I went to SCI-Arc’s All School Exhibition
with studio face-mate Joe last Friday. It’s basically their version of UCLA’s Rumble
(also see ACfA’s pre-Rumble description
from last year); or maybe Rumble is our version of their All School Exhibition. Anyway, the exhibition was somewhat weighted towards undergraduate work, probably due largely to the fact that undergrad theses were displayed, where I believe grad theses will be finished after summer. What was (perhaps undeservingly) surprising about this was that the undergrad work, even some of the non-thesis work, was kind of better than some or much of the grad work. I think that speaks to the apparently excellent undergrad curriculum and faculty more than any deficiency in the grad work, which was also largely quite well executed. I say ‘well executed‘ specifically because while the boards and models were really expressive and even beautiful, the actual design proposals were not super impressive (in my very humble opinion of course, and with many exceptions). But when the presentation is as good as it was, the actual designs are almost besides the point. Seriously - as pedagogical tools, these projects are clearly super successful, and even if they wouldn’t be great buildings, it’s not like that’s an option. The boards ran predictably for SCI-Arc to atmospheric renderings (flocks of geese in the mist, etc.), and the models were generally heavily reliant on 3d printing, which seemed to bear out what I heard about SCI-Arcoids not having to pay for 3d printing. Which would be nice, especially in light of UCLA just a week ago requiring us all to pay a $100 mid-quarter shop fee, out of which we’ll get another laser cutter, which we will continue to pay exorbitant (okay it’s not THAT bad) amounts to use. But I’d actually almost
be willing to pay another $100 for yet another laser cutter, as the crunch for laser time at finals (especially with Rumble at the end of this quarter) is unfortunately a huge influence on the quality of models. Another really general thing that has historically bothered me about the production of SCI-Arc students was on display in some of the work at the exhibition - that more than most other schools it seems that students’ work is hugely influenced by their instructors. This is maybe not such a bad thing at SCI-Arc, with such accomplished and interesting faculty, but I think I generally like to see somewhat more nurturing of individual interests, even if it comes at the expense of the work looking cohesive or good (which I don’t think it has to). I don't know why I didn't take more pictures, but these are the two I have; the first of an undergrad thesis model, and the second of a grad studio model
One thing that diminished the luster of the undergrad thesis work for me was the discovery that huge components of students’ presentations weren’t actually built or drawn by the student, but were outsourced; in the one case I was told about to a professional illustrator. I know theses are supposed to be about masturbatory extremes of personal expression, but shouldn’t that include actually doing
the work you’re showing? It would be one thing if these were post-professional programs preparing students to lead their own firms, for which managing a team of designers to execute your concepts would be really helpful experience, but especially on the undergrad level this doesn’t seem quite as important. These students won’t be hiring people and delegating tasks for years; they’ll be lucky if they work as something other than cad monkeys, not to mention even getting a job in the first place. Am I naive about this, or overly attached to outdated notions of authorship or something?
On the way to get a drink (free beer! If you’ve read almost any of my other entries, you know how much I love that!), Joe and I ran into Andrew Zago, who ran the SCIFI program at SCI-Arc this year, and who I basically worked for on several projects in the year before I started school. I also went to his lecture
at Otis a few months ago. He asked me how it was going at “the less exciting school”, which I was not about to argue with him about, ha ha. I mean, I was on his turf, right?The model I think from Zago's studio was really nice
There’s definitely one thing I’ll agree with him about: SCI-Arc’s location at least is much more exciting. Fucking Westwood. But that there’s some sense of rivalry between SCI-Arc and UCLA I think is regrettable; we should be teaming up to take down those grody self-aggrandizing east coast schools, ha ha ha. But seriously, the two programs are very different, and I would argue complimentary; there should be more interaction than just faculty at crits. Anyone want to start up a cross-town student group? Maybe even invite someone from (gasp) USC? Ha ha.
‘Fucking Westwood’ notwithstanding, there was an interesting contrast to the SCI-Arc show this week at UCLA, called Awards Day. I don’t know if this happens anywhere else, or if this is a unique product of public school, but Awards Day seems to be so little-publicized that it has the aura of a dirty secret - I hadn’t heard of it from anyone until a week or so before it happened. Anyway, because UCLA doesn’t allot much money to scholarships or grants specific to student work rather than financial need, Awards Day is AUD’s way of giving money to continuing students for the best work in the school. A total of about $36,000 is given each year to a possible pool of something like 120 students (though fewer actually enter the running), which sounds paltry until you consider that most students are paying just $9000 a year in tuition and fees as California residents, so a grant of $1-2,000 would make a pretty significant dent in that figure. Each student who enters is given a chunk of corridor wall (just 40 inches wide this time due to the number of entries) in which to pin up “anonymously” (if it’s possible for anyone anyone to be anonymous at this point it probably means their work is seriously boring…). The awards are given by a system of faculty nomination. I entered with what I think is the right mindset - I don’t really expect to win any cash, but used it as an excuse to finally finish a studio project I really like, but that was definitely not completed by the final crit. I still didn’t really finish to my satisfaction, especially on the model, but I think I’ve at least gotten enough done on the drawings (including one or two that I think are some of my best ever) that I’d at least be willing to include them in my portfolio. I’d post some here, but I guess that might compromise that whole “anonymity” thing. I think a lot of the work was really great-looking; I think a lot of people took the time to polish (or actually finish) their work. I guess money is pretty motivating! Hmm, maybe thousands of dollars should be hanging in the balance for every crit… Ha ha. Anyway, if you’d like to check out a balkanized and randomized contrast to SCI-Arc’s highly polished and curated show, stop by Perloff and check out the work on the ground and basement corridors. Or just wait for our polished and curated version, Rumble, at the end of the quarter. Awards Day corridorA representative sample of Awards Day entries