Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Design as Research or is it Design Research

Today I attended two Midterm presentations given by my Thesis Advisee's and left with the question; 'why does the word design need the word research behind it to justify a scholarly pursuit?'

Design by itself is an act of research due to the process of trial and error. So what happens when the words are flipped, Research Design. I think that might focus the goal better. It is an attempt to further investigate the way we as humans have solved our architectural problems of the past and how the contemporary world unravels our past solutions. When I think of it that way then proofs are needed to establish an unraveled 'tradition.'

Time moves forward and with it new problems arise. Meeting new problems with 'traditional' systems as they solved yesterdays issues might keep buildings standing but not solving problems. If biological science is correct then micro evolution will eventually 'create' a distinctly different type of species. It is the daily step by step grind of small shifts that the lens of time magnifies to see typological change.

So what is the difference between Design, Design Research or Design as Research???????????


Monday, February 18, 2008

A Bit Over Due

I could use some more time but then so could everyone. There have been a few things added to my schedule this semester and that has taken a big chunk of time from my down time. Not a day goes by without my mind thinking about the 24" gauge.

The twenty four inch gauge is an instrument used by operative masons to measure and lay out their work. But we as Free and Accepted Masons are taught to make use of it for more noble and glorious purposes. It being divided into 24 equal parts is emblematical of the 24 hours in a day where are to be found eight hours for service to God and our neighbor, eight for our usual vocations and eight for refreshment and rest.

That is the best I can remember my lesson on the Gauge. The part most convicting to me is how easily I forget the first and last eight hours particularly the last. When time gets out of hand why do we sacrifice rest. I am constantly battling or cheating the measurement of my life this semester. Thank God for spring break.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Absolutely Relative

If the Sun in the south at meridian is the beauty and glory of the day what does that actually have to do with Freemasonry. The question of the Junior Wardens analogy for his position makes little sense as a thing of beauty. A Meridian is only a mark or a line by which another is measured from. Another word for such a thing is a datum. Meridian's are typically located to mark a passage of time, counting down days until the expected celestial event occurs. Such meridians can be found in a few renaissance cathedrals, Bologne having one of the more complex systems. These meridian systems set clocks into motion whereby we count days. The solar calendar gives us scheduling opportunities but what about the sun at meridian is it associated with a plumb line and a pillar of beauty? If we combine the solar calendar and the sundial the plumb-line becomes a clearer symbol known by masons. The vertical object on the face of a sundial is the datum necessary to tell both time of day and time of year simultaneously but relative to our geography.

As a Fellowcraft we are taught about the masonic use of three tools: the Square, Plumb and Level. Each is a relativity simple instrument that is absolutly nesessary to erect the most complex buildings. Niether one of the three tools can be used as a substitute for the other. To use one requires another that shows it's perpendicular to prove things are going straight, but what does straight have over curves to prove beauty? I think the station of beauty, or said in a more architecturally familiar way, Delight is just that, a proof or a constant, a Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum) of sorts. It is the station our laboring brothers look to for refreshment after the toils or gravity of the day as well as the pillar of efficiency who stands in the masters place among the craft to moderate and maintain the freedom of the craft. The beauty is not in the object of the Junior Warden but in the distance or space perceived between the brethren and the Master's will. In other words the Junior Warden is the equalizer of the lodge. He stands not as static as the square but as a dynamic tool of guidance, fixed at one end to distant point but left free at it's opposite end relative to its position in the world. The craft sees the gravity of the master's orders through the pull of the Junior wardens weight among his brothers.

Our departed brother Carl Claudy used the comparison of the Washington Monument to the Eiffel Tower to demonstrate the ultimate purpose of the plumb-line relative to its position on earth, our space. He points out that both rise perpendicular from the earth into space but are not parallel do to their distance from each other and the curved surface on which they are built. They are both absolutely vertical but relatively crooked if compared directly from the same point in space. It is this relativity that is the beauty or delight of our fraternity. When we stand amoungst our neighbor in daily life do we promote delightful activity and enjoyment at where we are stationed in life without sabotaging equilibrium in various seasons of life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Moving on

I came across a news item that presented another Masonic building changing hands from the Brotherhood to the community they serve. It struck me enough to post a few other transfers I have read about in the recent past and thought it might be fun to begin a working list of such transactions to illuminate any patterns that are developing. Please note I am not advocating the idea that Freemasonry is dying because of such real estate transfers. I am however pointing out that having a presence in our community goes further than what we do it also provides a shelter or even a haven for that community to sustain itself even though some of the masons don't occupy the same space anymore. In a sense it is what builders / architects are supossed to do. Design / build a place that will sustain the health of a community so it can move into the future.

Here are a few transactions.

The Former Tacoma Masonic Temple

"Former Tacoma City Councilman Kevin Phelps, who transformed Tacoma’s monumental but little-used Masonic Temple into the popular Landmark Convention Center, has sold his share of the events center to a longtime business partner...

the biggest Masonic temple west of the Mississippi. By the time he bought it from the Masons 16 years ago, the building’s many rooms were used infrequently.

The 1926-vintage building at 47 St. Helens Ave., has 10 ballrooms and a theater that could seat more than 1,900 people when it was built."

(Gillie, John. "New owner of Landmark thinks big for future." The News Tribune (August 2007). accessed August 22, 2007.)

The former New Orleans Masonic Temple.

"The hotel will be known as the Hilton New Orleans St. Charles Avenue. The 1926 former Masonic Temple was purchased in May by Dimension Development Co. Inc. of Natchitoches . Dimension will manage the hotel. The company renovated the 250-room hotel, restoring the theater and indoor swimming pool. The hotel will have a restaurant, called Luke, under the direction of Chef John Besh."

(Prussel. "Hilton to run former Hotel Monaco." The Times Picayune (June 2007). accessed August 22, 2007.)

The former (never used as) Providence Masonic Temple

"The newest hotel in Providence celebrated its grand opening Tuesday.
A ribbon-cutting was held at the Renaissance Providence Hotel on the Avenue of the Arts.
The hotel was built inside the shell of the Masonic Temple. It features 272 rooms, a restaurant and a lounge.
The 1928 building, which sat abandoned for decades, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.."

("Masonic Temple Officially Reborn As Hotel." (August 2007) accessed August 22, 2007.)

Its former 'glory'

glory images were taken from the following website

Interested in more visuals of the Providence Temple's sorted life check out

Please also see my past post "Molting Masons" for a further thought on the physical presence freemasonry has provided to the built landscape.

An interesting side note about the Providence Temple is that one of the principle architects at Osgood & Osgood of Grand Rapids, Michigan was the same professional used as a consultant during the design and building of the Washington Masonic Memorial. He was also a Master Mason

"S. Eugene Osgood, representing the firm of Osgood and Osgood, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a 33d Mason, Past Master of his Blue Lodge, and Past Commander-in-Chief of his Consistory. During the last fifteen years he has designed many notable Masonic Temples. He received his architectural training at Cornell University, and is the junior member of a firm that has been in continuous architectural practice for over forty-five years." (

The former Elgin, IL Masonic Temple

A church might not be the best re-use of a masonic temple. The congregation that bought it isn't playing nice with the old stuff.

"At issue are two markings on the former Masonic temple, on East Chicago Street in a city historic district. The first is a compass and square symbol near the top of the building's front.

The compass and square is a traditional symbol of Freemasons, members of a fraternal organization based on a system of morality.

The second marking is on the building's cornerstone. It says the temple was built by the Masonic fraternity in 1923. And then it includes a second number that Steve Stroud, head of the heritage commission subcommittee, says is a Masonic date."

(Gaunt, Jeffrey. "Church Wants Symbols Removed But Elgin Says Masonic Signs Need Preservation." Daily Herald (June 2007). accessed August 22, 2007.

The silly thing is that this building has been going from pocket to pocket for a while now.

"After years of foreseen financial problems, to keep and maintain the
beautiful Masonic building, located at 310 E. Chicago St. in Elgin,
it was decided to put the building up for sale. The building was sold
for $163,000 on March 22, 1991 causing the Masons of Elgin and all
appendant bodies to find new locations. Elgin Lodge #117 remodeled a vacant church."

(Newby, Cathy. "Postcards from the past; a brief history of Elgin, Illinois." (date unknown). accessed August 22, 2007)

Now isn't that a funny irony that the lodge found a church to sit in and the church found the temple. There must be some cosmic joke going on in Elgin.

The former Algiers Point Masonic Temple

"Opelousas Temple Group, LLC has agreed to acquire the St. John Masonic Temple building located on Opelousas Street in Algiers Point. Plans call for the conversion of the 1925 era building into ten high end condominiums...One of the building’s key features is the fantastic roof top view. The St. John Masonic Temple Building is unusually tall for Algiers Point. From the rooftop, which is being transformed into an observation and party deck, owners and guest will have a clear view of the St. Louis Cathedral and other parts of the French Quarter and the downtown skyline seems to be designed especially for viewing from this vantage point. Of course the Crescent City Connection is prominent, but even the Paris Avenue bridge is visible. In addition to these views, the building also is uniquely position relative to most of the Point’s church buildings, providing visions of several bell towers and copulas sneaking out from among the trees." (

Algiers Point is a neighborhood outside of New Orleans and the transaction occured in 2005.

The General Assembly of Pennsylvania got attarcted to the Masonic building turnover and introduced a bill in 1993 that gave the right of Pensylvania Historical and Museum Commision the right to purchase Sranton's Masonic Temple and New Castle's Scottish Rite Cathedral. This was in order to create a cultural center at both locations. (

And one more.

Fadi Rahman, an australian, converted a former Masonic Temple in Sydney's Muslim community to a youth center for the many Muslim children who live there. This story was made into a documentary film (

I find it facinating that the impact of a Masonic presence is not easily shaken even though the fraternity is diminishing. Even though buildings are static their influence on communities is quite dynamic. A lesson we might learn from this is how important landmarks are to guide the future. Landmarks will still guide us even if they are remodeled from the inside out.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mining Masons

I have recently come across a couple of towns / cities that have documented design roots by Freemasons. This is not another fantastic story about Washington D.C. and hidden pentagrams. For those bedtime stories you go to one of the many anti masonic websites dealing their copy cat & empty research.

The first one is a city in Brazil called Paraty. It is a Portuguese colonial town developed in the early seventeenth century as a stop (the last stop) on the gold trail into the brazilian countryside. I assume to be like our mining towns out west. The Masonic planning has been recognized by Freemasonry Today and by local lore. The applied graphic designwork that a few of the buildings have contain abstract Square and Compass' and some say the stone corners (North East) are a throw back to the Craft. One small but significant feature of the infrastructure of the city is the controlled flooding that cleans the streets. High tide arrives, the streets flood and upon low tide the debris and grime of the day is removed. Today the debris and grime are more hazardous to the marine life but it must have been a good Idea in the past due to the popularity and welcoming character of the city to Portuguese / Brazilian travelers. Some hidden lessons that the Masonic founders might have been sharing could have been associated with masonic lessons of industry, the 24 inch gauge, and maybe the EA remembrance of Tidal movements or could it be connected to Lunar (celestial) activity as it relates to our earthly (terrestrial) activity (ie. shops cannot be open during flood stage, time to rest). These are purely speculation as an Architect in a Masonic town.

Another town, closer to home, is Masonic, California. This place is considered a ghost town and has that ethereal presence of uninhabited human structures have with out significant human presence. There is no resident population of Masonic's or would it have been Masonicians, or even Masoniconians (it has a more poetic ring) so legend is few and far between here. It does have a bronze plaque that gives the towns legend and it is here that Freemasons from the east coast of the U.S. have been inscribed as founders and builders. The only masonic 'coincidence' here is the three level design of the place. It was divided into Upper Masonic, Middle Masonic and Lower Masonic with Middle Masonic as the town center.

There must be more 'Urban' places in the world that have TRUE masonic influence in their design and I will communicate them here as I make my travels through this Cyber Sphere.

BTW. Does anyone think it is strange that both of these towns are connected to moving Gold from place to place. Could be a conspiracy :-)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Master Tester

A man died the other day that I need to pay tribute to. His name was Norman Dorf and he was an Architect and a teacher. A master teacher I would say. He taught me, and numerous other Architectural Registration Exam candidates, how to think through the complicated scenario's the test presents. He was a master and 'We', his pupils, were willing apprentices eager to learn his method of work to pass the most difficult exam any registered architect has ever taken. He made us, who passed, a similar master as well. I never met Mr. Dorf but he personally marked my practice exams with comments. That took time and he was dedicated to teaching how to pass 'The Exam.' A man who knew the importance of sharing truth. A man, if not a Mason would have been a good one, who gave relief to the men and women who sought his help and could be considered a brother in the profession.

A Master has fallen.

Here is his Obituary from the New York Times.

Norman Kemmerer Dorf
DORF--Norman Kemmerer, of Glen Cove, NY on June 28, 2007, age 68. Born in Princeton, NJ. Survived by mother, Ruth Kemmerer Dorf, brother, Robert E. Dorf and sister, Molly D. Purrington. Father of Tracy, Tom and Whitney. Grandfather of Natalie, Spencer and Athena. Also survived by girlfriend Marie Lewis and faithful canine Kelsee. Predeceased by father Erling Dorf, Professor of Geology at Princeton University and brother Thomas A. Dorf. Honorably discharged from the Navy in 1963 after serving overseas. Class of 1963 at MIT, Norman went on to work as an architect with Marcel Breuer on the Whitney Museum before working with Davis, Brody & Associates architectural firm in New York City. Served as Project Manager on the 1982 restoration of the New York Public Library. Served 16 years on the ARE committee of NCARB in exam creation and grading. Norman, author of study guide Solutions, was a dedicated teacher to thousands of Architectural Examination candidates around the country and the world. His absence creates a large void in the world of exam preparation, mentoring and lecturing. Travelling, sailing and spending treasured times with many close friends were amongst Norman's favorite activities. Services to take place in Princeton, NJ and Glen Cove, NY, please see for schedule. In lieu of flowers, donations in Norman's name may be made to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories (
Published in the New York Times on 7/2/2007.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Google Eyed god?

Some may have seen this video but it's the first for me. When I watched it I was struck with a new sense of what the all seeing eye could be. Is it Google. Has Google formed a Masonic plot to rule the world by spying through their products. Some Anti Masonic nonsense might have those suspicions, I just think this is amusing.

Have you ever put this together my Anti Mason friends.

Google has six letters. That is double the degree of the sublime degree of Master Mason and since it is double it is like the double headed, Scottish Rite eagle. It also has the same number of letters as in Shrine. If you combine it with Earth (i.e. Google Earth), including the space, it totals twelve and you know what that means (????????). But I am sure my simple conspiracy can be made into some elaborate moronic mess. I leave that to the Great Google in the sky.