Harvard GSD M.Arch.I (Lian)

Lectures and exhibitions, life in the trays, happenings around the GSD and beyond.

  • Review - GSD's "Platform 6: A Year of Research through Studio Work, Theses, Lectures, Exhibitions and Events"

    [Image from Pimentel.]

    “You will be remembered for what you leave out or neglect.”

    Rosetta Elkin, Editor of Platform 6, includes these words in a short meta-essay entitled “Editing Pedagogy,” in which she retroactively imagines a brief for the project of gathering, selecting, and representing a year in the work and life of Harvard GSD. It’s a provocative phrase, and when I came across it I pondered its many meanings.

    [Wallpapered graphic in the Platform 6 exhibition]


    [Strengthen your core! Third semester architecture in the Platform 6 exhibition]

    First, I thought, it’s a nod to the difficult task of being the “decider” among critics, professors, and students clamoring to have their work, ideas, or events included in the school’s annual publication of record. The book doesn’t have space for coverage of every studio, let alone every course, essay, or project. Those who are left out inevitably take note.

    Second, Elkin is highlighting the structural peculiarity of this year’s edition: Platform 6 has no index, no table of contents, no color-coded key words signaling the year’s trends in jargon. There’s nothing explicit telling me what to think or how to interpret the selection of projects. Even the most eye-catching move in the book’s organization is, purposefully, retiring: five faculty essays are inserted at intervals throughout the colorful, glossy book as a staid text printed on green paper, with a narrower trim size than the rest. Organizationally, Platform 6 is a major departure.

    Third—most interesting to me, and explanatory of the first two points—the contents of this book speak judiciously in terms of what it excludes. It’s a lively, transitional period for the school, and for those looking for an indicator of where the GSD is at in terms of agendas both robust and tentative, Platform 6 delivers in spades. 

    [Entry graphic in the Platform 6 exhibition]

    [Image from Pimentel.]

    Looking at the book, it strikes me that it’s not only the sixth issue of Platform, but six years since Dean Mostafavi began his deanship. This period of time has particular significance for me, because my experiences at the GSD—from wide-eyed prospective to droopy-eyed first-year, and now, as an alumna—have spanned these same six years. I met Dean Mostafavi in his office in spring 2008, when I first visited Gund Hall and he was still unpacking books in his office. That same spring, Preston Scott Cohen, who finished his term as Chair of Architecture this past summer, was appointed; spring 2009, Charles Waldheim was tapped for Chair of Landscape Architecture; spring 2010, Rahul Mehrotra was named as Chair of Urban Planning and Design; and in 2011, Ben Prosky came on board as Assistant Dean of Communications, to consolidate and advance the school’s public facing efforts. Sometime in the following year, Iñaki Ábalos's name began to surface around Gund Hall as the next architecture chair, and he officially began his tenure this past fall.

    [Work from one of the core architecture studios, in the Platform 6 exhibition]

    As an alumna, I’m looking at the most recent edition of Platform as a guide to all of these changes in the school. So, even in Ciro Najle’s opening salvo of “extraordinarily large urban typologies,” I recall that Dean Mostafavi told Architectural Record in 2007 that one of his ambitions for his deanship was to consider the role of architecture at “a larger scale by engaging territories and regions instead of single buildings.” In Alexander Arroyo’s sublime thesis project on snow, operating at “the fragile interface between the geologic and meteorologic,” I see that the infrastructural approach to landscape promoted by Waldheim, along with other landscape faculty such as Chris Reed and Pierre Bélanger, has taken root and grown in sophistication.

    [image from Vimeo]

    The shout-out to thermodynamics at the end of Arroyo’s text calls the installation of Iñaki Ábalos as the chair architecture to mind. Although Ábalos has only officially been in place since July 2013--after the work for this issue of Platform was complete--he has been a presence in the school for a few years, and unofficially but widely understood to be the incoming chair for around a year or two. As such, Platform 6 already registers the influence of his agenda on thermodynamics as a dynamic approach towards sustainability, building technologies, and aesthetics. James Leng’s startlingly beautiful thesis proposing a “platform for energy exchange,” at once dry and monstrous, also signals this thermodynamic turn, as does the prominen interview with recent architecture faculty hire Kiel Moe.

    [James Leng's thesis in the Platform 6 exhibition, with Ábalos's Thermo Dynamic Madrid peeking over his shoulder]

    More generally, an incredibly eclectic series of projects represent the architecture department, ranging from Dasha Ortenberg’s blue-sky meditation on the design process; to John Todd’s philosophical and Japanese-inflected take on housing; Kevin Lamyuktseung’s witty “absence of style”; Savinien Caracostea’s hallucinatory cinematic spaces; Sara Tavakoli’s macabre dollhouse; and Lap Chi Kwong’s uncanny cut of a suburban house. It’s a greater level of diversity than I’ve seen from the department in Platform, and to me it’s a testament to my classmates’ abilities to learn from and synthesize diverse and divergent agendas, to create something new while running at full speed. Bravo to all of you.

    [Successive chairs of architecture. Photo from my live blog coverage of the event.]

    [Havard faculty members as paparazzi. Photo from my live blog coverage of the event.]

    In the midst of all this, Preston Scott Cohen’s epic and very meta lecture, “Successive Architecture,” is documented with excerpts from his talk and a photo with seven successive chairs of the GSD’s architecture department. The text and photos are good, but here I recommend that you look up the YouTube video, which includes Dean Mostafavi’s opening thoughts on the school’s history, Cohen’s grand and winking performance, and finally—well, just watch it to the end.

    [The exhibition tables are set up like student desks in Gund Hall's trays]

    Back to Platform 6. Elkin stakes out “metacognition—how information is administered and processed” as her central territory in Platform 6, and the book achieves this in frustrating, but fascinating ways. In her foreword, she riffs on the value of studio-based learning and presents the book as a document of the exchanges between students and faculty at desk crits. While the work presented is in most cases much more polished than what one might find at a typical desk crit (with a few exceptions, such as a beguiling series of labyrinth sketches from a first-year student on p.129), Platform 6 succeeds in recreating the serendipitous and immersive feeling of wandering through the trays, catching glimpses of diverse projects, desk after desk.

    An idiosyncratic weaving of voices in the book, with diverse texts sharing space on the same page, feeds this impression, as does the physical exhibition currently in Gund Hall, which is based on a charming yet unsettling reduced-scale model of the GSD’s studio desks.

    In sum, the book’s main structural move, of withholding any navigational devices such as an index or table of contents, is as maddening as it is effective—and I know I’ll return to get lost in this book whenever I feel nostalgic for the hubbub of the studio spaces on Gund Hall’s trays.

    Platform 6 is available for purchase online and the exhibition is now on view in Gund Hall.

    [Rosetta Elkin, Editor of Platform 6; image from the GSD]

    Flip-through of Platform 6

  • Live Blog - Manuel Castells, "The Space of Autonomy: Cyberspace and Urban Space in Networked Social Movements"

    Hi Archinect,It's a packed house in (half) Piper tonight for Manuel Castells, Professor of Communication Technology and Society, USC Los Angeles. His talk responds to recent movements in Brazil and Turkey, drawing on themes from his book Networks of Outrage and Hope; Social Movements in...

  • Live Blog - Christopher Glaisek and Bruce Kuwabara on Waterfront Toronto

    Hello Archinect,I'm back in Piper to see Christopher Glaisek, vice president of planning and design for WATERFRONToronto, and Bruce Kuwabara, founding partner of Toronto-based KPMB Architects and now Chair of the Board at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. As a...

  • Review - "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon

    Hi Archinect!Okayyyyyy, I'm back at the GSD to watch "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon (2012), a film about the origins of Studio H's design/build education taught by Emily Pilloton and her team of teachers (including GSD grad Hallie Chen!).Studio H now hails from...

    If You Build It Official Trailer

  • Live Blog - Kyle Bergman and John Connell in conversation

    Hi Archinect,After the screening of If You Build It, film festival director Kyle Bergman and John Connell, the founder of Yestermorrow Design Build School, had a short conversation and I wanted to share it with you here. I was interested to see Connell live, as I had been to Yestermorrow for...

  • Live Blog - Futures Past: Design and the Machine (Mindell, Steenson, Theodore, Galison)

    Hi Archinect!Drew Harry and I are here at MIT’s Media Lab for Futures Past: Design and the Machine, a conference organized by Duks Koschitz (Pratt/MIT), Olga Touloumi (Harvard GSD), and Theodora Vardouli (MIT). (Don’t worry, Kanye is not in the house though if you haven't been sated yet, you...

  • Update - GSD African American Student Union and Dean Mohsen comment on Kanye West Visit

    Hi Archinect, Over the past few days there have been over 30,000 views of this blog's Archinect post on Kanye, and many times that number of reposts and articles about the event at other media outlets (including Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, USA Today, and Buzzfeed). It seems as if...

  • VIDEO - Kanye stops by studio to talk about architecture with students

    Hi Archinect, Yeezy surprised students tonight with a short visit to Harvard GSD's design studio. I REALLY like Kanye--Late Registration, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Watch the Throne basically got me through studio, from first year to thesis--so I'm bummed that I wasn't there. He...

    Kanye speaks with architecture students at Harvard Graduate School of Design (Video by and courtesy of Flavio Sciaraffia.)

  • Live Blog - Mohsen Mostafavi in Conversation with Nicholas Negroponte

    Hi Archinect! Co-live-blogging tonight with Drew Harry from MIT Media Lab. Full house in (half) Piper! From the GSD website: Mohsen Mostafavi, architect and educator, is the dean and the Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at the Harvard GSD. His work focuses on modes and...

  • Live Blog - Walid Raad and Theaster Gates in Conversation, with Mohsen Mostafavi, "On Art and Cities"

    Hi Archinect! I'm co-live-blogging tonight with Allison Green, a first-year student in the GSD's Master of Urban Planning program who is also starting to blog at Archinect. From the GSD website: Theaster Gates, an artist trained as an urban planner and sculptor, has developed a practice that...

  • Live Blog - Robert Wilson, Sensory Media Platform

    Hi Archinect! Full-ish house in Piper tonight. From the GSD's website: Robert Wilson is among the world's foremost theater and visual artists, acclaimed for stage works that integrate dance, movement, lighting, sculpture, music, and text in striking, emotionally charged images. His productions...

  • Live Blog - Craig Edward Dykers, The Psychology of Space and the Moving Body

    Hi Archinect! I'm at the Boston Society of Architect's BSA Space for a lecture from Craig Edward Dykers, Founding Partner at Snøhetta. It's the opening event for the Association of Architecture Organizations' conference "Making and Measuring IMPACT: The Value of Architecture and...

  • Live Blog - Panel Discussion: Frontiers of Design Criticism

    Hi Archinect! I'm back at the GSD for a panel moderated by Shantel Blakely of Harvard GSD Public Programs called "Frontiers of Design Criticism." From the GSD website:  Today the feedback, spin, and other acts of interpretation that were once the preserve of historians and other experts are...

  • Live Blog - Dorie Clark, "Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future"

    Hi Archinect, Fair warning: this one isn't architecture. I'm at a Harvard Alumni event--author and marketing, branding, and business strategy expert Dorie Clark is talking about "reinventing yourself." Clark is an alumnus of Harvard's Divinity School. Clark opens with an anecdote about Joanne...

  • Useless Architectures: Interview with 2013 SOM Prize Winner James Leng

    The SOM Prize is an annual $50 000 fellowship allowing a recent graduate of an accredited American undergraduate or graduate program in architecture, urban design, or related fields to conduct research and travel for a project of their choice. The SOM Foundation recently announced James Leng, who...

  • Live Blog - Sylvia Lavin and Eric Owen Moss

    Hi Archinect! I'm in Los Angeles (yeah!) for an ACSA board meeting and we thought we'd take in Sylvia Lavin and Eric Owen Moss at SCI-Arc. SL: ...There are all of the different things that architects make and that we recognize as architecture in some way.  And then, what are the different...

  • Graduation: final post as a Harvard GSD M.Arch.I school blogger

    Hi Archinect! We graduated! Although I'll continue to blog and live blog when I can, this is my last post as a GSD M.Arch.I student.  Graduation was hot and sweaty, with lots of waiting--but also incredibly exciting and gratifying to enjoy this final day with classmates, friends, and family...

  • New Haven/Yale School of Architecture

    Hi Archinect! I was in New Haven today, to interview Michelle Addington. I haven't been here since I was a prospective student, so it is somehow fitting to be back now that my M.Arch.I degree is done. It was also great to spend some time with Michelle, as her work is so interesting and her move...

  • Live Blog - John David Todd, "Sometimes alone. Mostly with others" (M.Arch.I thesis)

    Hi Archinect, Last session of the day. John Todd, advised by Toshiko Mori. 4:30: JT: "We live in a post-utopian world...Meaning is not created from a transcendent source but emerges from around us [through an immanence]... The idea of individual vs. collective is a false dialectic. We are not...

  • Live Blog - M.Arch.I thesis

    Hi Archinect, Just a few scenes from the GSD this afternoon, our last day as M.Arch.I students...   Thanks for looking! Lian

  • Live Blog - Ceri Edmunds, "Consolidation: The suburban shopping mall as a paradigm of public space."

    Hi Archinect,   1:10: Ceri Edmunds is presenting. "This project places the shopping mall into anatagonism with the suburban residential. This project seeks consolidation..." At the bottom level are loading docks and parking; the loading docks service the three voids. Above this are the...

  • Live Blog - Trey Kirk, "King Country Courthouse - Seattle, Washington"

    Hi Archinect, Okay, we're only an hour behind schedule. 12:00: Trey Kirk begins, describing Mies' seminal courtroom design, with a cell off of each courtroom; and a typology of courtrooms since then. In the internal programming for courtrooms, double-height courtrooms and single height judges'...

  • Live Blog - Drew Cowdrey, "Contemporary Asylum" (M.Arch.I Thesis Review)

    Hi Archinect, 10:44: Drew begins. The focus here moves from the adaptation of self to the adjustment of nature...For centuries, architects have attempted to [cure] the self through what I'll term 'environmental modification.' In contrast there is biological modification, as in the film...

  • Live Blog - Fareez Giga, "Nonsense" (M.Arch.I thesis review)

    Hi Archinect! Second day of M.Arch.I thesis reviews at the GSD. 9:30 am: Fareez Giga begins presenting "Nonsense." Advisor: P. Scott Cohen. "This all began with Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." ...Reality is a construct, a fiction. To confront the real is to...understand this...

  • Live Blog - Cathleen McGuigan, "Women and the Changing World of Architecture"

    Hi Archinect! Studio reviews are over at the GSD. I'm finishing up a few papers--my last school assignments ever--and helping some friends with thesis. I'm also excited for tonight's lecture, from the editor-in-chief at Architectural Record, Cathleen McGuigan. From the GSD website: "Cathleen...

  • Iñaki Ábalos appointed Chair of Architecture at Harvard GSD

    Hi Archinect, At long last, Jose Ignacio Ábalos Vazquez has been announced as the incoming chair of architecture at the GSD. This has been widely rumored for over a year around school, but only now has been made official and public. The announcement was low-key and almost content-free...

  • Live Blog - Preston Scott Cohen, "Successive Architecture"

    Hi Archinect, We're in full Piper tonight for a historic event, the Walter Gropius Lecture, delivered by our Chair of Architecture, Preston Scott Cohen. [I'll add a link to the video when it's posted; this blog post is just the low-budget teaser for a must-watch blockbuster film.] [Photo op with...

    [Scott's roast - Fareez Giga, James Martin, and others.]

  • Live Blog - Techniques: James Carpenter and TriPyramid, "Extending Collaboration"

    Hi Archinect, I'm in Stubbins (a small room at the GSD) for James Carpenter and Michael Mulhern, a founding partner at TriPyramid Structures. Martin Bechthold made the introductions. JC: "Michael just informed me that we've completed over 60 projects together." MM: We build widgets, at the end of...

  • Live Blog - Rahul Mehrotra, KUMBH MELA: Mapping the Ephemeral City

    Hi Archinect! Tonight's event is one that I've been (peripherally) involved in, as this project is one that we've been discussing in the context of an urban planning and design seminar that I'm taking led by Rahul Mehrotra, called "Kinetic City." (Full video available at here.) From the website...

  • PETITION: Recognize Denise Scott Brown for her work in Robert Venturi's 1991 Prize

    Hi Archinect, You might have seen that Denise Scott Brown has asked to be recognized by the Pritzker committee. As Dezeen reports, "At the time the prize was awarded, Scott Brown had been a partner at the couple's practice Venturi Scott Brown and Associates for 22 years and had co-authored with...

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About this Blog

Lectures and exhibitions, life in the trays, happenings around Cambridge...and once in a while, some studio and course work. Please note that all live blogs are abridged and approximate. If you want to see exactly what happened, in most cases a video of the event is posted online by the event's hosts. If you have concerns about how you are quoted, please contact me via Archinect's email.

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  • Lian Chikako Chang

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