Monday, January 27, 2014

Tourism in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly called the United Kingdom or UK) is located in the British Isles off the northwest coast of Europe. The UK has the fifth largest economy in the world and attracts tourists year round. There are four constituent parts, or home nations, to the United Kingdom: *England *Scotland *Northern Ireland *Wales
Cultural Facts about the United Kingdom

The UK became the dominant maritime and industrial power of the 19th century, and contributed tremendously to the development of Western ideas concerning capitalism, democracy, property, literature and science. Many of the world's top universities are located in Great Britain. The English language is known as the "global language" and has spread to nations around the world.

Touring the United Kingdom

The UK offers some of the world's most popular vacation destinations, from historic cities to tranquil ocean views. There are lovely country houses, majestic castles, unique structures and ancient monuments. The reasons so many folks choose the United Kingdom, particularly Great Britain, as their destination are endless!

Castles and Palaces in the United Kingdom

There are many delightful castles in the UK where tourists can take a walk through history and learn about royal families of the past. Tourists can also visit many stately homes. There are hundreds of these in Great Britain that are open to the public. One popular castle is Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. The entrance of the castle is gorgeous and has a dome overhead. The lovely park around the castle makes a visit worthwhile. The Scottish Edinburgh Castle sits on a hill high above the remainder of the city Edinburgh, and offers a view of where some of the bloodiest events of Scottish history took place. The Windsor Castle is known to be the largest inhabited stronghold in the world, and it is also the largest castle in England. Although the castle was severely damaged by a fire in 1992, it has been restored. For garden lovers, the Hever Castle and Gardens in Kent offers an enchanting landscape with a surrounding moat and a drawbridge for protection. Also in Kent is Penshurst Place, a gorgeous country mansion that was once the home of Sir Philip Sydney, an Elizabethan poet of the 1500s. The baroque Blenheim Palace in Woodstock offers visitors a peek at the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchhill.

Charming Gardens in the United Kingdom

The UK is known for its talented gardeners from the past, who each left behind a legacy that is carried on today. At almost every popular tourist attraction, there's a garden to greet the visitor. Botanical gardens are frequent in the United Kingdom, so you can enjoy nature's beauty almost anywhere you go! Below are some of the most popular botanical gardens. Anything from exotic to common flowers and shrubs can be found in the 300-acre Royal Botanic (Kew) Gardens near London. These gardens contain the largest herbarium on earth. The Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent has an unusual landscape and attracts many tourists during fall, when colors are vibrant. Stourhead is the most well-known garden in England, and is often called the birthplace of English landscape gardening. It's located near Shaftesbury, on the outskirts of the Greater London area. The garden appeals to tourists with its flowering shrubs, trees and even bridges and temples, which add tremendously to the scenery.

United Kingdom's Museums

Visitors to the UK are able to learn about culture and history by touring one of the country's many museums, with the most popular being in London. The British Museum in London houses the famous Rosetta stone and the Elgin marbles. It's one of the world's greatest museums. The National Gallery in London offers a dazzling collection of Western art, and represents many famous artists, from da Vinci to Picasso! The gallery houses an abundance of Renaissance art pieces. Art lovers can get their fill here while in London. Another great art museum in London is Tate Britain, where some 10,000 works are displayed.

Touring Stonehenge

Stonehenge, England is a very popular attraction that bewilders many visitors with legends and mystical theories dating back to the Dark Ages. It's located near Amesbury in Wiltshire, just 90 miles from London. When in Scotland Tourists who will be visiting Scotland in late fall will find the Scottish Highland Games to be very entertaining! From the Tugs of War and pipers and drummers to the sheep dog demonstrations, these games appeal to adults and children alike. It's a great way to spend a family vacation.

More Fun Things to Do in the United Kingdom

Many tourists enjoy cruising on Lake Windermere, the most famous lake in England. Taking a relaxing drive through the Cotswolds is another way to spend the day. There are rolling hills and lovely stone cottages for a great view, and the area is less than 100 miles west of London. Tourists also enjoy great shopping, play theaters and fine dining. The UK offers interesting places and fun activities to both families and individuals.

Explore the United Kingdom on a Hiking Adventure

With all the hustle and bustle, glitz and dazzle of the United Kingdom, you might be wondering when you'll find time for a great hike. Don't worry, there are many delightful hiking opportunities right around the corner from many of the major tourist areas. Whether your goal is to get some exercise and stay fit during your trip to the UK or just enjoy the outdoors a bit, you can escape to the rolling hills of the Cotswolds or the crashing waves of the Outer Hebrides.

Hiking is Different for Every Region

You'll find breathtaking mountains to the north in the Lake District and in the Pennines. Also, magnificent mountain scenery awaits in the remote regions of Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland. If you're up for a challenging hike, the Peak District offers strenuous climbs to give you a real workout. For a less challenging hike, you might want to try the Shropshire Hills or the Chilterns. There are thousands of miles of English countryside if you're just starting out with hiking. Visit the eastern portions of England where the land flattens to enjoy riverside strolls, see pretty skylines and visit unique villages. For hiking near the city, go south where you can stay in or near London, but still find a peaceful walk on the outskirts. Hiking in the southwest reveals Medieval castles, the beautiful coastlines of Cornwall and Devon, and also the gentler side of the Cotswolds.

Hike from Cocking

A great hike near London begins in the village of Cocking, which is situated at the foot of the South Downs Way. The trail will lead you through the lovely countryside. The stretch from Cocking to the stately home of Uppark passes by ancient Neolithic burial mounds, herds of sheep, deer and forests. This hike is a wonderful way to relax after a busy tour of London.

Hiking at the Lake District National Park

You'll have many hiking options at the Lake District National Park, where high mountains and secluded valleys meet to form an inviting landscape. This is the largest English national park that was established in 1951. There are villages, towns, lakes, dales, fells, beaches and tide pools within the park, giving every visitor a multitude of things to see and do. The park offers challenging hikes as well as relaxing walks, and soothing waterfalls will also greet you occasionally.

A Hike in Wales and Scotland

In North Wales, Snowdonia has the highest mountains in Great Britain and Wales, and offers a great challenge for hikers. Scotland, a region known as "Highlands and Islands", has many dark forests, remote islands, romantic castles and stunning coastlines. Some favorite areas for hikers in Scotland are the Cuillin range in Skye, the Fort William area and the Cairngorms. The United Kingdom is a great place to hike no matter what your experience level. You can take a challenge on the high hills or enjoy a relaxing stroll in the park. Either way, you'll fall in love with the alluring countryside and rolling hills of the UK!

You can find international cell phones and service for the U.K. for your trip from Free incoming calls from all countries night and day and calling the states is just US $.08 per minute! They rent and sell phones and satellite phones as well.

Friday, January 24, 2014

10 Business Building Lessons - From My Dad's Legacy

My knowledge on property construction and management comes from my late father (Elimon Tagwireyi Mapuranga) who was a handyman, an architect and construction manager. My father had not been to university but he single handedly built most of the classrooms and dormitories at the school that his own children attended High School. Of his twenty four children, only one son (David) caught the vision of construction and vocational work and to this day, even with no formal education on construction, David built has his own house in South Africa. I am among the twenty three who became more inclined towards academics. However, as I observed my dad doing his work, even as he built all the houses in my rural homestead, I noticed in greater detail how property management is as important as its construction detail. The advice I received, directly and indirectly is valuable for both a home owner and even one who is renting another person's property. The goal of property management is to ensure the asset you have keep appreciating in value.

1. Build you property with the future in mind - I have watched how the structures my dad put together over thirty years ago still stand strong to this day. He would tell me the amount of cement and other input that would go into the construction process without compromise. I have watched house that have developed major cracks or where walls have actually come down owing to shortcuts by builders. If you are building a temporary shelter then you are exempt from investing in building strong and lasting buildings. If you are going to have someone else build for you then ensure that all the material you provide is used on the building.

Lesson - Businesses are not built just to meet today's need but with generations in mind. Pay attention to all the critical elements of business and not "cut corners".

2. Build according to the plan - every meaningful structure or building has to have a plan. A builder who sets out to build from him/her head is not only dangerous to those who will occupy the building but he/she will always be frustrated by what he/she comes up with. A plan must make sense and it must certainly answer beyond doubt any questions the owner of the house has. Based on the purpose of the building, an architect is able to emphasize parts of the structure that define the purpose of the building. My dad had plans of each dormitory and classroom block. This is how he managed to make them identical. He made simplified diagrams that any builder could interpret. He would say "Son, I know I may not have attained the highest level of education but I appreciate the importance of having a plan. No plan, no building".

Lesson - A business is as strong as the business plan. If it does not make sense on paper, it may not be worth pursuing.

3. The Finishing touches are as crucial as the super structure - It is quite sad that sometimes a lot of investment is put into the super structure, the main pillars, foundation etc such that when the building is complete, there is not enough energy to "touch up" the building and make it look good. Wrong choice of paint, wrong quality of flooring, a shoddy quality of plastering are all reasons why one building would outshine the other even with the design being identical. My dad always emphasized that whilst the start was important, it is the finish that bring a "wow" effect hence the importance of that detail.

Lesson - the things that look insignificant in business are as crucial as the overtly big things. The color scheme of your logo may seem insignificant but it affects a whole lot more than you think.

4. Property Management is about managing risks - Buildings require safeguards from vandalism (theft), flooding and fire. When the building is put together, the thoughts which should be processed and questions seeking answers are "what is the worst thing that could ever bring the building's value down? What are the major threats to the building's value?" I noticed with great interest how my dad always emphasized that every building carry a fire extinguisher, drainage around each building was meticulously put in place to reduce the risk of flooding, To reduce the risk of thefts, every window had burglar bars. The building was put in place with the knowledge that the contents were at risk from intruders right from the onset.

Lesson - Building a business also entails managing the risk of losing it. You should always look at the threats that seek to decimate life out of your business and build the relevant safeguards. It is risky to be in business but there are rewards if one can only step out and do.

5. The garden makes the property even more valuable - My dad always emphasized the fact that the buildings were supposed to leave enough space for proper gardening and landscaping where water features and other garden enhancements would be put. He didn't use to do the landscaping himself but he has an appreciation of it. Whenever I now look at a building, I don't stop on observing the walls and roof strength; I am now cognizant of the way the garden is looked after. When you have neighbors' who throw trash in the garden and leaving grass to grow tall, this actually affects the value of your properties around. When all neighbors look after their gardens including the area that people can see from outside, value is added to the houses.

Lesson - The seemingly small things in business do matter. Your business is probably not known for the big things it does but for the small things you do not do well

6. The way to build the first model is very important to your expansion - Each building is different in the sense that you encounter different soils, different obstacles, different slopes etc. When you are building a series of buildings which are identical, you use lessons from your first building as you duplicate or propagate the buildings. You will know what to avoid. It will actually get better as you build more similar buildings. As the contractor, you have to develop a learning culture such that experiences from one site are recorded as learning points for future projects. All the successes and even failures should be recorded to make the history of building. You will be able to tell a "before" and "after" on the sites you have built.

Lesson - How you build your first business has a bearing on your branch network. Your first project therefore becomes pilot project showing you how identical each of the new branches will be to the prototype created.

7. Consider safety and waste management of each building - The reason shelter is created is for the safety of the occupants. With each brick being laid, the builder must be focusing on the safety of the workers and of the ones to occupy the house in the future. Each building must have a sewerage management system as well as water and other sanitation issues hence it addresses hygiene and health issues as well. Each building has ablution facilities and bathing facilities.

Lesson - You cannot ignore the Safety, Health and Environment issues of your business. In what way is your business taking care of it employees' welfare in this regard as well as that of the beneficiaries (your customers).

8. Make the best building within the budget given - My dad would tell me of the fact that sometimes he would be asked to stretch himself in as far as making excellent buildings even under budgetary constraints and challenges. His approach was to find means and ways of achieving excellence while managing the capital employed by the school effectively. In some instances I remember him having to use a strategy of focusing on one building a time than spread himself too thinly. He would find it hard to run the construction of 4 similar projects at the same time but considered running them in succession.

Lesson - Your excellence in building your business must not be compromised by the capital at hand. Managing costs does not entail compromising on the crucial matters of the business. You can be excellent without over spending. A firm grip on finances is important. Build one branch at a time following the pattern and lessons from the main building.

9. Maintain the buildings as appreciating asset - One thing my dad would do is maintenance of each of the structures that were there. Sometimes it meant bringing a fresh look with another coat of paint. In other instances he would take out pipes that were rusty and put new ones, he would attend to leaking tapes, blocked sewer pipes just to mention a few. The goal was to ensure that each building he had made was always looking new, fresh and valuable. The gardeners would bring different kinds of new flowers to decorate the exterior part of the building. Inside each building all broken glass would be replaced and old doors would be removed and replaced with new ones. You could always feel the school had a fresh valuable look and feel making it exciting and a marvel for parents who sent their children to receive education from there.

Lesson - Your business image is important; you must always re-look at the things that need maintenance or total removal from your business to keep it looking valuable to investors and customers. Your fresh paint can be re-branding which is necessary from time to time to ensure that you appeal to the market as an appreciating, more focused business.

10. Building efficiency relies on the construction procedures and systems - Every process that my dad's team was following was documented. From the proportions of cement to sand for the mortar to painting guidelines. He had a construction booklet, written in not so complicated steps but something that was easy for his team to follow. My dad's literacy was up to "Standard 3" which was almost primary school level and yet he could create and document systems centered on construction and property care. His thinking was that it would be easier to induct a new builder if the systems were in place.

Lesson - A business is as strong as the systems and procedures it creates and relies on.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Time for Reflection, Not Resolutions!

The holiday season has just ended. For weeks our lives have been embroiled in preparations, gift giving, reconnecting with family, neighbors, and friends, and hopefully sharing life's blessings with our extended human community. It has been a season filled with high expectations and deep emotions, ranging from joy to sorrow, togetherness to loneliness.

The aftermath of all this to-do has been days of cleaning and packing things away until next year. As we struggle to get things in order and re-establish our normal routines, it is no wonder that we may feel the need for a vacation from our vacation.

But no sooner do we say goodbye to one year then we are told to jump right into action, setting resolutions for the year to come. And we are warned that these are doomed to failure unless we are firm in our resolve and fully committed to these actions. This makes no sense!

From my experience, New Year's resolutions do not work for four main reasons:
1. They are based upon an external calendar not our internal clock.
2. They arise from society's shoulds not from personal needs.
3. They are based upon something we don't like about our selves or our lives rather than something that inspires and honors us.
4. They address the symptoms not the cause.

In my opinion, we need to do the exact opposite of what is unwisely expected of us. Rather than raising the bar and expelling energies in external pursuits, we need to slow down, breathe deeply, and turn inward. We need to reflect upon who and where we are before we start writing the next chapter.

I love the twist of the familiar saying, "Don't just do something! Stand there!" It is important to give pause and reflect upon our options before we charge ahead. After all, if we don't have a vision of where we want to go, how are we going to get there?

Winter is calling you to retreat into a cozy den for warmth and shelter. Listen to this seasonal wisdom and your instinctual need to slow down. Find an inviting and comfortable place to curl up with your journal and ask yourself some of life's bigger questions. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

First mindfully, close the chapter of 2010:

What are my best memories of 2010? What important lessons did I learn? What unfinished business do I want to complete in the coming year? What chapters do I want to close and leave behind? What do I want to give thanks for as I move forward?

Then open the door to possibility in 2011:

Who is the person I want to be? How can I become more like that person? What gives me the most joy in life? How can I bring more of that joy into my life? What is really most important to me? How can I express that value in my daily life? What legacy do I want to leave? How can I start building that legacy now?

Rather than creating narrow-minded resolutions with too-specific goals, create a vision of where you are going and why. Once you have a clear picture of the landscape of your life, you can begin planning the garden you want to plant in the spring.

Copyright (c) 2011 Karin Marcus

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Short Overview of a Magnificent City

The full name of the St. Petersburg apparently combines words from three European languages: Catholic Latin, Orthodox Greek and Reformist German. I decided to further educate myself in the city's unparalleled history, so I followed an itinerary proposed by the city government's tourist office, a list that includes the city's proud equestrian monuments.

These monuments are integral parts of the city's magic and embody much of its historical power. In fact, the historical horses in the statues look very fierce and hardly tamed by their very powerful masters. The expressions on the riders faces are slightly more difficult to interpret and more subtle. Nonetheless, the exacting detail and fine craftsmanship let the audience know clearly that these are triumphant leaders.

Great people everywhere seem to be obsessed with their legacy and commission portraits, sculptures, and busts to capture them at their finest hour; such displays of vanity in men does not really surprise me now as the whole city is the magnificent, final proof of what men can accomplish in their limited lifetimes. I suppose that even among the most humble folks, this feeling is the same; before they bid their final adieu, everyone tries to leave a memorable and inspiring legacy to their children, relatives, and everyone else who knew them.

Upon closer inspection with the help of a map, this grand historical city looks very much like a mosaic of little islands; some of these islands are very big while others are so small that we even doubt if they really exist. The islands form a lace of canals connected by dated bridges, which in turn are witnesses to dazed romantic lovers strolling from one island to another.

Constructed at the far edge of the Gulf of Finland, at the mouth of Neva, the city is besieged with the challenges posed by living alongside many bodies of water; flooding and preserving the natural topography are perennial concerns. However, the resulting way of life for its people is undoubtedly part of its allure.

So is St. Petersburg more like its model, Amsterdam, or more like Venice? We can't really compare these cities since the charms, geography, and history of St. Petersburg give it a unique personality. Being an old and powerful imperial capital, its most charming sights are the numerous palaces strategically located beside the rivers. The sights quietly impose their authority over the serene waters and picturesque landscape, where the various residences of the czars battle each other in opulence and magnificence.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Stunning Peru

Peru, a country located in the Western South America with variety of landscapes, abundance of wildlife and a rich archeological heritage, is a top travel destination. The resplendent beauty of Peru is not limited to beautiful landscapes and archeological heritage. Renowned as 'Land of Incas', travelers can marvel at the sophistication of pre-Colombian cultures and explore the many legacies left by the imperial Inca Empire, particularly the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco.

Machu Picchu, the perfectly fitted stone empire discovered after several centuries is the main attraction to people who visits Peru. It is regarded as the most significant archaeological site in South America and one of the finest examples of landscape architecture in the world. Travelers can explore many legacies, undiscovered treasures and unsolved mysteries behind this lost city of Inca. Several landmarks along the legendary ancient royal Inca highways, floating islands, colonial cities, deepest canyon etc, contain major works of Spanish arts and architecture. Major notable buildings like Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martin, Museo de la Nacion, Church of San Francisco are also some of the perfect urban attractions.

Besides the historical and cultural richness, Peru also offers an abundance of adventure mixed with leisure. A comfortable trip into the depth of the jungle in Iquitos can gift you an intimate contact with the nature of Amazonian forests, help you surf at the heavenly Mancora Beach and provide you a walking trail over the Peruvian Andes. Peru is also home to a handful of national parks and reserves. These represent a very good example of natural diversity and ecological unity.

June through September is the peak time for Peru travel. This period coincides with the cooler dry season in the Andean highlands and summer vacation in North America and Europe. This is the best and also the busiest time to go trekking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and climbing, hiking and mountain biking elsewhere. Travelling to this attractive South American destination is quite easy and inexpensive with the availability of frequent flights. Many international flights, packed with thousands of tourists from around the world arrive daily at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport. From thereon, surface transport is also well-maintained. Bus, express trains and taxis ply to specific destinations within the country making it easy for tourists to access their preferred destinations.

Shopping in Peru can be quite an experience with the Peruvian capital having the highest number of shops and selection of goods from across the country.

Thriving traditional culture, ancient ruins, archaeological treasures, and magnificent colonial architecture make Peru one of the most appealing holiday destinations to be visited.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

About Corncribs and the Unpainted Aristocracy: Contemporary Architecture in North Carolina

It is possible to discuss the current condition of architecture in North Carolina by referring to a geologic event that happened between 150 and 200 million years ago: a great geologic uplift, known as the Cape Fear Arch, pushed what is now North Carolina upwards several hundred feet. The arch also raised the sea floor, which had once been joined with South America, and the waves produced by this change created the Outer Banks, a chain of barrier islands that are farther offshore than in any other part of the Atlantic Seaboard. As a result, North Carolina has shallow rivers and only one major harbor at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, which is made treacherous by offshore shoals. Shifting river patterns caused by the Cape Fear Arch, which continues to rise, remove topsoil thus giving North Carolina poorer soils than in surrounding regions. The lack of rivers for transport, inaccessible harbors and poor soils meant that early settlements in North Carolina were modest. For much of its history, North Carolina was a land of small landowners, its population scattered across a vast landscape.

Though we have become the 10th largest state in the nation, our dispersed settlement pattern persists to this day. And that dispersal has created among North Carolinians a spirit of independence that is individualistic, self-sufficient, resourceful, and proud. If we have less wealth, we have less pretense. A long history of dwelling apart can also engender a people who are watchful of their neighbors, self-righteous, and at times dour. I believe that all these qualities can be found in the architecture of North Carolina, not only in the past but also in the present.

Today an urban crescent nearly 200 miles long straddles the Cape Fear Arch along Interstate 85, from Charlotte to Raleigh, an urban banana-like farm where, as every proud Carolinian will tell you, there is chardonnay on every table, NPR in every car, and enough digital progress to make, if not a Silicon Valley, a silicon Piedmont. Parallel to this strip, which is about eight miles wide, there lies an older North Carolina, a quieter place where thousands of small frame houses, vegetable gardens and barns rest in the countryside. In these places it is possible to see an architecture of plain living made by hard-working people not opposed to wealth but not happy with opulence either. I believe there is a rare beauty here, portrayed in the paintings of Sarah Blakeslee, Francis Speight, Maud Gatewood, and Gregory Ivy, and in the photographs of Bayard Wooten.

The diversity of plant and animal life in North Carolina is another legacy of the Cape Fear Arch. Six fully distinct ecological zones span the state, from the sub-tropics of the coast to the Proto-Canadian climate of the highest mountains east of the Mississippi. Today our architecture trends towards sameness across this tapestry of plants and climate, but it was not always so. To a degree that seems remarkable now, the early settlement pattern of North Carolina tells a human story of ordinary buildings close to the land, as varied as the mountain tops and coastal plains on which they stand.

The first buildings in North Carolina were sustainable to their roots: built of local materials, embedded in the landscape, oriented towards the sun and breeze. They were made by Native Americans, not Europeans, in the eastern part of our state. In 1585 English explorer and artist John White documented them in drawings that depict a native people at rest in nature. For over three hundred years this pattern of local adaptation would persist across the state.

In the mountains, for example, farmers built their houses on wind-sheltered slopes facing south, next to a spring or a creek. They planted pole beans and morning glories to shade their porches in summer. Their houses were raised on stone piers to level the slope and to allow hillside water to drain underneath. The crops and the animals they raised varied from mountain valley to river bottom, according to how steep the land was and how the sun came over the mountain ridge. Their barns varied from one valley to the next for the same reasons.

Strewn across the Piedmont hills of North Carolina are flue-cured tobacco barns, built to dry what was, for over two hundred years, the state's dominant cash crop. Sixteen to twenty-four feet square and usually the same height, they were sized to fit racks of tobacco leaves hung inside to dry in heat that could reach 180°F. Capped with a low-pitched gable roof, these humble barns remind me of Greek temples. Legions of them populate the landscape, yet no two are the same because farmers modified each standard barn with sheds to suit the micro-climate of his land. To know where to build a shed onto his tobacco barn, the farmer had to know where the sun rose and set, where the good winds came from, where the bad weather came from and when it came. He designed his house just as carefully because the lives of his children depended on his knowledge. The philosopher Wendell Berry has written that in such attention to place lies the hope of the world. Ordinary people who had no idea they were architects designed and built these extraordinary barns and farmhouses across North Carolina. Their builders are anonymous, yet they embody the wisdom of successive generations.

An equally extraordinary group of rustic cottages at Nags Head on the Outer Banks were also built on instinct for place -- not for farming, but for summers at the beach. The Nags Head cottages date from the 1910-1940 era, and for nearly one hundred years have been the first things hurricanes struck coming in from the Atlantic. Though made of wood framing, their builders made them sturdy enough to resist danger, yet light enough to welcome sun and breeze, elevating each cottage on wooden stilts to avoid floods and provide views of the ocean. Porches on their east and south sides guaranteed a dry porch in any weather, but there were no porches on the north side where bad weather hits the coast. Clad in juniper shingles that have weathered since they were built, the Nags Head cottages were referred to by former News & Observer editor Jonathan Daniels as the "unpainted aristocracy." Today they seem as native to their place as the sand dunes.

Mountain houses, Piedmont barns, and ocean cottages suggest that there is a fundamental, direct way of building that, left to themselves, most non-architect, non-designer makers will discover. I can see this design ethic in corn cribs and textile mills, in peanut barns and in the way early settlers dovetailed logs to make a cabin. These structures are to architecture what words are to poetry. I see this ethic in the way a farmer stores his corn because a corncrib is simpler and quieter than most things we build today but no less valid because of its simplicity.

I think that the same ethic is present in the minds of people who want buildings today, because it shows up in structures unencumbered by style, fashion, appearance commissions, or advertising. In countless DOT bridges, soybean elevators, and mechanics' workshops across North Carolina, I sense the practical mindset of this state.

Good building was much in demand in North Carolina in the years following World War II, when the state struggled to emerge as a progressive leader of the New South. The director of the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, Dr. J. S. Dorton, wanted to build a new livestock pavilion that would make "the NC State Fair the most modern plant in the world." His architect was Matthew Nowicki, a brilliant young Polish architect who had arrived in North Carolina in 1948 to teach at the newly founded School of Design at North Carolina State College.

Extraordinarily talented yet foreign, Nowicki had an unassuming and practical attitude towards building and clients. He needed it, because he proposed to fling two immense concrete arches into the sky, anchor them at an angle to the earth, and spin a three-inch-thick roof on steel cables between the arches, creating what was one of the most efficient roof spans ever made. Strange as it looked, Dorton Arena's practical efficiency made sense to his tobacco-chewing, country boy clients the way a tobacco barn or a John Deere tractor would. When it was finished, the News and Observer declared that it was "a great architectural wonder that seems to lasso the sky." It remains today the best-known North Carolina building outside the state.

At the same time that Dorton Arena was rising, the young architect George Matsumoto came to North Carolina from his native California to practice architecture and to teach at the School of Design. Matsumoto quickly established himself as one of the most gifted design talents of the post-war generation. Matsumoto's early buildings were modest houses for small business owners and assistant professors. Working with landscape architect Gil Thurlow, Matsumoto sited his buildings to enhance the landscape, elegantly merging with the site. Often he used deciduous trees to shade the buildings in summer and to allow the sun to warm them in winter. Typically his houses were oriented to capture the prevailing summer breezes, and to shelter their occupants from winter wind.

Matsumoto's understanding of the technique and craft of construction encompassed wood, steel, stone and brick. His Gregory Poole equipment building in Raleigh (1956) was a logical and well-built construction that contrasted the delicacy of its steel and glass enclosure with the massive D8 caterpillars displayed inside. Modern though his buildings were, Matsumoto was welcomed because his designs had the directness of a corn crib: they were perceived to be useful and practical.

In 1962, Harwell Hamilton Harris moved to Raleigh to practice and teach at the School of Design. Harris, like Matsumoto, was a native Californian, renowned for his residential architecture. Arguably his finest North Carolina building was St. Giles Presbyterian Church, built from 1967 to 1988. Harris convinced the church building committee to build a family of low-slung, wood shingled buildings around a pine grove. "Did you ever hear of anyone having a revelation indoors?" he asked. The buildings have wide porches and deep eaves that foster outdoor rambles and contemplation. St. Giles is unmistakably modern, and it brought a whiff of California to a piney hillside of Carolina, but it is also in keeping with an older, native tradition of building close to the land.

Although all three 20th century architects were non-native, it is possible to discern a common thread that bound them to their clients: a belief in a practical kind of architecture, without pretense or opulence, that was as plain-spoken as it was confident. In 1952 Harris wrote that, "A region's most important resources are its free minds, its imagination, its stake in the future, its energy and, last of all, its climate, its topography and the particular kinds of sticks and stones it has to build with." His words could describe the cigar-smoking farmers who approved Dorton Arena, the small landowners who lived in houses designed by George Matsumoto, the Deacons of St. Giles Presbyterian Church, and the generations of anonymous barn-builders and cottage dwellers who preceded them.

My reference to older buildings in North Carolina in no way means that we should go back to building such dwellings. Rather it illustrates how the accumulated wisdom of our past can enable us to build in the present. As the English Arts and Craft architect W. R. Lethaby said, "No art which is one man deep is worth much -- it should be a thousand men deep. We cannot forget the knowledge of our historic origins, and we would not want to forget it, even if we could."

In the future, our society will be judged by how we build today. Arguably the most important issue facing architecture today is sustainability. What is the best way to build in equilibrium with this particular place? A balanced architecture rises up from the land it is built on, its hills, streams, weather and its people, their connections, ideas and stake in the future. Today we have the opportunity to return North Carolina to its former balance with nature. And as we do that, we must remember that we are not a land apart: the rock we live on was once part of South America, the wind that blows across our fields originated in the tropics, and the rain that washes over us comes largely from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The forces that shape our buildings are much older than building.