Feb '05 - Aug '06
If you can imagine the expression on the face of one of those lizards sunbathing in the Galapagos, and then imagine a room full of them criticizing student architecture, you probably understand what Cornell's midterm all-school review looked like. The attendance was lizard-like: all with wide eyes glazed over, head slightly cocked, jaw shut tight in concentration, and intensely still. Of course, I can only guess what intellectual machinations the countenance of the lizard hides. For all I know, it could be anywhere between high critical theory to simple stupor. What I do know, however, is that when lizards participate in architectural discussions, they behave themselves. They don't bicker, or beat dead horses with big hubris-sticks”¦ and (because they understand that a mid-term review is necessarily about process) they don't fuss over the artifact. At mid-semester, those blank, blinky lizard eyes see past the wall. We would do well to learn from the lizards”¦
There was some talk of process, of course. “Research” was the big question. It is widely agreed that younger students should always conduct their research by building models of their observations (about a site, or an abstract idea, material condition, whatever). These models perform, offer resistance, experiment, explain, express, and are consistently the most beautiful pieces in the review. The problem seems to be the process of translation of these “things” into “architecture.” First year students enter without an understanding of architecture and are taught a process to analyze and make “things,” and somehow get through their second year still lacking full knowledge of a process for analyzing and making “architecture” (where I am).
There are professors that insist that the making of things is already architecture, but then why were we taught to make things independent of architecture?
Or, if you're a member of club Rem, the diagram is already the building. I would buy into it but for the fact that I have yet to see a student project that deals with such real-world constraints as formed, say, the Seatle Public Library: lateral support against earthquakes, the potential for book collection expansion, budget, HVAC, manufacturing of skin enclosure systems, etc. Then, as a nice counterpoint, there is freedom for rather sarcastic architectural moves: neon escalators, trippy blobby forms painted red, etc. Students here would never get away with this.
My studio opened with a filmic site analysis, in order to understand the logic of film and somehow translate it to architecture. Our research, then, is distinct from the architecture it seeks to inspire. That is, our final projects will not literally be films, as Rem's buildings are diagrams. The exercise, then, is making the final project's logic read as filmic Ã¢â‚¬“ programmatically and architectonically.
This cannot have happened by the mid-semester review, and so, we get a room full of confused and indignant lizard-faces. Not good discussion material”¦