Curiosity Cabinet 

Fascinated by philosophies on museum curating, I jumped at the chance to attend a Saturday presentation at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) by the artist/curator Dorothy Cross. It was a general conversation with Lisa Le Fauvre.

Dorothy Cross is the person who assembled IMMA’s exhibition, TROVE, from the storerooms of Ireland’s National Gallery (in Dublin and Cork).

Walking through the exhibit hall felt to me like being in a curiosity cabinet of yesteryear. Somewhere between Rembrandt’s studio in Amaterdam, the Galelio Museum of Florence, and Alice’s wonderland.

Here, Dorothy Cross juxtaposed objects in novel and informative ways. A (sculpted) saint bursts forth from his shipping crate. A (real life) naked man stands amid column-like worship stones… he is not pictured here on my G-rated website! 😉

Back in college, I read a number of postmodern philosophy books about  museum curating. They noted that house museums, like the Rembrandt one I mentioned above, provide very authentic contexts for displaying artifacts. Dorothy Cross navigated this postmodern mileau with panache.

I was equally thrilled that the lecture was held in the lovely baroque chapel at IMMA. I’ve been trying to access it for weeks but it’s generally closed to the public.

Dorothy Cross (left) and Lisa Le Favre discussed curating the show “TROVE.”

IMMA’s Chapel, Ireland’s best baroque interior.

The ceiling feels so “Alice in Wonderland.”

Bountiful veggies dangle from above.

“Reading Position for Second Degree Burn” circa 1970, beside a skin cut into a mask. How odd.

Nest of the Oven Bird

Tea Time!

I hesitate to admit that I’ve only just partaken of an English afternoon tea. It’s been in my sights for years now, but I suppose some of the best things in life take time.

This afternoon, Blackrock’s House of Tea served up a lovely tray with sandwiches, scone, pastry, a smattering of desserts, and two luxurious blends of tea.

‘Twas a remarkable little meal. Tea time is moving back onto my list of definite “to dos,” and alsa, now, it’s much higher up!


Finding Familiar Territory in Linenhall  

A plumbing extracaganza!

I’ve recently moved office. Whereas I previously had an individual office with an expansive view, I now share a room overlooking an alley. But, remarkably, it suits me just as well.

As I enter and exit my workspace each day, I pass through architecture crits and exhibits of student work. My new home is Linenhall, the apex of Dublin School of Architecture at DIT.

The Linenhall complex has housed the Building Trades for many years–following a proud history as a linen production factory. My friend Fergus Whelan studied bricklaying here, before growing into the labor-rights activist/history research scholar he is today.

Having recently been renovated to serve architects as well, Linenhall provides me a sense of comforting familiarity. I’m surrounded by architectural explorations–models and drawings of all colors and tones.

This is the stuff of which my days have been made, from my earliest musings in college.

I’m comforted by the vocabulary of architectural models, drawings, and debates… by the buzz of activity and the creative clutter… by the occasional unnamable object of exquisite beauty.

And I’m pleased to share my work space with researchers in education and architectural technology.

Not sure what it is, but I wasn’t the only one taking selfies with it!

An ehhibition of precedent models.

Rome’s Pantheon and its plaza.

A chapel in Switzerland by James Turrell.

Piazza Navona and surrounds, in Rome.

San Ivo, by Borromini.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago.

Slipping through Smithfield’s Historic Architecture


Hopping off the bus from Blanchardstown yesaterday I scurried from Manor Street to Bolton Street, reminded of the glories of Dublin’s architecture.

On North Brunswick Street I snapped a photo of the red brick Victorian-era building formerly housing the Richmond Surgical Hospital. I iMessaged the photo over to a Fulbright Scholar who recently arrived in Ireland, who teaches and conducts research at a medical school. The former hospital is being renovated into an educational center. It retains the ward layout common in the 1800s
as well as elegant outdoor porches for patients to recuperate in fresh air.

I darted across Church Street and up Constitution Hill, bumping into a class of DIT students learning to conduct geologic surveys as I criss-crossed the park at the Kings Inn Law School. The male carotids (the sculptures supporting the beam above with their heads) at the Deeds Office seemed frozen in action on this very cold day.

I ducked through its arcaded courtyard and continued down Henrietta Street, which is bound by regal Georgian town homes.

Passing by the historical front of DIT’s Bolton Street building, I slipped in the side entry, through the courtyard, up the stairs to the lofty top floor, and past the “crit pit” to an informal meeting with the new Assistant Head of DIT’s School of Multi-Dsiciplinary Technologies. He’s using the office space I enjoyed during the autumn — with a sweeping view across the city and toward the Wicklow mountains.

Dublin’s Green Campus at Blanchardstown

Braving Dublin’s blustery weather today (a mix of winds, snow flurries, and showers that would make my blizard-ravaged friends back in the USA weep–for joy), I made a field trip to northwest side of Dublin to visit Dr. Larry McNutt and the Institute of Technology in Blanchardstown (ITB). Larry has expertise in engineering and education–and he does sociological research to boot.

ITB, DIT, and the Institute of Technology in Tallah (ITT) are in the process of merging, with the goal of becoming Ireland’s first Technological University (TU). Larry is part of the “TU4Dublin” team that’s managing the merger.

Today, Larry and I spent a couple of hours discussing ways to improve the experience for third-level learners (i.e., college students). We both aim to make higher education more interesting and effective by helping post-secondary teachers hone their skills in teaching.

Before our meeting, Larry gave me a tour of ITB, an energy-efficient campus constructed since 1999. Because the focus of my PhD dissertation was green buildings constructed by post-secondary institutions in the USA, I was quite interested in seeing the design of the ITB campus and its individual buildings.
I also enjoyed discussing:
*educational improvement initiatives Larry is involved with.
*the design of various degree programs for teachers and for students.
*hot cross buns (I’d never seen one before today)

It’s a banner day for me when my interests in sustainable architecture, educational planning, and engineering education (plus food!?!) weave together so nicely. Imagine finding a person who can discuss all these topics with ease.

Larry McNutt is such a person. I look forward to bumping into him around TU-Dublin again soon.

Planning to Make Your School Green?


A colleague from Virginia Beach, J. Timothy Cole, and I published a chapter in the recently-released textbook called:

Marketing the Green School: Form, Function, and the Future

Our chapter is called:

Enhancing Building Performance and Environmental Learning: A Case Study of Virginia Beach City Public Schools

This abstract summarizes the article so you can tell if you’d like to read it:

“School buildings directly affect their natural and socio-cultural environments. They do this through their construction, maintenance, operation, and demolition. Most of the school buildings we have in stock today drain natural resources and inadvertently perpetuate a culture of environmental, social, and long-term economic ignorance and misuse. When approached thoughtfully, however, the design of school buildings can help inform and enrich society. Well-designed buildings can impart environmental knowledge and values. They can foster more effective behaviors among the people who learn in and from them. Effectively designed buildings can also conserve natural resources and—at their best—even help replenish the natural environment. For many school leaders today, participation in green certification programs represents one important step toward improved building and learning performance. This chapter provides a case study of successful learning approaches developed by Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS).”

Here’s the introduction:

“Aimed toward educators and school administrators, this chapter provides a broad overview of design issues related to sustainability. It proffers concrete examples drawn from Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) to enhance performance at the level of the building, classroom, district, and region. VBCPS’s environmental approach integrates educational planning with facilities planning. Its facilities department has been driving change in school design, classroom pedagogy, purchasing, transportation, and even regional design standards.

The examples in this chapter provide a snapshot of one moment in an ongoing process. They illustrate how one innovative school system is generating and applying new knowledge for the benefit of its buildings’ users, the local public, the wider education community, and the world. Overall, VBCPS strives to provide the best possible environments for learning teaching and living. Its efforts include:

• Integrating environmental issues throughout the curriculum
• Preparing students to bring new knowledge into the community and share it with their families and employers
• Introducing new construction techniques to the region
• Encouraging architects and builders to reach for higher standards
• Monitoring the division’s environmental performance and continually seeking to improve
• Disseminating their research and techniques for broad adaption
• Monitoring its own (and its community’s) energy and waste flows
• Striving to achieve net-zero carbon emission
In this chapter, we provide rationale and theoretical underpinnings for green school design, and we share successful practices developed by VBCPS. Knowledge in the realm of environmental design and education is continually evolving. As such, any list of “best practices” is in constant flux. In writing this chapter, we seek to provide a description of some of the best practices we have discovered and/or created up to this point in time.

Most environmentalists have adopted the World Commission on Environment and Development’s (1987) definition of sustainable development as that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (p. 43). The “green building” movement fosters new strategies to help overcome outdated construction practices that require vast material resources and cause tremendous waste and pollution. Today, North America’s over-reliance on cheap energy has reached crisis proportions (Steffen, 2008; Wackernagel & Rees, 1996). All told, buildings consume 65% of the electric power used in the United States (Landsmark, 2008). They use 36% of all energy used and 30% of all raw materials. Buildings are responsible for half of greenhouse emissions from the US (Gifford, n.d.; Udall & Schendler, 2005). Educational facilities have been among the worst, although higher education buildings seem to waste more energy than K-12 because control systems are looser (Leslie & Fretwell, 1996).

Recently, VBCPS analyzed all sources of emissions within its control, using data from 2006-2010. It found that even though its overall energy consumption had steadily declined across the five-year period, its building-related activity still accounted for 65% of VBCPS’s overall emissions. Its second largest source of emissions related to transporting people and goods. Its calculations considered electricity use, combustion from paper/stationary waste, and losses related to the transmission and distribution of electrical power. School leaders are working to address the division’s primary sources of emissions, through integrated strategies that involve enhanced building performance, revised vehicle fleet policies, and more informed commuting habits of students and employees. Leaders are also creating strategies to control the 1% of its green house gas emissions that resulted from solid waste, refrigerants, chemicals, and wastewater.”

Building Robots for Engineers Week

RoboSlam Engineers Week 2015 sm 75Yesterday, an all-day NVivo training course. Today, a robot building workshop for teens. Every day here brings a new adventure.


Today, over 40 Transition Year students from secondary schools around Dublin came together to build robots at Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street campus. This was part of Ireland’s annual Engineers Week. Our event was supported by Engineers Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, and the volunteer efforts of more than a dozen staff members and students from DIT.

The kids were so much fun!

It’s amazing to observe these robots come together in a few short hours. We started at 10 this morning, and by 4 PM the robots were ready to rumble.

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In “The Irish Times” Today

“The Irish Times” is running a series on women in STEM. I was quoted in today’s article.

The reporter chopped out all the caveats a researcher like me uses (tends to, most, lends support…) but all in all I’m very pleased to have been able to bring student development theory into the conversation here.