Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Derry, New Mexico: A Drive-By

Packing crates, Derry, New Mexico


Drove through Derry, New Mexico, on my way to Percha Dam State Park.



View Larger Map



Some day it will be possible to capture aromas for sharing, but alas, it's not possible today. I stepped out of the car to look at the startling white cotton balls in a field and experienced the unexpected pleasure of breathing in peppers ... being roasted? Dried? I know there was drying going on, as there are a number of drying (and roasting?) sheds in and about town, but if that process releases fragrances, I didn't know. A delicious smell.

This cotton field. The cotton so pristine and fluffy, it was as if someone bought cotton balls at the store and then glued them onto the plants.


Cotton in Derry, New Mexico



Cotton in Derry, New Mexico


Cotton in Derry, New Mexico


Cotton in Derry, New Mexico

You can almost reach into the picture and pluck off the cotton.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Mexico: Goat Heads! Poison Plants!

Goat heads. What the hell, you ask?

Yeah, I know, weird. It's a plant. Also known as "puncture vine."

This innocent-looking ground cover inspires murderous loathing among New Mexican pedestrians, cyclists, and even drivers. Some people with dogs won't even walk barefoot on their own houses. I don't know why. Look at the ferny, sweet foliage. The demure yellow flower.

Credit: Wikipedia


 Oh, but .... what's this ... this horny looking thing? It doesn't look so sweet. It looks a little devilish.

Credit: Wikipedia


That's the fruit of the plant? How odd. And these things below ... that will puncture a tire of a vehicle or bike? Or cause excruciating pain if you step on it? The fruit after it's dried.

Credit: Wikipedia

Described as "thumbtack-like."

Here is an organization with the sole mission of eradicating this plant from the face of the earth. You can even buy the t-shirt.

Credit: No Goatheads

The graphic is of two people who have just stepped on a dried goat head.

Descriptions of goat head encounters sound a little like horror movie trailers. Like this one
You've dealt with prickers before. You've dealt with burrs before. You've never dealt with anything like goatheads before. These things are vicious. They go through heavy duty tires with kevlar tube liners like they aren't even there. And you simply cannot avoid them. They're everywhere, and they're attracted to shoes, bicycle tires, and exposed flesh as though magnetized!

Or this one: "... the most evil plant that has ever existed ... "

Or this one: "...They seem like a few stray, ground-hugging weeds overgrowing the middle of the trail. Nothing to worry about you think! You've jumped stumps higher than your helmet. You've descended rock-strewn cliffs that would scare a mountain goat. You are not afraid of mere weeds! You will be."


I thought I had walked by a goat head plant the other day on a walk, but the foliage and plant shape didn't fit the descriptions. Upon further investigation, I discovered my specimens were from the poisonous plant datura quercifolia, aka oak-leaf thorn apple or china thorn apple.


datura quercifolia, Alamogordo, New Mexico

datura quercifolia, Alamogordo, New Mexico

datura quercifolia, Alamogordo, New Mexico

datura quercifolia, Alamogordo, New Mexico


Monday, October 29, 2012

Persimmons, Again

Persimmons are a staple of Caucasus Georgia's daily fruit, when in season. Or when not in season, dried.

Last week, I saw a persimmon tree in La Luz, New Mexico.

Today, there is an article in the New York Times, In Praise of Persimmons in Fall. Amen.

Some day, I hope there are thousands upon thousands of persimmon trees in America. I will profess a bias for the non-astringent type such as Huya.

My previous hostess, Nely, liked fresh and dried persimmons, but she especially loved persimmons when they were overly-ripe, almost rotten, at which point she scooped out the innards with a spoon and delivered the decayed gloopy mess directly to her mouth.  Shudder. 

Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia

 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New Mexico: Ants II

Back here, I introduced you to the busy little red ant superhighway in front of my stoop. Which may or may not be fire ants, but I'm leaning toward not.

I'm feeling uncomfortable because a neighbor, when I pointed out the ants as part of a conversation, i.e. "huh, whaddaya think about these ants? what kind do you think they are?" she smeared a section of the ant highway with her foot. Twice. A bit of gratuitous violence in my mind. They weren't impinging on my territory (yet), so I was just leaving them alone.

And it's not like I don't quickly exterminate critters that invade my house. The Castle Doctrine, you know. Just the other day, a millipede sort of thing was in my bathroom, and I dispatched it quickly. As I did that leggy spider in my bathtub a couple of weeks ago.

When I stepped out for a walk this afternoon, I saw the sprinklers were going and wetting down the sidewalk in front of my stoop. So I looked to see how my little red ants were dealing with that, and it was rather interesting. They went into the water a piece, then futzed around in a confused way, and then retreated to dry pavement.


 All those specks are ants.

I took a walk down a boulevard and saw on the mostly-dirt area on my right a colony of largish ants. They were going in and coming out of a tiny ant-cave opening.



You can't see the ants, but they're there. I find this kind of fascinating because when I'd mentioned the possibility of fire ants to the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park naturalist, he said that in the high desert (where I am in Alamogordo), there aren't earthworms to aerate the soil. In the high desert, there are ants that do that. And an issue with fire ants is that they chase out the soil-aerating ants, so there's a collateral damage effect on the soil where fire ants are prevalent.

Speaking of ants, there are about 300 species and subspecies of ants in New Mexico. This compares to 149 in Missouri.

This website here gives me way too personal a close-up of New Mexico ants. Like this:


Credit: Antweb New Mexico


I expect I'll be doing more reporting on the ant situation in New Mexico, although I don't know why.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Alamogordo: First Street

Moon over First Street, Alamogordo, New Mexico.


For someone who is directionally-impaired like me, Alamogordo is laid out in a user-friendly grid that makes sense 85% of the time. The other 15% drives me crazy, with streets ending in one spot and then picking up again in another; with 10th Street curving at one end just to mess with my head because on one end it's super close to where I live, but on the other end it's really far away. And then there's this lane thing on 10th Street where I keep making the mistake of turning right onto College Street when I really need to stay straight. Oh. Wait. We're not talking about 10th Street yet.

So below is a slide show about First Street. I'll add to it from time to time. On First Street are some architectural and landscaping things going on that I want to get into in the future. I'm curious about how the different architectural styles in Alamogordo react with the summer heat, the intensity of the sun. 

One of the photos below is a first shot at the Azotea complex. These apartments are low to the ground, a sage-y green, and have a rectangular shape that is attractive. They look really nice with the Sacramento Mountains as a backdrop. I drove through there the other day to see what they were about. On one hand, I saw naturalized landscaping, in various stages of development, that I could see will be quite beautiful in the future. On the other hand, there was precious little outside space for the residents, and I was taken aback by the gigantic plate windows of the south-facing units, with no shade overhangs to deflect what must be a brutal solar attack on the apartments in the summer. This design choice is inexplicable to me. But maybe I'm missing something, so I'll go back to check it out some more.  Update: I did return and here is my report.  

Note also the sign (in front of Las Ventanas Apartments) reassuring passersby that the irrigation is from a well. Water here is another topic I want to get into in the future, but my current understanding is that the number of wells in the area is limited and not everyone has water rights on their property. Well water taps into an aquifer that is a finite resource. But I'm kind of fuzzy on all this right now.

Near Las Ventanas Apartments is the very attractive Desert Palms mobile home park which is xeriscaped beautifully. More on this, too, in the future.





Thursday, October 25, 2012

Checks? Do People Still Use Those?


Credit: Fuel Bookkeeping


Before I left Missouri for New Mexico, and I was going through odds and ends as to what to take and what to discard, I came across my checkbook and a modest supply of checks.

Did I need these anymore?

I'd been out of the country for a year and never wrote a check during that time. Well, at winter break, when I was in Missouri and needed to pay my personal property tax, I used a check. That was because my county government office, like some other Luddite government offices, don't take any form of plastic.  (What about those who want to "run government like a business," ... never mind, this is not a political blog.)

In Georgia, I used my Georgian debit card or cash. In my daily life in the U.S., I rarely use cash, relying on my debit card and credit card, and electronic bill payment.

In late September, though, as I held my checkbook, I contemplated shredding my remaining checks but decided, you never know, I  might need them, so I brought them along.

Thank God I did. And, in retrospect, it was kind of silly to think I wouldn't need any checks in the future.

I needed a check to pay my rent. I needed a check to buy New Mexico's annual park entrance pass. No plastic accepted by either operator.


Sidebar: This post reminds me of my irritation with mint.com, a free service that requires the inclusion of a credit card number to use the application. I don't get that, and there's no explanation provided. Not everyone uses plastic, but they still want to use a money-management application. No can do with mint.com.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

La Luz: A Fading Light


La Luz, New Mexico


La Luz, which means "light" in Spanish, is just outside Alamogordo. A tiny town, it has its charms and its sadness.

I was here a couple of years ago on a road trip with my mother, and I returned yesterday. 

Its Presidio Plaza, which has the bones of a fine park, has fallen into weedy decay. The housing that surrounds the park ranges from meth-lab decrepitude to renovated beauty.

La Luz, New Mexico
  

A large, red Doberman loped out to the road when I turned around near his house. Several households had signs on their gates: "Warning: Security dog."

I saw a flash of orange as I passed one house. Persimmons?! I turned around and parked in front of the house. A man parked his truck across the street and I asked if this was, indeed, a persimmon tree before my eyes. Yes.

Ahhh, persimmons. An immediate flashback to Caucasus Georgia.  There, when they are entirely ripe in the fall, the leaves fall off the trees, leaving only the delectable round orange fruits to decorate the naked branches.


Persimmons in La Luz, New Mexico


Maybe some will begin to appear at the local farmers' markets? Do New Mexicans dry their persimmons like they do in Georgia? If not, a pity.

The Catholic Church in La Luz is the town's centerpiece.

La Luz, New Mexico

La Luz, New Mexico

La Luz, New Mexico

La Luz, New Mexico


Across the road from the church is a splendiferous garden enclosed by various kinds of fencing. Many, many hours of labor went into this huge yard. 

La Luz, New Mexico

La Luz, New Mexico


I had a chance to look at La Luz' ditch system, also known as acequia, a watering system that goes back centuries. I'll write more on that in the future. 

Acequia in La Luz, New Mexico

Acequia in La Luz, New Mexico

I don't know where La Luz is in its life cycle - on the way down? Up? Stagnant? There is much to commend it - pretty lanes, the remains of a beautiful park that could be revived (much like those in Rustavi), mature trees that provide shady oases, an anchoring church complex.  Maybe as I live here longer, I'll learn about this from residents.    

Monday, October 22, 2012

Alamogordo: Chimpanzee History


Credit: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine




A legacy of Alamogordo's role in space exploration are hundreds of chimpanzees that underwent decades of experimentation and, at times, severe maltreatment. Until December 2011 there were two chimpanzee communities in Alamogordo: one at the Holloman Air Force Base and one in Alamogordo proper.

Between 2005 and 2011, the 266 chimps in Alamogordo proper were relocated to the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Florida, with the last of them migrating in December 2011. Between 2002 and that final migration, Save the Chimps managed the Alamogordo chimpanzee facility.

Vacant Alamogordo chimp facility, for sale. October 2012. New Mexico.

Vacant Alamogordo chimp facility, for sale. October 2012. New Mexico.


There are around 172 chimps at the Alamogordo Primate Facility on Holloman Air Force Base. All have been exposed to HIV, Hepatitis C, or other microorganisms. They currently do not undergo any biomedical testing. Their future is uncertain.   

But to go back in time ... 



The space program: 1959

Ham and Enos

Ham and Enos were the first and second chimps in space, respectively.

In 1959, Ham was captured in Africa (Cameroon?) as an infant, and brought to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo. (Note: Capturing a primate infant often required killing its mother.)

I've read conflicting reports about Enos' origins.   
  

Ham, the first chimp in space.


A clip about Ham, the first chimp into space, from Nature's documentary called Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History (~ 3 minutes):




A 1960s newsreel about Ham (~ 9 minutes):




Ham lived til the age of 25. Some of his remains are in Alamogordo, buried at Alamogordo's Space Museum.

Ham's grave at Space History Museum, Alamogordo, New Mexico.


Ham's grave at Space History Museum, Alamogordo, New Mexico.



Enos, the second chimp in space, died of dysentery one year after his trip to space.

This November 29, 2011, Atlantic article describes Enos' sad story: The Horrible Thing That Happened to Enos the Chimp When He Orbited Earth 50 Years Ago.

Enos, the second chimp in space.

1950s to 1970s


From a letter from New Mexico's Governor Richardson to the USDA on November 18, 2010:

The Alamogordo colony traces its lineage to the Air Force’s space chimp experiments in the late 1950s. A decade later, the toxicologist Frederick Coulston set out to build the world’s largest captive colony of chimpanzees for research, in New Mexico. His foundation’s tenure was marred by charges of severe mistreatment.

In 1970, the Institute of Comparative and Human Toxicology, overseen by Frederick Coulston, and under the aegis of Albany Medical College in New York, assumed management of the chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility at the Holloman Air Force base.  Thus began an era of empire-building; improper business and lab practices; and, at best, animal mismanagement, at worst, animal abuse.  

The chimpanzees, still owned by the Air Force and housed on the Air Force base, were leased out for medical research.


1980s to 1997

Frederick Coulston. Credit: ScienceMag
In 1980, Mr. Coulston opened his own primate facility in Alamogordo proper (on La Velle Road), called the White Sands Research Center, under the auspices of an organization he established, called the Coulston International Corporation.

So now there were two primate facilities in Alamogordo - one at the nearby Air Force base and one at the edge of town. 
















From Lethal Kinship:

"That same year (1980), Albany Medical College transferred management of Holloman’s primate research center to New Mexico State University (NMSU) and offered NMSU use of the original buildings under an Air Force lease set to expire in 2000. Under NMSU’s management, the New Mexico State University Regional Primate Research Laboratory (RPRL) evolved.  The federal government pumped $10 million into the project to create housing for approximately 288 chimpanzees."  

Over at White Sands Research Center on La Velle Road, Mr. Coulston, a toxicologist, wanted to operate the largest primate research facility in the world.

This goal proved convenient for NMSU in the 1990s, after NMSU concluded that: 
  • There were more chimpanzees in the research market than were needed; 
  • Chimpanzees live for more than 50 years; 
  • Chimpanzees are expensive to maintain; and
  • NMSU's chimpanzee operation was not self-supporting. 

In other words, NMSU's return on its investment was in the red and it was only going to get worse.

In 1993, NMSU and Mr. Coulston entered into an agreement whereby Mr. Coulston created a new entity, CICNP, and took over management of the chimpanzees at the Holloman Air Force base.

Mr. Coulston, in the same year, created The Coulston Foundation, which perhaps served as the umbrella organization over CIC and CICNP, or as a separate entity. I'm unclear on this.  

By this time, the reputation of Mr. Coulston's laboratory practices vis a vis animal management was poor. A number of animal protection organizations advocated against his enterprise, including: 

In 1993, then, The Coulston Foundation controlled both primate facilities in Alamogordo. There were more than 500 chimps in total that the foundation either owned or leased.

There were other research primate facilities in the U.S. They had the same ROI issues as NMSU did. In 1995, New York University's Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) gave The Coulston Foundation 99 chimpanzees and almost $2 million, with the intent to give the remaining 101 chimps to the foundation, as well.

But there was an outcry from the animal protection organizations, who cited The Coulston Foundation's dismal animal treatment record. Dr. Jane Goodall, arguably the world's foremost champion of chimpanzees, also worked to prevent the transfer. One of the LEMSIP doctors, James Mahoney, a leader in a heroic rescue operation, found sanctuaries for and transported LEMSIP's remaining chimps to sanctuaries.

New York Times, August 7, 1995: Animal Advocates Protest Plans for a Primate Lab
New York Times, August 10, 1995: Chimp Research is Taken Over by Foundation


In 1999, National Geographic's Explorer series ran an episode about Dr. Mahoney's rescue, called Chimp Rescue. Go here for a three-minute clip of that episode. It begins, "In the dead of night ..."

Through the 90s, The Coulston Foundation continued to rack up citations for animal mistreatment and violations against good laboratory practices.

In 1998, it all came to a head.

The Air Force requested bids for the purchase of its 141 chimpanzees (the ones that had been leased to The Coulston Foundation). It gave the award to The Coulston Foundation, despite the multitudinous findings by the USDA and other entities of poor laboratory practices or animal mistreatment.

The Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care (CCCC) (now Save the Chimps) sued the Air Force. With Dr. Goodall and Roger Fouts on its board, there was plenty of muscle to bring to bear on the Air Force.

The result in 1998 was that the Air Force agreed to award 21 of the chimpanzees to the CCCC's sanctuary in Florida. Nevertheless, the 111 others went to The Coulston Foundation as originally planned.  

Money woes, legal troubles, and laboratory violations citations were piling up on The Coulston Foundation. After the suit against the Air Force, The Coulston Foundation's demise was only a matter of time.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) come under heavy criticism for awarding The Coulston Foundation research grants despite its knowledge about animal maltreatment, despite the serious charges levied against it by the USDA, and despite the fact that TCF was not accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.


1999

The Coulston Foundation was about to go under financially and functionally, having lost research grants and essential staff.

The USDA and FDA cited The Coulston Foundation for regulatory violations regarding laboratory practices and animal management.

NIH, inexplicably, seemed to be operating with some sort of bunker mentality as it continued to support The Coulston Foundation despite all of the evidence of TCF's failure as a viable laboratory.

The number of chimpanzees who died hideous (or, at best, unnecessary) deaths continued to climb.

2000 - present

Holloman facility (Alamogordo Primate Facility)

In 2000, NIH awarded management of the primate facility at Holloman to Charles River.

Although medical research was no longer to occur at the Alamogordo Primate Facility, the chimpanzees were available for lease to other research facilities

In 2003, Dr. James Mahoney (yes, the very same LEMSIP hero) testified before Congress about Charles River's maltreatment of two chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility, both of which died. Here is his testimony. It's important to note that although Dr. Mahoney testified regarding two specific chimpanzees, the testimony's overall message was about the general polices and processes of Charles Rivers that endangered all of the chimpanzees.  

In 2010, NIH (apologies for the cliche) unleashed a firestorm of protest when it announced its plans to close down the Alamogordo Primate Facility by sending all of its 202 inhabitants to the Southwest National Primate Research Center in Texas for recall into invasive biomedical research.  Even the New Mexico governor at the time, Bill Richardson, registered his protest in this letter to the USDA, asking the agency to execute a cease and desist order against NIH.

In January 2011, NIH did, indeed, suspend its plan (but not before some chimpanzees had already been transferred) pending a decision re: the continued value of invasive biomedical testing on primates. The U.S. Senate asked the Institute of Medicine to study this issue.

In December 2011, the Institute of Medicine "concludes that while the chimpanzee has been a valuable animal model in the past, most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary, though made clear that it is impossible to predict whether research on emerging or new diseases may necessitate chimpanzees in the future."

On December 15, 2011, NIH placed a moratorium on all NIH-funding biomedical research on primates. NIH formed the Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research, which continues to meet. Its final report is anticipated to be given in early 2013.

So. The status of the chimpanzees and the Alamogordo Primate Facility at present, per the Working Group's FAQ:  
"The Alamogordo chimpanzees will continue as an inactive research colony. NIH will await deliberation from the Council of Councils working group to further consider where these animals will be housed and cared for."
Charles River continues to manage the Alamogordo Primate Facility. 

   


The Coulston Foundation facility on La Velle Road 

In 2002, CCCC (aka Save the Chimps) bought The Coulston Foundation's Alamogordo facility for over $3 million. The 266 chimps were thrown in for free. The CCCC immediately removed the chimps from all research activities.

Thanks to a grant from the Arcus Foundation, Save the Chimps was able to buy the facility. Save the Chimps also built an island-based sanctuary for the chimpanzees in Fort Pierce, Florida. Here is the story of Save the Chimp's founder, Dr. Carole Noon, and the Arcus Foundation founder, Jon Stryker

Beginning in 2004 and ending December 2011, Save the Chimps migrated all of the chimps to the Florida sanctuary.



"For Sale: Infamous Chimp Lab"  


From the December 11, 2011, El Paso, Inc. article, For Sale: Infamous Chimp Lab:
"When the last of the Alamogordo proper chimps migrated to the Florida sanctuary, Save the Chimps put the old chimp lab up for sale. At one time, it housed one of the largest research chimp population in the world, up to 650 chimpanzees."  

The facility is near the intersection of Highways 70 and 54 on La Velle Road (off of Highway 70), across from a large baking operation.



What an epic story.


January 23, 2013: See update here

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Alamogordo: Art and Dirigibles

There was a watercolor & landscapes painting workshop at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park yesterday morning.

I'm not a painter, but how can one live in the gigantic artist colony called New Mexico and not at least make the attempt?

First, Charles Wood, the naturalist-presenter, showed some samples of his work, judiciously pointing out his good and not-so-good work.



There were three of us students. We started with a blank canvas.




Charles walked us through a process of painting - mixing colors, perspective for things in the distance versus medium distance versus close up, some brushwork techniques, and creating shadows and foliage.

My finished oeuvre:



There are some things I liked about my work and some things I didn't. It was a fun activity.


On my way to the park, I'd noticed a speck of something in the sky, just perched, as it were, in the air. It made no rational sense. Wasn't a balloon, a plane, or anything else I could guess. While we painted, I looked over my shoulder to see it was still there, and it was, so I asked Charles about it.

A dirigible. A border-watching dirigible that the Border Patrol puts up on good-weather days.

Aerostat blimp being used for border patrol. Credit: Wikipedia

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Alamogordo: Ants! Them!

Little red ants

From the first day I moved in, I noted a steady, busy river of tiny red ants flowing in a long line down the sidewalk in front of my stoop.

Last week, curiosity led me to try and follow the line to the end, with ambiguous results.

Today, I followed the westbound line, starting from my stoop, for 65 steps. Then I followed the eastbound line from my stoop, and literally around the corner, for about 33 steps.





Tiny red ants.

When I did some online research, I discovered .....

Oh. Shit.

They might be fire ants. The scourge of the south.


Busy little bastards.

I guess as long as they leave me alone, I won't worry about them.


Radioactive Alamogordo ants

It was 1954. 

A little girl from Alamogordo, found wandering zombie-like in the desert .....

In shock. From what?

Ants. Made giant from the atomic bomb testing. Them!





When I was deciding whether to come to New Mexico or Mexico, ants did not figure into my calculations.


Update 24 Oct 2012: While reading this article, I was led to this blog, and then to this site: Ant Blog. Enjoy.



  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Alamogordo: Icons

Alamogordo has some distinctive structures that contribute to the town's identity.


The Alamogordo "A." New Mexico.


Roadrunner, Alamogordo, New Mexico
.
Roadrunner, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Railroad water tower, 10th Street, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Space rocket, Space History Museum, Alamogordo, New Mexico

"Teepee" or "beehive" burner, by sawmill, Alamogordo, New Mexico

I really had to hunt to find out what the above was. Here is the interesting description. I'd have never figured it out for myself.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Volume of Space







Borrowed space  

For the last two years, I lived as a perpetual guest in Missouri and Rustavi, Georgia. I lived in other people's space, among their things. I was very lucky with the beneficence of my hostesses and with the attractiveness of their environs.   





My space

Now, for at least a year, I'm living in my own space again.

And by "space" I mean that in two contexts: 1) my own place; and 2) several rooms that are mostly empty. 








Volume of space

Over time, I'll need to add a few pieces of furniture to my place. A guest bed. A couple of chairs. A table.

But for now, the airy volumes of space, the unobstructed expanse of floor, and the blankness of the ivory walls and ceiling feel soothing. They are a freedom.

I do have color in my line of sight, but it is bound neatly by frames.  My Jim Logan poster. My Pasenko Band poster. The french doors frame the green backyard, through which I often see, in the afternoon, a trio of black cats loiter beneath the tree. 
    



I'm not sure I'm a fan of the late architect, Paul Rudolph's, designs, but this quote about and by Mr. Rudolph resonates, taken from The Paul Rudolph Foundation blog

 Paul Rudolph, the Carl Jung of architects, believed that architecture was basically about manipulating space, light, proportion, texture and material to fulfil the psychological needs of the occupants.

Famously, he said, “People, if they think about architecture at all, usually think in terms of materials.

While that’s important, it’s not the thing that determines the psychology of the building. It’s really the compression and release of space, the lighting of that space and the progression of one space to another.”


As I appreciate the beauty of my volumes of space, I can't help but think of a bad example of space design. It's a state office building in Jefferson City, called the Howerton Building. It's a big empty box, for the most part, but its volume of space is merely a warehouse for human capital, not a space that respects humanness. The interior is crammed with cube farms and long, claustrophobic, empty corridors that make you feel like you're on a spaceship. The exterior lacks only coiled barbed wire atop a chain link fence to distinguish it from a prison. When you learn that the "human capital" within is responsible for providing social services, it's even sadder - the enervating physical environment making a challenging job even more difficult.  


Howerton Building, Jefferson City, Missouri


Not sure how I digressed over to the dark side of the volume of space. Maybe because when I have volumes of space that promote feelings such as liberty, serenity, and creativity, it makes me angry about designs that dehumanize a building's inhabitants.

So to get back on a happy note: this rootless person feels good about my airy space - it belongs to me and yet it doesn't weigh me down.