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    Back (Finally)

    Scott Kepford Oct 9 '09 0

    I guess I’ve waited long enough to post (five months or something!) so I’ll take a little time (out of studio work, oops!) for a hydra-headed update. The quarter has now been underway for two weeks (and I've 'only' had two all-nighters so far!). I think I might finally have figured out my schedule; the first week and a half was a stressful process of not getting into any critical studies seminars I tried for, despite three of them being required before graduation and that this is one of the few quarters I'll have room in my schedule for one. I'm taking the last of the core studio sequence - the Major Building Design studio - which is coordinated with the other required course, Programming. My studio prof is Kevin Daly of Daly Genik whose work I actually really like, which is always nice. I actually live a block away from his three-part charter elementary/middle/early learning schools, and mentioned his great Camino Nuevo Charter High School in one of my first posts, which I was delighted to recently discover served as the daughter’s school in the pilot of the David Duchovny show Californication. Despite the architectural product placement, I was unconvinced to watch any more episodes of the show, let alone pay for Showtime.

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    Teacher (concerned): He was feeling her up!
    Total Creep (David Duchovny): Feeling her up? She’s 12 years old; (feels own breasts) there’s nothing to feel!

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    I was somewhat disappointed to discover that the studio this year has moved away from urban design (last year the site was several large blocks of Koreatown, and the year before it was a wide strip of the LA River) back to what the title implies, a single building. At least the site is kind of cool: it’s currently a post office in Koreatown with a great gold and black old Los Angeles art deco retail building that I’ve always loved when driving by it (anyone who knows me will probably know how much I love absurd gold stuff!), and which we’ll have to integrate into our plan for the site.

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    Not enough buildings use gold anymore

    It’s also almost exactly between my old apartment in Koreatown and both of the two architecture firms I’ve worked for in LA, so I feel like I’m insider trading during site analysis; but of course formal analyses are quite different from driving by or even living in an area.

    For my elective course slot, when I couldn't get into a critical studies course I signed up for another class called Programming (which has already caused several conversational confusions with the required ‘Programming’ course), though this one is for computers rather than architecture. It’s focused on Processing, which is an application/language that was developed by UCLA Design|Media Art Chair Casey Reas as a visually-based coding language for artists and designers. While my interest in Processing has waned somewhat, I feel like I should know something about computer programming, and I think the course could be useful for my fourth course, another technology seminar (my first one was with Jason Payne last fall). This quarter’s tech seminar is headed by our resident ‘nutty Finnish guy’, Kivi Sotamaa, and is titled “EMO: Emotional Object” and focuses on the production of a full-scale functioning prototype of a lighting fixture using several differing materials and production processes to form an integrated and interactive topological sensate whole. Somewhere along the way we have to “avoid cliché”, which I feel will be tougher than integrating fiber optics, sensors, ceramics, and vacuum formed surfaces (for example). Sounds like fun! Also sounds like I’ll want to kill myself at the end of the semester, like the emo teens we found out about in a (really fantastic) student case study presentation this morning, mixed in with all the presentations on waterjets and casting and steel and sensors.

    In case I thought I would have a couple free hours here and there (or maybe because I enjoy torturing myself), I got a workstudy position (oh actually it’s because I love money) in the exhibition design department at UCLA’s Fowler Museum, one of the preeminent university collections of global art and culture in the world. But it’s not all African baskets (though that was the show we just put up, ha ha); I’ve just started making a mock-up of an upcoming show on Nick Cave, who’s actually really rad and very contemporary (and who’s NOT the also rad-and-contemporary Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds, which I only discovered just now when googling him).

    So wish me luck in surviving the fall. At least I have two new coffee gizmos to help me through. I was known in studio last year for being the guy with the Chemex, but it broke - at probably the exact right time - after finals when I was moving out of studio. I would still recommend it, with some reservations, if you’re looking to be the wacky coffee guy (or lady, your choice) of your studio or office.

    Speaking of finals, I haven’t updated since the event-and-stress-ful Rumble, UCLA’s school-wide end-of-year show. I was too worn out about it for months afterwards that I couldn’t write about it, but I was going to make a separate post before the semester started (I even had a hilarious (to me anyway…) quintuply-alliterative title - Rebellion, Reviews, Ridiculousness: Recapping RUMBLE), but since I failed at that I’ll just discuss a few anecdotes briefly. We had been told the entire semester that preparing for Rumble would be intense…

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    Busy hive at DAWN, several days before Rumble

    ...but of course few of us were prepared for the reality. It would have been pretty tough no matter what, but our class had some what I’ll call “communication snafus” between the students and the instructors that turned a nightmare into, well, a bigger nightmare. Or maybe it turned from nightmare in studio into Nightmare on Elm Street, with our studio instructors as Freddie, killing us in our sleep. “So… hard… to stay awake… for lineweights... Zzzzzzzzzzz…..” Basically, we asked our instructor a week ahead of time what the deadline the Friday before the Rumble opening actually meant, and he said something along the lines of “well it hasn’t been that serious in the past, but you should definitely be ready for me to look at your boards when I come in on Saturday.” So when Friday rolled around, we were busily polishing (or scrambling to put together a semblance of) our boards, unconcerned that the 2pm deadline went by until the first person tried to print and found that the plotters had been completely shut down. A tête-à-tête with the instructors was rapidly called and we were told that we had known about this all along, and that our only option for being lazy and not finishing by the deadline was to outsource printing (and we’re talking about two seven foot long boards here). Some people later told me that they actually had heard of the plotter shutdown thing, but I definitely hadn’t, and there was nothing about it in the syllabus, just that it was a ‘deadline’. And those are definitely not usually too firm around here (hey, some of that LA flakiness and laid-back-ness has to be true). I know the go-getter early birds of you out there probably aren’t too sympathetic to this situation, and I understand that, as I understood our instructors when they wouldn’t switch the plotters back on. Though if we hadn’t all been made incredibly crabby-but-docile by a week or two of sub-crazy amounts of sleep, I fear there could have been a coup. I actually approve of the idea that all output should be finished days before a public exhibition and well-publicized series of crits with high profile jurors, but when as drastic an action as a total shutdown of plotters that could jeopardize some students even having boards at all is taken, it should be REALLY strongly drilled into us from day one, or at least be included in the syllabus. It's kind of like Cold War nuclear deterrence by threat of mutual annihilation - the plotter thing was like how the Soviets kept the "dead hand" semi-automatic Dr Strangelove-esque Perimeter system that's been in the news recently a secret during the cold war. Especially in view that out of the 60-something students in our class, only 10 or less had actually managed to plot before the shutdown. But I appreciate that at the all-school meeting at the beginning of this year, chair Hitoshi Abe recognized that there were communication problems with Rumble and that the department would work with the students to ameliorate them for this year’s event.

    At any rate, we found a pretty inspiring crowd-sourced solution to our plotting problem, and rented a plotter with tech support from a special last-minute rush rental company for the weekend, and all chipped in to pay for it. Instead of spending a collective $10,000 on weekend outsourcing, we actually ended up spending half the cost of plotting on the supposedly subsidized plotters at school. I’m still not sure how the economies of that works, but it seems like it could be a good idea for any deadline in the future. Yikes, maybe I’m a closet Libertarian! Privatize Plotting! Ha ha. It even allowed us to harmlessly exorcise our petty fantasies of rebellion at our situation.

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    A Plotter Of Our Own

    The reviews went fine, even though our studio was squeezed into the most absurd teeny hallway around the corner in the basement.

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    The jury was cool, though I think my friend Joe almost exploded when a reviewer told him he “sounds like my wife”.

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    “I sound like WHAT?!”

    Below is a screencap of my boards, which I ended up being pretty satisfied with, though yet again I was deeply unsatisfied by the model. Or lack thereof.

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    The official welcome to Rumble was called Warm Up, emceed by Sylvia Lavin, pictured here with roundtable participants Jesse Reiser, Enrique Walker, Jeff Kipnis, chair Hitoshi Abe, Neil Denari, Kivi Sotamaa, Heather Roberge, Hernan Diaz Alonso, among others.

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    Jeff Kipnis had characteristically Jeff Kipnissy quotes like "is there a pizza in that thing?" and something like "I’ve been to every school…. and Ohio State is still the best", and of course he referenced the Disney movie Up. Sylvia concluded "I don't think I've ever heard this group agree on anything, but I think tonight they've agreed." I wasn’t sure I heard them really talk about anything, let alone agree on it, but Sylvia is WAY smarter than me so I believe it. At the Conversations on Urban China talk she hosted Spring quarter, artist Doug Aitken tried to put her on the spot by asking how she could possibly relate his piece featuring a beaver in a Middle American motel bathtub to the conditions of contemporary Chinese urbanism; and in a split second and a short sentence, Sylvia convincingly did just that. She’s like a supercomputer of contemporaneity.

    After that, the customary sake barrel smashing commenced, and we all got drunk.

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    This is something we earned

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    Partaking


    I didn’t do much of anything productive in the long summer; just updated my website a bit (though with only midterm images of my Rumble project), started twittering (a lot), went to San Francisco a bunch, and once to New York and Connecticut for a friend’s (legal, gay) wedding. I thought it would be fun to put up some pictures of new architecturey things there for my non-east coast bros who haven’t been to NY recently.


    Highline

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    Hi Frank

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    The southern end condition felt unsatisfying while on the High Line
    (though I suppose it “looked cool” from the street).

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    The northern end condition though was even more unsatisfying, with a
    chain-link fence separating the lush, landscaped southern section from
    the dead basin of a future northern extension of the line, and the structural skeleton of UCLA prof Neil Denari’s HL23 (which I’ve discussed previously, in perhaps my favorite post ever).

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    Though the bridge that leads to the stairs to the street at this end should be a nice place to see the construction progress of the extension, whenever that will be.

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    HL23

    The paving stones are pretty great.

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    Further reading on the High Line: http://nymag.com/arts/architecture/features/57176/
    (with a well-illustrated downloadable pdf of recent architecture surrounding the high line, though I may have to differ with their description of Jean Nouvel’s building’s “harlequin window pattern” being “irresistible”, I still wish I had brought this as a visual aid to the High Line as I missed a few projects they mention). And here are some videos on the history and pre-Diller Scofidio High Line by my talented friend from high school days, Matt Wolf.


    Ps1’s Young Architect’s Program - MOS Afterparty

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    There was a nicely presented review of the entire YAP program, though I didn’t get a good picture before being shooed out at closing.


    Cooper

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    Trevor Patt on flickr has some nice shots of the almost-finished interior, though I suppose there are probably shots of the interior after the official opening out there now too.


    Anyway, I’m back, and ready to re-join the archinect community. Though you might need to airmail me stimulants stronger than those forced on me by the NoDoz brand representatives in the UCLA parking lot adjacent to the Michael Jackson UCLA Medical Center (er I mean Ronald Reagan) this summer.

    OH, and I got a BONAVENTURE MUG from the rotating cocktail lounge in Jameson's favorite building, who incidentally my ex is taking a seminar from at Duke right now.

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    Beat this for pomo kitsch

    See you in studio!


     

     
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