Jesse’s View on the Picturesque: The Engineer’s Manifesto

I have always been an engineer. Even as a kid I loved building things, working with my hands, and seeing something appear out of nothing. My first building material was blocks. Large wooden blocks, which to me often seemed to large and too heavy for little hands. My structures were often very similar in construction. They would likely seem strangely heavy and squatty to an observer. For rather than doing what most kids did, try to build as high as I could as fast as I could, I always had a different goal in mind. Building as high you can is easy. It is a task with no challenge. Stack three of the longest blocks end to end and it would already be taller than I could reach. The task that was much more challenging was building as tall a structure as possible while still maintaining the structural integrity of the building. Admittedly I never explained it in those words, and also I was dealing with blocks so there was a limit to how secure it could possibly be. Still I could build things that were at least as tall as I was, and could probably do more damage to a passing older brother than he could do to it.

 

This the whole building. I didn’t feel this one captured the sublime as well.

Once I got older it was Legos that held my attention. Following the carefully laid out plans to build something fantastic. Coming up with my own plans to build something even better. I could build buildings that could and occasionally were used as soccer balls. It didn’t matter how many how much abuse the building sustained it would survive, with minimal damage beyond a few pieces falling off, which were easily replaced. With my ships my Lego men were always completely surrounded. I never had to imagine a cockpit. If I didn’t build a cockpit of the character, then clearly that ship would never leave the ground.
Later I had Uberstix which allowed for even more personalization with less formal diagrams, and the ability to integrate all manner of recycled goods. Suddenly buildings weren’t limited by the number of pieces you had. With a few straws and some popsicle sticks, I could triple the height of my building without sacrificing integrity. Also through clever use of the newly discoverer brace, and joist I could make buildings that were even more unbreakable then my Lego bomb shelters. Now I could build in secondary supports that allow for taller, stronger buildings. Finally the ceiling tall building was not only within my grasp but simple and easy to build. Not only that but I could also design fascinating experiments. Which building design is best for maximum height? Which is best for most secure set-up? Which is best for economy of supplies? These questions and many others I could answer. For the first time I was faced with actual engineering questions. How to build the best possible building that meets or exceeds a set of parameters, while using the minimum of pieces. These Uberstix not only added to my construction of buildings but also to my construction of other things as well. Now I could build boats that not only floated on water, but were unsinkable without massive structural damage. Or catapults, or cars, or an infinite number of other things, the number limited only the questions I had, and the imagination to answer those questions. This allowed for the testing of such questions as which boat design is the most stable? Which is the fastest? Which catapult can shoot the farthest? Which the most accurate?

The best of the series of images I took at the

beginning
All of these fascinating questions. But why do I ask them? What is it that has, since my childhood pushed me to build, pushed me to create, and pushed me to experiment? Why has it given me no peace even now into adulthood?
There has always been something that has driven me. It has driven me to build, create, and experiment. I call this my Engineer’s Manifesto. My motivation, my intentions, my views are all driven by those three key principles. When I see the pieces of a puzzle lying on the ground, I am driven to put them together to build the picture they represent. When I see a problem before me, I am driven to invent a solution. When I see something interesting online, I am driven to recreate it, to see if it actually works.
This engineering spirit also drives me in another direction. Here is the desire to fix the broken. When my radio doesn’t work I want to take it apart to find out why, and see if I can fix it. When my car sounds funny I want to find out why and make it not sound like that. When my chair breaks I have a desire to fix it.

I feel this view better captures the jagged lines and lack of beauty that defines the picturesque but has less of the imposing features that defines the sublime

This desire to fix things is what drove me towards the object that I tried to photograph. It is a burnt out remains of a building. Some pyro set it on fire over the summer, and the burnt wreckage remains. While I may be angry at the pyro and upset that this destroyed hulk hasn’t been dealt with I am more driven by my engineering spirit. Something is broken and yet it remains unfixed. This bothers me and it drives me towards this object. Why it is not fixed? Is there anything I can do to fix it? This also presents a problem that needs to be solved. If there is a serial pyromaniac that is burning down buildings at my school, what can be done to stop him? What can be done to catch him? And there is the scientific questions that have been brought up. Where did the fire start? What kind of accelerant was used that so much of the building was destroyed?
When I took this picture I didn’t want to just take a picture of the building and walk away. So I thought back to the Kodak tips. So what I did was I took several photos from different angles and of different sides. The building in question was surrounded by a fence on all sides so it posed some difficulty when I was trying to capture just the fire damage. So I either had to take a picture with the camera over my head to get over the fence, or I had to try to stick the camera through the fence to avoid getting it in the shot. I did this with varying degrees of success.
The picture I like the most is one that I took from ground level by sliding the camera through the holes in the fence, then manipulating the camera from the other side of the fence. With this one I have a picture of the building as an ant or squirrel might see it. A towering structure destroyed by man’s earliest ally and greatest enemy. It is framed nicely by the empty blue sky above, and just a touch of fence.

While I tried to exclude the fence from most of my pictures I feel that the fence really made this picture, helping to frame and emphasize the destruction

I feel that this picture clearly demonstrates my understanding of the sublime. The building darkly glowering down on the viewer, creating a dark shadow on what could be a nice day. Distant terrors wake as one imagines the flames climbing towards the sky, eating away at the building, screaming like a wild animal. Maybe with a lion’s roar a window explodes sending shards of glass everywhere. This frightening tempest, this uncontrolled inferno harkens back to the earliest days of humanity, when man was first learning to stand up right, to pick up tools, to assert his dominance over his fellow animals. Back when your greatest fear was the creature out of the dark and your only protection was the flame at your back. Until your protection gets away from you, and suddenly your friends has turned from you, destroying your home, you stores for winter, and maybe your loved ones. Now you see that you have a new enemy. Something that threatens to destroy everything you have worked for. Yes it keeps the animals at bay but now it also must be feared. Fire always awakes this primeval fear in man. As Burke writes, “Whatever therefore is terrible, with regard to sight, is sublime too, whether this cause of terror be endued with greatness of dimensions or not; for it is impossible to look on anything as trifling, or contemptible, that may be dangerous.”

Here is my modern twist on the picturesque and the sublime. We are ready to rebuild. To create something better, to remove the ugly and capture the beautiful. To set a new future in motion.

I also feel that this exemplifies the picturesque. With broken lines and a great spar jutting out from the building to spear the blue sky.
My final picture is my modern twist. I thought that I would take a bit of my childhood, and combine it with my need to fix things. So I have a crew that is getting ready to fix this building whatever it takes.

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