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    SCI-Arc All School Exhibition + UCLA Awards Day

    Scott Kepford Apr 29 '09 11
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    Undergrad exhibition

    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).


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    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?

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    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.

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    Awards Day corridor

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    A representative sample of Awards Day entries


     

     
    • 11 Comments

    • Nam HendersonNam Henderson
      Apr 29, 09 8:45 am

      I really like those models. Especially first and last one.

      Scott KepfordScott Kepford
      Apr 29, 09 8:55 am

      Anything with lights, huh? I know, I wish I had spent more time learning circuitry! The boards were super nice too; I wish I had taken some pictures of them.

      l3wis
      Apr 29, 09 9:35 am

      Undergrad students outsourcing renderings? Wtf?

      But yea.... these models are so nice, I wish UC emphasized model-making more.

      Tim DoTim Do
      Apr 29, 09 12:13 pm

      nice commentary. i really enjoyed this year's show.

      i would disagree though that there is a rivalry between the schools. i never felt any - it's just too much of a burden for downtowners to drive to 'fucking westwood'.

      grid
      Apr 29, 09 4:58 pm

      Let's clear a couple things up.

      I don't believe anyone outsourced rederings, line drawings, driagrams, etc. From what I have heard/know one student created a very detail comic strip (in addition to normal drawings, renders, models, etc) and hired an art student to draw only the characters. I don't think you're naive about your notions of authorship, but I do believe you were misinformed.

      Laser Cutting, cnc milling and vacuum forming are free at SCI-Arc. 3D printing is not.

      Nice commentary on your observations - always great to get an outside perspective.

      average_american
      Apr 30, 09 3:05 pm

      There is a LOT of outsourcing going on at SCI-Arc, and the undergrad thesis has more than usual. Being a student there, I dont find the actual outsourcing to be a problem but what it leads to... mainly, a loss of accountability for production (I can't do this model, comic strip, etc on my own, so lets pay someone to do it for me) and esp. the complete lack of time management skills (I don't have to do the production, so why not leave everything else till the last week and stay up all night and get as many other students to help me as possible in order to be able to finish). i don't really blame the students as much as the faculty for this - they simply don't encourage students to work intelligently and it shows.

      Cherith Cutestory
      Apr 30, 09 4:22 pm

      SCI_Arc is no different from any other school in having it's fair share of politics and shady student and faculty ethics.

      SCI_Arc has had an ongoing tradition of student help during the last 2 weeks of thesis. The graduating class gathers a few of the lower year students to help during production time- cleaning up line drawings, rendering, etc. It's a pretty great tradition because it allows the lower year students to see what they are working towards and helps to build a sense of community within the school. The atmosphere around SCI_Arc the week before thesis presentations is intense and exciting as everyone in the building is working towards this one common goal. It really adds to the atmosphere of celebration that weekend as everyone has been involved in the journey.

      However, at times it has gotten a little out of control. It's no secret that last years "best graduate thesis" winner had between 20-30 different students assisting him throughout the summer on his project. It was at times frustrating for the rest of us who were trying to put in a honest effort to show up at reviews and be scorned because we hadn't wallpapered our presentation space like "some of the other students" and were therefore not putting in enough effort. And while we complained privately about it (mostly to make ourselves feel better) we also acknowledged that school is not about the awards, the exhibitions or producing "the best work", but is about making every venture you do a learning experience. It's really the only time in your life you are given complete freedom to do and explore anything you want and by turning into a "who has the best project" competition really trivializes the whole experience for everyone.

      It's a matter of recognizing the game and deciding how willing you are to sacrifice your ethics and education to play it. If your aim in school is to win awards and be the "top student" then yeah, you will fall into the "shady student" category. But that's not really what it is all about.

      Zcad
      May 2, 09 5:36 pm

      Hey "average_american," I did those comic strips, and in no way did I think "I can't do this... let's pay someone to do this."

      It is an insult to me and my peers at SCi-Arc, to read your comment. In my case, this is on the account of the countless all-nighters and efforts went into making those illustrations and narratives work, along with extensive diagrams, drawings, models, and the animation for my thesis.

      I had help, but not in a way that reflects your incorrect assessment.
      The guy drawing the figures is an art student. Who drew exactly what I told him to draw, then redrew, then redrew at my directive. I have credited Mark for his drawing of people, but it took time even after his drawings to get the shading and perspective to work. Have you seen the strip yourself? Try removing the characters for a second and try to see how much effort went into making the architectural illustration work, and how carefully the figures are integrated. Do you think paying someone in an art school who does inking did my work?

      To quote Stan Allen, "Architecture is a collective art-form." Do not berate students, and the culture of SCI-Arc which promotes collective efforts. This culture promotes leadership amongst the thesis students, and better echoes the actual work environment of the discipline at large. As for my peers who presented their thesis projects, I can't think of anyone who resorted to such low measure of self-defeating cry for help. They took charge, worked hard, and managed their time wisely.

      The idea of a lone genius sitting alone at his or her desk is useless as the image of Howard Roarch himself. Welcome to the collaborative world of design of the 21st century. (or to be more correct, one that has existed throughout the course of the discipline.)

      average_american
      May 2, 09 9:03 pm

      Zen:

      I wasn't actually referring to your project in particular, just listed some generic items (ie. models, comic strips) that I've seen around the school over the last several years. I'm sorry you felt personally attacked, that was certainly not my intention and maybe I should have left comic strip out considering yours was the only one I saw this year. My intention was to simply point out that there are some questionable decisions being made at SCI-Arc by the students at times that leads to issues that go beyond simple questions of ethics. Being a student there myself, I don't feel it is an insult to question the decisions being made around me - it is an obligation.

      Roarch = Roark

      mantaray
      Oct 21, 09 11:11 am

      I love that you used the word 'grody'. Just had to say that.

      Scott KepfordScott Kepford
      Oct 21, 09 11:57 am

      Ha ha, well preteen Valley girls shouldn't get exclusive access to ALL the good words.

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