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A conversation about cities, architecture, history, and why these affect us today. Hosted by Randy Plemel and a weekly cast of characters.

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Here are the last few episodes for you to listen to!


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Expedition Works

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Journey With Purpose
Journey With Purpose
Expedition Works

A conversation about cities, architecture, history, and why these affect us today. Hosted by Randy Plemel and a weekly cast of characters.


015 – Glass House: A Warped Mirror

We explore the life and legacy of Philip Johnson through his iconic Glass House. Delving into Johnson’s multifaceted career, we reflect on Johnson’s profound impact on modern architecture, his controversial political past, and how these facets interplay with his architectural legacy. This episode navigates the complexities of his contributions within the context of his support of fascists, anti-semites, and the Nazi Party. Highlighting the Glass House’s design and significance, we reflect on how to view Johnson’s work in the context of his personal history, emphasizing the importance of learning from the past to inform our understanding of architecture and history.



Farnsworth House vs Glass House

Show notes & links


Guest Bio

Gwen North Reiss is an educator, poet and writer located in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Johnson Study Group is a pseudonymous group of researchers and educators.

Nora Wendl is an associate professor of architecture at University of New Mexico and executive editor of the Journal of Architectural Education. Wendl’s work engages architectural historiography through methods involving image, text, narrative, performance, and exhibition. Her research has been supported by the Graham Foundation, Santa Fe Art Institute, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, among other institutions. Wendl has published, lectured, and exhibited widely. Her book manuscript, “The Edith Project,” was recently shortlisted for the 2022 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.



Episode Summary

  1. Philip Johnson’s Glass House stands as a testament to his pioneering spirit in minimalist architecture, challenging traditional concepts of space, structure, and environment.
  2. Johnson’s privileged background and education provided him with unique opportunities to influence and shape the architectural landscape through both his wealth and connections.
  3. His tenure at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was transformative, not just for his career but also for the museum’s architectural exhibitions, significantly impacting the direction of modern architecture.
  4. Constructed in 1949, the Glass House epitomizes the ideals of modernist architecture with its simplicity, transparency, and integration with nature, serving as a living manifesto of Johnson’s architectural beliefs.
  5. Johnson’s engagement with fascist politics during the 1930s and 1940s has been a subject of much debate, complicating assessments of his legacy within the broader context of architectural history.
  6. Despite the shadows cast by his earlier political affiliations, Johnson’s career witnessed a remarkable resurgence, affirming his status as a central figure in 20th-century architecture.
  7. This episode delves into the nuanced process of reconciling Johnson’s architectural achievements with his contentious political history, offering listeners a multifaceted understanding of his impact on the field.
  8. Highlighting the importance of acknowledging and learning from the complexities of historical figures like Johnson, the narrative encourages a critical examination of how we memorialize and evaluate the contributions of influential architects.
  9. The Glass House, both a literal and figurative reflection of Johnson’s life, encapsulates the duality of transparency and introspection, mirroring the architect’s personal and professional evolution.
  10. Through a detailed exploration of Johnson’s life, works, and the enduring significance of the Glass House, the episode underscores the critical need to engage with the architectural past in a manner that is informed, nuanced, and reflective.

014 – Farnsworth House, Telling the whole story

Dive into the world of Midcentury Modern architecture with the first episode of our two-part series, exploring the iconic Dr. Edith Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe. This episode unravels the complex story behind the creation of this architectural masterpiece, from Mies’s dramatic departure from Nazi Germany, leaving behind his family, to the protracted design and construction process that eventually led to a notorious lawsuit and rumors of a romantic entanglement with Dr. Farnsworth—rumors that bear no resemblance to the truth.

Join us as we speak with Scott Mehaffey, the Executive Director at the Dr. Edith Farnsworth House National Historic Site, and Nora Wendl, an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of New Mexico, for an in-depth discussion on the house that not only stands as a testament to Mies van der Rohe’s architectural genius but also inspired Philip Johnson’s Glass House, the subject of our next episode. Get ready for a compelling journey into the past, marked by innovation, scandal, and the timeless allure of midcentury modern design.




Sponsored by:

Expedition Works

Hi. We’re a full–service design cooperative – let’s work together to make your journey with a purpose successful.


Show notes & links


Guest Bio

Nora Wendl is an associate professor of architecture at University of New Mexico and executive editor of the Journal of Architectural Education. Wendl’s work engages architectural historiography through methods involving image, text, narrative, performance, and exhibition. Her research has been supported by the Graham Foundation, Santa Fe Art Institute, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, among other institutions. Wendl has published, lectured, and exhibited widely. Her book manuscript, “The Edith Project,” was recently shortlisted for the 2022 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.

Scott Mehaffey, MS, FASLA is Executive Director of the 56-acre Farnsworth House National Historic Landmark, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Scott holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois College of Fine & Applied Arts, and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Dominican University. Prior to joining the National Trust, Scott was Landscape Coordinator for the City of Chicago under Mayor Richard M. Daley, and for many years, was Landscape Architect for the historic Morton Arboretum. Scott is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and has been active in cultural landscape preservation since the 1980s as a consultant, curator, program organizer, author, speaker and advocate. Scott has been an Adjunct Professor in the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture, a workshop leader and recurrent speaker for the American Public Gardens Association, and has taught cultural landscape preservation for landscape architects, contractors and historic preservation students.

“Because of the lawsuit, she was relegated to the footnotes of history as the crazy spurned ex-lover, who had never appreciated the house. And of course, that was just a mischaracterization. We’ve conducted a lot of research in recent years and learned what a fascinating person she was, that she was integral to the design of the house until the lawsuit. She really hasn’t been given due credit. She was really Mies’ only client, a patron, really, at a point when he had no private commissions.”

“Nobody really has time for propaganda anymore. It doesn’t educate. It doesn’t serve anybody. I think the public can handle that. I think the public actually really wants to know the entire story”


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Photos from 1971

Photos from 2019

013 Matt Webb – Poem/1

Matt Webb created an AI-powered poem clock as an exploration in both materials and Chat-GPT. It’s now a product you can back on Kickstarter.

We speak with Matt about embodied sketching, product lessons from Little Printer, our to use Pathfinding to make decisions, and lessons on how to think about AI.

This clock on your shelf, with e-paper display / Spins poems profound, in a whimsical way



Show notes & links



Sponsored by:

Expedition Works

Hi. We’re a full–service design cooperative – let’s work together to make your journey with a purpose successful.


“Because of this AI thing, we don’t understand what it is. We don’t understand what the possibilities are, and the only way you can figure that out is to roll your sleeves up. There’s something about making things real, which means that you put them in a different place in your head, and you start treating them as tools to make more real things. When they exist just as sketches, you don’t do that. So making things real, like incrementally carries your imagination further.

“And there’s nothing wrong with gags, right? I’m making this gag clock, right. Which talks in, ridiculous poems, that sounds like a LinkedIn influencer, like a tiny, tiny Sam Altman telling me to like, go for it. And I’m using planetary compute to do it. And I love the absurdity, right. It really. It really tickles me.”

“The point is that. We’re all sitting there writing strategy, setting policy, asking for code, talking through projects with ChatGPT, and it’s being upbeat and positive, and that is, that is going to be having an effect on us. And we should be having a conversation about how much we care about that, especially outside California. Because these aren’t necessarily the same values of every state and every country and what happens then is people will start feeling distanced from the technology we’re using every day. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing I’m just saying it would be good to be having this conversation out loud and you know it’s weird, right?”

012 Erika Lee – Just Start

We speak with good friend and former colleague Erika Lee about being an independent graphic designer and launching a non-profit community-focused maker space in Hawai’i.



Show notes & links


Guest Bio

Erika Lee, an independent designer and consultant, employs research, strategy, visual storytelling, and interactions to design emotionally resonating experiences. She helps ambitious web3 startups build great products with WE3, a global design collective. She serves as Vice Chair at Ourspace, a community makerspace. She mentors Hawai‘i’s emerging UX/UI designers through Lady Bandit Studios’ Circular Internship and explores place-based design in a Hawaiian context with Purple Maia’s Ka Maka ʻĪnana Think Tank.


Sponsored by:

Expedition Works

Hi. We’re a full–service design cooperative – let’s work together to make your journey with a purpose successful.


“What we’re learning is that it only becomes real when you believe it is real, and everyone else does. We don’t have everything figured out, but we’re figuring it out as we go.”

011 – King of Zoning: 10 proclamations

The King of Zoning is empowered to preempt and overrule local, county, and state zoning and land use in order to affirmatively further housing for all.

Here are the king’s first ten proclamations.

  1. As of Right Zoning
  2. Mixed Use by Default
  3. No Parking Minimums
  4. Abolish Single Family Homes
  5. Diverse Housing Types
  6. More Ownership Models
  7. Transit Housing Bonus
  8. Car-free neighborhoods
  9. Public Housing
  10. No Setbacks



Sponsored by:

Expedition Works

Hi. We’re a full–service design cooperative – let’s work together to make your journey with a purpose successful.


Show notes & links


Guest Bio

In a realm afar, a king of zoning reigned,
His passion, city planning, uncontained.
He shaped his realm with vision and with care,
In zoning’s art, his kingdom’s streets laid bare.

With eco-conscious plans, he led the way,
A master of zoning, night and day.
His subjects thrived in harmony and grace,
In Zoneland’s order, they found their place.

Join our podcast as we journey through,
The world of zoning, tales both old and new.
In rhymes and rhythm, we’ll unfold his lore,
The zoning king, whom legends still adore.

“I am empowered to preempt and overrule all local county and state zoning and land use. In order to affirmatively further housing for all. As you’re king of zoning I take my duties. Very, very serious. And today. My loyal subjects, I will be releasing my first of many proclamations.”

010 Julian Bleecker – A Little Bit More Curious

Julian is one part of the team behind Near Future Laboratory, a design-led innovation practice, who invented design fiction as a thing and practice. When not designing and publishing books, podcasts, and doing consulting, he runs the Near Future Laboratory Discord, a Hypercollaborative where people come together to practice the craft of futuring and design fiction.

We speak about how to balance structure’s need for managed expectations, and imaginations need to jam. How listening to each other and trust in one’s self and each other can make beautiful things. How making things is our differentiator.



Show notes & links


Guest Bio

Julian Bleecker is a creative leader with the range of a generalist. He is at his best when he is working with organizations translating the “now” into the “next”. He is an engineer with multiple degrees, so he knows what it means to execute on ideas. He has a PhD in technology and culture, giving him unique perspectives and insights into the meaning of new ideas and how they will fit within marketplaces.

“It’s invigorating to me to just have that feeling that there are other people out there who have the same questions, the same desires; and the approach to doing what I think we all want to do, which is to find the way to just make a corner of the world a little bit more habitable, a little bit more curious, a little bit more inspirational, and a little bit more activating of the imagination.”

009 Sam Starr – cargo bikes

In this episode we speak with Sam Starr, a cargo bike expert about what our cities might look like if we shift some (or a substantial amount) of our in-city freight traffic from giant potential trucks to cargo bikes. Listen to Episode 006 with Sandra Rothbard for more freight pod.



Guest Bio

Sam Starr is a distinguished Sustainable Freight and Cycle Logistics consultant, co-founder of the North American Cargo Bike Conference by Our Greenway, and a trailblazer in the decarbonizing of goods movement. With over 15 years of expertise in logistics and supply chain, including roles at FedEx Services, Flash Global, US Pack Logistics, and others, Sam has recently played a pivotal role in transforming sustainable logistics, driving academic studies and cycle logistics pilots across Canada. A sought-after speaker at conferences like those hosted by the Association for Supply Chain Management, International Cargo Bike Festival, and the United Nations Economic Commission, Sam holds degrees in Electrical and Systems Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the Master of Engineering Leadership program in Urban Systems at the University of British Columbia. Passionate about sustainable cities and cutting-edge mobility, Sam stands out as a visionary leader shaping the future of environmentally responsible logistics systems.

“The future is very bright for cargo bikes, but we need to start thinking about it as that ecosystem. And this is not just for businesses, it’s for everybody.”


Sponsored by:

Expedition Works

Hi. We’re a full–service design cooperative – let’s work together to make your journey with a purpose successful.


008 Colin Kelly – Better Bin

Colin Kelly is one part of the NYC-based design firm Group Project, who won the competition for the new Better Bin, to replace the ubiquitous green wire mesh litter bins around New York City. We speak about the state of waste collection in NYC, the design ideas and the prototype process behind Better Bin, and what happens when a group of friends suddenly need to become a real company when they become finalists for a massive design competition.



DSNY currently has 23,000 litter baskets citywide, including over 13,000 wire litter baskets. These baskets are easy for residents to misuse, accessible to rats, and often overflowing.

Local designers (Group Project) have designed our litter basket of the future: rat resistant, harder for the public to misuse, easier for Sanitation Workers to use, and with more volume. These Better Bins are now beginning mass production.

007 Shaun Mosley – Research is Caring

Shaun Mosley is a Designer / Researcher at Nava Public Benefit Corporation. With eight years of experience in Product Design, he applies technology in order to create a more equitable society. As an active member of the civic tech community, Shaun fills his time pushing for prison abolition, mentoring new technologists through Code for Atlanta, and making Georgia the best state for Black people to live in. You can find him emoji-reacting to comments in many Slack channels and on Mastodon as @ShmosKnows@theatl.social.



006 Sandra Rothbard – freight matters

In this episode we speak with freight expert Sandra Rothbard, who is an urban planner specializing in freight transportation. After working for public agencies in NYC on city logistics, disaster preparedness and solid waste management, she now supports public, private and non-profit organizations around the world as an independent consultant. She focuses on building sustainable, resilient and safe streets, healthy communities and efficient and economic supply chains.


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