Sunday, November 20, 2011

Finding a Voice, "And So The Tower Falls..."

Dear Reader,

I would first like to say "Thank You" for the events of this past weekend which have led me to reflect on the life which I had been given. Certainly this may sound cliche, but to be honest I'm not writing to be original, nor to please the cynical. It doesn't come naturally to me either, and sometimes I strain myself to write down whatever it is I need to say; if only to frame the thoughts which would otherwise cause me headaches and more social awkwardness. You understand right? So here I am, writing a letter saying "Thank You" for my voice. As insignificant, humble, erratic, and human as it is, it exists because of You.

"What happened this weekend which inspired her to write this?". A birdie (my sister) texted me a picture of a piece of scratch paper on which were bullet points of blog topics. Some words stood out like, "Scotland, Architecture, Traveling, Landscape, Party....". One peculiar thing hit home: "Must fit writing voice". I have a voice? Sure, I suppose it's important to have one, but I haven't developed an awareness until now. How does one speak without being judged as some self-absorbed, media and money-driven, power maniac? On the other hand, how does one speak without being seen as an underdog- reaching out to the world, shouting personal truths, and sharing his/her life as proof of existence? I care to be neither, and I'm certain there are other non-labeled voices out there. After all this, I almost wanted to pacify myself- that no matter what I said, none of it mattered and no one wanted to hear it. The human side of me said otherwise. To find a balance- first to be thankful I have one, and the other to say that if I do have a style, let others decide what it is for themselves (at least for now until I figure it out).

I suppose what really tipped me over was being able to surf on John's couch in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The heart of, what some would call, the "Hipster Zip Code", where freedom of expression is (more or less) a way of life. How earnestly the locals wanted to express themselves was made clear in the murals layered on warehouses, rusty corrugated fences, and the army of white Apple laptops crunching binary at the Swallow Cafe. I then watched Breaking Dawn this evening, and felt the tears welling up. The book of the movie was written by a woman who put her very life and personal beliefs into it. She risked all of these things, and for what? So she could be heard, and to sustain her way of life with a constant flow of zesty paychecks? Quite possibly so. In result she positively and negatively inspired her audiences and critics. No matter how many ways we could argue for or against this, maybe we're forgetting that this is part of what we call our own "Culture".

"Culture: The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively". Yeah, I Googled it.

Is "Culture" then what encourages us to find our voices? To feel Life again, to love, to validate that we're not crazy, to salve our headaches and social awkwardness by a simple act of creative expression? Is it to find confidence, and place ourselves in history? Raoul Bunschoten, an architect, cybernetician, author, and theorist who used to teach at the Architectural Association in London once said to me,

"When we (him and his family) go to Venice (for the Biennale), we're going to look at 'Culture'. We're going to attend an opera, see some cathedrals; and for some reason my son doesn't seem so excited about this." -Raoul Bunschoten

He was paying homage to the years of pain, dirty politics, love, and history that unfolded as Venice evolved it's culture. The city, I suppose in a way, was like a "Blog", if you could see it as a space or a platform for creative expression. In this way, he understood exactly what it meant to appreciate You for allowing him to exist, witness this "Venetian Blog", and prolong humanity's cultural cycle as an architect. It then makes me wonder: if none of us could communicate our thoughts; if these said cathedrals were never built, how quickly would we die from Your neglect dear Reader?

Before I finish this post, I've pasted an old Myspace entry dated August 17, 2007. I guess my voice already existed because at the time, I was struggling to stay alive. Life happened, and I bottled everything up until I found Myspace, an outlet, a tool for cultural expression made by You. If we all rely on each other to survive, please remember dear Reader, that I thank you for giving me my voice and allowing me to be here.

For the love of Life, Architecture, Arts, and Landscapes,
Lesley Ann


And So The Tower Falls...


You've been building a tower for seven years out of stone and mortar. Each stone you place, you secure it with caution, sensitivity, and careful planning. You work on it on the hour, every hour, and every day either through your thoughts or labor. It becomes the tower of your dreams.

One day, you fall in love with this tower. You become best friends, kindred spirits. Every morning when the sun rises, it shines its beautiful stones on you, and warms your face. You no longer feel cold in its presence. It loves you back. It lets you sit on its stairs as you read books to it. You trace your fingers on each stone and feel its coarse texture, and you are thankful for its strength. Through its echos it laughs with you when you're happy.

You bring your family to see the wonderful relationship you have together. It is a pillar of strength. Each accomplishment is celebrated. You know each other's secrets and desires and you can read each other like a book.

Six years and 9 months have passed. On the 9th month, the tower feels the urge to become a castle. It wants to become a castle so it could take better care of you, shelter you, and raise a family in a proper home. It wants to grow up. You trust the tower's decision, and he contacts another architect in a far away land who specializes in castles. In order to be properly built, he must be moved to another location where there is a stronger foundation. You are sad, but you know it's for the best. The tower reassures you that nothing will happen, that in one year, the two of you will be reunited. You trust him.

The two of you share a final farewell, a hug and a kiss....

Two months pass....

The tower falls in love with that other architect, but doesn't tell her that he has someone special back at home. The architect decides that their relationship has potential, so she decides to date him, and remove the stones you have carefully placed, and replace them with new ones. In a month, he looks different, behaves differently, thinks differently. His silhouette has changed. He wants other architects to touch him, to remove his stones and place new ones in. He wants to be different, to be wild. He never thought independence was so sweet, but guilt lingered in his halls.

Close to your seven-year anniversary, you decide it would be nice to pay your tower a visit, and perhaps find a home closeby so you can see each other more often. The tower tells you on the phone several times not to come by, that he's busy and doesn't want to be bothered. You decide to come anyway, because you also want to learn how to build castles.

When you get there, you see your tower. He's different, he's emotionally unresponsive to your love. He has different stones in him. He's crumbling, but he doesn't care. He doesn't let you sit on his stairs and read books. He doesn't even shine in the morning for you. He's stoic, and you get suspicious. The next day, he tells you that he's been seeing other people. He wants to be different. He says he doesn't need you anymore. He says that since you've been gone, he's found out that he can survive on his own, that he's better. He wants to be independent......but he still loves you.......and he doesn't want to break your heart......

He says he still wants to become a castle............

What do you do?

Let's just pretend that nothing's broken,
Lesley Ann

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Oldie But Goodie: "Morning Eyeliner, Havok's Written Word, and Los Angeles: The Concrete Jungle"

Hello All,

Since I've moved back to the States from my 2-year post-graduate school trek in Edinburgh, Scotland, I've been brewing up a wealth of new articles which I'm proud to say are well in production. I'll have one up later this week which will get you up to speed with my transition back to New York. In the meantime, here's an extremely old "post-of-a-post-of-a-post" from my MySpace blog dated 2 Dec 2006. Since then, my understanding of the world, especially urban and landscape contexts, have changed...maybe dramatically. I suppose however that I've decided to post this because I find it quite interesting that almost 6 years ago I was traveling to and back from a long-term stay in Europe. The story is the same today, only I'm hoping I'm much wiser, and maybe a better writer (haha).

Maybe there's another layer of analysis to this: If the world truly runs on time, seasons, and planetary alignment, will I be having another blog such as this? A blog about change, transformation, and understanding? I'll keep an eye out. In 2018, if I'm still alive, I'll write a blog about it, and maybe, maybe, I'll live long enough to write the next one. How about you? What were you doing 6 years ago, and has your life come full-circle?

As always, please no judging or non-constructive criticism on my article and other people's comments. I would like to maintain an open and healthy dialogue amongst us readers. A humble request from an amateur blogger. =)

Love, Lesley Ann

"Morning Eyeliner, Havok's Written Word, and Los Angeles: The Concrete Jungle"

I've just discovered this morning, as I sojourned to Mom's bedroom to use le toilet , (John was using the shower in the other bathroom) that I have a grandmother who is an English Phd and has written a book about Mom's father's side of the family tree.....sooo, we'll be taking some family photographs in the backyard this afternoon to place in her book. Mom spoke enthusiastically about this as she applied her eyeliner. You can tell she's excited when she raises her pitch while she dotes on her plans for the day.'s almost as if she's yelling at you down a hallway...but that's Mom, and that's why I love her.

Speaking of writing, I woke up around 6:45 am today and couldn't get back to sleep. I suppose I'm still in work-schedule mode- 6:45 am: wake, 7:00 am: go back to sleep, 7:30 am: shower, 8:00 am: get my ass to work pronto! Since I couldn't go back to sleep, I decided to dip into some of Davey Havok's tasty blog literature (yes, I know, I'm hooked on MySpace....ooh the agony. Blame Han ^_~). For the more 'seasoned' writers, it may not be your cup of tea. I'll leave it up to you to decide....

In retrospect, it's a charm to read his work, and I honestly believe that if he committed some time to write a novel (a biography would be splendid), it would be just as insatiable as his music. Albeit, I'm not an English major, a psychology major, nor anyone worthy of being a critic, I must say that the way he writes has an easy flow to the prose. Somehow, there's a transparency that maintains a sense of mystery and reserve that is elegantly appropriate for his position as a popular singer, lyricist, psychologist, and writer (ok, maybe more like a renaissance man)....It's a good feeling to know that he (and I'm sure for many as well) is aware of how psychologically theraputic writing is, and therefore indulges on pixelating his thoughts on the monitor...Indeed, a creative spirit. For, I believe if someone like himself were to abstain from writing, it would be like Hiroshima in the brain.

I have further resolved that, being an architect, I must follow his example and write a little of what I know in my career. I have acquiesced to Michael's suggestion to save my architectural creative energy for my portfolio (which I AM going to work on today) and take an excerpt from one of my previous Deviant Art journal entries.

If you're so inclined to learn a little bit about architecture and urbanism (actually, it's quite long) then please read the (un-edited) February 19,2006 entry below. As I leave you today, I promise I'll make an effort to be more visually restorative and post some pictures online:

DeviantArt Journal Entry
Sunday: February 19, 2006
"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation."

Dear Reader,

I'm just going to speak from the depths of my tangled mind. I don't know where to begin, nor do I know how to make this journal entry pretty. Here goes......It's been almost half a year since I've been to Deviant Art. Months traveling around Europe has been an exciting experience as well as excrutiating (as I was separated from my love for 4 months), but seeing as it may, I've survived and now I'm back in the United States....hopefully a little wiser, and with greater understanding of my built environment. For those living in Europe, I'd say you've got yourself a sweet deal for living in a country that encourages public transporation.

Los Angeles is a very pedestrian unfriendly city (as well as much of America), and using a car as a basic means of getting yourself from Point A to Point B very much segregates you from your own world and reality....I don't like it one bit. I think this keeps you away from experiencing diversity, and in some ways can encourage racism and prejudice that cities like Los Angeles suffers from on a daily basis. For example, you're stuck in your car on the 5 South during rush hour in the sweltering heat. It's been 45 minutes since you've gotten out of work and you're still stuck in your steel prison. You think it's ridiculous that you could probably get home faster by walking if the traffic keeps up. Then, an old asian female driver cuts in front of you and you break abruptly. What upsets you even more is that damn stereotype that old asian female drivers are just "naturally horrible at driving". Could it be that your anger from the traffic jam is escalated by being cut off by a minority with a stereotype that's been engrained in your mind from daily living? Should you be angry at asian drivers, or should you be angry for their actions? Could these actions be avoided if you lived closer to home? If not, then what's wrong with the urban structure of cities like Los Angeles that has caused us to work, shop, and dine so far away from home? What would the quality of our lives be like if we could choose to spend those extra hours in any way we please?

If you were in a pedestrian friendly city, where chunks of the city are like smaller more dense neighborhoods where work is just a 10 minute walk away, or at most a 10 minute train ride away, don't you think that would give you more time to enjoy the better things in life? Being an architect and an emerging urban designer, I realize these urban qualities, especially after analyzing the urban models of cities like Paris, Berlin, and Barcelona. The reason why these historical cities are so successful and have unfathonable perseverence is because of the density. They have their own ways of avoiding 'Sprawl', a term that cities like Los Angeles suffers from, because instead of growing vertically, it grows horizontally, feeding into the suburbian soils of the Valleys. Life in Europe, to me, seems to be a bit more enlightened because the average urban European spends more time outside of the vehicle walking from Point A to Point B. These individuals can enjoy the open air and burn those extra calories instead of sitting idol inhaling the exhaust and simmering heat of a traffic jam. This aspect of pedestrian transportation in the European life I greatly admire and I would like to aim towards if I ever become an urban planner or a liscened architect.

I'd rather prefer walking to the outdoor neighborhood market and go shopping down boulevards like Friedrichstrasse (Berlin), Las Ramblas (Barcelona), and Champs du Elissees (Paris), than getting stuck in block-like complexes such as shopping malls, parking structures, and K Marts. I understand that these elements can form the American way of life, and our history has made life here the way it is....It's unavoidable, and I know that it can be insulting for anyone to say that this makes American life dull, for who am I to be so biased? Coming from Los Angeles suburbia, I can see the advantages of American commercialism- Strip Malls, Grocery Store chains, and fast food restaurants- for they are important resources for society and a way of (and to make a) living.

I think there's hope for suburbia yet in terms of growth and development. Areas of densification are happening in portions of Los Angles (and LA County) such as Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade, Colorado Boulevard- Old Town Pasadena, and smaller establishments such as The Village- Claremont. In these dense areas, there's life happening both in the day and at night and the spaces are highly desireable to just stroll and enjoy the urban fabric because it's safe. I believe that Downtown Los Angeles does not fall into this category because there is an unbalance between work and living spaces. There are more office/ work buildings than there are residential buildings on ground level, there are no grocery stores, sparce open green space (like parks), and the shopping areas and restaurants are not as successful as expected for a structurally dense area such a Downtown LA. Why is this? This is because the buildings are mostly occupied by workers outside of the city (such as the Inland Empire and Orange County areas where land is more affordable), and the people who do live in the city are the upper-working-class who retreat in sky scraper like buildings. At night, the city is deserted sans the homeless and the random vehicles that zoom down the empty streets at dangerous speeds.

If one were to look at Downtown in a different perspective, the area is so dense with empty sky scrapers that during the evening, the ground floor transforms into a hazardous zone because the pedestrian level in Los Angeles is known to be home for those can't afford to live in expensive apartments and own vehicles- that which physically segregates the upper working class and impoverished. In that sense, "No one walks in LA." As for the upper-working-class, they spend their evenings either at home entertained with their desktops and/or cable televisions, or they're out in their vehicles stuck in evening traffic trying to get to places that ARE safer at night such as Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Pasadena, area where there is more safety in large numbers.

Taking this into perspective, the American model of an urban environment versus the European model is quite underdeveloped. Europe obviously has had more time to develop and densify itself over the last thousands of years with history to back up its culture, as opposed to America where we've only had the last 200 years to really have an opportunity to become the power we are today (with Los Angeles in particular, that's only had the last 100 years to develop into what it is now). Taking this into account that I am an architect and an aspiring urban planner, I could see there is much work to be done for the identity of America as being the country of the future. How can architects, urban planners, and engineers lead America to becoming better than it is now? What are their responsibilities? What are potential solutions to some of our vehicle/pedestrian issues? How do we make the average American walk again? One thing is for sure, I am not going to overlook these issues and design a building just so that it looks cool and is a self-actualization of my ego. That is selfish and unrealistic, for no building can be successful if it's designed because I simply "...wanted it to look that way.", "Bigger is better", and because "I think it's better that way." I am going to design according to sustainability, and that which will persevere throughout history and give a sense of identity in the community it connects itself with. Traveling abroad has taught me these values- that going back to the historical lands of civilization will teach us where humanity has made mistakes and where humanity has been successful. Then, we must take it back to America as a second chance to improve and create that balance we all strive for.

Thank you and much love,
Lesley Ann