Feb '09 - Oct '09
Sorry to everyone for not having had the chance to write the past few weeks. I've been pretty occupied with work, and part of it was my own fault. I took a a 5 day trip to the Bahamas for a wedding which was a well needed break from things, but ended up putting me so far behind in my work, it got pretty crazy.
My studio review went ok. Part of the criticism was on my failed ability to communicate my ideas visually--which was a valid point considering that I had flown in from the Bahamas the night before and had 6 hours until my review to organize and clean up my drawings and diagrams. (I’m pretty sure I was still a little hung over too.)
I've started noticing a recurring theme at the BAC which is beginning to frustrate me. I think the overall teaching methodology could be described as "exploration" as opposed to "instruction." We're generally thrown into the deep end and expected to learn how to swim. For those who manage to figure it out the experience is incredibly fruitful. The problem is that most people don’t really end up making it out. Talking to my studio-mates, we all sorta felt like we didn’t know what we were doing until after our mid-review crit.
We began the project with simple diagramming—examining circulation, structure, solar and wind studies, views, etc. Then diagramming their relationship to each other. And as a final step, deploying these relationships in a new way. What I think was missing from our instructors was an explanation as to why we were doing what we were doing. When we began the project it would’ve been helpful to hear why we were diagramming, what it would do for us. How it will help us. I found that most students including myself began mindlessly diagramming. Making diagrams of circulation just because we were told to, without having an understanding of where the project is going. And then it would’ve been helpful to hear why we were “deploying” and why that is different from transformation. I think most of us ended up rebuilding structures that looked pretty similar to our original houses because we weren’t given an explanation of the difference between deployment and transformation. (To be honest, I’m not sure they really know either. In past years the project used to be a “transformation project”. They changed it this year for some reason.)
Exploration is a great way to learn. But without any instruction, exploration can easily become a sink-or-swim situation. The overwhelming feeling from the majority of students is that we never knew why we were doing what we were doing, and also considering that none of us have done any of this stuff before, sounds like a recipe for failure in my opinion. At the very least it’s inefficient. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been “exploring” down a line of thought only to find out later that it has no relevance to what that project is supposed to be about. Someone could’ve told me that…
I have to give my section instructor credit though for being more open to guiding us towards books and resources, giving us lessons, and overall trying to give us a basic knowledge base on the material we’re supposed to be learning. It helps. If anything it helps us better determine whether we’re on the right track.
I’m curious to hear what people from other schools think of this…whether or not their studio instruction operates in a similar way or not.
In other news, the other weekend our AIAS chapter had a tour of the Genzyme building in Cambridge—it’s the largest office building to have a Platinum LEED certification. Pretty cool use of reflective surfaces to direct natural light from the atrium to office spaces throughout the building. Pictures below.