raccoon family



design by hand part two

Below is another blog post I wrote for the company I work for, which you can also find here.

As I mentioned in my last post—there is a strong physical connection between a person and his or her hand-drawn or written work. This is mainly due to the role of the pencil and paper, which Paolo Belardi talks about in his book Why Architects Still Draw. I want to explore this idea further to learn what that connection is and how it compares to the connection a human has with a computer.

This connection can be clearly seen through the way in which physicality of writing with a pencil on paper (how the beginning draft of this text began) allows me to experience the intimate process of writing that begins first with forming the shapes which become letters. These letters turn into words, which come together to make sentences, which become paragraphs that finally complete this blog post. This doesn’t occur without the physical experience of scribbling and crossing things out along the way. Belardi writes:

“When editing a text, for instance, the hand might perform from four or five million small movements, which all together give rise to the marks on the paper. When we write though, we don’t have full control of our handwriting: we trace in an automatic and conscious way, given that, during just one second of writing, our hand is subject to at least ten graphic impulses. In this way, unconscious automation related to the complicated neurological-muscle activity happens so that, as Henri Focillion maintains, ‘the mind rules over the hand; hand rules over mind.’”

The typed second draft is a much different experience—I have much less of a personal connection to what I’m creating. When I process my thoughts on a computer, it is more rigid. I type, erase, type again, until I have a final product. When I erase something on the computer, I simply press a button and it’s gone. It disappears as quickly as I was able to create it, which makes it a much less permanent part of my thought process as well. There is not much of a drafting or editing process when it comes to the computer. I sacrifice control when I use a computer because I can’t simply move my hand to the outside of the page to make a quick note. Not only do I have the mouse and the screen standing in the way, but also the program coding which prevents me from doing what would otherwise be natural. The creative process is limited to the framework that the tool and the computer allow you. This is opposed greatly to the engaging experience of using, as many have for ages, a pencil on paper.

The time it takes to write by hand versus the speed with which I type allows me to interact with my imagination and creativity while continuing fluidly my original thought process. Belardi goes on to say, “Many details related to the elusive nature of creativity may be successfully pursued in the mental images that are evoked in this “black hole” of the drawing act.” The “black hole” refers to the 350 milliseconds that our subconscious is free to pursue creativity and imagination.

At the computer, my hands sit idle and impatient, waiting to come up with a new sentence. The keyboard prevents me from doodling. It doesn’t allow my thoughts to wander, tapping into my imagination and creativity. Computers and creativity aren’t compatible. Had I skipped the crucial first step of using a pencil and paper during the drafting process, I would have missed out on the intimate experience of processing—an experience that is only possible because of the connection with the pencil and the creativity allowed by the freedom of the process.

The same is true with drawing. When you sketch something by hand, you feel the shapes, lines and angles forming. You experience the physical erasing of an element of the drawing. You are the crux of its creation as well as its destruction. The time that it takes for your hand to create makes you more and more familiar with the object or space being creating. Martin Gay Ford says, “Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still. The image is passing through you in a physiological way, into your brain, into your memory – where it stays – it’s transmitted by your hands.” A computer on the other hand, is not as forgiving to this personal process. It does not offer the space necessary for creativity to flourish or for a relationship with the product to occur. It inhibits the flow of thought to hand, hand to pencil and pencil to paper.

Although the computer may not be a good processing tool or creative outlet doesn’t mean it can’t be used at all. It can be a great tool for the second draft stage when you have already had the chance to think something through and work it with the creative space and freedom that a pencil on paper allows.

design by hand

Below is a blog post I wrote for the company I work for, which you can also find here.

Building and landscape architecture drawing began with only a pencil, paper, a hand and an imagination. It’s often these little things that matter the most, but are unfortunately the easiest to replace. Today we have computer programs built to help us design faster and more efficiently. They have become popular to the point of replacing hand drawings all together. Computer programs may help us design faster and more efficiently, but it’s important to realize what we are losing.

Something important happens when a person touches their pencil to a piece of paper. He/she begins to create something out of nothing and physically feel the space their mind is signaling their hand to create. In a recent New York Times article titled Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing, Michael Graves writes “When I draw something, I remember it […] That visceral connection that thought process cannot be replicated by a computer.” The hand may be the link between one’s mind and the computer, but there is an added barrier between the mouse and the computer screen that does not exist where a pencil meets paper. He goes on to say, “Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design”.

Not only is hand drawing important for the artist in a physical way, but in an emotional way as well. As an artist creates and develops their vision on paper, they include their personality, imagination and even drawing style. Graves notes, “…drawing by hand stimulates the imagination and allows us to speculate about ideas, a good sign that we’re truly alive”. Imagination is essential to art and without it, there can be no art. When a landscape designer draws, they become an essential and eternal part of that design—as with any true artist and their work—they should be.

Seeing a hand rendering of your own property is comparable to receiving a hand written letter in the mail. A letter involves the writer and the personal time he/she took to meditate and compose their thoughts through the medium of his/her own personal handwriting. The letter could have been written on a private stationary, which could have been created by another artist. The letter was touched and shuffled through several hands and minds before it traveled via automobile and was carefully placed in your mailbox. All romantic notions aside, there is a simple truth to the undefinable experience that cannot be easily captured by sending an email. This reality is no less significant when you compare hand rendered landscape design with something similar from a digital medium.

The experience or even popularity of these programs is not fundamentally a problem, but the complete extinction of the pencil and paper may be. Computer programs have made landscape design faster, cheaper and easier. This is good for the client who wants to save time and money, but it is not good for the industry: when the emphasis of landscape design shifts from art to efficiency, we no longer need hand drawn designs; and when we no longer need hand drawn designs, we no longer need the artist behind them either. We don’t need to abandon the computer in order for this to change, we simply need to value the details and the process over the result and how cheap and quick we were able to get it.


abandoned wall

“It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. Acquaintance with grief turns out to be one of the more unusual prerequisites of architectural appreciation. We might, quite aside from all other requirements, need to be a little sad before buildings can properly touch us.”

This photo was taken at Princeton Battlefield State Park which holds, a National Historic Landmark of the Battle of Princeton in 1777. “It was a battle in which General George Washington’s revolutionary forces defeated British forces near Princeton, New Jersey.”  Read more on the Battle of Princeton.


suburban symmetry


 “O Suburbs of Despair
where nothing but the weather ever changes!”


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the trouble of denying ‘the one’

From a Christian perspective in the 21st century, admitting that there is such thing as a ‘soulmate’ is being increasingly seen as a dangerous faux-pas that can lead to complications for one’s faith: what if I never find ‘the one?’ or what if I marry someone and realize they aren’t ‘the one?’. These are not simple moral issues to navigate, but our preoccupation with concrete, practical solutions has driven us too far from the beauty and enchantment found in love and throughout all of life itself.

A recent example of this that sparked my urge to respond, was Margaret Philbrick’s “The Trouble with Finding ‘The One'” published in Relevant Magazine. My problem with this perspective is that it offers a rigid and bland image of human life. I certainly see the hope and truth that it offers, but I can’t help but feel that Margaret’s advice and general viewpoints deny the beauty, mystery, and enchantment that truly exist throughout the human experience. And this enchantment I have seen in a very familiar place—my own story.

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”

Once upon a time, there was a girl roaming the halls of a quaint, private college. She had been going through a particularly lonely and soul-searching time and dated a bit along the way. Most of the relationships during this time had failed, mostly due to her inability to feel the kind of love she wanted to feel. She began to fear her future and what her love life would look like, but she found contentment with the idea of being alone.

There was this boy who always seemed to follow her around and she began to be comforted by his presence. She liked that he liked her but she was sad that she would never feel that same way about him. One day, he finally worked up the courage to ask her to coffee and she turned him down…

Well, a couple of days later they went to coffee with the intention of staying friends. As they began to talk, they found out that they grew up with the same rare family and friend dynamics. She shared how she grew up with two (much older) half-brothers, one was her mother’s son and one was her father’s and she met my best friend in first grade. He laughed and then shared that he grew up with two (much older) half-sisters, one was his mother’s daughter and one was his father’s. He had also met his best friend in kindergarten and his name was Jon Wilson. She thought he was playing some kind of joke to prove that they were perfect for each other because her best friend’s name was Jess Wilson.

It was all quite comedic and rather enchanting but she was not intending to fall in love with him. After a couple more friend dates, she was head over heels and never looked back for a second. It was the kind of love of which she had always dreamed, but the world told her it wasn’t possible. And they now live happily—and will continue to—forever after. She met her soulmate.

Maybe that made it better and easier for me: to not expect it and settle for much less. Although I can’t say it made my childhood or young adulthood easier not having believed in the power of magic and enchantment. It was not until I met him that I saw how God could work in miracles even in the ordinary parts of life that many of us have given up on. I have always believed that His will would be done no matter what, but I now believe that we have been limiting Him far too much. Just because humans are flawed doesn’t mean that magic isn’t real. Life won’t be perfect quite yet but it can be far more beautiful than you ever imagined.

“As you walk into Starbucks to meet the potential person for the first time, approach them with open-hearted faith, rather than a list of criteria you expect them to fulfill.”

Margaret is right, and her insights necessary, but if you truly feel called by faith into this life of beauty and enchantment don’t expect or accept dullness from the world just because you believe you have to. The world is a beautiful place that is filled with wonder. Please don’t stop looking for it.


a very disappointing christmas

“I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised never came to pass.”

There is a difference between the commercialized Christmas and the one we should be celebrating. When we were young, we were taught that Christmas was a time to receive, despite our parents efforts to tell us otherwise. We might have experienced some sort of brief satisfaction from our magical Christmas mornings, but it inevitably resulted in disappointment. Parents believe they are doing what’s best for their children and making them happy…but I assure you that material happiness is the most depressing kind.

My husband and I often think about how we are going to handle future Christmas’ when we have children of our own. I often experience the longing to give my children that magical experience of Christmas morning—but I will have to fight everything that I’ve been taught to give them what I truly want to give them—which is little to nothing (in the physical sense). I want them to find beauty and happiness in moments and in people. I want them to find happiness in experiences. All of which is not easy to do in the society we live in, where happiness comes from things.

I am still struggling with this idea of material and non-material happiness myself. I’ve come to expect that Christmas is about me and I wish I had been taught differently—it’s hard to unlearn material dependency. I don’t blame my parents or any other parents for that matter—I admit how difficult of a lie we are fed and how difficult it can be to break away from it.

Despite the difficulty, I would like to urge new or soon to be parents to fight against the convincing lie of material happiness and to refrain from introducing it to your children as well, even if it feels like you are robbing them of their joy. The truth is, the day after Christmas is likely the saddest day of the year for most children. It seems this is because material happiness is like a drug: it gives you a short-lived high that wears off and makes it difficult to truly appreciate reality without that high. We begin to learn that happiness only exists in the moments of receiving and doesn’t go further beyond that. Only until we go back to our normal lives and begin to expect happiness in little things do we feel more satisfied and feel a truer sense of contentment.

(An article from The Atlantic called “Buy Experiences, Not Things” talks more about why material happiness doesn’t quite measure up to experiential happiness.)

I don’t need to convince you of this truth because most of you already know that materialism isn’t healthy, but that recognition doesn’t mean we stop our materialistic tendencies. Just because I know materialism won’t make me happy doesn’t mean I won’t succumb to the lie in order to make the purchase. The same is true with parents—just because they know it isn’t the truest form of happiness doesn’t mean that they will stop showering their children with gifts on Christmas for the sake of our child’s happiness. We are wrong on two accounts: Christmas is about far more than a child’s happiness, but even more so, if we are desiring to make them happy, we should do so without using gifts.

Christmas is about Jesus and the indescribable joy of His coming, bringing peace and hope that reach far deeper than anything we experience in our shallow, materialistic world. With that in mind, there is no disappointing a child on Christmas.

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!


young adult life crisis

Some people knew what they wanted to do since high school. They have it all figured out…all planned. I really thought I was one of those people. I mean, I’m a type A personality, planner, organizer and controller of all things possible, but I still find myself at a fork in the road. I can not believe I don’t know what to do with my life. It astounds me.

I only make things harder by constantly compare myself to anyone who has reached some sort of success whether by working hard for it or not. I even find that I am jealous of my husband’s multiple talents and wish he could share a bit of them with me (which he has graciously tried to do per my requests), but my self-doubt and insecurity has prevented me from following any of my dreams. I’m not sure what my dreams are now and I wonder if that would still be the case if I had the confidence, drive and motivation needed for success.

Well, here’s to admitting that I find myself at the place where I so readily judged other for being at. Thankfully, now I can truly sympathize with others in this circumstance. I will be able to relate to and understand my friends, parents and most importantly my kids. My previous framework would have made that impossible. I’m thankful for that and I have hope that I’ll figure it out eventually.

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”


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“Nothing is quite beautiful alone: nothing but is beautiful in the whole. A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic of man. Thus in art, does nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.” 

home is where your pup is