Sep '08 - Sep '11
My first quarter at UCLA went by pretty fast of course, but it also feels like life before grad school is a distant memory. I guess that's what trauma does to its victims?
Studio final reviews
The final crit for studio didn't go so well; I vastly under-budgeted my time and presented some woefully undercooked material. I think the fundamentals of my project are still strong, but I'm pretty disappointed in how I ended up presenting them. If I wanted to be comfortable enough to include it in my portfolio I would have to put a few more days of solid work into the boards and physical models, but I just don't want to look at the project anymore. Our section instructor was pretty disappointed in all of us as well; the last several weeks of the quarter he actually seemed depressed when looking at our work. Not the most encouraging thing when you're unsure of what you need to do to improve! I do think we put up some good work, most of which could be improved of course, but I think our section actually stacked up well against the other three, and there was lots of potential shown across the board.
Totally trashed studio
The crit for our tech seminar, Basins of Attraction, was much more of a success, with every group presenting some truly stellar work. Everyone had beautiful drawings and finished full scale basins (though some were more "finished" than others - ours was probably the roughest physical model, but I'm really proud of our drawings). The jury was incredible, with some big names in LA architecture and theory, and enough big egos (which I mean in the best way of course) supporting contrasting opinions that the discussion was the most lively and productive I've ever seen in a critique. The jurors rotated in and out, and included our instructor, Jason Payne, as well as Tom Wiscombe (of Emergent), Dana Cuff (a well-published urbanist at UCLA), Marcelo Spina (of Patterns and SCI-Arc), Hitoshi Abe (of Atelier Hitoshi Abe, and Chair of our department), Richard Weinstein (UCLA's resident modernist), Michael Osman (new UCLA faculty, who I found out is the ex of one of my group members!), and (theorist and former Chair) Sylvia Lavin. First, some shots of the work presented:
Our boards, formwork (on the ground), and basin (hanging to the left)
The jury swarming a project
Jury during a presentation
As I mentioned, the review was very animated, with meaningful discussion of everything from overly technical presentation styles and challenging the value of the tech seminar series, to materials choices and design causing "cultural autism". Sylvia Lavin offered the sharpest critiques and best sound bites, and the review at some points came to resemble something that could have been called "The Sylvia Show!" which I actually thought was great. She got into a tussle with Richard Weinstein (who described the basins as having "non-Euclidean forms", ha ha) about Richard's insistence that the "infrastructural problems" with the basins (access for repair, etc) be resolved. Sylvia insisted on hearing about what kind of sink Richard had in his house (presumably Euclidean?), and the interchange ended with Sylvia saying "my quiet comment to Richard would be 'boo'" to which he replied heatedly "I say 'boo' to that!" On the group everyone called "Team Bro", Sylvia cut right to the core of the character of the project and its creators by saying "This whole thing is so surfer dude" (though she also commented on the group's incredible technical proficiency). On another project, that Michael Osman termed "the Udder", Sylvia said "I would have called it the vagina project" to which a student replied "That's what my dad said!" to a round of Freudian laughter. Sylvia went on to say something like "This project is very iconographic. We talked about it as a vagina; in this drawing it's coming out of this guy's crotch - you can't ignore it!" and about post-sexual-revolution design "look at the post-pill sink: it doesn't have to be about purity and cleansing; it can be about the bathhouse and modern erotica". When Sylvia had to leave before our critique, I was both disappointed and relieved to not hear what she had to say about our work!
Sylvia gesturing about the vaginal sink
Finally, I'm looking forward to next quarter; even though it will probably be as much if not even more work than fall was. The required courses are Building Design Studio, Structures II, and Theories of Architecture. The last should actually be really good; it's taught by Sylvia Lavin, whose performance in our final Tech crit was so amusing and sharp. In addition to those required courses, I'm told I have to take the undergrad history course covering "Antiquity to Mannerism" (yeah, worst nightmare, ha ha) despite my feeling that I covered that material SEVEN years ago at UCSC, and again three years ago at the School of the Art Institute Chicago. Oh well. It would be nice to get out of that requirement especially since I've also been in contact with a professor in the very exclusive art department on campus to take a graduate level New Genres studio, which is exciting because I have a lot of ideas I'd like to explore that architecture studios are too specific to address (and UCLA grad art studios are where a lot of LA 'art stars' come out of, though all my friends at Cal Arts would probably have something to say about that, ha ha). So with potentially five courses in the offing next semester I'll be pretty busy even if I don't take one or even two of them.
The Winter quarter lecture series is an interesting mix of established names and people working on the edges of the discipline of architecture, which I suppose continues the "Fuzzy Boundaries" theme of last quarter. The series is as follows:
Feb 6 - Christopher Bangle (Director of Group Design for BMW)
Feb 10 - Winy Maas (MVRDV)
Feb 23 - Enric Ruiz-Geli (Cloud 9 architecture studio)
March 4 - Billie Tsien (Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects)
March 9 - Peter Ebner (Ebner and Friends Architecture)