Aug '05 - Jan '11
It's hard to believe that this is my last quarter of studio. Maybe it's getting older or maybe it's the sheer intensity of the last 3 years, but it "seems like yesterday" that I turned to architecture bright-eyed and naive. I'm happy to say that my interest in architecture has only been refined and intensified; the horror stories about burnout and bitterness have luckily not applied. What's more, I haven't found architects and professors to be the egotistical monsters that they are often purported to be; in fact, the overwhelming majority have been insightful, reasonable, and sometimes even empathetic (!!) people. It's not rose-colored glasses or late-year nostalgia that makes me say this.
I do think that architectural education is an environment for a particular type of person. It is possible to be self-assured without being egotistical, and strong personalities with a tough skin seem to thrive in this environment. I learned very quickly to put my ego aside and allow myself to learn and experiment without the burden of the fear of failure. I feel that I've made a tremendous amount of progress but that there is 100 times more to learn and experience, and that to me is the most exciting part about architectural education. It merely whets the appetite.
So at long last, we came to the studio selection day. Last quarter a controversy erupted when we found out we would have to choose between two options for our last studio; we were told that an imbalance would result in a lottery, and everyone fell into deep despair, positive that they would be horribly upset with the eventual lottery results. Two months later, selection day rolled around, and it was a pleasure. 11 students for Ann Pendleton's studio (using game theory as a starting point for a mat building design), and 8 students for Kipnis and Reiser. I chose the latter.
The studio engages the project of surface expression with particular attention to the animus, or the potential energy or power contained in certain objects and arrangements. Our jumping-off point was Raymond Loewy's GG1, a form widely considered muscular, powerful, energetic.
Is it the specific geometries and/or proportions that create the metaphysical space for this animus? A look at model train replicas reveals how alternative geometries and material arrangements can result in the loss of animus or, more interestingly, caricature.
Is there an animus that is "too cold" or "too hot"? Is there a "just right"? Kipnis analogizes this spectrum loosely: "Brancusi: too cold, Fat Car: too hot, Jeff Koons: just right."
The specific examples are not as important to me as the ideological proposition of the continuum. That there is a "just right" implies that there is an interest in subtlety; too cold is perhaps lacking in animus, and too hot draws too much attention to the processes that define the animus, thereby mediating its effect.
Our first assignment was to take an old project and "Raymond Loewy it." I chose an old project from my first year (which, incidentally, Kipnis called a "bad combination of Mies + [something else] done in an interesting way") because it had some of the formal potentials related to locomotion.
My Loewyfication approach was fairly simplistic. Apply a system of complex curvatures that begin to resolve the unity of the system, and begin to manipulate those surfaces in an attempt to discover an animus within. I didn't get very far in the manipulations, but "The Diner" is beginning to raise some interesting problems yet to be resolved. Kipnis pointed to my Diller-and-Scofioesque ghosting of the entrance as one of those problems.
Of course, this was a simple exercise to kick off the discussion and probably won't be developed any further. We spent the rest of the first studio session discussing cartoons (e.g., Popeye's forearms) and bad art (in the context of our problem). Our next task is to explore the animus and begin to develop a proposal for the remusculature of the Waterloo Station. More as that develops.
Larger images at my Flickr.