At the beginning of September, I promised to write about our new workspaces, but as we settled in, I actually started to like them and found it less pressing to itemize for you just how many square inches we lost (although for the record, it seems to be about 1300 square inches less per person, or an approximately 20% reduction from the previous space of 45 square feet).
Nonetheless, a promise is a promise, and I thought I should cover this development, as this first overhaul of the workspaces in Gund Hall since its opening in 1972 is no small matter.
The old desks look like this:
The new desks look like this:
The first change is to get rid of the large common tables (or narrow table with high shelving units, for desks under the overhang) that used to separate the two aisles of desks, and to use that space to increase the length of the desks, which are then made much shallower and spaced closer together. The second major change is that the work surface is lowered from 34” to 29,” such that regular office chairs can be used (and indeed, are now supplied). There are three major results of these changes. First, we lost a great deal of storage space: instead of a sizable pinup surface, large flat file, gigantic cabinet, and ample 3D model storage space on the common tables and shelves, we now have a single lockable rolling cabinet, some open vertical storage for sheet materials, and a TINY shelf that is pretty much the Golden Gate Bridge for any model wider than 10 inches. Second, we now--in the words of one of our tenured professors--“can no longer make drawings [higher than 24"] even if we wanted to,” and have nowhere to either build or store models larger than 24 x 24”. Third--the silver lining--is that we have vastly improved ergonomics for working on the computer.
I might add that a fourth result is that the lowered height of the vertical elements means that even a person of, ahem, modest height (like myself) can now stand up and get a view of most of the people and workspaces on the entire tray. Personally, I like this very much, but most people lament the loss of privacy. With large groups of tourists snapping photos in the trays at least a couple times a week, we may as well be starring in our own reality TV show (which, it is rumored, was offered to the GSD in the form of a season of “Architecture School,” but outright refused by the administration).
The fact that we’re not plotting an all-out revolution speaks to how much time we really do spend at our computers these days. Nonetheless, there is a strong model-building culture at the GSD--the bigger the better and the more the merrier, especially in the architecture department, and especially in the core studios--and this is not disappearing anytime soon. So the simple fact is that something will have to be done to accommodate this. I’m one of the representatives for our class on the Student Affairs committee, which is one venue for us to voice our concerns to the various department heads in this Typhon of an institution, so I brought this up. Our main request, besides more ample storage solutions, was to get rid of the new small café tables in our shared “kitchen” space (a common area made for us in partial compensation for the reduced desk size), and replace them with a giant multi-use table that could be used sometimes for communal meals, sometimes for meetings, and sometimes for model building and other production. They’re pretty good at responding to our requests so I have high hopes of seeing this giant table appear sometime before the end of the semester.
[Our current "kitchen" space. A sad state of affairs.]
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Between you and me, what irked me at the beginning of the year about the workspaces was not so much that they were smaller, but that the administration did not openly admit that they were smaller, and that this reduction in size was a primary motivator for the change. Instead, along with the complimentary box of drafting dots (given to us because in lieu of our old pin-up boards, we now have low plexi-glass panels to which we have to tape our drawings), we received a little leaflet that crowed about the modernized workstations and their attendant aesthetic and ergonomic improvements. I don’t think that was necessary; if the administration could be straight with us about the school’s pedagogical ambitions and financial and infrastructural pressures--and the fact that, for example, the MDesS students still don’t have desks of their own for lack of space--I think most of us would be on board. The school *is* growing in ways that I think are pretty exciting--Krzysztof Wodiczko’s new program in Art, Design and the Public Domain comes to mind--and I think we should be able to talk about that.
P.P.S. I just found this:
[As found here ]
At the student affairs meeting, I raised an issue that has been the subject of much conversation within my class: the fact that at the M.Arch.I end of the third tray, we’ve maxed out our storage spaces and work surfaces, while the urban planning end of our tray seems hardly occupied. So, phrasing this as diplomatically as I could, I asked if “the design and allotment of desks could reflect the fact that different programs and different years have different schedules and workspace needs.”
This was, understandably, a controversial point to raise, but in the above analysis, which the GSD published as part of the brief for the new workstations, you can clearly see the words: “urban planning students have less of a need for storage and work space.”
[The urban planning part of our tray; photo taken on the same day as all the rest, midway through the semester.]
P.P.P.S. If you're an urban planning student, before you start hating, please know that it's not that I want you to have a worse workspace, but just one that better meets your needs, relative to the needs of other GSD programs. Obviously, increased model production and storage space wouldn't do much for you, but maybe you'd appreciate better accommodation for group work (or something else--I know even less about the urban planning department than I do about landscape).
Lectures and exhibitions, life in the trays, happenings around Cambridge...and once in a while, some studio and course work. Please note that all live blogs are abridged and approximate. If you want to see exactly what happened, in most cases a video of the event is posted online by the event's hosts. If you have concerns about how you are quoted, please contact me via Archinect's email.