Historic Architecture, Environmental Landscape, and Urban Social Art

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Savannah has the historic integrity of an ivy-league campus, yet for the poor as well as rich. Yes, it is very much the old pirate ‘Port Royal’ still, but in some ways it also surpasses the nobility of elite university campuses. Even the SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) campus is spread throughout the city, and SCAD classes are held in renovated industrial buildings, often with Richardsonian strength; so that liberal education is fully-integrated with the city. As far as competing with modern industrial metropolitan cities, Savannah has plenty of modern and post-modern architecture, and SCAD teaches cutting-edge technology; but it has no desire to be as massively impersonal as New York, or any other major city.

Savannah urban design is overwhelmingly utopian, despite there being dystopian flavors as well. The main streets force cars to either park or drive around the eleven park squares (circuses), while pedestrians can go straight through on sidewalks and bike lanes. It is easy to find any place in the formal city because there are no diagonal streets, one tall building in the middle (DeSoto Hotel), and a few tall buildings downtown parallel with the Savannah River. The downtown main-streets (River Street) on Saint Patrick’s Day are celebrated on par with Mardi-Gras. There are so many unique aspects to Savannah, from its very origins. The basic ‘Roman encampment’ grid urban layout is flavored by multiple circuses with vegetation. Live-oaks, palms, and crepe-myrtle trees are naturally hung with Spanish moss. From sandy soil hedges, herbs, flowers and grasses are also publicly grown for the enjoyment of all.

I will find out more about the city founders, besides Oglethorpe; specifically the Native American chief of the local Creek Indians, because he seems to deserve the same level of respect as the English founder, Oglethorpe. The British and Indians were friends, and one of the largest monuments in a prominent park is dedicated to the Indian Chief’s grave. Southern hospitality is less surface courtesy in Savannah, and more a part of its essence; in regards to integration of whites and blacks, international representation, multi-culturalism, and willingness to welcome even enemies (like General Sherman during the Civil War).

There are several ways to consider the social types that comprise the ‘daily population’ of Savannah. There are five basic social types; the rich residents (white blue-blood aristocracy and new-money millionaires), the poor working-class (merchant and service residents and workers), the street beggars (homeless, hustlers, artists), SCAD students (artists, professors, staff), and tourists (pedestrian, trolley, horse-buggy).

According to Dr. Hsu-Jen Huang (SCAD Architecture Professor), Savannah has been growing, even during the recession. In ten years, the city population and SCAD enrollment have doubled. Some buildings still fall between the cracks, but for every loss two more renovations or new constructs emerge. After the 1994 book Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah has continued to blossom as one of the best cities in the World. Many of its qualities were always inherent in the original urban design, and it continues to grow because of accepted differences.

From the American Revolution, to the Civil War, and beyond; Savannah embraces its strange stories. It has an other-worldly, old world, old town feel. Ghost tours are quite at home with the lamp-lights, cobblestone streets, brick walkways, and French ironwork balconies. It is in fact a small city; one which favors pedestrian traffic more than automobiles. The whole downtown is walkable, and locals often easily commute with bicycles as well (as I did for 3 years).

There are so many fun things to do there, it might be hard to know were to begin; if Savannah were not an immediately immersible, hospitable environment. The whole city is a memory garden, which literally blooms because of all the flowers. There are less flowers and leaves in the Winter, but Fall, Winter, and Spring are best weather-wise; as there is rarely snow, and Summers are often walls of heat and humidity (which it is known for even during Fall and Spring).

Architecturally Savannah is truly unique, with historic world and southern romantic blends. Town-houses often have the side-porch design, as with nearby Charleston, SC. The cast-iron railings and french dormers have that New Orleans feel. Parks and trees really do make a huge difference for traffic. Even while continuing to grow, Savannah is still one of the most colorful and pedestrian friendly cities in America. I can say after living there, the magic is real; including the variety of character personalities that the famous book alludes to.

Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil describes much of the architectural and social feel of the town. ‘Midnight’ the book has much more analysis of detail, while the film has literally has more visual images. I lived in three parts of town, and often passed by famous landmarks on daily commutes to classes. The main character’s house (Mercer Mansion) is on Bull Street along a square, towards the largest city park, Forsyth Park. Forsyth Park was my favorite park that I loved living on, because of the large open grass lawns, largest and most beautiful fountain, organic paths, and shady flora. There I was free to publicly practice Tai-Chi, hippy folk music, or jogging without much bother.

Most of this essay describes the utopian aspects of Savannah, but this paragraph should put some of the dystopian perspectives in context. The poor and the dead, out-number the rich and the living. Southern swamp-lands naturally have a salty entropic power that corrodes metals, moisture that promotes the decay of organic matter, and massive humidity that stifles productive activity, while encouraging roaches and gnats. The humane social ‘decadence’ of the town, allows for an ease of poverty. Kindness tolerates and sometimes falls prey to hustlers. Vandalism and theft are common crimes in Savannah, with the occasional mugging (typical of cities in general). Although crimes are committed by lower classes, the majority (which are poor) are respectful, lawful, and often generous. So you see despite the ‘scariness’, actual dangers are minimal for a city.

Savannah’s name appropriately indicates the climate heat, and the flat field look of the surrounding wetland marsh grasses. Old pirate maps referred to the lands inland along the River as ‘Savannah Land’. Google Street view is very impressive, with realism. It really helps get the feel for the freedom of moving through the town by photographic vista. In the 1990’s we were taking panoramic photos for architecture projects so it really feels appropriate. Day trips easily include the famous Bonaventure Cemetery, Oatland Island Wildlife Center, and Tybee Island Beach.

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