Curiosity vs. Imagination.

Consider the following pairs.

  • Documentary — Fiction
  • Interrogation — Oration
  • Telescope — Video Projector
  • Measuring Tape — Charcoal
  • Captain’s Log — Poetry Journal
  • Paint Remover — Paint
  • Hospital X-Ray Unit — Portrait Studio

We are in Art School and our imaginations are wonderful and precious things. Happily there are an abundance of classes that encourage us to express ourselves, act out our fantasies, mine our interior lives, explore our subjective experiences, and realize our visions. There is nothing wrong with this. But we are gathered here, by contrast, and for a change, to exercise our curiosity about the world around us. 

This course is concerned with creating instruments to answer our questions, not fabricating confections to share our feelings. In our current project, you are asked to build a machine (or design a system) to answer a question about a place. If you can already imagine in your mind’s eye what your project will look like — then you are not really asking a question.


There are some amazing places in Pittsburgh. 

We have a budget. Our course will reimburse you for taxis (zTrip, Lyft, … Uber), up to $30/student.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is less than 500 yards from where we’re standing right now. Because it’s so close and so amazing, and because flowers are widely considered to be beautiful by so many people, I consider Phipps to be a lazy option: my Spidey-sense tells me that someone might decide to do your project there, at the last minute. For this reason, only one of you may claim dibs on Phipps. Right now.

The Alcohol House in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has innumerable things in jars. It’s ordinarily closed to the public; you’ll need to get special permission to visit.

The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse is an extraordinary junkshop:

The Bayernhof Music Museum defies description.

Practically any of Pittsburgh’s 446 bridges are amazing, from above or below. This picture shows 17 of them.

Allegheny Cemetery has amazing sights and sounds, and even has a cave.

Gooski’s, the Squirrel Cage, and Take-a-Break are wonderful shitty bars.

The Armstrong tunnel has a sidewalk and a 45º turn.

CMU has steam tunnels…

There are also the paths along Pittsburgh’s rivers, the Zoo, Aquarium, Aviary…



And commercial software:

And some new hardware:

  • 5MP microscope
  • Schlieren mirror, light etc.

Some things to see