STUDIOWORK

Progress shot of a project from last semester that I’m refining for a small publication within PennDesign.

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work by thomas grant macdonald, 2015, all rights reserved

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Studio Travel: Africa

Last week our LARP 701 class returned from our studio trip to Africa, which was both an informative exploration of another culture and an inspirational personal adventure.  The focus of this semester’s studio is Botswana’s burgeoning capital city of Gaborone, an urban center of about 400,000 people.  The city was established in the 1960s and grew rapidly in subsequent decades, spurred along by wealth extracted from Botswana’s prolific diamond mines.  Subsequent rapid urban growth in Gaborone has taken an automobile-centric, garden-city-type form, which now calls for a rethinking of urban patterns to produce a more “livable” city in the future.

Unfortunately for this blog (and my own sanity) mid-reviews are quickly approaching, and sadly I don’t have time to do this post its proper justice.  Suffice it to say, Gaborone and its proximate townships were dry and hot thanks to low annual precipitation levels and an unyielding overhead sun, and yet the region was genuinely beautiful in its own unique way.  The landscape evoked memories of the U.S.’s southwestern states – reds and oranges baked into the landscape with mesas cropping up out of eternally flat expanses, punctuated occasionally by purple jacaranda trees.  In Botswana we saw monkeys running loose (apparently about as common as feral cats in the U.S.) and met some very nice, warmhearted people.

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Shade structures

Modernism amidst a hot, bright, auto-centric landscape

Modernism amidst a hot, bright, auto-centric landscape

A city in the making

A city in the making

Monkeys on the loose!

Monkeys on the loose!

After spending four days in and around Gaborone we hopped over to Cape Town, South Africa for a little R&R.  Cape Town is easily one of the most stunningly beautiful cities I have ever visited, almost as if Africa crashed into Malibu.  Besides its natural attractions, Cape Town featured an exchange rate of about 10:1 with the U.S. dollar, enabling a very good time at reasonable costs.  I took advantage of this point by lodging with another classmate in exquisite AirB&B accommodations, joining a surfing instruction course, touring the city’s prominent Table Mountain, and… paragliding!

View of Capetown from Table Mountain

View of Capetown from Table Mountain

Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town

Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town

Misty Seashore

Misty Seashore

Paragliding off Signal Hill, Cape Town

Paragliding off Signal Hill, Cape Town

All-in-all it was an extremely fun trip, and reminded me that there is a big life to be lived outside of studio.  In fact, I was so inspired by the lasting feeling of freedom bequeathed by our Cape Town adventure that I bought a motorcycle when I got back!

My first road bike, a 1970 Honda CB350

My first road bike, a 1970 Honda CB350

(Post’s photos by Thomas MacDonald & Selina Chiu | 2014 | All rights reserved)