Jun '05 - May '06
Keep reading, because this is the very end, and there's more archiporn at the other end.
A-L The Archinect blog poses a predicament: my finale, my circus sendoff, my epilogue, also serves as a preface and a tease. Even more disposing personally, I know this sentence, this last first preface, is the third sentence you'll read, new reader, as you noodle through the blog archives.
N-S This ordered beginning entry is very different than the chronological beginning entry at the end. I presumed the end wouldn't be a "goodbye" because "goodbye" posts are misguided and sappy: Misguided because, ultimately, they're the first post read by you, and sappy because it seems like I'm abruptly saying goodbye, and youÃ¯Â¿Â½ve only just arrived. At times I roll like that. Ask anyone who's ever attended my crits.
T-G To you, new reader, hats off. There are some pretty good treats in here if you keep digging. In one early entry, near the blog's end-beginning, I compare the late architectural critic Phillip Johnson to Napoleon Dynamite. Happy hunting. Ahead, there's a flood of jump-cut narrative trickery, extended metaphors, esoteric academic citations and provincial rap lyrics. And archiporn.
H-O However, you should skip ahead a few entries; what follows is as useless to your browsing eyes as a preface is to a paperback.
P-V So from this sentence down, the writing gets pretty misguided and sappy, because I feel a heartfelt compulsion to say goodbye, even though doing so is sappy. And there are no pictures, which is misguided if my aim is to encourage you to keep reading. Stick with me, because later I start discussing sing-alongs for high seas pirates.
ABC Remember: "There is the other side of here." - Skateboarding Journalist C.R Stecyk. Keep reading.
AK So what's this? This is my celebration of you, every past reader whom I can't see or know. I'm colored Archinect Taupe (the background shade that, for the past year, has inadvertently colored my essays) and poised to pop a bottle filled with sparkling accolades for you because without you, superstar longtime reader, this blog would have been a retarded waste of selfishly spent time, another contribution to an Internet I referred to near the end-beginning of the blog as "the bathroom wall."
L As readers, commenters, emailers - a people I can't name without a drove of unintelligible screen names, although I know you all by heart - you participated in an existential creative experiment that appears to have been personally successful, and I owe you everything genuine that I'm taking away from this experience.
M Blogs are the bathroom wall.
N I've begun the tent. The one we were compelled to weave between ourselves and a world much harsher now than when school began. And we don't call it a tent anymore, because concepts are no longer so superficial. Nor is it architecture, because now we see the joinery in the skin between our insides and their outsides.
OO Quickly the skin becomes a map, a record and a thought. Fronting awkward smiles, hands with coffee jitters weave sweat into the skin, the architecture, our tent: looking. We struggle to stitch reflections of the outside into a shelter from it. Looking, looking, looking.
P How to judge the performance of something placed into the world is often difficult, and I've been humbled by the sincerity of the Archinect readers over the past year. The entries succeeded in some places, not in others, but enough to have "not sucked", so thank you. I began this blog last summer because I was caught up in highly personal obsessions: esoteric, grossly idiosyncratic ideas about the written word, time and narrative. That series of personal obsessions was funneled through this blog. You responded, continued reading my slag, and for that I'm eternally grateful.
Q Keep weaving love swollen veins, breathe life into a skin, and keep looking. Blood is an impulsive material choice, but nothing else will suffice. Nothing else is available. Apparently, we die at our desks.
1. Don't do it! Instead of the three remaining effortless years of college, you manage to drag it along for 10! However, the trade-off might be a useful degree in place of a useless one.
R SCIArc, architecture school, this ridiculous ride: It was worth it. It stretched out over a decade for me, stemming from a single, poorly thought-out decision to do architorture.
Appendix i Two universities, three campuses, four buildings (if you count the two weeks in the SCIArc "tent"), five design careers, six apartments, seven relatives, eight employments, nine phone numbers, women's haute, software compounds, home additions, store renovations, monument ID signs, amusement park maps and a plant named "Mitchell". Billy Crystal said it in the movie City Slickers, "Your twenties are a blur," and I wouldn't change a thing because I'm glad they're done. I might be mistaken, but I'm looking forward to turning 30 this October.
appendix ii Draw a cover over the bathroom wall. This blog is done. It was an exposure rollercoaster and I'm glad it's over. This Sunday, I will walk the stage and graduate.
appendix iii A time machine at my disposal. There are more noble pursuits than trying to turn back the clock and change a 20-year-old's decisions, or otherwise give myself good advice with the hopes of changing my future. I remarked that I wouldnÃ¯Â¿Â½t change a thing about my twenties. This is true, but to say that implies I understand my former self to not need advice when he desperately needs me to kick him in the head.
1. Focus on forming personal beliefs about architecture, not personal expectations about what your beliefs should be. Your work is foremost about you and should remain consistent with you and what you believe in. Also recognize that what you think those beliefs are right now will probably change quite a bit, so have conviction, but be supple and receptive to contrasting convictions.
S html A boot to the head? If I could, I would look for a heavy object to crack open my future's skull. In hindsight, it's possible I was so incorrigible I wouldn't have even listened to myself. I'm older now, maybe not too much more mature but a whole lot nerdier. The best I could have done for myself was leave a note and hope I had the smarts to keep reading.
1. Stop taking notes. Writing and listening are different, and cannot be done effectively simultaneously. Get a tape recorder. Record class lectures and take notes later. Same goes for reviews and desk crits. Listen and ask questions. The benefit of these compiled recordings is the archive of lectures from professors you will later discover are your "most influential." It's nerdy, but like you say, "fuck 'em."
1. Have a greater willingness to accept structure, and be rigorous about understanding why it exists. Continue breaking rules, but be wiser when choosing to.
1. Stop cursing.
appendix iv: symbols Would I have kept reading? Probably not. ThereÃ¯Â¿Â½s readily available sager advice, like "Don't procrastinate." Advice is a paperback industry.
1. For studio projects, youÃ¯Â¿Â½ll never be able to solve everything. DonÃ¯Â¿Â½t dwell on design issues that you don't have time to fully dissect.
1. Later, you'll learn to accept endless revision, so accept it now and let it motivate you to execute your ideas quicker. The same goes for your writing.
Dictation You didnÃ¯Â¿Â½t know it was a blind decision to take this course, and I know you won't accept a litany of advice, either. I just want to remove some of the rocks and smooth out a course I know you canÃ¯Â¿Â½t yet see.
1. Crits are not debates. The ultimate goal of crits and reviews is not to improve how well you can argue in favor of your own work. Architecture school is not law school. Your paramount concern is your central idea, and how your artifact expresses that idea. Jurors can offer experienced perspective, good and bad, on aspects of your project you can't see. Listen. Ask questions. Don't get so defensive.
1. Always carry your tape measure. Get a jump on understanding your vantage point in terms of relative dimensions. Parking spaces, handrails, stairs. Measure them, don't default to referencing Graphic Standards.
1. Treat your friends well. They are more important than you already think they are.
Dictation During one particular pitiful teenage crisis, I remember asking my graf partner Doleone, what he uses to guide the art. "What is all this for you?" I asked. "This," he piped up, "this is all about two things, bitch: straight up backyard barbecues and one-eyed pirate sing-alongs. That's it."
Dictation Only blood, snow and spine are available. The markers for the support posts are deliberated, perimeters imagined. The tent begins.
Dictation The tent begins. Just beyond the first weaves of canvas is an unforgiving world: cruel and vicious, a chaffing storm, selfish and unforgiving, uninhabitable. In order to learn how to weave the tent and stay alive, be prepared to become a part of that unforgiving world, buried in the blizzard, pondering the finer points of everybody else's numbing toes. And don't plan on getting any of your fancy plasma weaving finished out there, either.
1. Architecture can be paraded as a style, marketed as revolutionary and packaged as fashionable. The magazines you like and the awards you revere provide much of the cause for this misunderstanding. It's okay and helpful to copy them, but they do not represent what's expected of you as a student. A conviction to your personal values is what's expected of you.
M for Movie Styles have a shelf life as long as your degree program, so be mindful that they should not be taken as the ultimate dogma. The bad ideas and styles seem to fall away, and the good ones will take another 30 years to manifest. Both depart and make room for another cycle of paper fashion.
1. Bad work, shit work, deplorable work. Start developing an eye for architecture, space and architects whose work disgusts you, and be critical of why this is so. Study the bad with as much rigor and interest as the good. You'll learn later that this is extremely helpful in determining what your personal beliefs are on successful ideas, smart details and beautiful space. It's also useful for understanding why great architects are actually great, and not just fashionable.
1. Be patient. You just got here; you know nothing about architecture. In 10 years, you'll look back on the first-year work you believed was groundbreaking and cringe. It's awful, believe me. The same will be true when I look back at my recent work. Get over yourself.
1. Think positively. Your negativity drains the spirits of your friends.
1. Much of the critical theory you read you may not understand. This is for two reasons: 1) You have a lot to learn before much of this makes sense. 2) Architects tend to be hideous writers and poor storytellers. DonÃ¯Â¿Â½t be intimidated by archispeak in your early years. In some cases it's used as a crutch for poor communication skills and half-baked ideas.
K for Kappe House Hold up. Did I hear right? Make the central idea about backyard barbecues and one-eyed pirate sing-alongs? Mesquite sauce and pillaging music? The answer is, magically, yes. Because underneath his absurd assertion is an unflinching truth - a charming poetry scraping at visceral rationalism, at emotions, at tingling muscles instead of cranial strain.
B for B-Side And with trepidation, leave the tent, behold the blizzard, create an understanding. Return, and mirror the blizzard in a stitch pattern from frostbitten, blood-swollen veins. A crossover for a snowflake, a knot for a torrent. The survival of your spirit depends on your stitching.
1. Treat your coffee well. Coffee is more important than you already think it is.
1. Be courteous. Jurors are people, too. They are architects and professors cooped up in offices juggling schedules, classes and paperwork all day, and simply enjoy the splendor of viewing stuff on walls, perusing your energy and output. They enjoy uninhibited productivity, curious objects, and good conversation. They are not dogs and you are not being fed to them. Be gentle and tolerate the occasional bitch.
1. It's okay to say "no" to work offers. Stop compromising. Know your worth.
LA Immersed in the torrent, the possibilities suddenly become tangible: seeds to manifest our blossoming obsessions, opportunities to weave ourselves a shelter from the unforgiving into a tangible beauty.
appendix v: muted trumpet Yet, we have to be underneaththe shelter to weave the shelter. Safe from the torrent, simultaneously struggling to map its impression in stitches from inside. All the while, pouring more and more of our blood into the seams, pondering whether the outside has changed since we left. But too much time spent outside, too much time without our creations, exposure starts quickly.
Index Why is there always a little more blood and not enough shelter? Every stitch means shutting out. Every drop means more loss.
1. Professionals, professors and students on this journey all share something special, something indescribable thatÃ¯Â¿Â½s stamped on our foreheads, something not found in anyone else who hasn't taken this path. They are all your fellow travelers and companions and if you bother to ask, you'll discover everyone wakes up with similar anxieties about their work: Young or old, no one is assured they know what theyÃ¯Â¿Â½re doing. You'll also discover the successful ones turn that anxiety into a powerful motivator.
1. Find out how to conduct a post-occupancy report. They're mainly for architects, but don't hesitate to perform them on album cover, logo and T-shirt designs as well.
M The nausea! The world outside wells up obsessions to make mirrors inside of their own reflections! Lift the flap, come inside. Begin, again, meticulously weaving the tent, isolated from the world the tent tries to deflect. Consistently fold creases, stitch voids, manhandle the whole of the bloodied canvas into an accurate document of the torrent out there. It requires that much, even though we know it does not have to. It's a taxing struggle: Weaving shelter with our own blood into mirrors of a world so chaotic, cold, and elusive. If only the world were as stable, warm and cozy as the shelter we've woven to reflect it.
appendix vi: syntax Being simultaneously an impressionist and a participant shouldn't be this difficult.
L Leave the tent. Exposure starts. Acclimatization begins. The skin balloons, cracks, and bleeds. But not from exposure to the blizzard. We'll adapt. We can survive in the outside without our shelter for survival. Thicken another skin and grow numb. Do something else. Our education trained us to do a lot more than build buildings.
1. "Young" is a conspicuously relative term in architecture. Be prepared to be considered "young" until you reach the age of retirement.
LL They are Doleone's personal interests, abstractly similar things to graffiti art pocketed from around the world, combined with palatable bravado and turned into letters.
1. Don't forget about Doleone's pirate sing-alongs and barbecues.
1. You'll take "History of Western Civ" at Valley College when you're 27. Does this sound appealing? Finish your Gen Ed classes now. Oh, and "don't procrastinate."
appendix vii: appropriation I smile at the thought of pirate sing-alongs and backyard barbecues. I like to think everyone does. I like to think that art, the creative act, the architecture, can upstage and excite, like pirate music, barbecues, and backyards can. A tent flowing with that energy, made with a more palatable choice of materials than skin woven veins.
XYZ I want to hold you because it seems appropriate, but I know it would make you feel awkward. You're about to go on a journey filled with failure, pain and ambiguity, but I promise you will come out the other end alive.
A But the tent, most definitely could, and is about barbecue pirate sing-alongs. Rumrunner freedom limericks and smoked shrimp: For Doleone from the Valley, another understanding of truth is at stake, because the meaning on the surface of his declaration becomes less important than how it feels in a fleeting moment to ponder a different way of allowing the world to influence us, like being guided by the energy inherent in barbecues and pirate songs. If in the creative act that giddy, excited spirit is maintained, it gracefully and consistently erupts inside the work.
appendix viii: lettering Right outside the bloodied tent, there's room in the torrent for another space we can carve. Above the tent, plenty of numbing fingers begin hoisting up the center post to our community circus, guided by an embrace of the unforgiving blizzard outside. With everybody else around us, everyone whoÃ¯Â¿Â½s completed this ridiculous journey, a collective energy weaving a canvas top billowing with the spirit of backyard barbecues and perfect for pirate sing-alongs. And what a ridiculously beautiful circus it is. Amongst each other as an unavoidable community, inky unintelligibles smeared across our foreheads, together we've covered the circus of our tents, where we are simultaneously impressionists and participants. Safety from our own shelters and a wider aperture to the unforgiving world weÃ¯Â¿Â½re all trying to reflect. We can offer each other that much.
S Time for me to stop. I'm done. I got it, I'm gone.
D So be good! Right? ItÃ¯Â¿Â½s that simple? Everybody is burdened with similar duties, cooped up in similar workspaces. So be good. More rumrunner singalongs, less dogma jockeying. Hey, weÃ¯Â¿Â½re a group of fellow travelers in this bog top parade and I'm walking this Sunday, so, "you know what this is: it's a celebration, bitches!"
G A reminder: make the tent about backyard barbecues and one-eyed pirate concerts. Create to devastate. I believe thatÃ¯Â¿Â½s the sagest advice I can offer in closing. A declaration offered by a 16-year-old only a few years ago to you, but brought up as a comforting reminder written 14 years later. And always carry a tape measure.
H Other than that, I donÃ¯Â¿Â½t know what will happen for me in the foreseeable future. But this is the first time in my life IÃ¯Â¿Â½m untethered from obligation. I donÃ¯Â¿Â½t know if I want to stay in Los Angeles, and I donÃ¯Â¿Â½t remember when I last took a vacation. I plan to put the lot of my belongings in storage, take the northern route through this country for the summer, find some wi-fi spots and figure out how to get to Europe, probably by selling the car. The rest is pretty standard: return somewhere, plant some roots, and get the lifelong work done.
appendix x: aggregation YouÃ¯Â¿Â½ve been great. Hope you enjoy. Thanks Mason, Javier, Paul, Archinect and Archinectors. We are each the companions in our circus.
~ Marlin Watson