Dispatches from Postcard Underground

Shortly after my TED talk in April 2017, we received these in the mail…mysterious hand written postcards. 

Mysterious handwritten postcards....

Mysterious handwritten postcards....

Mysterious not because they were written by hand. But rather, where they were from. They were non-descript cards, not the usual “Greetings from San Francisco” type of postcard bearing scenes from the location. In fact, some were simply notecards with just a message on one side and my address on the other. And they bore no return address or name of sender…but I could tell from the postmark from where they hailed from across the United Stated. 

And they appeared all at once…or more aptly in two batches.

The first batch arrived after I’d been out of the office for a conference. They all sat discreetly on my desk until a few hours later when I noticed the short stack of cards addressed to Kim Grace (common mistake for those of us who have two first names). They all bore similar messages of encouragement along the vein of:

“Thank you for your work on [cohousing].  Who knew that having neighbors lengthens a life span.  Hearing & knowing your neighbors provides the community that is missing in our everyday lives. Best wishes for growing success."

Thinking it was a TED groupie thing, I asked my fellow TED presenters if they had received any such postcards. The response was, surprisingly,  

“What?!? No.”

So I had no idea who urged them to send them to me or why…until we received the second batch.

Our first clue as to where these were coming from:  a small pink "Postcard Underground" stamp (see top right postcard).

Our first clue as to where these were coming from:  a small pink "Postcard Underground" stamp (see top right postcard).

The second batch also came while I was out of the office. While these were similarly non-descript and vaguely familiar in tone, this time I noticed one bore a light pink stamp reading “POSTCARD UNDERGROUND”.

So I googled “postcard underground” and found links like this…and this…and this.  The POSTCARD UNDERGROUND was a real “thing”. Someone was blogging (somewhere) about good work being done around the globe and encouraging her readers to send anonymous notes. From one of the posts, I gleaned the intent of the POSTCARD UNDERGROUND –“A coordinated but random act of kindness and recognition to those who really deserve it.”  WOW!

Thanks to all those who are the POSTCARD UNDERGROUND. Your words fuel me and others who are trying to make the world a better place. I am honored to be the recipient of your random acts.

Keep on writing.

-Grace

PARK(ing) Day 2017

PARK(ing) Day was two weeks ago and we're still reflecting on what a fun, community driven day it was. Special thanks are in order for our partners: Ragen & Associates for the beautiful plants and pots; Southpaw Pizza for providing pizzas at our potluck; Low Income Housing Institute for teaming with us on the benchtable, which found a home at their Georgetown Village.

It was a wonderfully busy day, topped off with a delicious community dinner and an extended presentation of Grace's TED Talk. Check out some of the highlights:

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Customization of a Pre-engineered Metal Building System in Interbay

Developer and client, The Freehold Group, was interested in using a pre-engineered metal building (PEMB) system for a new, flexible building in the Interbay industrial area of Seattle. The concept of efficient, off-the-shelf building components assembled into an expressive, economical structure approach has enticed architects for years. An early, compelling example was the home of husband and wife architects Charles & Ray Eames, built in 1949 in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles.

Schemata Workshop has designed one prefabricated component building (permitted, unbuilt), but has completed a number of industrial projects using PEMB systems, and refined our skills during that process of renovation and construction.

Charles & Ray Eames on site during construction of their home (with no tie-offs or PPE!)

Charles & Ray Eames on site during construction of their home (with no tie-offs or PPE!)

Eames home office interior on the left, Eames House interior on the right. Both are views west toward the Pacific Ocean.

Eames home office interior on the left, Eames House interior on the right. Both are views west toward the Pacific Ocean.

The pure engineering of PEMB industrial buildings has a long, known history, but considering PEMB thoughtfully and thoroughly seems to be less common. Deeper consideration for PEMB was purposely part of our process for the R&D Building. The Freehold Group shared examples of the work of El Dorado in Kansas City, MO, along with other examples of industrial work that create a sense of place, including the 798 District in Beijing, PRC; gritty but thoughtfully designed districts in Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan; RiNo Art District in Denver, Colorado; among others. A single PEMB structure that stood out to the Freehold Group was the Healdsburg SHED, which served as a well-executed, inspiring, and elegant example of the building type. 

Photo from Healdsburg SHED website.

Photo from Healdsburg SHED website.

The R&D building site during site remediation and civil work.

The R&D building site during site remediation and civil work.

BNSF Diesel filling station directly adjacent to the R&D Building site. 

BNSF Diesel filling station directly adjacent to the R&D Building site. 

For the R&D Building, the client came to us after having completed environmental remediation of the site, and installing a storm water drainage system in anticipation of future construction of an L-shaped building around an outdoor parking area. Early massing studies below, which considered the sense of enclosure provided by the existing adjacent, Freehold-owned Bow Building, as well as views from the surrounding Magnolia & Queen Anne hillsides.

Efforts focused on the potential sense of place and identity provided by uses opening onto the courtyard space, with horizontal circulation along an exterior walkway that connects to the vertical circulation of 2-stairs and one freight elevator.

The Owner was very interested in the symmetrical gable frame visible from the Thorndyke street frontage, seen on the right.

The Owner was very interested in the symmetrical gable frame visible from the Thorndyke street frontage, seen on the right.

End gable frame is prominent here as well, but the low eaves align with a shed structure to the left.

End gable frame is prominent here as well, but the low eaves align with a shed structure to the left.

Floor plan shows the two column grids for each of the two building framing systems.

Floor plan shows the two column grids for each of the two building framing systems.

Aerial view of R&D Building steel PEMB frame from adjacent rooftop.

Aerial view of R&D Building steel PEMB frame from adjacent rooftop.

Site panorama including PEMB frame.

Site panorama including PEMB frame.

PEMB frame during construction.

PEMB frame during construction.

Schemata Workshop architects on site visit.

Schemata Workshop architects on site visit.

Parking court and vertical circulation signage after completion.

Parking court and vertical circulation signage after completion.

View north along upper balcony walkway. The owner sourced the guardrails in front of roll-up doors, portions in front of the garage doors are removable for fork-lift deliveries from the parking lot below.

View north along upper balcony walkway. The owner sourced the guardrails in front of roll-up doors, portions in front of the garage doors are removable for fork-lift deliveries from the parking lot below.

An office interior T-I build-out.

An office interior T-I build-out.

Still available top-floor unit (see Freehold Group for leasing).

Still available top-floor unit (see Freehold Group for leasing).

In progress T-I, including CLT mezzanine, stair construction, stainless steel mesh guardrail.

In progress T-I, including CLT mezzanine, stair construction, stainless steel mesh guardrail.

Architects at a foosball table.

Architects at a foosball table.

Mezzanine of cross-laminated timber (CLT) planks set into wide flange steel support frame.

Mezzanine of cross-laminated timber (CLT) planks set into wide flange steel support frame.

Schemata on upper balcony walkway.

Schemata on upper balcony walkway.

Other resources

An approach to long life, loose fit buildings (book): Frame & Generic Space

Overview of discrete building systems (book): How Buildings Learn - What Happens After They're Built

A thorough review of the Case Study House program (book): Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses

Amazing Design-Build-Fabricator El Dorado in Kansas City, MO (website, inspirational but not involved with this project).

A great analysis of the Healdsburg SHED by Jensen Architects (website)

General Contractor, MRJ Constructors (website)

Structural Engineer, AJP Engineering (website)

Civil Engineer, SvR Engineering (website)

Owner & Developer, The Freehold Group (website)

New Staff Join Schemata Workshop

Last month, Marijana Cvencek and David Witte were added to the Schemata Workshop roster. We are overjoyed to welcome these two engaged and thoughtful community leaders.  You can read their bios in the staff page, but we thought we would continue the tradition of asking our newest coworkers off-the-beaten-track questions to get to know them. 

Here are their answers:

Marijana

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Cheers!

- The Froggers

I'm Officially a TEDster

TEDster – noun. A person who attends a TED conference.

Attending the TED conference is like drinking from a fire hose; while TED talks are between 8-19 minutes long, the conference is a full 5 days. There are two-hour sessions 2-3 times a day, where you hear 6- 8 speakers in a row.

The theme for the conference was The Future You. And while there was a lot of talk about robots and drones of the near-term and future, it was balanced with the human side of things and the importance of community and connection. The topics ranged from artificial intelligence, art and music, healthcare, and climate change, to compassion and heartbreak, microbes and pond scum, refugees, and community. Speakers were not run-of-the-mill, but top in the field, extraordinary individuals doing amazing work like Pope Francis, the Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Shah Rukh Kahn, Tim Ferriss, Serena Williams, and Elon Musk. The full line-up can be found here.

A few of my favorite sessions were:

Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon – two friends who started a non-profit called GirlTrek, the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States. Invoking the spirits of their foremothers and Harriet Tubman, they spoke about why and how they get black women out walking in their neighborhoods – for their personal health as well as social change. Throughout American history, black women walked to organize their communities and speak out against injustices. Their talk was powerful and brought the audience to their feet.

Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Titus Kaphar – an artist that spoke about race and equity in art as seen through the eyes of his young son, and how art has historically marginalized people of color. He painted for us as he talked about why you can’t erase history, but how you can obscure the power depicted through art to bring into focus the people who were oppressed. A beautiful performance. 

Titus Kaphar's work at TED

Titus Kaphar's work at TED

Devita Davison – a food activist from Detroit whom I’ve been raving about since last year when I first heard her speak at a planning conference. She is working with a team to make Detroit a food sovereign city, and helping people of color become entrepreneurs. Devita took us on a tour of her hometown showing us community gardens where residents came to know their farmers, and where neighbors band together to obliterate food deserts and build community. She comes from a long lineage of preachers and her talk showed it – the passion and conviction with which she spoke was infectious.

Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

There were many more on art and music, climate change, and human connection – but those will come in a later post.  In the meantime, look up Raj Panjabi, Emily Esfahani Smith, Daan Roosegaarde, Anna Rosling Rônnlund, Kate Marvel, Guy Winch, Anab Jain, Anna Herringer, Ashton Applewhite, Helen Pearson, Susan Pinker, Anthony Romero, Laolu Senbanjo, Jacob Collier, Lil Buck, Huang Yi, Anne Madden, David Whyte, and Manoush Zomorodi.

The TED experience was exhilarating and inspiring. In an interview, Elon Musk (who talked about colonizing Mars, a tunnel/highway under LA to get people out of traffic, and autonomous vehicles) was asked what inspired him. He said, “I’m not trying to be anyone’s savior. I’m just trying to think about the future and not be sad.” I get that. But I’m also sad he feels that way, because when I think of the future, I’m hopeful, not sad. I think the future holds much beauty and promise. There was talk about inclusivity and resilience at the conference, and I’m glad to have had this past week to think about what that means for The Future Us.

- Grace