Sunday, October 4, 2009


Since the last post I've been able to contemplate more about my initial thesis idea. I hesitate to too quickly decide on a definite program and site, etc., and am trying to figure out what I really want to study during thesis. I think that my way in to making a space that promotes wellness is through the practice and study of 'mindfulness'. This is something that I try to practice everyday and has helped me through difficult times. Here is a good synopsis of what I'm talking about...

Buddhists hold that over 2500 years ago, Buddha provided guidance on establishing mindfulness. Right mindfulness (often termed Right meditation) involves bringing one's awareness to focus on experience within the mind at the present moment (from the past, the future, or some disconnected train of thought). By paying close attention to the present experience, practitioners begin to see both inner and outer aspects of reality as aspects of the mind. Internally, one sees that the mind is continually full of chattering with commentary or judgement. By noticing that the mind is continually making commentary, one has the ability to carefully observe those thoughts, seeing them for what they are without aversion or judgment. Those practicing mindfulness realize that "thoughts are just thoughts." One is free to release a thought ("let it go") when one realizes that the thought may not be concrete reality or absolute truth. Thus, one is free to observe life without getting caught in the commentary. Many "voices" or messages may speak to one within the "vocal" (discursive) mind. It is important to be aware that the messages one hears during "thinking" are simply discursive habit and that the real point of practice is distinguishing different types of experience from the context (mind) within which they occur.

As one more closely observes mental activity, one finds that happiness (for example) is not exclusively a quality brought about by a change in outer circumstances, but rather that realizing happiness often starts with loosening and releasing attachment to thoughts, predispositions, and "scripts"; thereby releasing "automatic" reactions toward what seem to be pleasant and unpleasant situations or feelings.

However, mindfulness does not have to be constrained to a formal meditation session. Mindfulness is an activity that can be done at any time; it does not require sitting, or focusing on the breath, but rather simply realizing what is happening in the present moment is mental content, including simply noticing the mind's usual "commentary". One can be mindful of the sensations in one's feet while walking, of the sound of the wind in the trees, or the feeling of soapy water while doing dishes. One can also be mindful of the mind's commentary: "I wish I didn't have to walk any further, I like the sound of the leaves rustling, I wish washing dishes weren't so boring and the soap weren't drying out my skin", etc. Once we identify experience as mental content, we have the freedom to cease identification with any judgments/perceptions: "washing dishes: boring" may become "The warm water is in unison with the detergent and is currently washing away the plate's grime, the sun is shining through the window and casting an ever greater shadow on the dish's white ceramics." In this example, one may see that washing does not have to be judged "boring"; washing dishes is only a process of coordinating dishes with soap and water. Any activity done mindfully is a form of meditation, and mindfulness is possible practically all the time.

For me, I'm the most mindful when I'm surfing and inspired by my surroundings. It allows me to focus on the water that I'm lucky enough to be in, the waves, and completely in the moment when riding. My goal is to make an architecture that promotes this.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Initial Idea

For the past three years I've worked at the same architecture firm - before I came to RISD and every summer and wintersession - and I really love the work that they do ( It's beautifully detailed high-end residential work, all in the Boston area, mostly in the South End. This is always the type of work that I wanted to do, to make beautiful houses for people that have big enough budgets to really detail it well.

This summer, though, I began to question who these people are. The work is great, don't get me wrong, but why is this type of architecture only accessible to the upper echelon of society. How is this architecture (and most, in general) helping people who already have it all? With this in mind, I'd like to design more for the powerless.

This large-scale theme could be taken in many directions, but the powerless I'd like to focus on are those that are trying to rehabilitate from a physical or mental illness. The architecture of wellness. How can the architecture affect this process of rehabilitation?

Why make architecture for these people,

when these people need it more? And what is it?
This, of course, is still very vague. Next step, physically make this initial idea.

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome! I'm Nick Waldman, a third year M. Arch. graduate student at RISD. This is my first blog ever and it's exciting, if a little daunting too. The goal of it is to not only track my progress on the long journey of formulating, working on and completing (hopefully) my degree project, but also a place to hash out ideas, get feedback from classmates and teachers, and have fun. It'll have thoughts, drawings, model images, sketches, questions, and possibly the random too-funny-not-to-post youtube clip. I'm really excited to get this started! Coming up is a post about my first inklings on what my thesis may eventually evolve from...