Tata Hall

usa-001Harvard Business School occupies a majestic bend on the Boston side of the Charles River. McKim Mead and White designed the original Georgian campus in the 1920’s, with landscape design by Frederick Law Olmstead. The twelve buildings organized around courtyards and centered on Baker Library are a fit reflection of Harvard University’s campus directly across the river.

It took several decades for HBS to outgrow its core campus. As it expanded, some of Boston’s best architect’s created undistinguished work on prime sites. From Shepley Bulfinch’s 1970 McCullum Center to Ben Thompson’s 1976 Soldier’s Field Park, to CBT’s 1999 MacArthur Hall to Machado Silvetti’s 2003 One Western Avenue, Harvard lined the riverfront with buildings that were ordinary in concept and execution, did little to enhance the quality of the campus and nothing to connect to the river. Although One Western Avenue suffered blistering criticism when it opened, I find MacArthur Hall the most offensive of the bunch.  There is a limit to how tall a building can be, how applied it’s sloped roofs, and how massive it’s fake chimneys and still be called Georgian.  MacArthur exceeds all measures on all counts.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 10.27.58 AMThankfully, now there is Tata Hall, the final building along the river between the original HBS campus and Western Avenue. William Rawn Associates is a consistently good design firm; at Tata they are great. First, the building is beautiful; the proportions, the materials, the scale and the graceful curve. Second, it relates to the river. As the river curves one way, so the building curves in response, creating a front lawn that both belongs to this particular building but also relates to the entire riverbank. Third, Tata is generous enough to help its less fortunate neighbors. Tata’s defining curve obscures MacArthur on one side and Soldier’s Field Park on the other.  Not in a brusque way, but in a manner that says, “you guys are background buildings and can settle in behind me.”tata river fallon

Tata does not only pay attention to the river.  The HBS campus entrance respects and enhances its neighbors. Tata’s large two-story flow-through glass lobby is on axis with the massive symmetrical face of Kresge Hall. Kresge seems more connected to the river now than it did with an empty site in front of it.  That situation will change as Kresge is in the throes of demolition to make way for Goody Clancy’s new Chao Center.  Let’s hope that the interplay with the two new buildings is as successful.

tata entry fallonI must admit that the intersection details of the three wings and undulating entrance seem overly complicated; maintaining the sweep of the river facade on the campus side would have created cleaner massing and a more noble entrance. But on the scale of this buildings success, that is a quibble.

More than thirty years ago, Bill Rawn and I were in graduate school together.  I was a competent, often talented student. Bill was an inspired designer. For three decades I have enjoyed living and working among more and more of his completed work. Now, I enjoy Tata Hall whenever I travel the river. HBS, and all of Boston, is better for his effort.

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Long June Days

usa-001Memories pile steep this time of year. The sun hangs in the sky for more than fifteen hours. More years rest within the vaults of my mind than will span future horizons. Long June days remind me of Minnie Diver, an 83 year old woman from Floydada, Texas I met in June 1977. Minnie helped me appreciate the beauty of long days and cautioned against drinking them in too fast.

I met Minnie briefly during our week of VISTA Volunteer training in San Antonio.  But there seemed no reason to spend time with the oldest volunteer in our 150-person cohort. I was too busy hanging with my roommate Bob, from Walla Walla Washington; Tracy, who tied T-shirts into a midriff exposing knot; and Terry, a San Antonio native who snuck us out to nightspots and provided a reverent tour of the Alamo.  Minnie was assigned to my South Plains work site; I would have time for her later.

That time came on our first day of orientation in Levelland. The schedule included an early lunchtime picnic in the park. A few metal tables sitting under corrugated roof sheds. Barbeque chicken whose sauce stuck to my fingers. Mayonnaise-based salads that stuck to my belly. A hot, dry breeze that stung my cheeks yet barely managed to shift the stubbly brown grass.

When she was finished eating almost nothing, Minnie licked each fingertip, daubed it with a paper towel, stood up and looked west. Her features expressed the resolute dignity of a Willa Cather heroine. Her skin was fair despite a lifetime facing into the Texas wind. Her snowy hair fine as the cirrus clouds that vainly tried to shroud the gigantic blue-sky dome.  Her white shirtwaist dress puckered at her shrunken breast, cinched her narrow waist, and fell in aimless pleats.

The sun sizzled the tin over our heads.  Her eyes scanned the edge of the world, where ten more hours of daylight beckoned. “You have to brace yourself on these long June days.  It can be trial to maintain your strength.”

Minnie’s words drew my eyes in the same direction.  I saw the South Plains for the first time when my eyes paralleled her own. There’s nothing there, just flat land and sky.  Everything is there, flat land and sky. I felt the strength, possibility, and weariness, in so much expanse.

I had always considered long days an unconditional gift, payback for too dark winter.  But Minnie had witnessed the season’s pass four times more often than me. She knew that every day, long or short, carried blessings and catastrophe within the sweeping sun and the shifting stars. Her words made me ponder, for the first time, that a life of action might be well tempered by passages of observation and reflection.





Cotton fields in the South Plains of Texas


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Wishing me Gone

0009997_Haiti_Diagram_Paul_Fallon_101103Cambridge is a great bicycle city. We have more bicycle lanes per square mile than neighboring communities. We have protected cycling lanes, Hubway bike stations, designated parking areas, public repair stations, even a bicycle jug handle in Harvard Square.  I remain alert when cycling in Cambridge, but I don’t fear the sharp cutoffs I’ve experienced in Quincy or Everett, or the confusion created at some of Boston’s amorphously marked intersections.

In a city with more bicycles than people, where nearly 10% of us bike to work, cyclists are pretty much accepted.  Except when we’re not.

The first interchange I encounter every morning is a T-shaped affair with carefully controlled lights two blocks from my house.  I am scrupulous in attending to the system, yet I still get honked at least once a week. Getting beeped is an unpleasant way to start the day, so I’ve tried to figure out what’s amiss.

Here’s the layout. The bike lane on Huron Avenue eastbound disintegrates approaching Aberdeen Avenue to create a right turn lane for cars. If the arrow is green to continue straight, I have to move to the left side of the cars waiting for their right signal (no right on red in pedestrian friendly Cambridge). The cars going straight don’t like me in their lane, and so they beep their horns.  If I approach the intersection and the right turn lane has a green arrow, I stop until the straight arrow signal comes round.  I stay just right of cars that want to go straight, but drivers making the turn honk despite the fact that I’ve allowed plenty of space for them to turn.  The third condition, westbound vehicles turning left onto Aberdeen, requires everyone in my direction to stop. I position myself between the cars going straight and those turning right. This seems to aggravate everyone.

imgresThe other day, as an SUV honked at me while making a right turn, I finally realized where the drivers want me to be at this intersection. Just like the bike lane itself, they want me to disappear. Before bicycles became ubiquitous, cars and trucks had the entire road to themselves. Why should they have to share their big machines with my puny one?

Even in a city as bike friendly as Cambridge, many motorists just want us gone.  Fortunately, time, health, and energy are on our side. Bicycles are here to stay. Most cyclists are trying to find the best way to share the road with our gasoline-powered companions.  Honking won’t make us go away, and doesn’t help us get along either.


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Haiti Update

haiti-001Many readers of The Awkward Pose became followers during my period of working in Haiti.  It has been months since I wrote about Haiti, so here is some news:



IMG_00341. Mission of Hope school is up and running. They have completed their grant requirements to A Heart for Children, the group that gave them the majority of the funds for the school.  This is good news because, having successfully completed one major grant, we are all set to apply for – and receive – more.  MoHI wants to finish the next phase of the school and community space, and buy property next door for a trade school and soccer field.  I am itching to get down there and build those 54-foot long trusses.

20C BLB Front2. Be Like Brit is up and running.  The orphanage is now the center of a much larger operation.  Regular volunteer groups from the U.S stay there and participate in service projects throughout Grand Goave. I’m working on renovating a warehouse in Worcester for their Operations Center.  BLB has four stateside employees and processes thousands of donated goods.

15_ Dieunison and Dieurie3. My special buddy, Dieunison, turned twelve in May.  He’s almost twice as tall as when I met him four years ago, lives with his older brother Dieurie, and they are both progressing through Mission of Hope’s school.  Despite the distance and language barriers, whenever we Skype Dieunison cracks me up.

Untitled 34. I’ve started working on an OR/ED pavilion for Saint Boniface Hospital in Fond des Blancs. St. Boniface serves the entire southern peninsula; children from MoHI and BLB go there for major medical needs. This beneficial healthcare resource needs a pair of current standard operating rooms and a suitable place to accept and treat trauma victims.  We’ve made an application to USAID for funding. If all goes well, we might be able to start construction this fall.

ProductImageHandler5. I don’t have an trips planned to Haiti at present, but will be spending time this fall and winter promoting my book, Architecture by Moonlight, which will be available on or before October 31, 2014.  More about that as publication comes near.




It seems I can never quite get away from Haiti.

Which is good, since I would never want to.

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One Breath to One Movement

awkward_pose_3-001Sequencing is the term we use for the series of yoga poses that we put together to create a coherent class. Like most things in this world, sequencing is something I never thought about until I had to do it, and then its complexity confounded me. There are teachers, organic yogi’s, who do not prepare sequences in advance.  They sense the studio aura and string together poses that feel intrinsically pure.

That’s not my style.  I have a matrix where I track specific poses with relevant breath and holding times. Yoga eschews terminology like ‘rules’ but there are five guidelines to creating asana sequences.

1. Move from one pose to another by changing one body plane at a time. Rising and twisting simultaneously is confusing.

2. Inhale on postures that open our bodies, exhale on postures that close it down.

3. Always cue key inhale breaths, and then cue corresponding exhales so students know when to release energy.

4. Maintain an even rate of inhale and exhale throughout each portion of class. Breath may be faster during core work and slower during relaxation, but keep it consistent within a section.

5. Cue every breath in vinyasa flow.

Flow is what differentiates vinyasa yoga from other forms. It is moving at a steady pace, one breath to one movement.  Flow links the third limb of the yoga path (asana, or poses) and the fourth limb (pranyama, or breath). In a good flow, the poses and the breath reinforce and build upon each other, resulting in deeper poses, stronger breath, and heightened mindfulness. Vinyasa flow is a cycle of moving up and out (inhale), followed by in and down (exhale) over and over again.

Most postures have a traditional inhale or exhale association. Mountain pose (Tadasana), standing tall with arms overhead, is always an inhale; while Standing Forward Fold (Ukatasana), bending your torso over your thighs and touching the mat, is always an exhale.

Some postures alternate.  If you come up to Warrior II from a Low Lunge, it’s an inhale. If you come down to Warrior II from Triangle, it’s an exhale. Whether you are opening up or closing down depends on where you’ve been.

Last week I took back-to-back classes that demonstrated – by omission – the challenge of maintaining one breath to one movement, and how wrong things can go if the general guidelines are thwarted. In the first class the Sun B flow was straightforward.  Inhale, Crescent Lunge. Exhale, Warrior II. Inhale, Reverse Triangle. Exhale, Triangle. Inhale Warrior II. Exhale, Extended Side Angle. Inhale, Reverse Warrior.  Exhale, Warrior II, Inhale, Breath. Exhale, Chaturanga. It looks great on paper.  But when you get to ‘inhale, breath’, you don’t move. You only breathe. Each time I had to put the brakes on my flow to stay with the breath.

No need for brakes in the next class. The teacher had a movement for every breath. Problem was, sometimes more than one movement. At one point she cued, “Inhale, One-legged Tadasana. Exhale, Figure Four.  Inhale, Revolved Figure Four.  Exhale, Standing Forward Fold. Whoa!  In one breath I was supposed to untwist my arms and torso, unhinge my bent leg, put my legs together, get my hips straight in the air and get my hands to the mat. Five separate actions. There weren’t five discrete movements, because multiple movements in the same plane can occur at the same time. But the cue required moving in two planes simultaneously. I needed to untwist my body to the coronal plane and then bend over in the sagittal plane.

Since Revolved Figure Four was an inhale, and Standing Forward Fold is always an exhale, the teacher tried to get us there in one move, when three moves would have been more understandable. For example, “Inhale, Revolved Figure Four, Exhale, Untwist to Figure Four. Inhale, Chair Pose. Exhale, Standing Forward Fold.” That would have gotten everyone where we wanted to be with good fluidity and form.

One breath to one movement.

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It’s My Party – Come Any Way You LIke

vitruvian_man-001Longstanding social customs allow hosts to recommend appropriate dress for an occasion: casual for garden parties; business attire for cocktail events; black tie for society weddings.  Announcing parameters around dress enable the host to establish a tone. If you arrive at an evening wedding in blue jeans you deserve the persnickety frowns and Garth Brooks renegade lyrics that might be tossed in your direction.

A recent article, “Black Tie? How About Black Mouse Ears?”, describes the increasing specificity of social dress guidelines. The article leads with LeslieAnn Dunn’s wedding request for guests to wear “summer black and white with a splash of yellow.” One guest, who showed up in a cherry red dress, felt so out of place that she made a pit stop on the way to the reception and bought a black and white number to fit with the rest of the party. Mrs. Dunn said, “Now, that’s what I call a friend.”  Making someone I care about so uncomfortable they feel compelled to do a quick shop and change is not my idea of friendship.

04VowsSide-1398960993794-articleLargeSince when did guests become the props of their host’s fantasies?

I am a big fan of creative dress – on other people. I marvel at the outrageous outfits women, and some men, don at Artist for Humanity’s Greatest Party on Earth. I appreciate the fun these folks have in dressing up and how it lights up the atmosphere, although not so much that I waver from my penchant for jeans and black turtlenecks.  When I danced in Le Grand Continental, there was no dress code for the 100+ street dancers.  Most went for colorful garb. Actually, everyone did except for me. Several people mentioned how easy I was to find. With so much colorful creativity spinning across Copley Square, basic black became eye catching. At both of these events the term “creative dress” was the full description of the dress code. The results were varied, eclectic, and fun. Each person got to strut their stuff to whatever degree they chose. Their dress was about them.

But there’s a line between suggesting dress to spice the occasion and dictating to your guests. Asking everyone to wear a hat might be fine for some, too much for others. Asking people to dress in “Lord of the Rings” pageantry turns your guests into extras.

I lean on the old adage, “Play is what we chose to do, work is what we have to do.” When a host’s dress requirements become so arduous they become a chore, the line between play and work has been crossed.

The next time I have a party, dress any way you like, Whether an impromptu brunch or elaborate celebration, you can be sure that I invited you because I want to see you, rather than have you bring my personal fantasy to life.

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My Chakras / My Asanas

awkward_pose_3-001Specific yoga poses draw from, and contribute to, how the seven chakras exist within each of us. In theory, chakras strength and asana strength correlate.  I decided to investigate that in terms of my own practice.

Consider the seven Chakras and their related asanas:



1.         Muladhara – Tailbone / earth / basic needs  - mountain, chair, tree, sitting cross-legged




2.         Swadisthana – Sacrum / water / emotion – seated forward fold, splits, hero, fixed firm




3.         Manipura – Belly / fire – ego – twists





4.         Anahata – Heart / air / selflessness – camel, bridge, wheel, dancer




5.         Vishudda – Throat / ether / communication – shoulder stand, plow, fish




6.         Ajna – Third eye / transcendence / intuition– child’s pose, kapalabhadi breathing




7.         Sahasrara – Crown of head / soul / unity – twisting poses, headstands


If I organize these according to the strengths of my practice, I would order them as follows:

Steady asana: mountain; chair; tree; sitting cross-legged; seated forward fold; hero; fixed firm; camel; bridge; wheel; dancer; shoulder stand; plow; fish; child’s pose; kapalabhadi breath

Wavering asana: splits; twists; headstands

This implies that my basic needs are met, my emotions are often – not always – steady, and my selflessness, communication, and intuition are sound. Meanwhile, my ego is undeveloped and my soul is still seeking its place in this world.  At a first pass, that is a pretty accurate description of the connection between my physical capabilities and mental/emotional condition.

So, are bottled up chakras holding me back from more fully realized poses, or are my physical constraints cramping my poses and restricting my chakras? It’s a chicken and egg thing. It would have been nice if the correlation led to a deeper understanding. But I’m torn. I feel good about energy and poses that align, and frustrated by those that are blocked.

Try it yourself and see where you land.



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