After suffering a severe depression last semester in the Krier studio, only to return in the spring to the shame of the 2nd-year portfolio scandal [see this] [or this] [and this], I thought I would loose all faith in Yale and warn you in this blog that Yale was not a good place to go to school and was letting its students down. Never-the-less, I have to admit that this semester has been pretty great. I am in Will Bruder's studio, and it's wonderful. He's full of life and energy, and he believes in architecture.
We are designing a kunsthal for New Haven adjacent to the now-abandoned Marcel Breuer building that was once home to the Pirelli tire company. Ikea purchased the building, but instead of occupying it as the City Planning commission had hoped, they just use it as a billboard. The standard second-floor-entry Swedish flag box mart is plopped down next to the Breuer, built after the Breuer was shortened to make way for a parking lot. (In massing it morphed from a cobra to a severed head.) Did I forget to say the site is next to I-95 as well? There's a crazy set of elevated exchanges at this intersection linking 34 to I-95 and I-91. It's also next to the harbor on a landfill that's been growing since the 1800's. (= FEMA special flood hazard zone.) And of course you could drive right by this area without ever knowing you're in New Haven, unless you catch sight of the Kevin Roche Knights of Columbus tower in the background. (As it turns out, state and federal DOT plans to widen the freeway and the interchange, so it will even more anonymous in the future. They're gonna double the size of the Q bridge! You should see the rendering. It's awful. All this in the one part of the country where regional transit is viable.)
The kunsthal has an interesting program. It's an art museum with no permanent collection (it's not a ”˜gallery' since they don't sell work), an art school with kilns and classrooms; it has a lecture hall, a café, a “discovery center,” and various other little bits and pieces that mash a bunch of different cultural functions together. I have been behind in my design, I think, but it is somewhat the fault of our studio's organization: we spent way too much time on master planning and not enough so far on designing the building. Compared to other studios, we have a lot to do.
Will came to town yesterday and was very upset and confrontational towards most of us. (His first desk crit went well, as did the last few.) Then today he told us, “I wasn't trying to be confrontational, I hate that. I have too much confrontation in my life,” or something like that. I may have invented the second part, but that was the spirit of the statement. The experience cracked his mystique for me. I've been rather smitten with him up to now, but the extreme highs and lows are disconcerting. A fellow student pointed out that if he can seem irrational in his harsh criticisms, then how can one trust his ebullient praise? (Aha!)
We had a pin-up today, after much frantic work between the desk crits last night and 3pm this afternoon. (Although I did go bowling””I had to clear my mind.) The pin-up presentations and responses were very quick, too quick, and the tone of his responses were mixed. Some up, some down, some helpful, some not. He came down really hard on one student, and it pissed me off. The design in question places each gallery within a thick boundary wall, so that from the interstitial space between wall and gallery, the skin of the gallery becomes an art object. (There are four galleries in the program total, each a different size.) I thought it was an interesting idea””to rise to the challenge of architecture as art while still providing for all the functions of a kunsthal, which is a very down-and-dirty utilitarian kind of place. Will was not happy though, and I'm not exactly sure why. Was it the concept or the drawings on the wall? Hard to say. He seemed to muddle the concept and the execution together, commenting on both at once, and never in a productive manner.
My ideal critic would do this:
1. make me want to work harder because I'm motivated by the joy of the process
2. be able to see to the core of my ideas so that when the project strays, she can help me achieve my original goal (since the intent to her is clear)
3. make me more confident in my abilities
4. help me to hone my abilities
This is the dream, of course, never the reality. A really good teacher comes close to this, however, and I've been lucky enough to have a few of those as critics. I know I can learn a tremendous amount for Will, yes, but it's hard to learn from someone whom you feel is fighting you instead of working on your side. It is a school situation, after all, not a professional one. But I haven't lost hope””on the contrary, I'm more motivated than ever. I'm just a bit tired though.
Thanks for reading.