Jan '05 - Mar '06
I've just finished the first three weeks of my second year.
Here's the lineup: studio, Enclosures and Environments 2,
History of Theory, and a fabrication lab based on using
the school's new waterjet cutter.
Studio is Columbia's infamous housing studio. Everyone works in
pairs, so I have a studio partner--heretoafter referred to as
KA--who I will in all likelyhood be spending more time with
than my wife.
E&E 2 is continuation of E&E 1. Fortunately, I received a waiver
for that, having taken a roughly equivalent class as an
undergraduate. The first few weeks of E&E 2 have so far been
rudimentary--what could have been taught in E&E 1 that would
qualify as more basic? I hear it gets tougher later, but for now,
we're looking at the psychrometric chart. Not really grad-level
History of Theory, my third course, reinforces my hunch that the
school includes E&E in the curriculum only out of necessity to
remain an accredited professional school. Dean Mark Wigley
teaches this one, and in a way, the basis of his course is his
oft-mentioned contention that architects' essential function is
to produce discourse about buildings (rather than buildings), a
stance that rather obviates the need for training in structures,
HVAC, and the like. If you need further convincing consider that
during his introduction to Keller Easterling's lecture last
semester he made quite a lot of the fact that Easterling is
But back to the class--it is really what it says, not a history
of architecture, nor a theory course per se (although theory
comes up) but rather a history of how, when, and by whom ideas
about architecture have been shaped. This is therefore also a
history of the architect: the architect's role and image,
training and activities, allegiances, domains of action, areas of
expertise, etc. Like Robin Evans, Wigley has an uncanny ability
to find chinks in the edifices of theory that appear the most
stable, and show how tenuously they are in fact constructed. In
doing so, he reveals how much power the conventions of theory
exert over us, as well as their origin and purpose.
The fabrication workshop will just be fun. The school got two new
toys, a waterjet and CNC mill, and this is the workshop for
playing in the lab. Right now, I'm just getting a feel for how to
control the waterjet and its software. The pieces I'm producing
are a little clumsy so far.