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Why do we want to live (and work) in this light of Vermeer




Sunlight has tremendous power in our inner spaces. It can add value to a property and change the mood of a room. It can make desktop work easier and keep you warm on a cool day. No light bulb can do all this.

For these reasons, natural lighting has long been shaping the way buildings are designed and built. And, as we described in this recent Upshot project, light is a big part of why it’s so difficult to turn many office buildings into housing. In short, the apartments need daylight. But in the deep interior of a large modern office, this is not the case.

A cursory glance at property listings is enough to see the instinctive (and commercial) effect of sunlight on us.

In the course of our reporting, we began to think of this light – different from the flame of a fluorescent light bulb – as a warm glow in a Vermeer painting. Dan Kaplan, New York architect, put this idea into our heads.

Reflecting on what an apartment wants, something a modern office building often lacks, he wrote in an email:

“The ideal inner state to which you come is perhaps best represented by those beautiful paintings by Vermeer (“Music Lesson”, “Milkmaid”, “Geographer”, etc.): high windows (open!), Letting in soft light. fall deep into high ceilings but relatively shallow rooms.”

Man truly loved his window light:

Art history textbooks often refer to Vermeer as the “master of light” and you can see why. The subjects he paints are not particularly remarkable. But with good natural light, even everyday scenes become transcendent (and Vermeer’s geographer looks as if he had a cartographic epiphany).

Vermeer’s light is not the mysterious sacred light of a religious painting, but ordinary daylight pouring through an open window. The farther from the window, the more light is scattered. You can see it in the smooth gradient of Vermeer’s walls:

Architects and builders have historically thought about light—and even tried to measure it—in terms that replicate this gradient. Prior to modern lighting, the attractiveness and potential profitability of an office building depended on high ceilings and large windows to illuminate as much of the interior workspace as possible. This graph, reprinted in the journal “Architectural Historian”. Carol Willis, Form Follows Finance.“, was originally published in 1925 in Buildings and Building Management (“foot-candle” here is lumens per square foot):

Even on sunny days, when you are more than 25 to 30 feet from a window, there is little to say about light. And with no natural light, the best alternative in the early 20th century was a weak, hot-incandescent table lamp.

The reach of daylight meant that homes and offices built before the advent of modern lighting rarely had space more than 25 to 30 feet from a window. However, over the years, new technologies – load-bearing structures, air conditioning, artificial lighting – have allowed us to move away from this standard and from Vermeer’s ideal.

Many people today work in cubicles far from the nearest window, often in an environment where they are unaware of the weather (or the setting sun). In a modern office, Vermeer’s window light is now a set of fluorescent lights on the ceiling. Imagine our thoughtful geographer in such a situation.

While we generally embrace windowless office life, we tend to reject windowless living. A simple proposal raises overcrowded apartment buildings (and real safety concerns).

Many readers who responded to our article have suggested that while cities are now trying to repurpose office buildings, it may be time to reconsider our tolerance for windowless office work. Seen through a historical lens, our sunless working days are an aberration.

The geographer needed a window in 1669, just like an insurance agent in 1910 and a one-room tenant in 2023. And by the way, like Vermeer to paint.

Now keep it in mind as you read this article on what it takes to turn office buildings into homes.

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The children of the Iraq war have grown up, but some wounds never heal




BAGHDAD – the roar of a car bomb explosion, then a burst of flames interrupts homework; the low rumble of a roadside bomb, and a few seconds later the rumble of glass shattering, waking up families; an apartment door kicked in in the middle of the night and someone screaming in a foreign language; the crackle, crackle, crackle of bullets rushing past in a firefight, and the slamming of doors as adults drag children inside.

For six years, during the war unleashed by the United States in 2003 and the sectarian conflict it created, it was the soundtrack of life in Iraq, and especially for those under the age of 26 – about 23 million people, almost half the population. . Trauma was a daily occurrence. Losses touched almost every family.

Now, especially in Baghdad, many young people want to move on. Cities have recovered somewhat from the war years, and wealthier young Iraqis frequent coffee shops, malls and concerts. However, most conversations continue to revolve around a murdered relative, displaced family members, or lingering doubts about Iraq’s future.

Wars leave scars, even if people survive with their bodies intact. The metallic hum of helicopters, the flash of rockets, the smell of burning after bombs, the taste of fear, the pain of loss – all this persists long after the cessation of hostilities.

“The war took our childhood,” said Nur Nabih, 26, whose mother was wounded in the crossfire of a passing US convoy and then seriously injured again in a bomb blast.

Joao Silva, photographer for the New York Times, and Alyssa J. Rubin, senior correspondent, recently spoke to young Iraqis in Baghdad about their lives, their thoughts on the American invasion, and the state of their country. Here are some of their stories.

Mohammed Hassan Javad Jassim, 25

Mohammed was 5 years old at the time of the invasion. Every explosion turned him on. According to him, the first time he saw an American car crash into a roadside bomb, the explosion pierced him through; followed by a flurry of bullets.

“I was so scared that I lay down on the ground and pressed my face against the road,” he recalled.

Soon, American soldiers began knocking on the family’s door looking for Shiite Muslim militias loyal to the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. “I was afraid they were going to shoot,” he said.

With 17 siblings and a father who could barely make a living working in a garage, Mohammed couldn’t concentrate on his studies and dropped out after the second grade. “I had thoughts about death,” he said. “Sometimes I blindfolded my eyes and sat in a dark room.”

When he was 21, his daughter Tabarak was born, and he wanted to get a job in the government, but had no connections with politicians who could help him. Outraged, he joined the 2019 youth protests against government corruption and the Iranian presence in Iraq, known in the Arab world as the October Revolution.

On the first day of the protests, a tear gas canister exploded in his face, tearing one eye out of its socket and damaging the other. His world was plunged into darkness.

Now his daughter is 4 years old; he also has a one-year-old son, Adam.

“My only wish is to have the sight to see my children,” he said. “Adam was born after I was hit, so I never saw him.

Fadi Khalil Ibrahim Paulus Alo, 26, and his sister Fadia Khalil Ibrahim Paulus Alo, 24

Throughout the war, Fadi and his sister Fadia found comfort in the Baghdad School of Music and Ballet.

Many of their fellow Christians were fleeing Iraq and the smell of smoke filled their lungs as they explored. American soldiers continued to break into their family’s fifth-floor apartment looking for the insurgents, but stopped in their tracks when they saw a picture of Jesus praying on television.

But the music school was a refuge for brothers and sisters, a world of harmonies instead of explosions.

“When I play, I forget where I am,” said Fadi, a computer auditor for the Iraqi Central Bank and a flutist with the Iraqi National Orchestra.

But when the tapes disappear, he wonders if he can really spend the rest of his life in Iraq.

Now Fadia is a marketing agent for an Iraqi electronic payment system and a violist in an orchestra. When she was 12 years old, a car bomb exploded in the municipal court next to the school. She remembered the eerie silence immediately after that, and then the scream.

After checking on her brother, she brought out the first aid kit; bandaged the headmaster’s leg, cut with shrapnel; and helped first-graders who were cut by glass and fragments. “The kids were so scared, so I knew what I had to do,” she said.

“It was strange to be so calm when everyone was screaming and crying, but it came from God,” she said.

Fadia loves the music from the movie “La La Land” and dances Smetana. Unlike her brother, she sees her future in Iraq.

“I am attached to this place,” she said. “When I’m here, I feel at home.”

Dahlia Mazin Sediq Al-Khatim, 24; Hussain Sarmad Kadeem Al Bayati, 26

Dalia, 24, and Hussein, 26, met at a hospital where they both worked as pharmacists. It only took Hussain a month to realize that he wanted to marry Dahlia and for Dahlia to feel the same way for Hussain.

They had a lot in common. Both were from families that valued education; both grew up on the sounds of war. Dahlia recalled watching the Nickelodeon cartoon channel when the bombs started falling on Baghdad; Hussain remembered how the windows were blown out by the bomb.

And both their families fled to Syria when the war got too close to home. Dalia’s school bus driver disappeared during sectarian fighting and was later found dead, the same happened to brother Hussain’s school bus driver.

Their only difference – Dalia is a Sunni Muslim and Hussein a Shia Muslim – didn’t matter to them, although they knew it might matter to others. “Even if our sect could become an obstacle, we agreed that it is not,” Hussain said.

“The day I proposed to Dahlia, my father insisted that I tell Dahlia’s family that I am a Shiite, so that everything would be clear and Dahlia’s family would never be surprised,” he said. “They said, ‘We don’t care what sect you are from. We make sure you love our daughter and she loves you.”

Violence, which has become part of everyday life, touched them even before the wedding on February 18. Hussein was stabbed and shot during a robbery while working the night shift at a pharmacy.

“Everything was fine until Hussain was shot, and now we are once again reminded of the reality of Baghdad,” Dahlia said.

Now they hope, according to Hussain, “for health and safety.”

Suleiman Fayad Suleiman, 22

Suleiman was 3 years old in August 2003 and was having an early breakfast with his father in their family’s garden when, as he recalled, “five bullets hit our house, four hit the wall and various parts of the house, and one hit me. ”

The bullet passed through his abdominal wall and entered his spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. Then, while he was being treated in a hospital for spinal injuries, a huge truck bomb aimed at the United Nations headquarters next door severely damaged the hospital and buried him in the rubble.

A few months later, his father brought him to the gates of an American base, hoping to find help for the boy, as his initial injuries had been caused by a skirmish with American soldiers. The soldier told his father that he would bring Suleiman to the United States for treatment and that he would “send me back so I could walk again”.

But when they returned to the base, he said, “the soldiers at the gate said that the soldier who was going to pick me up had been transferred two days before.”

Years later, the disappointment still shows on his face.

Since then, Suleiman has found flashes of joy as a member of the internationally competing Iraqi Paralympic archery team. For brief moments, he said, as he holds his bow and draws his arrow and strings, he can smile. But happiness passes quickly.

“I don’t see a big future,” he said.

Hamza, 24, grew up with the military in his blood. His father was a colonel when Saddam Hussein was in power and joined the Iraqi army, which the Americans initially disbanded after it was re-established. He became close to the American soldiers he worked with, rising to the rank of general.

“My dream, my passion to become an officer was born at the age of 12,” Hamza recalled. “There was a costume ball at our school, and my father gave me his uniform with his title and flowers. It was great, and the next day I told him: “I want to become like you.”

But some of his father’s former army colleagues who had joined the rebels fighting the American army saw the family as traitors. One group of militants Tried to kidnap Hamza’s older brother. Then, in 2014, Hamza’s father was killed while fighting in Anbar against the country’s newest scourge, the Islamic State.

From then on, he says, he wanted to “make my father proud of me in the Hereafter and feel that I did something for him, just as he raised and supported me.”

Hamza graduated with honors from a military college and became the youngest lieutenant in the history of the Iraqi army since 2003. His first mission: to fight the remnants of the Islamic State, the same militants who killed his father.

He is now the officer in charge of the security of the Joint Command, which includes the highest headquarters of the Iraqi Armed Forces. His dream is to reach the same rank as his father.

Nur Nabih, 26 years old

In a soft and composed voice, Nur spoke about her life experiences after the invasion.

She is a Sunni Muslim from the religiously mixed region around Samarra, about two hours north of the Iraqi capital, and was initially untouched by the fighting. But in 2005, she said, “we started hearing gunshots and explosions.”

“We knew it was the Americans because there was news everywhere that it was an American war,” she recalled.

Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Baghdad. But in Samarra, four of her father’s brothers were kidnapped by anti-American Sunni rebels. The youngest, to whom Nur was closest, “was shot many times, his body was left in a pile of rubbish.”

Then the rebels set fire to her grandfather’s house.

When Nur was 11 years old, the family returned to Samarra to lay flowers at her uncle’s grave. While they were driving, a firefight between US troops and insurgents forced them to turn. A stray bullet flew out the window and hit the mother in the side. They believed that it was produced by the US forces because of its caliber.

According to her, her father told her to stop the bleeding with tissues, but the blood leaked out. “I felt like I had lost everything,” she said.

Her mother survived and the family fled to Syria for a while. Then, shortly after they returned to Iraq, a bomb planted by unknown people under the bottom of her parents’ car gave her mother a head injury.

“I do not feel safe in Iraq, period, and if I have the opportunity to leave this country, I will do it,” Nour said. “I still fear inside myself every day, despite all my attempts to forget what I saw.”

Falih Hassan made a report.

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Supreme Court Cases May Change Navajo Nation’s Water Rights: NPR




Pien Huang of NPR talks with Stanford Law School professor Gregory Ablawski about a series of cases the Supreme Court will hear on Monday that involve the Navajo Nation’s water rights.


Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Navajo people’s water rights case. The question is, what does the federal government owe tribal people when it comes to water and access to it to drink and grow food? This is a rather complex set of questions that go far back in time and may change the position of the Navajo in the future. We called Gregory Ablavsky to help sort it out. He is a professor at Stanford Law School, where he teaches courses on federal Indian law. Greg, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

GREGORY ABLAVSKY: Thank you for inviting me.

JUAN: So, Greg, tomorrow the Supreme Court is hearing a case related to the water needs of the Navajo people. Help us understand what is at stake in this case.

ABLAVSKIY: When the federal government creates a First Nations reservation, by law since 1908 it also implicitly allocates water rights for the purposes of supporting agriculture and supporting the people who are going to live on the reservation. Twenty years ago, the Navajo Nation sued the federal government as the country’s trustee, alleging that the federal government was obligated to provide water to the Navajo Nation from the mainstream of the Colorado River, which runs right next to the reservation. . So the question in this case is whether the federal government, as a fiduciary, is really obligated – it has a legally enforceable trust obligation to provide this water to find out how much water is actually owed to the Navajo people from the Colorado River. .

JUAN: Could you just explain what a commitment of trust really means? Sounds like one of those legal terms that, you know, I definitely haven’t heard before.

ABLAVSKY: If we think about the usual trust law, someone can create a trust, for example, for their grandchildren or children. Or, if you just have a regular trust, there is a trustee who manages the benefits for the beneficiary. So, you know, in this case, the beneficiary would be the grandchildren. And there is a whole set of laws – the law on trusts – that applies in such circumstances. The argument here is whether the federal government is the same – has it established this trust in relation to the Navajo and other indigenous peoples? In other words, is the federal government the trustee and the Navajo people the beneficiary so that the normal principles of trust law can apply? Thus, usually the beneficiary can sue the trustee for accounting or for mismanagement of the trust body, as it is called – the body of the trust, which in this case will be water. And so the question arises, do these ordinary principles of trust law apply in this case as well?

HUANG: And, Greg, what’s the Navajo water situation right now? You know, it’s the Navajo people’s argument that they just don’t have enough of it?

ABLAVSKII: I mean, the Navajo water situation is pretty grim. A very high percentage—almost a third, I think—of Navajo homes do not have running water. And that was a major factor that contributed to the extreme COVID outbreak they faced there. Thus, the nation argues rather emphatically that the water situation there is extreme. And, of course, as we have all seen, the entire Southwest is experiencing a terrible drought. The water level in the Colorado River dropped sharply. And so the nation, I think — I mean, they initiated this lawsuit a long time ago, but the nation has long been concerned that its citizens have access to reliable, clean, safe water. And that hasn’t happened yet, largely due to a lack of resources.

HUANG: As you mentioned, this particular case is about accessing water from the Colorado River during a drought. You know, the water levels in the rivers are dropping, you said. So, help us understand what are the arguments for each side of the case?

ABLAVSKI: So the argument for the Navajo moving forward is that because of this 1908 decision called “Winters” that said the federal government was implicitly reserving water rights, that decision created an obligation to trust management by the federal government, which can be secured in court. The argument on the other hand, made by the federal government, as well as several states that intervened, is in fact that this decision is not enough to actually create a enforceable trust obligation.

JUAN: Before we let you go, we know that there will be oral arguments tomorrow, so what are you going to pay attention to when discussing the case?

ABLAVSKI: I mean, I think in the debate tomorrow I’m going to be looking for how the judges understand this relationship between the federal government and the native peoples and whether they think this 1908 decision, combined with the Navajo treaties, is enough to create this legally enforceable trust obligation. It will also be interesting to see how much they dive into some of the technical aspects of water law and trust law in this case, and how concerned they are with the kind of broader issue of the difficult water situation facing the US West. right now.

JUAN: It was Professor Gregory Ablasky from Stanford Law School. Professor Ablavsky, thank you.

ABLAVSKY: Thank you very much.

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