State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.

higher ignorance

by Natalia

We went to Cathedral of Learning. Andrew Carnegie envisioned institution devoted to higher learning. The building is a pseudo Gothic cathedral, unfortunately lacking the charm of its sisters devoted to inspire religious rather than educational zeal. That said it’s hard not to feel at least a bit supportive. I’ll take humanity building universities over the humanity building churches any day.

Among cathedral attractions is set of so called nationality classrooms designed to expose students to various countries by decoration and assorted artifacts. An attempt to capture a culture by collecting a set of objects meant to represent and symbolize it is both very 19th century and very American. A belief that people can be classified into distinct, understandable boxes is a concept from simpler, more naive times. They still have Chechoslovak room and even Yugoslavian room which unfortunately we could not see: I wonder if Serbian chairs get in a fight with Croatian tables under a watchfull eye of the Bosnian blackboard.

The net effect is a college version of the Disneyland. The cultural references are presented like animals in the zoo: out of place, behind the glass and not even yearning for freedom of the wild open world any more.The classrooms are still added today which shows that institution of University of Pittsburgh standing can get away with a fair amount of silliness before anyone objects. In any case they would be well advised to check out Entropa sculpure, which both uses and ridicules the one box per nation idea. Poland in Entropa has a piece with priests erecting the rainbow flag of the Gay rights movement on a potatoe field in the style of the U.S. Marines raising the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima. Which tells you more about Poland than a stately room with wooden chairs.

We continue into rural Pennsylvania where restaurants aspire to Olive Garden, motel beds sport vinyl sheets and guest has to be reminded not to steal towels in a charming plea that such an atrocity will increase room rates.


So Pittsburgh. Who would have thought. For some reason I was full of misconceptions about this place. First of all it’s not really cold here. Sorry. That’s actually from an entirely different bag of misconceptions. Well, let me just say after one full day it’s an incredibly cool place. It actually seems to be a real city which from several years of painful experiences with what passes in US for urban planning is a real compliment. Pittsburgh feels organic and human-scale. People seem to live here not just commute to the office. Maybe it’s because of the geography - it’s a bit inconvenient to revel in urban sprawl when you are limited by 3 rivers surrounded by hills. Maybe it’s because of the German roots. Or maybe it’s because of the cycle of the boom and bust that touches this place with more regularity than it deserves. Well - if there is a reason it should be studied: the recipe is certainly worth replicating.

architect wanted

You become what you live in. This simple fact means that architects actually have a power of transforming more than just physical structures.But you have to give them a chance. Like asking them to design something. When I was in high school nearly all my friends lived in blocks of flats. This was normal. Political system did not really care for diversity. Everyone living in virtually the same apartments was not only the result of shortages of everything. It also reinforced the notion that we are all the same and have the same needs. Which of course is never true. After 1989 there was an explosion of design. They may be good or bad but they do not try to squeeze people in the same boxes.