Reflections on Water, Light, Time & Teams

Discovering time in ordinary and extraordinary objects.

Discovering time in ordinary and extraordinary objects.

Janine, Khadjia, Shanice, and Sheldyn in a team-building activity lead by MIT grad student Derek Ham.

Janine, Khadjia, Shanice, and Sheldyn in a team-building activity lead by MIT grad student Derek Ham.

My students’ teamwork skills are improving by leaps and bounds.   The group of students pictured to the left makes teamwork and design look like so much fun.   In this photo they were doing a team-building exercise under the direction of Derek Ham.  Derek earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree at Hampton University in 2001. He went on to each a Master’s of Architecture at Harvard and teach at HU and FAMU. Today, he’s a PhD student at MIT. He came to talk with our students about overlaps between design and computation.


The overall goal of all this team work is to master skills in design, collaboration, and self-directed learning. In self-directed learning a (person or) group can identify what it needs to learn and how to learn it. It’s even better when the (person or) group simultaneously identifies what it wants to learn as well. That’s when learning gets to be really fun!

Members of this particular group did a nice job answering the question posted on this blog 1.5 weeks ago by prof. Steven Temple from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He asked if we’d posted findings of our water study yet.  Finally, here some are….

We’d done five studies in studio to date.  We’ve explored properties of water, light and time.  And, we’ve drawn our project site and studied/documented various monuments that use/express time/sun.  The images posted represent a few of the items this team has made in studio this semester.

So: What has the studio found that’s unique to water, light, and time?  Last weekend I asked my students to summarize their findings in words.  Here’s the response provided by Janine, Khadjia, and Sheldyn.

Capturing the essence of water.

Capturing the essence of water.


Water Vignette:

For this project, we decided to explore the way water moves. We wanted to highlight the seemingly random and beautiful motion of water and that other liquids also exhibit when placed in water. We used different colored dyes to show this. We observed that water and other liquids interact with each other in different ways, and that the density of the liquids mainly governed their behavior with each other. We observed a beautiful, smoke-like motion of the ink until it diffused and all the water became a diluted color of the dye. We also noted the way that water takes the shape of whatever vessel it is contained in, and that at any angle the water level will always stay perpendicular to the pull of gravity.

Capturing the essence of light.

Capturing the essence of light.

Light Vignette:

We wanted to highlight the behavior of light in terms of shadow and through different media. We mainly focused on shadows or the fact that light travels in straight lines and does not bend around objects. We also explored the reflection and absorption of light and how it filters through translucent media. We discovered that the effects of all these things differ with natural and artificial light. We also wanted to exhibit movement through light and observed this through the way light bounced off the mirrors and made shadows when our hanging objects moved.

Time Vignette:

We wanted to focus on decay as a major indicator of time. We chose leaves that clearly indicated a full life cycle. They showed the progression from a rich green, whole sturdy leaf all the way to a brown, crinkled leaf. Age was indicated in the color, texture, size and shape of the leaf. We discovered that they also showed a sense of hierarchy in the appearance of the leaf. The youngest, freshest leaf was also the largest and had a strong, durable presence whereas all the other leaves got progressively smaller, duller and more brittle. They seemed to fade and disintegrate before our eyes.

Capturing the essence of time.

Capturing the essence of time.

How They Relate:

The water project exhibited all three concepts or elements. It showed water and its behavior with other liquids, it showed the behavior of light in water and also time, through the motion and eventual diffusion of the dye over time. The light project mainly exhibited light and time. It showed the behavior of the objects at different times, as they looked different during the day and at night. It also subtly exhibited time and wind as the positions of the objects and their shadows and reflections were constantly moving and changing. The time project also incorporates all three elements because with the passage of time, light is reflected differently off the leaves, shown by their color and texture, as the younger leaves shine because of their smooth texture and the older leaves don’t because they are dry and crinkled. Water was also shown in this project because the absence and presence of water within the leaf indicated its age. Younger leaves had more water and smoother, more elastic textures and older leaves were dryer and contorted with the absence of water to hold their shape.

Liquid Essence

The best design responses for the water assignment due today, I think, revealed “the essence of liquid” a bit more than “the essence of water”.   I’ve included photos of the students’ favorite responses.  We also looked around our surroundings for examples of beautiful things.

Powerscourt Gardens


Powerscourt country house  (downloaded from

Powerscourt country house (downloaded from

Visiting the Powerscourt house, garden, and waterfall–located south of Dublin–makes a nice outing from the city.  Some coach companies offer a day trip here, but you can save a lot of money if you just take Dublin bus!  The interior of the house is a bit disappointing, as it was gutted by fire. But the exterior, garden, and nearby waterfall are glorious.

Irish Weather

We’ve had 2-3 weeks of glorious weather here in Dublin. People seemed stunned. A few people even started complaining that it had been 75 degrees for too long. Too hot, some said. And truly, we did have a day of high humidity — almost unknown in this fair city.

The past few days ushered in a return of regular irish weather. In Ireland, experiencing “all four seasons in one day” isn’t unusual.

Above, I’ve uploaded some photos from my stint across town and back today.

The photo below was taken from my seat atop a double-decker bus. It offers a glimpse of Dublin city traffic… and shows you why I don’t bike here more often!

This photo, taken from my seat atop a double-decker bus, offers a glimpse of Dublin city traffic... and hints as to why I don't bike here more often!

Yes, we ARE passing that truck!

Day-tripping to Glendalough

Glendalough 13

Glendalough boasts a beautiful natural landscape and a religious site constructed during medieval times.  It provides an ideal day trip from Dublin.

The Wikipedia site is full of interesting information about the place.  It starts by explaining:

Glendalough or Glendaloch (/ˌɡlɛndəˈlɒx/ glen-də-lokhIrish: Gleann Dá Loch, meaning “glen of two lakes”) is a glacial valley in County WicklowIreland. It is renowned for its Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin, a hermit priest, and partly destroyed in 1398 by English troops.

Chasing Rainbows

Even in dreary weather, Ireland glows green.  Here are a few snapshots from our recent drive around the Rings of Kerry (who knew there were two loops?) and Dingle town.

The Magic Lens of Glen McClure

Photo of Glen McClure when he was featured in Insider's Passport. (Photo by Marshall McClure, downloaded from Insider's Passport.)

Photo of Glen McClure when he was featured in Insider’s Passport. (Photo by Marshall McClure, downloaded from Insider’s Passport.)

Alt Daily has just published a feature on Glen McClure and his spell binding photography — including images from Ireland, Italy, and Virginia. The feature includes over a dozen photos — just click “next” under the first photo to sequence through the photos and the article about Glen.

As for myself, the most meaningful of the set is the image of “Carl Alston-2100 Colonial Avenue.” That’s because I helped at the shoot where the photo was taken. It was Glen’s first street shoot, a genre in which he has excelled. I was the person who asked Mr. Alston if Glen could take his picture — and thankfully, Mr. Alston said yes. He was carrying a braille newspaper.

Dave and I were also with Glen this past September when he captured “Vortex-Letterkeen Wood-County Mayo Ireland.”

I especially love “Liquid Sky Inch Strand-County Mayo Ireland.” In fact, I purchased a copy of this image for Dave for Christmas a couple of years ago. Today, it’s proudly displayed in our dining room.

There’s also “Achill Island Ireland-ST Pattys Day Parade” that I’ve shown you before. And some treats I haven’t shared before:

The Joy of Youth-Venice Italy” and

Silver Strand-County Mayo Ireland” and

Sheffrey Hills Light-County Mayo Ireland.”

Full Tilt Sun Arriving at a Place Near You!

My friends Jonathan and Amanda are staying at my apartment in Dublin for a few days.  Their flight from Dublin to Germany leaves tomorrow morning.  Today, Jonathan posted this image on Facebook, to remind me of my second home.

In just three days, the sun will rise at its lowest position in the sky.  In other words, the closer we get to the winter solstice (which happens on December 21), the farther south of east the sun will rise.  This is true for all places in the northern hemisphere.

My balcony faces due south (although Jonathan took this picture facing southeast). So, normally, the sun rises behind the building that is pictured to the left in his photo.  Near December 21, the sun peeks up between the buildings in this view.

He framed the sun for me on at this significant time of year.

Sunrise at my Dublin abode, December 18, 2012.

Sunrise at my Dublin abode, December 18, 2012.  (Photo by Jonathan Kennedy.)

Sadly, the Sun also Sets

The sun also sets (at 4:30 pm).

The sun also sets (at 4:30 pm).

Here’s a view from my window at 4:30 pm.

Throughout history, there have always been big solstice parties in Ireland.  I mean always.  And I mean big.

Seems pretty clear why that is!

I will miss the celebrations here, which is sad, but thankfully I will be home celebrating the light of my life!

All the Glory of God

sliver moon

sliver moon

A thin sliver of moon hung in the sky as dawn broke over Dublin this morning. I’d thrown the curtains open, eager to soak in the southern rays I hoped would arrive.

And arrive they did!  In the full glory of God, the universe, and all that is good in the world.

This, my friends, is what Glen McClure calls “God-light.”

And all is good in my corner of the world today.

grlorious rays of morning

grlorious rays of morning