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Archive for October, 2012

Architecture time machine!

Second year architecture students are stepping into the past with the help of Kennedy Library’s Special Collections. The upcoming exhibit, Atelier Morgan, features an inspiring collection of Julia Morgan’s sketches and drawings. As part of the exhibit, every second year architecture student at Cal Poly participated in the Julia Morgan Symposium, where they had a chance to look through the Morgan Papers to draw inspiration.

Architecture instructors rarely choose the same projects for their students, so this is an opportunity for the students to work on the same subject and explore Cal Poly’s Special Collections, architecture professor Robert Arens said.

“Students will take this opportunity to see the Special Collections and also see this great exhibit,” Arens said. The exhibit opens at Kennedy Library on November 9, 2012.

Faculty selected one of three Morgan projects to focus on for the quarter, having students design structures or create drawings that are inspired by, but not necessarily derivative of, Morgan’s iconic work.

Photo of Cal Poly architecure students review Julia Morgan papers“Everyone’s taking kind of a different approach to it,” Arens said. He described the challenge for students: “How do you fit into an existing context and kind of a revered one? How do you respond to that without imitation?”

And the students’ experience with these revered works has inspired them too.

For architecture student Karin Bjorkman, who is working on a sketch inspired by Morgan’s work at Hearst Castle, access to the Morgan Papers is a special privilege, she said. “It was really touching that they brought it down to us,” Bjorkman said.

For architecture student Eli Beckman, that privilege is also an incredible way to study something first-hand. “It’s a great sort of primary source as to what Julia Morgan’s work looked like,” Beckman said.

The Atelier Morgan exhibit is November 9, 2012 – January 11, 2013, with an opening on November 9 from 3-4pm in the second floor Gallery at the Commons. The opening is followed by The College of Architecture and Environmental Design’s 2012 Hearst Lecture Series featuring Victoria Kastner, historian for Hearst Castle and author of two books: “Hearst Castle: The Biography of a Country House” and “Hearst’s San Simeon: The Gardens and the Land.” The lecture will be from 4-5pm in the Business Rotunda at Cal Poly.

The architecture students’ Morgan-inspired projects will go on display in the Gallery at the Commons on the second floor of Kennedy Library, January 14 – February 1, 2013.

UPDATE: See photos from the exhibit opening on our Flickr.

Learn more about Kennedy Library’s Special Collections.

More information about the Julia Morgan exhibit is available at Atelier Morgan.

– Victoria Billings

Bad Parenting, Seattle Division, and a Quick Trip to Italy

Continuing with my theme of arguments for contraception and/or abstinence, I recently read Where’d you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. One of the most complex characters I’ve had the pleasure to encounter lately, Bernadette is an ex-architect, wife of a Microsoft bigwig, and mother of Bee. She’s moved unwillingly with her family from California to Seattle, and hates it to an almost unimaginable degree. At first, the fellow parents she hates so much are drawn with such broad strokes that I was afraid the book was going to be too cartoonish for me. Gradually the caricatures get fleshed out, though, and turn out to be more real than they seemed. And some of Bernadette’s snarkiness is hard not to snicker along with:

Remember when the feds busted in on that Morman polygamist cult in Texas a few years back? And the dozens of wives were paraded in front of the camera? And they all had this long mouse-colored hair with strands of gray, no hairstyle to speak of, no makeup, ashy skin, Frida Kahlo facial hair, and unflattering clothes? And on cue, the Oprah audience was shocked and horrified? Well, they’ve never been to Seattle.

There are two hairstyles here: short gray hair, and long gray hair.

Bernadette is instantly at war with her neighbors and the PC parents at Bee’s school, Galer Street Elementary (grading system: S = Surpasses Excellence, A = Achieves Excellence, W = Working towards Excellence). The family, at Bernadette’s urging, buys a crumbling mansion in an advanced state of moldy decay. Soon she’s in a major bitchfest with her neighbor Audrey over blackberry abatement.

But the plot really thickens when Bee collects on her reward for getting straight S’s on her report card: she insists on a family trip to Antarctica, on which Bernadette disappears. It’s left to Bee, who refuses to believe that Bernadette isn’t alive, to make sense of the clues, many of which arrive in a package from a very surprising source. The characters are quirky and hilarious, and the story ends up being emotionally satisfying in a way I did not see coming.

Beautiful Ruins is a very different story. Unlike Bernadette, it has multiple plot lines, an army of characters, and jumps around from Italy in the early 60s to Edinburgh and Hollywood in the present. A fictionalized Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor have significant roles in the 60s portion, and the characters who connect the two time frames are an Italian innkeeper and an American film producer — on location in Italy in the 60s, doing damage control to prevent a possible scandal, and in Hollywood in the present, addicted to plastic surgery and still running the show.

The first impression one gets of Michael Dean is of a man constructed of wax, or perhaps prematurely embalmed. After all these years, it may be impossible to trace the sequence of facials, spa treatments, mud baths, cosmetic procedures, lifts and staples, collagen implants, outpatient touch-ups, tannings, Botox injections, cyst and growth removals, and stem-cell injections that have caused a seventy-two-year-old man to have the face of a nine-year-old Filipino girl.

All the hopping around with different characters, the movie stars, and the Botox, could very quickly turn into a door-slamming farce, in the hands of a lesser author. But Walter manages to make believable, and at least occasionally sympathetic characters out of the scads of people populating this novel. Themes that run through the book are fleeting youth, the quest to be a star, fame and power. I didn’t want this one to end, and will watch for future novels (and dig for earlier ones) by Walter.

Author photos, from top:

Leta Wagner
Hannah Assouline

Visualize Research Connections with DigitalCommons@CalPoly

Discipline Wheel

Try The New Discipline Wheel
Each major discipline is represented by a color, so you can see how much scholarship a particular discipline has contributed.

Users and researchers can now explore serendipitous scholarship connections and visualize Cal Poly’s contributions within a wider scholarly context, thanks to enhanced navigation, discovery and browsing on DigitalCommons@CalPoly.

Enhancements include:

  • Discipline Wheel: A complete visualization of the faculty and student research and scholarship on DigitalCommons@CalPoly. Each major discipline is represented by a color, so you can see how much scholarship a particular discipline has contributed. You can even drill down to explore the content.
  • DigitalCommons Network: This tool visualizes the content contributed by over 200 national and international higher-education institutions, including Cal Poly, and displays meaningful and explicit scholarship connections between the institutions. The DigitalCommons Network also contextualizes scholarship within the larger body of disciplinary literature.
  • Follow: Users and researchers can be notified when new content has been contributed by a department, author or discipline. You can also easily manage the research updates.

DigitalCommons@CalPoly is the largest digital archive of student and faculty work in the CSU and one of the most successful internationally. The DigitalCommons platform supports the archiving and display of multiple file types, including text, data sets, images and video.

For more information on how you can contribute your work to DigitalCommons@CalPoly, contact Michele Wyngard, Digital Repository Specialist, at ude.yloplacnull@dragnywm / (805) 756-2315.

On Foot! Adventures in city planning

The found objects included scraps of paper, foam hair curlers and plastic dinosaurs. The task? To build an ideal city using these disparate objects. With minimal instruction to encourage creative thinking, 140 people began building. They stood around tables in the second floor cafe area, working together to make cities unlike the ones we know, limited only by their imagination and plastic dinosaurs.

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This is the end (episode 12)

This is episode 12 of 12.

The 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week is over.  Together Kristen and I have read over 120 books from ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books 2000-2009 (those darn series again!) and created 12 podcasts about them.  Read more

Santa Paula PhotoVoice Project

Kennedy Library invites you to view Cal Poly STRIDE’s photography exhibit, “Creating a Vision, Empowering a Community: The Santa Paula PhotoVoice Project” that is on display October 15 – November 5, 2012, in the Cafe Gallery on the second floor.

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Revenge of the white whale


Cal Poly author and history professor George Cotkin shared his own eccentric, extensive and often hilarious relationship with Herman Melville’s classic “Moby Dick” on October 12 at Kennedy Library’s first Conversations with Cal Poly Authors event of the school year. The podcast is below. Read more