October 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
Midway through October I celebrate both my birthday and my anniversary so I’ve been off schedule this week. I promise to be back to our regularly scheduled programming on Monday (spoiler alert: it’s another podcast update), but I also wanted to make the minor announcement that my blog recently passed the 10,000 pageviews mark.
So thank you to all my regular readers who make that possible, I love writing for you all and I guess you all at least pretend to like reading it. And even if you hate reading it, hate-reading is still reading! Thanks again, see you Monday!
October 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
There’s a new show up over at my other website, dipodcast.com
It’s not completely unrelated! One of the interviews is talking with a woman with some insight into the wild gardens of the Carrie Furnace.
Head over there for some more exclusive pictures and of course, some great chats with the local creative types, like Addy Smith-Reiman, Freddie Croce, Julie Mallis and Nikki Dy-Liacco.
And I know you’re already planning on being there, but if you don’t know about PKN:
PKN vol. 19 takes place on October 9 at 6:20 pm at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Center, 805 Liberty Ave in Downtown Pittsburgh. Admission is $15 and includes, drinks, eats, and entertainment. Presenters get 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, to present a project or an idea. It’s a great time and you really ought to come down.
And subscribe to my podcast on iTunes (link opens in iTunes), I’m really proud of it and I think you’ll like it.
September 29, 2014 § 1 Comment
Usually, when blessed with good weather, I end up squandering it inside playing World of Tanks. But every now and then I manage to get out and enjoy it, as was the case this weekend when I went out to take a tour of the Carrie Furnaces with some young architects. The tour was 2 hours long and I only brought a camera, not a notebook, so I don’t remember everything about what you’ll see here. I’ll chime in with the facts I remember which will sound like real facts, and then I’ll just make some stuff up which will be marked with an asterisk. All of the images can be clicked on and enlarged.
The tour starts in a big warehouse space where they give you some background on the site. Up there is the site plan, which shows the site at its height overlaid by what remains now. There are now just two furnaces remaining, Carrie 6 and Carrie 7, named for singer Carrie Underwood.* The furnaces here, built by the Fownes brothers in 1881, made iron, not steel. Business was good for nearly 20 years before the iron business at this site began to falter. In 1898 Andrew Carnegie sensed an opportunity to vertically integrate the iron produced here with the steel he was producing in Homestead. He made the Fownes brothers an offer on the furnaces and they took the money and ran, straight to Oakmont where they founded the Oakmont Country Club.
Carnegie went to work bringing rail lines to the site which would bring the train-loads of iron ore, coke and limestone to feed the endless appetites of the furnaces. The raw materials were stored in great heaps in the yard above before being brought up that tilted elevator 3 and 4 tons at a time.
Originally all the unloading was done by hand, meaning workers with shovels emptied both the train cars and the buckets at the top of that elevator. Imagine standing at the top, staring down into the belly of the furnace, shoveling tons of iron-food into the open mouth as the February winds pull at your clothes.
You could work, quit, or die. Many did the latter.
I regret not asking if there were any ghosts that haunted the site.
Eventually there were improvements to the furnaces that did things like invert the rail cars to dramatically speed up the process of unloading material. The picture above is part of that machinery. There were still dangerous jobs to be done inside the furnace, though.
There was no button to be pressed or switch to be pulled if you wanted to switch between which furnace was being fired. You had to manually pull that chain (low in the image and slightly to the left), exposing yourself to the hot toxic breath of the furnaces. Carbon monoxide could silently overtake you, leaving it up to your spotter to drag your lifeless body out of danger and sound the gas rescue alarm.
Before there were unions to protect workers injured workers were simply written up, resulting in suspensions and termination of employment. Here are some other warnings and signs from the tour:
Once fired in the furnace, the molten iron was spilled out onto the casting floor (not pictured). Workers here stood over 1,600 degree metal in asbestos suits and used hand tools to separate the slag from the useful metal, which then flowed through sand-lined troughs into “torpedo cars”.
As I mentioned before, Carnegie needed the iron made here to turn into steel at his plant across the river. These torpedo cars, loaded with 150 tons of molten iron, trundled across the hot metal bridge three to a train, where they were tipped over (to the position above) and emptied into the plants on the other side of the river.
Today, middle schoolers visit the the torpedo cars for life-size re-enactments of the Miracle of Life.*
The iron-making process above went largely unchanged until 1978. Falling demand for steel brought the industry to its knees and continuous casting (a more efficient way of manufacturing steel) dealt the death blow. The tens of thousands of workers at this site alone were cast out, joining the rest of the workers in the valley to scatter across the country in search of the few remaining jobs in the steel industry. Pittsburgh wheezed through smog and withered betwee its poisoned rivers for decades.
Over time, Pittsburgh healed and adapted. Clean air and rivers brought clean industries such as healthcare and technology. In its eagerness to move on and reclaim the waterways Pittsburgh razed many industrial sites like this. But the Carrie Furnaces still stand not only as monument and reminder but, through collaborations between the site stewards and local artists, it also stands as a living laboratory for the art community that grows out of Pittsburgh’s industrial cracks. There’s the famous Carrie Deer …
… as well as smaller sculptural installations …
… and the graffiti commissioned for the long low brick walls:
That’s it for the tour, but I want to thank our knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide, Mr. Doug Styles. This was a guy who had spent some time working in a mill himself, and he had true passion and love for the history of steel making. You could hear the sadness in his voice as his story of the decline of manufacturing in the Mon valley echoed through the empty halls, and I heard some real resentment just behind his teeth as he recounted the checkered biographies of Carnegie and Frick.
He also beat boxes at the semi-annual, semi-illegal Carrie Furnace Raves under his stage name, Doug E. Styles, often partnering with legendary MC Slick Frick.* You’re the man, Doug.
If you want to take a tour of your own, check the dates here and bring $25 for each adult and $15 for each child. There might be tax, I forget. You can also take a Photo Safari and an Urban Art Tour which sound awesome. You get to make your own graffito on the Urban Art Tour, how cool is that?
September 24, 2014 § 1 Comment
I promised a more detailed post about time banking, and I figured, why not hear it from an expert? Phyllis Kim was kind enough to write a guest post about what time banking is and how you can be a part of one right here in Pittsburgh.
Imagine a network of artists, makers and creative workers sharing their individual talents and skills to advance each others projects.
Creative Labor Exchange is a brand-new time bank for creative workers in Pittsburgh that connects makers all across the city in the spirit of collaborative work.
A time bank allows people to exchange time, doing hands on work and sharing skills. Each hour of time spent working on someone else’s project will be redeemed for time on your own projects.
What better way is there to get to know your community while learning new skills?
Especially in Pittsburgh, with such a vibrant and active artist community, a time bank seems to be an important resource to have. I’ve heard so many people say over the years they wanted to learn a new skill, or needed help on a project or two. We’re hoping Creative Labor Exchange can facilitate in all kinds of exchanges.
A time bank works like this: When you need help on a project, just post a request on the Facebook page. Once you get a response you can work out the details with one of the members of the CLX community. When they come over to help you on your project, you pay them in hours instead of dollars. The same thing happens in reverse: you earn hours by helping others on their projects. Spend your hours for help on small tasks or save up for a huge undertaking. What’s important is strengthening the creative community through collaboration.
Time banking may sound like a new and foreign idea, but actually, time banking began in the early 1980s USA. Since then the concept has grown to 33 other countries with the help of Robert Wood Johnson foundation that invested 1.2 million dollars in 1990 to pilot time banking. Edgar S. Cahn, the founder of time banking, went on to study it philosophically, in particular it’s ability to solve what he thought to be three interlocking problems of America:
- Growing inequality in access by those at the bottom to the most basic goods and services
- Increasing social problems stemming from the need to rebuild community
- Growing disillusion with public programs designed to address these problems
According to Cahn though, the root of all these problems was the unwillingness of social service organizations to enroll the help of those they were trying to help. Time banking had the unique ability to enable both individuals and communities to help themselves.
Creative Labor Exchange isn’t promising to solve any of the above problems, but it’s an interesting approach to creating a community I want to live in. I love Pittsburgh because a stroll down the street means you’re bound to meet your co-worker’s cousin, or your ex-boyfriend’s grandma, or your barber’s boyfriend. I’m convinced everyone is nice to each other in case it gets back to their grandmother that they were rude through a cousin, or ex or barber. I like that accountability and the close-knit yet wide community I live in.
I hope CLX is just an an extension of that – an incentive to be a good neighbor.
Mr Rogers would love that.
Why I’m so excited to have a time bank in Pittsburgh:
A resource to mine for skills/labor/instruction in any field.
Have a side project you’ve been putting off? No excuses now! With every additional member your resources grow. Pour that concrete countertop. Learn how to play the mandolin. Find out why your car is making that weird sound. Dream big!
Meet your community.
Collaborate with people in your neighborhood you wouldn’t have otherwise known. This can only strengthen your community and make you appreciate where you live. Maybe Mary down the block can finally help you finish that comic book you’ve dreamt of making.
Sharing your dormant resources.
Whether you realize it or not, you’re sitting on some valuable resources. Don’t let those piano lessons you got 20 years ago sit wasted. That recipe for stuffed grape leaves that’s been in your family for ages can be exactly what someone needs. It’s delightful to find value in something you found joy in the past.
Learning by teaching.
You’ve heard it before – the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. If anybody wants to learn how to play Mad World very poorly I’m your gal! I’ll only get better I assume…
Dollar saved by investing in community
I’m still amazed that any given weekend, I can arrange to get lessons in video production, play a set of drums, or mend up all those clothes I have in my closet. For free! Or better yet, by investing time into doing something for a fellow member. Save a buck, help a neighbor.
We’ve only just begun but I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of projects come out of this. In addition to being a resource for creative labor, we hope to create a community of creative people and have more regular events to attend and meet/learn. Stay tuned for future events and keep CLX in mind next time you help on a project.
Boost the potential of your own creative work and Get involved in the creative process of others!
Now that you know all about time banking, put it to use!
September 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
Regular readers of the blog may remember that I love it when the limits of pictograms are tested. Part of my job is reviewing installation instructions for various products which helps me (and ultimately the contractor) out during detailing and construction. These installation instructions have pictograms that are meant to be helpful. Some are less helpful than others. Here’s one I found recently and I’m not confident my interpretation is 100% accurate.
Use your powers of telekinetic destruction to explode your wand into its atomic parts.
Pierce an effigy of a hurricane to anger the Spirit of the Wind.
Vanquish the displeased spirit with a wave of your wand and the following incantation: Who namy droas stum a nam klaw dwon.
Bring your wand back together in a display of authority. Accept offerings and sacrifices with dignity and grace.
Like I said, not super convinced that I got that one right. But that’s what I put in the spec so I hope I am at least close. As always, if you come across any hilarious pictograms feel free to send them my way for captioning.
September 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Following the typical July lull things are starting to heat up again in the world of sports. Since I’m on a kick of drawing abstract comparisons between architecture and other things, I am going to do a series of posts looking at comparisons between architecture and sports to see what sport architecture is most like. In honor of the first week of football season I will will first be looking at whether or not architecture is like football. Feel free to weigh in in the comments or on Twitter or on your own blog or wherever.
Football is far and away the most popular sport in America. It’s so popular that people once said “you know, ‘football’ is already a thing that’s popular, you might want to change your name” and Football said “nah” and got away with it. Not so with architecture. Architecture is well-known but not very popular and nobody really gets the rules. It’s more like curling than football.
Football is a team sport. It has some standout big names but also allows for the emergence of storylines for minor players as well. Most people in a city with an NFL franchise can name at least the starting quarterback for their team even if they don’t watch the games. By contrast, architecture is dominated exclusively by a handful of celebrity minds while most people in a city probably can’t name a local architecture firm.
There is no “farm system” so both football and architecture make extensive use of unpaid student labor to develop talent which causes some controversy. Positions on a football team are very specific and everything is coordinated by one person. While this structure might be true of larger architecture firms, architects are more commonly multi-taskers who can take on many roles in a given day.
This is probably the area that football is most like architecture. Just like every game is important for a football team, most architects take on a small number of projects in a year and each is important. If even a few go bad the team could be in for a bad year.
Football is most like …
Law. It’s outrageously popular and there’s a lot of competition for very few high-paying spots. Even if you don’t follow law, you probably know a few firms in your area …
… and there are a few times per year that some high-profile events get national attention.
September 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
There’s a new podcast up where I talk with the founders of the Creative Labor Exchange, a new time bank catering to creative projects here in Pittsburgh. Time banks are a way for you to lend your time and skills to others. Then, when you have a project that you need help with, the time bank is there for you to cash in your hours and score some skilled labor. I want to do a more detailed post about it in the future, but time is of the essence here. CLX has their launch party tomorrow, September 5th 2014, at 7pm. You might already be in the Bloomfield/Garfield area anyway for Unblurred, so make sure you stop in at 5106 Penn Ave, tell the ladies what you’re good at, get a sweet button and get ready to collaborate on some projects.
Visit the CLX website for more info