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Columbia University, GSAPP 2014-2016

what am I getting myself into?

  • Taking a Break and the First Lectures at GSAPP

    It’s Sunday and in Brownie’s Café in the basement floor of Avery Hall, it is a quiet cave and there are only two other students sitting here…  but it's like they aren't even there as from where I'm sitting they can't be seen.  It is a change from the bustling activity that happens here during the week.  It is absent of all the items that accessorize the café.  Tapletops are cleared of everything including napkins.  A long countertop usually full is stripped of the utensils, the coffee, hot water pots, and the tea bags.   Missing are the students who are going over readings or research agendas, or eating among other students, and it is somehow revelatory to find a space that is lacking people.  

    The past few weeks have been packed with classes, readings and research as well as working with GSAPP events that my intention of posting once a week may have been wishful thinking.  

    I began to write small observations as seen below from the lectures I've been attending, the first two being large events with Pritzker Prize winner Kazuyo Sejima giving the first lecture for the school year followed by a lecture the next week with environmental journalist Naomi Klein and landscape architect Kate Orff.  Both were insightful and captivating to listen to.

     

    Theme: Canopy – Kazuyo Sejima

    A full room of students, every chair filled and more standing in the back.  On the screen is the Rolex Learning Center in Switzerland, a white model with a roof like a slice of swiss cheese.  A roof that touches the ground and then lifts up again. A direct connection between building and rethinking how one moves towards it.  “If it is a one story building people can approach from everywhere.  Lift the building and people can approach from the center.  People can pass through from the existing city to the campus,” Sejima says concisely.  Her voice a steady rhythm, an emphasis in each word, her gestures understated (like her architecture), and the audience can only focus and silently absorb.   Other projects show up on the screen: the reflective canopy of the Serpentine Gallery, soap bubbles installed in a public space of Sharjah.  A library extension in San Francisco where gentle, elongated, shadowy figures stand in interior renderings. A new campus in Milan with a public path with a winding soft edged loop. The rendering of the exterior building is surrounded by trees bending in the wind.  Weather elements disrupt the perfection of the perfect white model world.  Near the end we see the ‘Home for All’ project, a map of Japan with twelve locations called out.  Buildings by the sea that have a local vernacular and wait for fishermen to arrive.  One building has a canopy like a beetle shell covering one room, a meeting space, bathroom, a kitchen against the wall and a stove.  The next building has a leaf-like roof.  Simple structures merging the harmony of architectural permanence with the moving world of people and nature.  It’s “not always about a beautiful building,” Sejima says in conversation with Dean Amale Andraos as the lecture wraps up. 

     

    Them: Drain – Naomi Klein and Kate Orff

    Naomi Klein walks to the front of the room and speaks first. ‘Is the earth fucked?’   ‘Yes’, and images run across the screen with crowds protesting, then to trash ridden, burning landscapes as a reality.  It is a trailer for her book This Changes Everything.  Klein says we are witnessing the procrastination penalty coined by Michael Mann: we are no longer in a place where changes are going to be easy and unnoticed.  We are in a place where climate change is less and less an abstract issue.  The perspective of climate change was always projected far and away – in the 70’s the logo was an image of earth from space; a distance and an abstraction – but who see this in reality?  Astronauts and god, Klein remarks.  Kate Orff steps up next to talk about her work as a landscape architect.  ‘We are visualizers. We can adapt and engage’.  Her speech is fast paced, as if there is too much that needs to be said and not enough time.  Her voice emphasizes the importance and the urgency of the landscape and its corrosion.  Photographs of the landscape between Baton Rouge and New Orleans come on the screen – views of cancer alley; a cemetery with a petrochemical factory behind it.  Ghostly poles of trees in a swamp that were once vibrant.  These are views of the landscape as a machine for consuming oil and petrochemicals that come from her book Petrochemical America.  An image of a puffy white cloud that is actually a harmful chemical cloud is remarked on by Klein who then concludes ‘It is not that we are addicted to fossil fuels but that our politicians are addicted to fossil fuel money. 


  • The Start of School and the Value of Sunsets

    My second week of classes are done and I missed posting last week as a result of figuring out my courses and being buried under text.  Just to give you an idea, in my first week of classes, I was assigned 628 pages to read and ‘comprehend’.  With an overwhelming assembly of information and...


  • UP and CCCP dinner and Getting Ready for the program

    Last Sunday, a dinner was organized by Andrew Lassiter from the Urban Planning Program for students in the UP and CCCP programs.   We met at the Deluxe Diner off of 113th and Broadway that was large enough to hold the 20+ people that arrived to meet up.   I met two more CCCP peers, Maryam and...


  • Apartment Hunting and Thinking of Olmsted, Part II

    Friday, August 15This was the day that I received an email – apartment by 96th street and Central Park inquiring if I was still looking for a room.  I had placed an ad on listingsproject.com for ‘Grad Student needs a room: clean, responsible, drinks tea’ and they had seen it.  After having...


  • Apartment Hunting and Thinking of Olmsted

    I was told that finding an apartment in New York is one of the most stressful and difficult things you can do.  I’m apt to agree.  And if you don’t mind the comparison, it’s like buying a house in Los Angeles.  Everything in your price range goes quickly and so you have to know what you...


  • L.A. to N.Y.C

    Leaving Los Angeles, August 5, 6:00am, PSTA towncar waited for me outside of my gate at 6:30am.  It’s the first time I’ve ever taken a towncar but a friend had suggested it and said it was less than taking a taxi, so they were called and scheduled to pick me up.  I believe the driver was...


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About this Blog

A blog that records my two years in the Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices of Architecture Program at the GSAPP. Posts will explore the program, New York's architecture and urban design and has the potential to envelope the west coast as well. Having spent the last 6 years in L.A., my intended thesis will look at the the west coast (and hopefully the school will give me the objective distance I need!).

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