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Vexillology

STL is awesome based on its flag alone.

The confederate flag has been news fodder for several weeks now. Attempting not to be trite about a serious issue, I have found it interesting that different groups have read such different meanings into its symbolism. From a design standpoint I question how does that happen, and what differentiates a good flag from a bad flag? I think Vexillology (your dictionary word of the day) speaks to my design senses. Hang on tight, let’s look into why I think our city flag is nothing short of awesome!

To design a flag, you’ve got to first come up with a shape. We are in good company here. Thankfully we chose a rectangle like almost every other flag out there. It is most appealing at a 1:1.5-1:1.67 ratio. Check.

It’s not that apparent to some. Some flags didn’t even get this part right. Nepal is two triangles for example, and that confederate battle flag; a square.

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Next, you’ve got to come up with a basic design. Simple and striking. Your five year old should be able to draw it from memory and know what its parts represent. Symmetry is nice. Think about what it looks like from the backside.

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Milwaukee….you failed.

Then, pick your colors and pick them wisely. Be unmistakable.

  • Black- determination, ethnic heritage, and/or defeating one's enemies.
  • Blue- freedom, vigilance, perseverance, justice, prosperity, peace, and/or patriotism.
  • Green- the Earth, agriculture, fertility, and/or the Muslim religion.
  • Red- courage, revolution, hardiness, blood, and/or valor.
  • White- peace, purity, mountain snow, and/or innocence.
  • Yellow- the sun, wealth, and/or justice.

Colombia and Ecuador, you get a pass since it seems you meant to do that.colombia ecuador

Russia, is that you? No, it must be Serbia. Either way, this is not good.
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Lastly, drop a symbol on it, like a radioactive tennis ball or something from Ron Jon’s Surf Shop.krgystan guam2
Krgyzstan                                                          Guam

Time to apply our newfound knowledge to our flag.

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Per St. Louis City Code “…. The flag with a solid red background has two broad heraldic wavy bars, colored blue and white, extending from the left top and bottom corners toward left center where they join and continue as one to the center right edge. This symbolizes the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Over the point of confluence a round golden disk upon which is the fleur-de-lis of France (blue) calling attention to the French background of the early city and more particularly to St. Louis of France for whom the City is named. The golden disk represents the City and/or the Louisiana Purchase. (Heraldically, the disk is a "bezant" or Byzantine coin signifying, money or simply purchase.)

The flag's colors recall those of Spain (red and yellow or gold), Bourbon France (white and gold), Napoleonic and Republican France (blue, white and red), and the United States of America (red, white, and blue).

In a 2004 poll on the North American Vexillological Association website, St. Louis’ flag was voted the fifth best design among United States city flags! Below is the company we keep.

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District of Columbia         Chicago                     Denver                           Phoenix

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Hey back off! That’s our design Mankato, Minnesota.

Beats the STL flags of yesteryear handily.

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1861

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Early 20th Century

Keep the flag time fun going @ https://badflags.wordpress.com/

Posted by David Lott, RA, LEED AP, Project Architect

The Beauty of 5:00am

Growing up, I was never a “runner”. I was the girl who fainted after having to run a mile in PE class. Then, just before my 30th birthday, I was inspired by a little boy named Caleb Nehring to give it a try. Caleb was battling cancer and his dad was getting a group together to run a Webster Groves 4 mile race. 4 miles seemed impossible but in comparison to what their family was enduring, it really was nothing. So, we started training. 10 minutes at a time… many, many walking breaks… and slowly but surely I began to build my endurance and increase my distance.

Unfortunately, Caleb passed away shortly after our training began. Though we were not able to compete in that 4 mile race, I kept running. Caleb became an inspiration that, to this day, continues to drive my passion for running. And, what a gift that has turned out to be!

For the past several years, I have been part of a running group made up of other working moms. Our 5:00am runs are filled with discussions on every topic you could imagine – and they are uninterrupted by children! This time together has allowed us to build really meaningful friendships. We see each other through good times and bad. We yell, complain, laugh, cry, fall down, get back up, challenge and support each other. No topic is off limits. Sometimes, my friend, Kyle, is brave enough to join us. I’m sure he’s been able to garner all sorts of insight into how the female brain works!

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And, yes, I did say 5:00am. The beauty of the 5:00am run is that the children are still asleep. We can quietly slip out of the house without making anyone breakfast, getting anyone dressed, or attending to anyone else’s needs. No one has softball practice or piano lessons at 5:00am. No children are hungry at 5:00am. No chore needs to be done at 5:00am. We often discuss how the “buddy system” is the key to climbing out of bed at such a seemingly unreasonable hour. Knowing your friends will be there waiting and relying on you to show up is a powerful motivator! We run in the freezing cold, in the rain, in the humidity, and sometimes when the weather is just right. We are each exhausted and tired as we drive to the designated meeting spot for the day. The first mile is usually a little rough but then we hit our stride. Experiencing the world as the sun rises, in the peaceful quiet of the early morning, running alongside some of the strongest women I know (and sometimes Kyle) is a truly amazing way to start the day!

Running has become something I need. It keeps me sane. It keeps me grounded. Finding the “zone” is the most amazing feeling in the world. It’s that point when you feel like you could run forever. It’s a feeling of strength, peace, and drive all melded into one over the course of several exhilarating miles. I used to think that running was something that couldn’t be learned – you were either a natural, or, like me, you weren’t. Now with countless 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons and even a marathon on my list of accomplishments, I know running is definitely something that anyone can learn to love. It’s great for the body, great for the soul, and a fantastic way to build amazing friendships.

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Cheers to all of my running buddies and to the beauty of the 5:00am run! And, a special thank you to little Caleb Nehring for being the inspiration for this positive change in my life.

There’s a closeness about people who run together. We become better friends, athletes and better women by the company we keep. – Kristin Armstrong

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Posted by Amy (Huff) Gilbertson, AIA, Associate & Project Manager

Babies and Books

Two of my very favorite things. If you’ve been around me at all lately…you probably know that I recently had a baby boy. He is the light of my life. I love to read to him, and although right now he would rather try to eat the books, I can’t think of a better way to introduce my passion to my little guy. I decided to blog about my favorite architecturally related children’s books. Maybe it will inspire you or your little ones to be creative, discover your talents, or just enjoy a cute story. Click the book titles for links to purchase.  Many of these can be found at your local AIA Bookstore!

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1. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts

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This is my favorite children’s book. ‘Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two, when he built a great tower - in only an hour - with nothing but diapers and glue.’ Everyone in Iggy’s life doesn’t appreciate his talents. His teacher tries to dissuade him from his dream, until one day, Iggy saves the day with a clever design. It is a must read, a cute rhyming story, a great gift for anyone with children or expecting one. My favorite page in the book:

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2. Roberto, the Insect Architect by Nina Laden

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When Roberto was little, he didn’t eat his food, he played with it. He daydreamed about becoming an architect, designing towers with his (wood) chips. Roberto was similar to Iggy Peck, his family tried to keep him from following his dreams. But Roberto would not be crushed, he moved to the big city to find work. Unfortunately they told him he was a PEST (har har)! So Roberto used sustainable principles, made the best designs he could from found materials, and shocked the bug world with his ingenuity. Eventually he became the most famous architect in the insect world, and now when little bugs play with their food their parents say “Be creative! Maybe someday you’ll grow up to be just like Roberto!” My favorite page in the book:

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3. Goodnight St. Louis by June Herman and Julie Dubray, Illustrated by Karen Heyse

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This is a twist on the classic ‘Goodnight Moon’. But this one highlights so many of our own gems here in the Lou. My goal is to make sure our little guy gets to visit all of the places in the book. Here is my favorite page:

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4. Draw Me a House by Thibaud Herem

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This is not your average coloring book. This is a clever series of interactive exercises that encourage one to be creative. The simple, engaging graphics prompt you to add a new top on the Chrysler Building, create skylines, give the Sphinx a new nose, design green roofs, and on and on… Here is an example:

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5. If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen

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This is an adorable follow up book to “If I Built a Car” (which is just as great!) and I love to read it aloud to my son. Jack has decided that his home is too boring and if he were building a house, it would be waaaaay cool. His bedroom would be atop a 200 ft tower. From it he could slide down into an art room. There is a flying room, a racetrack room, and so much more. My personal favorite is the Kitchen-O-Mat that cooks, serves, and cleans up any yummy food you can imagine. My favorite pages are actually the inside covers, showing Jack’s design session and his final design drawings. ¼” = 7’-0” scale, of course.

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6. The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia

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I was recently gifted this fantastic book. This is another spinoff of a classic tale, but these three little pigs are no shabby porcine builders. One built his home of glass, one of scraps, and one of stone and concrete. I’ll let you guess who is who. Check out their evening reading material:

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I am a big fan of these six books...and there are hundreds more out there so I will have to restrain myself.  It is never too early to start reading to your children. Even if all they want to do is slobber on the pages…

Posted by Emily Scanlon, RA, LEED AP, Project Architect