Andrew Zago Lecture
Zago at Otis
A few weeks ago (before the start of finals hell) I was able to catch a lecture at Otis College of Design given by Andrew Zago. This was a treat as I worked with Zago on a competition and a few as yet unrealized projects for actual clients during my time at my last job before school - my boss had run Zago's Detroit office before starting his own office in LA. Andrew is incredibly smart and a really great designer, and is even fun to work with, but I didn't know much about what he was like in a more academic context. He had been the head of the New York City College architecture program until coming to LA last year to teach at SCI-Arc, which he was doing when we were working together. At the office I had seen some of his previous projects and bits of what he was doing with students, but the lecture was fun as it pulled everything together.
The Otis campus is very strange; I had never been before but it's so close to LAX that I see it from the runway almost every time I take off from or land at the airport. I got to the lecture a bit late (of course) and ended up having to walk completely around the entire gated campus only to find that the only way in was walking into the parking garage driveway. How LA. But it's a very cute campus, and the gallery Andrew was speaking in was very nice, and was wrapped in work by a street art/muralist which looked familiar but that I couldn't place. In his talk, Zago went through many of his projects from the last decade or so, which were interspersed with funny diagrams and charts describing things like student output on an inverse scale of good/terrible depending on different pedagogical strategies. Zago is from Detroit and still maintains an office there, near most of his built work. Some of the projects he showed included his entry to the Perth Amboy high school competition (that seems like the one competition that EVERY contemporary architect entered); he also showed a very nice house in Michigan that's conceptualized as being made up of many intersecting geometrical volumes, built with a light steel frame and structural insulated panels, which I believe is now under construction; the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, an interesting and nuanced renovation of an old car dealership into a contemporary art space, with a more dramatic intervention planned for when the museum can secure the funding; a competition entry to the Stockholm National Public Library competition; and finally the competition entry that I worked on with Zago, for the Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition in Shenzhen China. Probably needless to say that we didn't win that competition (or I might not be in grad school right now!) - Coop Himmelblau came in first. With a slide of the MOCAPE competition entry
Andrew also showed some of the media work he does with students, using a slitscan technique to produce weird mutated video. I believe the technique uses software to recompose videos so they're basically being viewed sideways, or in section; each vertical line of pixels in the slitscan video represents a slice of a frame, and as the video plays it moves through the frame from one side to the other. So the slitscanned video is as wide as the original video is long, and runs for as long as the original video is wide. Though the technique is cooler looking applied to specific clips than most others, it's interesting once you understand how it's made as it forces you to consider video as a three dimensional volume rather than simply a linear duration. Zago had an interesting application in using the technique to document inner city Detroit neighborhoods, and placed this work in the context of Moiré movement studies and Ed Ruscha's seminal "Every Building on the Sunset Strip"
Andrew came up and said hi after the lecture, and that he was supposed to go to reviews at UCLA, but I didn't see him on any of the days I was being reviewed. If anyone has had him as an instructor at SCI-Arc I'd be curious to hear what he's like.