Jan '07 - Jun '07
This blog is intended as a discussion among four post-professional M.ARCH2 students at UCLA. While we came here for different reasons, I think we have all been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the program, thus the motivation to describe our experience to others. Seeing that we are starting this thing halfway through the year it makes sense to catch people up on the basic curriculum structure. I'll take the first stab and my colleagues can expand in subsequent posts.
Ideologically, the school breaks down into two major groups: those driven by fabrication technologies and those interested in alternative forms of urbanism. Obviously this doesn't encompass everyone and there is probably a less defined third category involving design in the more general sense. Personally, I've participated more in the first two but there are definitely a number of figures such as Neil Denari that are hard to place solely in one category or the other.
The curriculum for the M.ARCH2 students is blazingly quick. Unlike most of the east coast schools I applied to, UCLA is a quarter system and the post-professional program is four quarters or one school year. This program and even the overall school itself are relatively small. M.ARCH2 students number only fourteen this year and are integrated with the third year M.ARCH1 students for the fall, winter and spring quarters. M.ARCH2 students also have a quarter to themselves in the summer before the rest of the school starts to become acquainted with concepts and techniques.
For the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters arguably the heart of the program is the Research Studio. It seems like more and more schools are replacing thesis programs with research based projects. This was initiated here a few years ago by former chair Sylvia Lavin. There are four options for Research Studio and they are typically taught by the better known faculty. This year it was Greg Lynn, Thom Mayne, Neil Denari and Dagmar Richter. Unless you have Mr. Mayne (as do most of us) the Research Studio is normally two quarters of seminar where you research and see the professor once a week followed by a full blown MWF studio in the spring. This format works well because it not only absolves the big guns from having to be around much in the fall and winter but also allows students to engage the younger and lesser known faculty through conventional quarter-long studios.
Finally, one strength of the program I didn't realize till I became entrenched is the elective courses. Falling back on the two strengths of the school, technology and urbanism, electives fall into two categories: Tech Seminars and Critical Studies. Tech seminars take advantage of the well equipped shop (3d printers, laser cutters, vacuum former, CNC milling) and are taught mostly by the younger faculty such as Jason Payne, David Erdman and Heather Roberge. The younger faculty, like many of the seasoned vets, have practices on the side. Many of them have executed installations or exhibit design projects which explains their intimate knowledge with the fabrication process. These classes tend to be very popular and a magnet for energy in the school. What I have enjoyed about them is there is always an element of theoretical discussion to ground the class in something beyond production of novel effects.
With Robert Somol leaving and Sylvia Lavin on sabbatical, one of my concerns about the program was the strength of the critical studies courses. My first impression was that these were biased towards urban issues and there are definitely a fair amount of courses examining not only the LA context but reemerging contemporary issues such as utopian proposals and alternative methods of growth. But I've also noticed critical studies courses examining the current state of architecture sorting out those works driven by ideology from those favoring technique. Filling Somol's shoes for the moment seems to be Michael Speaks who has a course every quarter this year. One thing great about having a very active, practicing faculty is their work often enters into the dialogue of these courses, so firms such as Servo or Morphosis impact your education from multiple angles.
Those are the major components of the program. I'm sure more of the character will show through when we start to discuss specific courses and projects. It's a difficult task to sum up the nature of an architecture program but I have found UCLA's school identity to be consistently strong from when I first began considering schools till now fully engrossed as a student.