the union place…

I’ve been blogging a lot based on current books I’m reading and how they relate back to the student affairs or college union experience, and if that isn’t your cup of tea… my bad, but…

I don’t know when I’ll get back to writing funny things or things completely unrelated to college unions, urbanism, and other such things as such… such.

So, my current read while riding the T is The Great Good Place, by Ray Oldenburg (my at home read is 1Q84, a book larger than Mongo by Haruki Murakami).


I’m not even half done with The Great Good Place, and yet, I am compelled to blog about a couple of passages already because it has been overall a great read.  Oldenburg explores the concept of the ‘third place’ in this book, the place that is not our home, and not our work, but another place, where we go to relax, gather with folks familiar and new, and essentially shoot the shit with.  The third place, in history, is the basis of community and is a cornerstone of informed and well-debated views and opinions.  Even though Oldenburg often oversimplifies societal problems, the third place and its decline in recent decades has increased the disconnection within our communities that we so often see today (want an example of overgeneralization – I just got done with some thirty pages of an ode to the 1950′s Leave it to Beaver soda fountain).  Think- complaining about people only staring at their phones at dinner rather than talking with friends and having good conversation – ON STEROIDS! OH NOOOOES!

Which one is your local?

So, you are probably asking yourself… omg, Joel is advocating for a pub in every Union (ok, maybe I am), but what I really want to examine is how our unions can potentially serve as this third place for our campuses, our student, staff, faculty, and local communities.

I found the ‘third place’ concept through this article, written by Loren Rullman and Jan van den Kieboom, where they indicated a third place often has the following characteristics:

…they are typically free or inexpensive to use; food is commonly available; they are easily accessible and proximate to first and second places; one can expect to see regular users; the ambiance is welcoming, comfortable, and playful; rules are few and neutralizing to hierarchy and status; and conversation is the primary sustaining activity.

A couple of passages and thoughts popped out to me when considering the union’s role as campus and community third place, particularly this one in a chapter focused on Main Street USA:

By their definition, a core setting in a neighborhood or community is that place where one is more likely than anywhere else to encounter any given resident of the community… in the common vernacular, [it] is ‘where the action is’

This sounds awfully familiar to how we view our own campus centers and student unions, that they are a hub of activity, drawing students from all areas of campus and academia into a building for a variety of reasons and where they can be exposed to new opportunities and ideas.  Art galleries, events, marketing, post offices, dining, student organization space, finance and ID card offices – they are all likely to find homes in our buildings and are all likely to lure campus community members only to offer them something new once their primary activity has been completed.  It’s where the action is, it’s the hub, the living room, or the heartbeat of campus.

What’s your hub?

So, now that we have a basis for understanding unions as a third place for our campus community, what happens in those third places that benefit our students?  In another area of overgeneralization from Oldenburg, he talks about the negative influence the 24 hour news cycle and television news media has had on the democratic and political participation process in our country.  TV offers a wide breadth of information in an efficient manner, but it does not offer the opportunity that a neighborhood tavern or a union lounge does to immediately “question, protest, sound out, supplement, and form opinion locally and collectively” upon hearing news.

This is something that I think is key for the student union experience, especially in our heritage and founding as debate societies, and especially in the UK context of a student union, an advocating and policy-making body that directly influences the student experience.  The union has to be a place where, with support, views and opinions can be challenged and folks can get out of their comfort zone in a productive way as local, national, and global events play out and become part of the current social landscape.  I’m all for concerts and stuff (and don’t get me wrong, they have their place and I love planning me a good concert), but some of my favorite programming that I have ever done was serving as an emcee on panels talking about What’s Next for places like Libya, after the fall of Ghaddafi, and Fukushima, after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and giving tours of 3 Ohio-based panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt while at Wooster.  I sincerely enjoyed the opportunity to continuously engage students who were at the top of their game in topics they cared about, wanted to know more about, and could spend hours talking about.  I don’t really care if we consider ourselves co-curricular or extracurricular in our unions, but we need to challenge, we need to be mindful of current events, and we must help students realize their place and role in what is going on.

The 24 hour news cycle also does not give us the local flavor that a third place can, informing us more “about a school bus accident in a South American country than of the actions of a local city council, which will have a far greater impact upon our lives,” and which we can easily see in issues like local voting rights for college students.

This article popped up in my Twitter feed from another master of the overgeneralization, Jeff Selingo, decrying the fact that the new student union at Miami University features lamps that cost $1035, but offers an interesting perspective into how institutions are funding new construction in different ways.  Granted, any chance most people can get to tack on another #adminbloat hashtag, they’ll take it.

What I found interesting from the article was further down, talking about why we are seeing new unions being constructed nowadays, in the recent financial barren landscape, with more modern, comfortable amenities and services that feature elements more conducive to the millennial student experience rather than the 1950′s malt shop student experience.  Dan Hurley, a spokesman for the American Association of Colleges and Universities, said “With regards to students, those buildings have served as a nucleus of student activities, academic programming, activities, cultural and entertainment activities,” which is backed up by supporting statements from the Miami student body president about its usage and benefit to campus life and experience (granted, how much of the SBP’s statements are scripted… you should read for yourself to decide).

I am not one for unnecessarily raising the bill for students to attend college, and if a union can be renovated or reconstructed to be made a better third place for this generation and the following generations (there is a reason why the field has been screaming FLEXIBILITY these last few years) in a sustainable and cost-effective manner, I’m all for it.  We need third places on campus, for all our constituents, and we in the student union biz are uniquely suited to serve as such.  So, let’s do it then, huh?

Sit down… let’s conversate… wait, how did you just sit in that chair? What the hell? Why? #Riker #dealwithit

simplicity in higher ed…

One of the books I recently worked my way through was John Maeda’s “The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life,” hoping that it would not only shed some light on how to make the work of higher education simpler and more effectively meaningful, but also inform some of my love for good design and technology.  I love minimal design, and while Maeda does touch on this, he touches mostly on how to make processes simpler, make technology more responsive with less action, and more.

Most of my .gifs are action packed, but a simple .gif can be just as powerful

Later on in his book, Maeda touches on the aspect of “Trust” when it comes to simplicity in design.  Invoking the fact that technology is making processes simpler by the day because we have put trust into our Gmail’s ability to suggest the correct additional contacts after we type in one name, or we put trust in our phone’s auto-correct system, because maybe our thumbs aren’t the most agile.

As I was puzzling this post out in my head, I told friends that I was about to compare higher ed to the amazing documentary, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”  I’m getting to that.


On page 76, Maeda invokes, as part of his chapter on Trust, the concept of omakase, which can roughly translate to “I leave it up to you,” where you are leaving your meal up to the sushi chef, who is a master of their craft.  They are able to read your disposition, gauge your reactions to a certain piece, and alter their menu to deliver the best possible series of sushi to you for your meal.

This part of the chapter, and thinking on the documentary on Jiro, got me thinking about what simplicity, and particularly trust can bring to higher education and student affairs.  Are we trusted to be masters of a craft, or do students trust us to give them the best possible information at all times?  Are we good enough that students and other folks around the university can say “I leave it up to you?”  Is that what we should be striving for?

Is there something to this in how we advise/connect/collaborate?  Obviously, there is no one-size fits all philosophy to communication with each student or staff or faculty, and what works with your student government president certainly won’t work the same with your programming board president.  Additionally, in my working with graduate students when it comes to alcohol at their events, once I get to know them, our conversation shifts, and the alcohol approval process is simpler, because trust is formed.  Processes are made simpler by trust.  And our field relies so much on trust.


Getting back to our boy Jiro, just as he preps his fish for weeks, getting them to the right texture and flavor, I’m expected to be prepared for upcoming meetings, and there is weeks and months of preparation for a program, because the experience should be just as enjoyable for the audience.  In my job, I serve as a consultant to over 460 organizations on event policy, regulations, and other processes.  Just like he reads his customers, sees how they pick up their sushi, how long they chew, and then adjusts the experience to best suit the individual tastes of each, I hope that I can achieve that ability to effectively read and serve the students I work for and with.  It’s a lofty and pie-in-the-sky goal, but I think it’s a good one.  I think nothing but good experience for all involved can come from it.

bite into a book…

Hahahaha, you get it? Get it? Because Luis Suarez bites people during soccer, but when you read, you are figuratively biting into a book!!  Hahahahahaha.

Not Luis Suarez.

So, imagine my joy when a couple of cool things (soccer, brackets, and books) all got mashed up into one bigger, cooler thing yesterday when I stumbled upon it: The World Cup of Literature!   Much like my fashion post a couple of weeks ago, this project, from Three Percent at the U of Rochester, pits top international fiction from each of the 32 World Cup countries against each other.  Also like my fashion post, the results are quite different from what’s happening on the pitch.

Via 3 Percent – click to see bigger and such.

I did not recognize like 90% of these books, but they are all pretty much now in my Amazon Wish List queue.  Although, I have been planning to read Japan’s entry, 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami for some time, and will get to it during July vacays.  Seriously, if you have not read Murakami, you are missing out.

What do ya’ll think?  Like the list?  Have ya’ll read any of these?  Go USA!

My reading face.

the cup of the…

The World Cup rolls around every four years, and it’s a glorious time.  Soccer on the global stage is a thing to behold, but in the beauty of the game, we cannot let certain things get lost.  There is a darker side to football, fed by greed, hatred, fear, and more.  And as we celebrate John Brook’s 86th minute header against Ghana on Monday, we also need to be sure that we are reflecting on all the things that make up that moment, that some of us are privileged to view.

My favorite may not actually be the goal itself, but the genuine and real emotion shown by a player who found himself on the right spot on the right time.

I got to watch this match with Mike Zakarian over at Champions in Kendall Square, where they not only had the windows open, but also had the AC on, they had about 8 large flat screen HD tvs behind the bar alone, and the place features a lot of lighting elements in its decor.

I enjoy this, while Ghana has to slow their economy and borrow from neighboring Ivory Coast just to ensure that the grid can handle the power demands of the country tuning into this match.  A/C? Not even in the discussion.

So, this post is going to be more of a resource share, because I hope that while we all enjoy ourselves in watching each country’s best shoot for glory and recognition of their talent and hard work, we can also realize how footy represents the perilous state our international community finds itself in.

Much like the curve on my favorite goal of all time, I’m throwing a curveball on your World Cup euphoria. Goal from Shunsuke Nakamura of Celtic.

One of the first works on the global atmosphere of soccer which I read while at A&M after a good friend of mine had gotten me into English soccer and I was convinced I was going into International Affairs was How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer.  This book’s tagline is “an unlikely theory of globalization” and it really is more history and sociology, but 100% a great read.  There is a ton of sociology and psychology research out there about the group think that comes with crowds and sports, but it gets magnified in World Cup settings, or in rivalries that have very real historical conflict, both hidden and out in the open, that defines them.  His chapter on Red Star Belgrade is eye-opening on the greed and power of group think in the sport, and is an incredibly important history to understand behind the game.

On the subject of the international, take a few minute to take this beautiful quiz from Slate and NASA and see if you can identify the countries playing in the cup this year.

Did you realize today that as we watched the definition of a perfect 0-0 draw between Mexico and Brazil that multiple people have been murdered and scores more injured in a terrorist bombing in Nigeria?  I saw only 1 tweet about it, and that was from the BBC if I remember correctly.  Why, in a moment of international triumph do we have to be cut down by hatred?  The murder of a soccer fan anywhere is an affront to fans everywhere.

We also all know Sepp Blatter is basically the poster-dude for a lot of what is wrong with FIFA these days.  If you need any sort of introduction to Sepp or FIFA, you should watch John Oliver’s AMAZING breakdown on his new show, Last Week Tonight.  Even if you have seen this video already, you should watch it again.

That video pairs well with this Slate piece on a report that the US was contacted and asked to prepare an emergency committee should FIFA decide to drop Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup.  Stahl’s proposal is a good one, a valid one, and may be the only way to end Blatter’s Putin-esque reign over FIFA.

Speaking of the Qatar World Cup in 2022, did you know that hundreds, with some reports saying near 1000, of migrant workers have died in connection with World Cup construction or in connection to poor working conditions in Qatar?  Estimates are that we are on pace to let 4000 migrant workers die so that 32 international teams can play some footy.  We have started wars for much much less.

This last article from Slate was one of the most fascinating I have read so far though, and may be far-fetched, but may not be.  I don’t know if it is because I run in tight Twitter circles, but to me, the backlash against Boston even thinking about exploring a bid for the 2024 Olympics is overwhelming.  Why should we go into debt for a month long celebration in order to get a new transit system?  Why can’t we actually finance a transit system for the people without this extra mess that comes with it?

For a city that is also one of the worst in the United States when it comes to income inequality, and yet still is building many more luxury condos than affordable housing and public transportation infrastructure to just meet the needs of modern Boston, it is pretty presumptuous of city leadership and business leaders to move forward on this month-long party.  Much like the 2022 Winter Olympics, I would be highly interested in Boston taking a special public referendum on this subject, sooner rather than later, so we can save as many pennies as possible to fix our ailing infrastructure and address our failure to serve the poor, rather than try and win the proven corrupt selection process.

Why does the Olympics and the World Cup need to travel around the world?  Can we select an area, close to major transit centers, somewhere in Europe, and build permanent structures that are consistently used and cared for to host major global sporting events?  Why inflict this decision and this financial burden and corruption on a new area every four years?

2008 Kayaking Venue from Beijing Olympics… I do not want this sitting in my Boston Commons… and why are we asking Brazil to build stadiums that will serve no purpose afterwards?


that ionic column makes me grumpy…

To make you all grumpy with me this week, I shall again visit The Architecture of Happiness, which I started going over last week.  Written by Alain de Botton, this was the first book I read in my recent spree of architecture, urban design, and urban studies readings, all hopefully tying in with the greater picture of the urban union experience.

wait for it… wait for it… the bigger picture is coming…

One of the concepts that stood out to me later in de Botton’s book was the concept of home, which he gets into on page 107.  There, he states:

In turn, those places whose outlook matches and legitimates our own, we tend to honour with the term ‘home.’  Our homes do not have to offer us permanent occupancy or store our clothes to merit the name… We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability.  We need a refuge to shore up our states of mind, because so much of the world is opposed to our allegiances.

Folks in ACUI I think will get why this page stood out to me, and how the talk of home and what it represents jumped off the page.  In the student union business, we often say our buildings and all that they do and stand for represent the ‘living room’ of campus, a place away from the res halls, the labs, the classroom, for students to relax, learn, work, eat, learn, congregate, nap, meet, plan, learn, and learn.

… not the home I was going for… I guesssss.

While we do hope to challenge views and encourage exploration of ideals in our student organizations (especially being founded on the debate society ideals), we do so in ways that develop and create new opportunities for growth, and in a comfortable environment where hopefully mistakes can happen and be learned from.

What especially sticks out though, is why it is so key that multicultural and GLBTQ centers be a cornerstone and essential piece of the student union experience.  For many GLBTQ students, including myself and many others at Texas A&M, the GLBTQ Resource Center on campus (which was not in the union) was that ‘home’ in the ‘psychological sense,’ because our other homes on campus, our rooms or our classrooms, were perhaps places of danger and discomfort.  To have a ‘refuge’ like a GLBTQ Resource Center housed in a building that is created for that greater purpose says a lot, and is something I think ACUI needs to ensure its members remember and strive for in our work with campus partners and in our renovations.

I’m currently reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, another Adam Welker suggestion, and I found a parallel with something de Botton discussed in Happiness, relating to balance.  Jacob’s discusses at length the concept of ‘urban diversity,’ which gets to an idea of balance that de Botton alludes to on page 195:

Beauty [of balance] is a likely outcome whenever architects skilfully mediate between any number of oppositions, including the old and the new, the natural and the man-made, the luxurious and the modest, and the masculine and the feminine.

The new Emerson College building in LA. Gif via Archinect (link if you click on the gif) h/t Matthew Marano

Meshing Jacob’s ‘urban diversity’ with de Botton’s discussion of beauty through the balance of old and new comes something that urban unions and campuses must actively deal with in how they inform, alter, and add to (or detract from) their immediate urban community.  If our campus border lies on a street with overwhelming amounts of older and classic architecture, does value lie in creating a new, more modernly designed union than staying with the homogeneous design of the area, offering some visual engagement and breaks in the look of the street?  Granted, I do realize that this is only one aspect of what creates vibrant urban communities, but as we assess our facilities and our design, we should be striving for something that moves us forward rather than perhaps keeps up the usual.

Beyond the urban campus though, I think this concept of balance translates well into many union or campus center designs that attempt to balance the old and the new in their buildings.  Coming to mind are UConn’s Student Union and the Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Griffin Center, both of which add new, glass-heavy structures to older, brick-heavy buildings, to mesh and celebrate the old and new, the tradition and the future of what these buildings stand for on campus.  Even simple nods to old structures, such as the Ohio Union using reclaimed wood and stone from the old union to build and furnish aspects and rooms of the new union, evokes balance.  This balancing of the old and new adds a vitality to our environments that engages the user, and opens a book to tell us a story, which is what de Botton wants architecture to do.

I don’t know Davos, just keep reading me the story.

So, let’s go to the next step, and one that seems counter to the points I made above about buildings being a refuge.  Near the end of the book, de Botton introduces the Japanese concept of wabi, which identifies beauty with unpretentious, simple, unfinished, transient things.  He illustrates wabi with stories of Japanese appreciation for the look of unfinished pottery or the look of a moss-covered walkway when Westerners only see a walkway that needs to be cleaned immediately.

where could wabi exist for you? for our students? for our faculty?

Beyond this concept of wabi, which I experienced firsthand over in Japan, de Botton develops around this idea of embracing the peculiar, the out of the ordinary, which, if I’m reading it right, may inspire someone else, or may inform future communities much more potently than our current ones.  “It is books, poems and paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge,” which leads me to ask: why can’t our unions do this?

add some peculiar to the regular. how would it influence the student experience?

How can unions, through architecture, art galleries, involvement experiences, offer up to students “the confidence to take seriously feelings” that they would “never have thought to acknowledge?”  I said above that unions could and should be a refuge, but at the same time, they can and should be a point of challenging and developing students and communities.

Our mission is to help students delve deeper into their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences, and unions can offer up that opportunity with both an environment that supports development but also has elements that challenge them into growth (yes, I’m pulling in challenge and support).  I think even if our unions trend more towards the classical or the traditional, they must have peculiar elements: a room that is exclusively saved for art exhibits, a computer lab that is tucked into a uniquely built space that gives off a different feel than a standard lab with rows of computers, an amphitheater that can serve multiple purposes and as a background in many different ways.  This is the power of architecture and design to give us the confidence to tell our own stories.

What’s the peculiar in your space?


the great footy kit debate…

Ok, it’s not really a debate.  It’s just my opinion.  But, for your entertainment, I shall now determine who will win the World Cup of 2014 based on team kits.

Only the most advanced science will determine these results!

So, to look at how the whole thing will go down, here is a handy graphic bracket showing how groups play each other once the Group Stage concludes.

Click to make big.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Brazil= Home Classic Yellow is classic and looks solid. Away Blue looks nice, and should show up well both close up and further away on the TV.

Croatia= Ignoring the creepy twin effect, Home White Check is legit, and a well-played edition of Croatia’s classic checked kits. I also enjoy Croatia’s away blues with Red/White check side effects. Well done overall.

Mexico Home: I actually don’t like this. It’s just a big meh to me. Like, I can see where they were trying to go with it, but it just seems like a half effort (let’s throw some thin dark stripes on it Yahoo!)

Mexico Away: I can easily say I heartily dislike this kit. The color is just all wrong (if you are going to go highlighter, go full highlighter), and the design, AGAIN, is just lazy.

Cameroon Home: I like it. Puma does a good job with balance, the design looks great up close and far away, and it’s the same design as the Away, which I appreciate.

Cameroon Away: Again, a balanced kit from Puma. Keeps the spirit of Cameroon’s colors, and is the same kit design as the Home but has a different spirit because the drawings on the away are much more subtle.

 Teams Advancing: 1. Croatia 2. Cameroon (which just BARELY beats out Brazil)


Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia


Spain Home: This is how you stripe a shirt. Plus, Spain gets all the gold since they won in 2010.

Spain Away: It’s like Adidas was like “NEONNNNN,” but then didn’t know where to go from there. Dang.

Netherlands Home: Because Lions. Orange, yeah yeah. Super simple, whuuuut? Not your typical Netherlands kit. It works though for some reason.

Netherlands Away: Minimalist and simple, and yet complex. Yaaaaaaasssssssss.

Chile Home: Simple. Too simple though? Like the collar, but that crest should not be an iron-on.

Chile Away: Meh. Too simple. And the tummy design shows up more on the white… which begs me to ask the question… why?

Australia Home: Classic yellow and green. That collar looks super awkward and uncomfortable though.

Australia Away: Again, another classic navy for the Aussies. The same collar design which I appreciate, but its such an awkward collar.

 Teams Advancing: 1. Netherlands 2. Spain


Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Colombia Away: I actually like this. A little close up detail on the chest, mesh highlights to break up the fabric monotony.

Colombia Home: This yellow isn’t terrible, and the design with it is simple but catches the eyes in all the right ways in my view.

Greece Home (white) and Away (blue): Meh. Classic. Simple. Simple. Collar. Simple. Simple. Meh.

Ivory Coast Home: Not bad. Classic Ivory Coast orange. Like the shoulder details, love their stylized crest.

Ivory Coast Away: Basically the same. Green.

Japan Home: Classic Samurai Blue. Love the stylized rising sun textures coming from the crest.

Japan Away: Continuing their trend of a highlighter kit, its the same on the front. I want to highlight a brilliant design on the back of both kits, the classic brushstroke element on the shoulders. That’s care and storytelling in design.

Teams Advancing: 1. Japan 2. Colombia


Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Uruguay Home: Classic sky blue. Love the sun stylized fabric backdrop for the national crest. Just enough good color (sky blue, gold) to make the simplicity seem complex.

Uruguay Away: Thank goodness there is something on the sleeves to break up the monotony. This is too simple.

Costa Rica Away (white) and Home (Red): Same design on these. The design on the chest somehow mirrors Costa Rica’s crest of circles that I enjoy. Classic coloration for the Ticos.

England Home: So white. Very white. Much white. Wow.

England Away: A stylized red kit, with a homage to the English flag with a subtle St. George’s Cross design.

Italy Home (blue) and Away (white): Not bad. Like the Italian colors on the sleeves of the home and the button collar. Love the red and green Italian side piping on the aways. A nice update on their classics.

Teams Advancing: 1. Italy 2. Uruguay (they are being taken through solely on their home kit)


Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Switzerland Home (red) and Away (white): Same template as Italy just minus the collars, and on the home a large Swiss cross watermark, and on the away a design of smaller Swiss crosses. They’re ok.

Ecuador Home (yellow) and Away (blue): Same template for both, which I appreciate. Each with stylized design over the whole kit and surrounding the crest. Not too shabby.

France Home: Nice and simple with a large collar. The denim look is a nod to Nimes, the birthplace of denim design.

France Away: Grey thin hoops and a hipster collar. These are a-ok.

Honduras Home (white) and Away (blue): THE BIGGEST H IN THE WORLD! And that’s all I can say.

Teams Advancing: 1. France 2. Ecuador


Group F: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Argentina Home: Adidas does a great job on the classic sky blue/white stripes of these kits, with a unique fade design with additional diagonal stripes. Catches the eye.

Argentina Away: The play of horizontal and diagonal stripes here makes for a splendid away kit.

B and H Home: A classy blue home for Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the classic three Adidas shoulder stripe that actually works.

B and H Away: A simple white. Some basic blue templates. Not great. Not bad.

Iran Home (white) and Away (red): They both have the cheetah design, which is a huge cheetah. The red away has a nice extra green design on the chest.

Nigeria Home: Thank goodness it is not just a block of green. Some simple lines and color variations make this worth while.

Nigeria Away: I can’t decide whether I like the brighter green on this, or if I wish they had gone with a darker green.

Teams Advancing: 1. Argentina 2. Iran (yes, the Cheetah won me over)


Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States

Germany Home: Everything yes about that chest chevron. Color, design, balance. Yes.

Germany Away: Lol whut. Large hoops to echo previous green versions.

Portugal Home: Classic crimson-ish for Portugal here with not too shabby of a stripe design although it does not translate well to the sleeves.

Portugal Away: Ok.

Ghana Home: That collar is giving me a lot. And… I kinda like it.

Ghana Away: Puma is getting repetitive with these main template block designs doubling as horizontal stripes. But this works out well for Ghana.

USA Home: Yeahhhhh, not bad. Collars, though? *shrug*

USA Away: These have… *cringe*… grown on me. I don’t mind them. They are not bad. *breathes heavily* That was hard to say.

Teams Advancing: 1. Germany 2. USA (beats Ghana by just a teensy weensy bit)


Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

Belgium Home (red) and Away (black): I like the design of the Home and 3rd, with the crown overlay and cut-off stripe with the crest. However, can I just say the Away is completely screwed by the selfishness of the kit maker’s logo breaking the sash!?

Algeria Home: Mehhhhhhhh.

Algeria Away: Super Mehhhhhhhhh.

Russia Home: A nice dark red for Russia. The watermark is the Kosmonauts Museum, and on the back neckline is written “Let’s Go” which were Yuri Gagarin’s words during launch.

Russia Away: Continuing the space theme, the blue curve design is the view of Earth from space. This kit is very purty.

South Korea Home: Classic red. Very simple, too simple.

Korea Away: Nice stylization with the red and blue neckline and sleeves. But does not save Korea’s overall design.

Teams Advancing: 1. Russia 2. Belgium


So, let’s recap and look at what we’ve got going on in the Round of 16:

Round of 16

Croatia v. Spain

Japan v. Uruguay

Netherlands v. Cameroon

Italy v. Colombia

France v. Iran

Germany v. Belgium

Argentina v. Ecuador

Russia v. USA

Advancing to the QuarterFinals are:

Croatia, whose kits are just better on average than Spain.

Japan, which easily beats out the simplicity of Uruguay.

Netherlands, who blows Cameroon out of the water with immense design.

Colombia, the shocker of the Round of 16.

France, classic beats cheetah.

Germany, beating out Belgium who is undone by a selfish kit-maker and a third that is the same as their home, when thirds HAVE to be different and completely unique.

Argentina, the multi-stripe action they have going on is magical to me.

Russia, with their space designs are not garish but just right when it comes to designing for an international stage.


So, let’s get to the QuarterFinals.

Match ups are:

Croatia v. Japan

Netherlands v. Colombia

France v. Germany

Argentina v. Russia


And my winners for this round are:

Japan, whose mix of classic and bold, traditional and modern, just makes me smile.

Netherlands, who end the dream run of Colombia.

France, in a very tough decision, that saw Germany’s red black hoop aways sink their progress.

Argentina, in the battle of classic but modern design v. Russia’s idealized and very pretty designs.  Argentina’s design and how their striping interplays on their kit wins out.


So, our SemiFinals looks like this:

Japan v. France

Netherlands v. Argentina


Moving into the Final Match in Rio de Janeiro on July 13th is:

Japan, whose bold design outdoes France’s classical looks at the final hour.

Netherlands, in the toughest decision I’ve made today, but overall, their classic orange is well done, and their away fascinates me.  Argentina just barely falls short, just barely.  This was easily the tightest matchup of of the entire World Cup of Kit Design so far.


So, our Finals pit

Japan v. Netherlands

This is a tough decision, but looking at these two teams up against each other, in the end, I have to go with…


In the home kits, which both have classic colorations (Orange for the Netherlands, Blue for Japan), Netherlands’ classic wins out in my opinion there.

In the away kits, which are both unique, more modern designs (the geometric blue shadings for Netherlands, highlighter yellow for Japan), I again feel that Netherlands comes out on top there, with something a bit more unique, pleasing to the eye both close and from far range, that just beats out the Japanese highlighter away that have been a hallmark the past few years.


So, congratulations Netherlands!  Even if you don’t win this year, you won my fashion bracket!

Final Fashion Bracketology







the architecture of grumpiness…

Please find below a post about architecture, something I have learned through osmosis by dating an architect, drinking lots of wine with architecture students, and spending late nights keeping Eugene company while he works on architecture projects.  Architecture.

Step 1: lolchitecture. Step 2: Click the image.

So, when I got on my recent, and still going strong, kick about urban design and particularly how it applied to the urban college union, I reached out to said architecture students and friends for some suggestions.  Both Eugene and Adam Welker (who’s Memory Card podcast you must check out) suggested as my first book on architecture The Architecture of Happiness, by Alain de Botton, a disturbingly heavy book for how small it is.

That physical observation would carry through into its contents though, as well, as Happiness proved to be a short but very heavy, dense, and fulfilling read.  Lots of thoughts about it initially, that have been reformed and reflected upon as I’ve delved into the subject a bit deeper, talking over it with colleagues, reading articles and other books.  So, if you will allow me, I would love to explore some of the concepts in Happiness and how we might be able to connect them with the current state of the urban college union.

One of the first topics that stood out to me in the book was a discussion about what buildings can do to us, how they can influence us, and how it is “architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be.”  If that does sound goo-goo-ga-ga student development theory, I don’t know what does.

But sensitivity to architecture also has its more problematic aspects… if our happiness can hang on the colour of the walls or the shape of a door, what will happen to us in most of the places we are forced to look at and inhabit? (p 13)

I think this concept of how the design and feel of a building can affect our happiness or ability to get things done resonates at a time when lots of unions are being renovated or reconstructed, but also budgets are tight, and many campuses are focusing those funds elsewhere on campus, allowing a student center to take on deferred maintenance.  We tell ourselves and we tell our students and our colleagues and the public that our unions are the heartbeat of campus, the student living room.  That’s a tall order for buildings that don’t look it, are not designed to fit the bill for a modern student living room, and what does that mean to our campus’s messaging and support for it’s students?

I currently work in a campus center that is designed in the brutalist style, which let’s just stop and look at that word for a couple of minutes.  Nothing says community like brutalist architecture.  It’s a Boston thing, as our City Hall is also the same style of architecture.

By the standards of a lot of union construction going on right now, the lack of windows and the lack of what I can only call “internal seeing” (I’m sure there is some actual term for it) makes an older style union, especially in the light of newly constructed unions, a less inviting place.  Internal seeing is the ability inside the building for users to see each other across multiple spaces and up and down multiple floors, either via open space or glass.  I got to visit my old stomping grounds, The Memorial Student Center, at Texas A&M this past fall for the first time since graduating in 2009.  The main lobby used to be a confined, tan, 1 floor rectangular hallway space.  No openness, no internal seeing.

This is looking up from the lower floor into the open lobby area of the new MSC.

This is looking up from the lower floor into the open lobby area of the new MSC.

This amount of light, internal seeing, and space was something I never thought possible after living in the old MSC for years.

The other concept I wanted to touch on that is big in modern union construction is flexibility of spaces, which is also exposed in de Botton’s quote above.  Happiness means very different things to each person, and so essentially, for a union to bring happiness to our students, our spaces must reflect this diversity, these options, these multi-faceted pieces of how people find happiness and how they use spaces personally.  Up until this book, my thinking on space flexibility was all about programming and ensuring union spaces could be maximized for programming via structural flexibility.  Now, de Botton has me thinking about how our spaces actually communicate to our students individually, and whether they say “Welcome!” or “GTFO bro.”

This scene keeps popping into my head thinking about this.

The other piece I’ll get into in this post is the concept of going beyond just a basic functionality in our buildings, as de Botton puts it “we are in the end unlikely to respect a structure which does no more than keep us dry and warm.”  We get even deeper into this with a quote from John Ruskin about how we seek two things from buildings we encounter:

We want them to shelter us.  And we want them to speak to us – to speak to us of whatever we find important and need to be reminded of.

I think this is also one of those themes that is constant in modern unions, the desire to ensure the story of the institution and the students is being told.  Whether its the history or the current events that we hold dear, storytelling through design is a must it seems in current union design and redesign.  Whether it is walls of history, alumni stories, or celebration of campus resources like at the Ohio Union, or it is the recent renovation of the UW-Stout Memorail Student Center which offered a chance to bring more light into a space and to tell the entire timeline of history of the campus through images.  We want our buildings to tell our stories, but also to tell our students they are welcome.

If you need advice on how to tell a story, check in with Ms. Lippy.

de Botton invokes Ruskin again later, saying that

Buildings speak – and on topics which can readily be discerned.  They speak of democracy or aristocracy, openness or arrogance, welcome or threat, a sympathy for the future or a hankering for the past.

How should our buildings speak?  Should they speak in one way only, or must the building balance what it says to honor both the tradition of what it stands for but also the future of what our institutions are shooting for?  I think we can easily agree that they should say “Welcome” but do we know what that truly looks like, and what other values do we want to ensure they are saying to our community?  Openness, transparency, the quest for knowledge, San Dimas High School Football rules?