An Inquisitive Mind

Inquisitive Mind 1

Ask a question and you’re a fool for three minutes; do not ask a question and you’re a fool for the rest of your life. – Chinese Proverb

As I go about my day-to-day activities, I am always observing my surroundings and taking note of things that are unfamiliar or interesting. Generally, it’s my built environment that I notice and think of the function, design, and purpose.

Our inquisitive mind is more active whenever we visit new places. Recently, I was fortunate to have visited Greece for vacation. I never thought this would be a place for me to visit just something on my wish list or bucket list item.

My knowledge of Greece was limited to Architectural History classes I attended in school. We learned about the Acropolis and all the temples located inside the city walls. It was truly an experience being there and seeing the temple ruins in person. While touring the ancient grounds, I was reminded of certain details that were incorporated in designing the old ruins. One of the details that was pointed out by our tour guide was the curvature of the base and the columns. When I asked about why it was done that way, I was told it was for structural reasons and prevention against earthquakes.

This exaggerated diagram of the Parthenon shows the curvature of the structure which creates the illusion of a perfectly straight columns and flat base.

The tour guide’s explanation seemed like it made sense; I wanted to do some additional research.

• The columns that support the temple are wider in its central part to correct the distortions generated by the human eye to see a slim object higher than it is, making it all appear perfectly round.
• The base where the temple sits is slightly curved. Stands with regard to their side 10cm in length and 5 at its short side. This makes the building look like it is perfect.
• The columns are slightly inclined to join a trend in its top to look at from beneath and give the sensation that they are perfectly parallel.

As designers and aspiring architects, we must pay special attention to details.
There are many factors that need to be considered when we design and develop our craft. I try to imagine how the end user will be utilizing their environment. We design for a specific purpose. But as time goes by a building may become obsolete or no longer relevant for its current existence.

Therefore, whenever I visit new places and I notice strange or interesting details, I try to figure out the reasoning behind it. As I previously noted; I think about the function, design, and purpose. You come across some very funny details and figuring it out is (sometimes) futile. This treehouse makes absolutely no sense to me. It does seem to have a purpose though. To have fun with imagination while risking your life.

This photo shows how pedestrian traffic and vehicular traffic are intermingled. The familiar yellow fluted tiles are to caution you to be aware of any vehicles that may be also traveling on the same pathway.

During my visit to Athens, I noticed the sidewalks had a concrete yellow fluted tile running parallel to the street. Initially, I thought that maybe they were channels to direct storm water. I had never seen anything like this in the states. The more I thought about it though, it didn’t seem right. I came to the conclusion that the yellow striped tiles were there for the safety of the visually impaired. Yellow is a color that is easily recognized by the visually impaired, and the channels where for those who use a cane to get around. This conclusion was further reinforced when I noticed the yellow tiles leading to intersections and connecting to yellow truncated pads located at the end of a curb.

It’s a common misconception that truncated pads are designed for people using wheelchairs. I’ve heard those who do use wheelchairs don’t like these at all!
These are methods for people to get around the city safely. They are meant to be an indication to be alert and proceed with caution.

Another common site I observed are the cylindrical shapes on most of the rooftops across the area in Athens that I was visiting. After a little digging, I found out that these are solar water heaters. This seems like such a smart idea and wonder why we have not adopted residential solar heating methods like this across North America.

Another one of my observations where these barriers along side the roadways. It was interesting to see that they used glass as acoustic barriers in leu of concrete walls that I notice in my day-to-day travels in Pennsylvania. I’m happy to see that they used the bird silhouettes to prevent birds from colliding.

I can only assume that these were not implemented until it was necessary to do so.

In conclusion, be cognizant of your surroundings. Appreciate what other cultures have to offer in their design concepts, as you never know where inspiration will come from. Sometimes it is a response to the needs of the climate, other times out of necessity.

-George Yenovkian