Making It By Hand

Every kid who ever went to camp or elementary school probably lugged home a wallet, a pair of moccasins or a change purse stitched together during Arts and Crafts class. Although usually long past the age of camps and kindergarten, some people with arthritis are rediscovering the satisfaction of creating items of beauty and utility.
Take, for example, 64-year-old Sarah Truman of Denver. Sarah canes chairs, weaves, paints and makes basket and ceramic ware.

arthritis, making by hand

Arts and Crafts can help arthritis

Sarah developed rheumatoid arthritis when she was 29. She moved to Denver with her husband and her three children in 1964 to be closer to the medical attention she required.
At about the same time as Sarah’s arrival in Denver, the Arthritis Foundation’s Rocky Mountain Chapter was expanding its fledgling crafts program. “I was looking for a way to get out of the house, and someone told me about the Craft Shop the Arthritis Foundation ran. That was 24 years ago, and I still love it,” she says.

weaving at the loom

Loom Weaving

That love saturates each of the pieces Sarah makes. In her house, there are crocheted and knitted afghans covering her couch, handwoven place mats on her table, painted wooden wall decorations, and a ceramic pie tin with a blue ribbon on it: first place in a local competition. Sarah made all of these things and many more – the toys her grandchildren play with including the all-the-rage loom band charms, greeting cards, sweaters, even some of the clothes she wears.
While Sarah still visits and works at the Craft Shop, she emphasizes that she would continue to pursue her crafts at home if she could no longer come to the shop. “I love to learn things and do things with my hands no matter where I am. Plus, my crafts really help keep me sane. When my arthritis hurts, it’s good to lose myself in whatever I’m doing. You really have to concentrate, so it’s hard to be in pain at the same time. At least most of the time ”

small crafts may aid arthritis

Avoid repetitive tasks

Of course not every town has an Arthritis Craft Shop devoted to teaching people with arthritis the latest in how to make beautiful, useful items for fun and profit. But that shouldn’t matter says Craft Shop Manager Susan Turkman. “People come to the shop expecting to find all kinds of adaptive equipment when, for the most part, it’s just a normal crafts studio. Most of the special equipment we use in our crafts classes was made by the people themselves.
“We do try to work around people’s special needs, though. For example, in crafts where most people would use their fingers, we use pliers. Nonetheless, the actual content of the class is the same as you would find anywhere that teaches a particular craft.”
Susan says that many people with arthritis are afraid they are too fragile to take up something as potentially demanding as a craft. Once they get involved with an activity, however, they gain skill and confidence.
“When people with arthritis don’t get involved because of their disease, they miss a great opportunity to get out of the house and learn something new.” says Susan. “We haven’t found too many crafts that even people with severe arthritis can’t do with a little creativity.”
Judy Lomax, a physical therapist in Denver, agrees that crafts are a good hobby for people with arthritis, as long as they exercise caution. “People with arthritis should join in any crafts activity that interests them, but at the same time be sensitive to their threshold of pain. Repetitive movements are very hard on joints, so it’s important to pace yourself.
“If you start feeling pain, quit and do some stretching or exercises,” she suggests. “Also, try modifying your physical environment to relieve stress on affected joints. For instance, you might raise or lower your working surface.”
If you want to take up a new craft but aren’t sure your joints can handle it, discuss your concerns with your doctor or occupational therapist. In addition to suggesting appropriate crafts, an occupational therapist may be able to help you adapt some of your old favorite crafts to make them easier on your joints.
Take it to heart. Sign up for a crafts class and start tapping your hidden creativity. Sarah Truman did, and you can too – even if you do have arthritis.

Modern Interior Design and Architecture in Schools

MIT has been a pioneer in the use of computers for graphics from the very inception of the technique. In the early 1950s, solutions to differential equations were being displayed on a cathode-ray oscilloscope in its Lincoln Laboratory. In 1962, MIT’s Ivan Sutherland developed the SKETCHPAD system, giving birth to interactive graphics. At the end of that decade, Nicholas Negroponte came to prominence with his publication of the book The Architecture Machine, in which he discussed research and theories in computer graphics and in artificial intelligence, and proposed an architect-machine partnership, with machines that would be able to learn, evolve, self-improve, and discern shifts in context. The Architecture Machine Group was established range of man/machine matters far broader than that relating to the architectural profession, but which includes several architecturally relevant ones, discussed below. Negroponte returned to MIT, after serving as director general of the French Center for Computers and Human Resources, and became director of the Media Lab. the research arm of the Arts and Media Technology program for which a new building by I.M. Pei & Partners is now being completed. The Media Lab is devoted to advanced research in broadcasting, publishing, and computing, and their overlapping uses in education, entertainment, and scientific pursuits. It is composed of ten group, including imaging arts and sciences (computer graphics and animation, holography and holographic movies, high -definition television, and modern print media), human-machine interfaces, and computer music and drama. The Architecture Machine Group, directed by Professor Andrew Lippman, was a unit within MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, and its program of research was incorporated into the Media Lab.

One project developed by Tyler Peppel of the Visible Language Workshop combined computer graphics and live action video and can assist in the redesign of the urban environment including external and interior design. A video representation of an urban scene can be altered by using digitized frames from that video sequence or from other digitized sources (photographs, drawings, programmed images, and other videos).

Professor Patrick Purcell and Art Historian Henry Okun of the Group have also developed a video library, or graphics information system, for architecture, called Archfile (as well as Picassofile, a prototype for the fine arts) in which the interactive data base. The architectural data base comprised over 5000 building records from MIT’s Rotch slide collection, which the user can see as video images on a color monitor according to classifications selected on a touch-sensitive screen (all buildings in Connecticut after 1890, all schools in the U.S. by Aalto, etc.). As the selected video images are being protected on one monitor, basic reference materials concerning those buildings are being displayed on the other screen.

The Group has also developed “how to” manuals (how to repair a car, for example) that combine movie film and text and are activated by touch; Alter Ego which can, among other things, read electronic mail messages, talk to you (in a computer-produced voice that sounds like a hoarse toad), and pass on messages to you–if it recognizes your voice; and other programs. Professor Purcell has also prepared a “Strategy for Computer Education in a School of Architecture,” part of the Athena Project, a major initiative on the MIT campus linking computers and education, and is presenting a new course of architecture students, covering digital modeling, information processing, and calculation, in a new Computer Research Laboratory of the School of Architecture and Planning. Ohio State university.

Ohio State’s School of Architecture requires that every student take an introductory course in programming and graphics. For those who wish to continue, there are three elective courses in the development of computer-aided design tools–not simply computer graphics. According to one head of the school’s computer laboratory, “There’s a considerable difference between those schools that teach computer graphics as an end in itself and those that view it as a design tool. The graphics-oriented schools have produced some amazing computer images, but they’ve moved away from the needs of the architectural profession.”

Ohio State’s master’s degree program in interior design involves about an equal number of architecture, computer science, and computer-aided design courses. Current thesis work includes software that, from a table of room adjacencies, develops bubble diagrams and schematic floor plans from which the architect can then select and manipulate; software that quickly builds up three-dimensional models from a library of shapes; and software that generates lettered and dimensioned plans, sections, elevations, and details rapidly by zooming in or slicing from those models.

That software will form the basis of a computer-aided studio to begin in September. “Computerizing the design studio,” says Yessios, “has become a fad, with several schools that have done little computer work up to now buying CAD systems. That won’t work. The commercially available software is just not adequate for design education; you must develop your own, which takes time and an experienced faculty.” University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA’s graduate school of architecture offers two introductory computer courses that most students take. The school emphasizes the importance of concise, elegant, well-written programs, taught through a series of exercises that generate increasingly more complex drawings using Pascal programming.

Completion of the two introductory courses allows a student to enrol in a computer-aided design studio that will explore the effect computers have on design. As the head of UCLA’s architecture and interior design program, states, “Some people fear that computers will limit their creativity. If there are any limitations, they are due not to the computer itself, but to a lack of understanding of it as a design medium.”

Research at the school has focused on the programming of various formal languages: “Students have developed a program that will generate house plans based upon Frank Lloyd Wright principles.

The same could be done for Le Corbusier, even Gaudi. By modeling the compositional ideas in their work, the student understands it in a different and more profound way,” according to the professor. He also sees the computer “increasing architects’ sensuous involvement with a design by allowing them to experience a building more fully than is possible through drawings or models” as well as “providing architects with more time to explore design options and details.” Carnegie-Mellon University

“Carnegie-Mellon has completely reoriented its architectural curriculum around the computer,” says Professor Robert Woods. “We’ve done so with two premises. First, architectural education has needs other than those of industry, which has used computers essentially to increase productivity and efficiency. Second, the architectural profession is undergoing major structural changes because of the computer, allowing us to generate and evaluate far more data than ever before possible and forcing us to be more explicit about design decisions.”

Carnegie-Mellon mandates that architecture students take courses in programming and computer modeling. And the school uses computers in its various technology courses, with a trial computer-aided design studio scheduled for next year and the complete computerization of studios scheduled within the next four years. “The goal in studio,” says Woods, “will be to make the design process more explicit and to show students where different software fits into that process.”

Of the research going on by faculty and graduate students in the master’s and Ph.D. programs, two areas stand out. One involves the development, says Woods, “of software that makes using the computer as facile as using pencil and paper.” The other, spearheaded by Professor Delmar Ulbright, involves software that rapidly generates and evaluates interior design alternatives.

Timely and Engaging Building

The university’s program called for the building to accommodate its Museum of Art & Archaeology, and offices and classrooms for the departments of Art History and Anthropology – a lot of program for 26,000 square feet. Graves responded by more or less bisecting the building to distinguish between the public museum and the more private offices and classrooms. This distinction is clearly stated in the building’s lobby, where Graves treats the opposed entrances to museum and department offices as two separate buildings, their facades facing each other across the “street” of the lobby. The museum entrance is a Classical rotunda, while the department entrance is a severe, Egyptian-looking arrangement of massive piers.

Just another view

The museum entrance leads directly into the largest of the exhibition spaces, or through a hexagonal “hinge” room to the main corridor, off which are located four smaller galleries. The large gallery’s front wall is bowed to make room for the stair, slipped between this wall and the front facade of the building, that leads to the second floor. Graves’ sympathy for traditional Beaux-Arts museum planning–hierarchically sized rooms arranged symmetrically about clear axes–creats a hospitable atomosphere for the ancient Egyptian, Near Eastern, Pre-Columbian, and Oriental Artifacts that are permanently displayed on this floor. Interior walls stop short of the 16-foot ceilings; topped by chunky little columns, they increase the amount of perceived space in what is really very little area. Poche, of course, figures prominently in this cause as well: jewellike, tiny rooms are carved out under the stair, in corners, and even out of the external fire-stair tower (one of two that Graves added to the building to gain more interior space). While some critics may see all this as nostalgia on Graves’ part, the net effect of this deliberately “old-fashioned” plan is that the viewer is provided with the intimately scaled space needed to study the objects on display.

The palette of colors used in the project is a sophisticated one, with deep tones of green, blue, and terra cotta, against a background of rich cream, indicating a shift away from Grave’s recent fondness for grayed pastels. Rose and green marble, and beautifully crafted bird’s-eye maple display cases demonstrate how effectively the architect uses luxury materials, but he seems at the same time to be more at ease than ever with frugal ones (http://www.vacanthree.com) , the better to allocate extravagance where it counts most; the “thick” interior walls are still gypboard, and the fat columns atop the walls are made of PVC.

On the second floor, the rotating exhibition galleries are, appropriately, much more contemporary and less “archaeological” in feeling, with large, open spaces painted cream and white, and higher levels of daylight from second-floor windows.

The other half of the building, the Art History and Anthropology departments, must have been a programmatic headache, and it shows. To gain the required square footage, Graves extended a 1950s mezzanine addition over the law library to make a full second floor. Even so, there seem to be too many rooms in too little space–with the notable exception of the elegant Art History slide library on the second floor.

Graves’s version of Beaux-Arts Classicism, personal and abstract as it is, still appears at times rather miniaturized and ambitious compared with the loose-limbed grace of Hornbostel’s building. But then this was not a test of mimetic skill; it was a happy coincidence of design sympathies. What Graves set out to do–design a small museum the old-fashioned way–he did, and with considerable elegance. How he will apply these principles to the larger scaled contemporary artworks that will be displayed in the Whitney Museum addition (and the temptation to speculate is irresistible) remains to be seen. But, in light of the current crises in museum design, Graves’s quest for an architecture that engages both the object on display and the viewer in a three-way conversation is as admirable as it is timely.