Harvard GSD M.Arch.I (Lian)

Lectures and exhibitions, life in the trays, happenings around the GSD and beyond.

  • Live Blog: W. Gavin Robb, "Roots Run Deep: A Tomb for Manfredo Tafuri" (M.Arch thesis)

    Hi Archinect!

    W. Gavin Robb is presenting his M.Arch thesis, “Roots Run Deep: A Tomb for Manfredo Tafuri."

    The tomb and the sublime are closely linked.

    Relation between technology and buildings at this scale. 

    Empathy: a tight fit between a body and its space.

    Instrument: a domestic scale and an infrastructural scale.

    And strange things I found in Appalachia: machine/building hybrids. From the bottom up they’re designed scientifically in terms of how to move a lot of matter. On the other hand they’re vernacular, and unselfconscious, though highly architectural. 

    The classical body is static; the modern body, on the other hand, has a mobilized eye. 

    As such: The classical marked a place between earth and sky, producing a static body. The modern hovered as a sky-platform above an earth-plinth, which produces the body reduced to an eye, vapor. The thesis slips the body in along the infinite laminations of earth and sky, producing a, plural, colloidal body…inscribed by hieroglyphs of telephone wires. The interface between technology and the body.

    Tafuri is an exercise in continual overturning, opening up the door for history to enter back into critical architectural discourse. He found something in Piranesi, for example, that he brought into the future. The fold. The sharpness of the fold. There is a continually uncured mind, that is never totally settled.

    Centralia, Pennsylvania is an incredible place. In 1962 there was a mine fire in an open pit mine, and it’s been burning since then. They estimate it’ll burn for another 500 years and there’s no way to control it. The town is deserted, with noxious gases, though a few holdouts still live there. The lines of the streets are in the trees, but there’s nothing there. It’s casually true, but only as an instrumentalized fiction.

    The town traverses a valley. Thinking about a tomb, the first move is to dig an 800 foot trench. In order to be contemporary, I’ve taken void as the principle, instead of solid. 

    The surface of the project is just circles and lines. The forms here are described … all straight lines in another non-euclidean space … laminated to our reality from another reality along three straight lines.

    The tomb is an instrument that you enter into and encounter with your body. 

    The long axis is the line of windmills. 

    So it’s very rational; there’s a floorplate, stairs, there’s a truss.

    The 1pm gnomon line of the solstice aligns with the … sky axis in the tomb. So on that day the sun comes deep into this pit. So there’s an instrumentality to the project and I hope to convey that deep within this subterranean space, there is light that penetrates down.

    These objects are ancient futures; they could be from the past or from 10,000 years from now. I think our relationship with technology is one that allows us to connect with mythic and cosmic forces with alarming ease, utility, and syncretism. I think architecture has to take seriously this interface with technology, and try to translate it into its own language. To survive at all, we have to connect back to the deep roots of the earth. 

    Michael Bell: You talked about the how and the what, but I’m still wondering about the why.

    GR: I think architecture exists at a strange scale we can empathize with, bodily. Our relationship with technology has shown us that a lot of things that we think are impossible are actually quite simple. So I think we can combine these two ideas, taking this as a challenge.

    Robert Somol: I see a thesis that depends on technology while critiquing technology, and I’m not sure where you’re trying to connect. This seems to be a Lebbeus Woods/Tatlin Tower aesthetic. Who are the theorists who would bring back the body? You’ve got the trifecta of tragedy: tomb, Tafuri, Centralia.

    K Michael Hays: One of the things that the match of crude and cyber technology does for me, is that it suggests there is something much more primitive that had to happen before this could arise. I also want to know how seriously you want to think about this as the new sublime, but one of the things the old sublime did was…allow us to think about things outside our understanding, things that were anterior to us. To me the archaism here evokes something anterior. 

    RS: I’m not sure about the difference between the anterior and nostalgia. 

    GR: I think this is actually outward facing, not inward facing. I think that anterior is present in the land and architecture is something that can bring it into being. 

    Mark Jarzombek: I feel like that there is a missing cinematic world would help me…Klingons on a mining planet underground…In the beginning, that beautiful [gospel] song, evoked labor and the idea of people digging this pit. There’s a Hollywood quality to it.'

    GR: Well, if you want to talk feasibility … [Laughter]

    GR: I think the fact that there’s this primal, uncontrollable fire underground is part of this. That otherworldliness is already present.

    MJ: The other thing that comes to mind is Zoroastrianism. GR: Yes. MJ: Why do you say yes?

    GR: Zoroastrianism feels appropriate…I hadn’t started there, but the idea of two forces overturning each other. Do you want to convert? MJ: Yes, I want to convert. GR: How can I help you?

    MJ: My final point is then: I could imagine an operatic, Mozart-ian, enlightenment sensibility. 

    KMH: It seems to me that the relationship between the architecture and the earth is crucial. We assume that the digging, the fire, and the architecture are continuous, especially since the alignments are found from the site. 

    GR: Does this section help? 

    KMH: It does, but it seems to me that the earth should be more part of the architecture. 

    Katy Barkan: If the architecture is the shell, it’s metonymic. If we go down there, we’re burning up.

    GR: I’m interested in an architecture that our body projects itself onto, and something that transforms our body. Honestly, it’s been a balance of the mimetic and instrumental. I’m not sure I succeeded. The tension between moves that architecture makes itself and moves that bring you into it.

    KMH: Is it all about light? It seems that one of these funnels has to be venting the gasses. 

    KB: And that makes that space inhabitable. At the moment it cannot be.

    GR: Well each of these tubes has a double layer and the stair is captured within it. This one gets down to 4’ wide, so it’s close and tight. So there is an interior that’s not just vast…

    RS: The death of thesis was to generate the idea, and then put your project where you got your idea from. Studying interesting alleys and putting your project there. I think this project suffers from that a bit; it’s so bound by the specificities of this site. How can I apply these ideas when I’m building a library in downtown Boston?

    GR: I’m interested more in the processes; I’m not advocating that this form be transported to another site.

    Felecia David: I’d add: How are you reconstructing the body? You gave this really interesting definition.

    GR: A star alignment is an optic thing; the eye. The stair and having to jump, is a haptic thing. 

    FD: Somehow the making of architecture and your understanding of the body have to do with a reciprocation of materiality, and this experience. When we look at something optical, it sounds like a different experience. 

    GR: I just mean that the eye is part of the body.

    FD: But there’s a kind of working precision in how you’re working which is really interesting. The body is of the earth, and technology is part of us—it’s not an alien thing, but there’s a back and forth and the boundary expands. 

    GR: I think this way of working—there are conditions out in the world that are strange and that can be activated by architecture. 

    KMH: I think Bob really damaged you when he called this “dead tech.” There was a time when all of Thom Mayne’s students projects looked like the underside of bridges. Some of us can’t get past that image. If it dematerialized a little more and became more about the tracing of outside influences.

    GR: I agree. This rendering [above] isn’t quite right. I don’t want to make a technological excuse, but…it’s hard to render something ethereal. The drawings and model are more fine. The building is wedged in there and balancing.

    MJ: There is that Schinkel-Mozart-Light-Zorastrianism…I’m not literally saying that an opera might be a better design model than the tomb…but it allows you all sorts of freedoms.

    KMH: What I’m finding with a lot of thesis projects — and I’m not saying this one is — is that the project is the presentation. You spend a lot of time on the American gospel/worker, and I don’t know where that went, in operatic terms. Maybe that could reappear as a kind of American Mozart…

    KB: In that place—it’s so f—ed up and the people who work there, their bodies are thrown away in the worst possible way. 

    KMH: Maybe we can think about the people as not being literally there, but as architecture serving an indexical function. 

    RS: You say this isn’t indexical? 

    RS: I think you’re not giving enough credit to House 6. The way it is constructed … full bed does not fit … twin beds

    GR: Do you really think the indexical project cares about the position of the bed?

    RS: It produces a condition that forces a new type of body.

    KMH: In the Appalachia you were showing…I wish this proposal had that kind of vernacular, in the way that those agrarian forms outlived their use. There’s something underneath here that is generic, or bigger than this particular project on this particular site, that becomes repeatable—not as a style—

    GR: The modern really chewed up the body, as you said, Katy, and I’m thinking of a more prosthetic relationship with the body that puts you back into an amicable relationship with technology. 

    RS: Is this the image of a more comfortable relationship with technology? [Laughter]

    GR: It’s also a tomb. 

    RS: If parametricism is the neo-liberal, you’ve also gone back to no people, and that’s going back to an essentialism that I don’t want to return to: stardust and la la la la la. I want a more plastic, uprooted life, and I don’t want that as a kind of parametricism. To me, you’re dealing with 21st century technology through the ruination of 19th century technology, and there’s no traction there.


    MJ: So…… you’re not going to stand up for monumentalism?

    GR: I’m not against monumentalism and heroics, clearly. I just think architecture should break it down to a scale that we can deal with.

    KMH: I think these drawings capture so much of the thing as a thing. Versus some of the other line drawings, which are more dematerialized.

    Mack Scogin: I don’t think there’s a vernacular.

    KMH: It’s more cosmic.

    MS: Yes. And even the place, I’m not sure there’s much vernacular there. 

    KB: From what I understand, you’re saying that architecture is not the ground, and that we need these things—these four stakes—but in the end, it sounds like you chose a really good site, like Bob is saying.

    BS: You situate your project in terms of you having a problem with parametrics, so I want to see that as the technology you situate yourself against.

    MJ: Where’s the empathy part of this?

    GR: I think it has to do with the breaking down of scale, and the gathering of cosmic forces in a way that is more gentle. So I don’t think this is a brutal relationship to the body.

    MJ: In some sense I have to acquiesce to what you say. The project in some way is about Mankind with a capital “M,” which is solitary or generic. Most of us thought that “mankind” died 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be recuperated. Maybe the absence of irony is genuine here on your part. You’re really a believer, and I’m sort of impressed. I never would have expected this in a million years.

    RS: It was funny when you said, “I have to talk about Tafuri,” and a few sentences later, “I have to talk about geometry.” When I think about GSD, I think about geometry and Tafuri.

    Robert Pietrusko: I’m reading this project in another way. [Technology constructs entities that are not “other” or “anterior” but, in fact, present. You can imagine someone going in there thousands of years from now, and seeing the celestial bodies that the project frames, and catching a glimpse of the “nature” constructed through the technology of this lost civilization. Though it may be experienced in solitude, it’s an evocation of the collective.]

    GR: Yes, I absolutely agree.

    Thanks for reading!


  • Live Blog: Anya Domlesky, "HOT ROT: A Breakdown Manual" (MLA thesis)

    Hi Archinect,I’m at the GSD for thesis reviews—Anya Domlesky is presenting “HOT ROT: A Breakdown Manual” for her MLA degree.Landscape architects should be not just the apologists or ameliorators for solid waste, but active agents in the procedures of dealing with waste.The site is South...

  • Live Blog - Marian Dörk, "From Bird's-eye Views to Street-Level Data Exploration: Taking Text for a Stroll"

    Hi Archinect!From the OpenVis Conf website:Marian Dörk is a research professor for information visualization at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. Motivated by the design opportunities and research challenges arising from growing information spaces, Marian is particularly interested in...

  • Live Blog - Mauricio Giraldo, "NYPL Labs Building Inspector" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!The full title of Mauricio's talk is "NYPL Labs Building Inspector: Extracting Data from Historic Maps." From the OpenVis Conf website:Mauricio enjoys playing with code, objects and all things interactive. He is currently an interaction designer at NYPL Labs, The New York Public...

  • Live Blog - Robert Simmon, "Subtleties of Color" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!Back for the second day of this great event. From the OpenVis Conf website:The purpose of data visualization is to illuminate data. To show patterns and relationships that are otherwise hidden in an impenetrable mass of numbers.In many datasets, color is one of the most effective...

  • Live Blog - Andy Kirk, "The Design of Nothing: Null, Zero, Blank" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!From the OpenVis Conference Website:  Andy Kirk is a UK-based freelance data visualisation specialist. Andy in February 2010 and this has grown to become a popular source of information about the data visualisation field. He became a freelance...

  • Live Blog - Jen Christiansen, "Visualizing Science," at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!The full title of Jen Christiansen's talk is "Visualizing Science: Developing Information Graphics for Scientific American Magazine."From the OpenVis Conf website: From its first data-based chart (on the topic of inertia, momentum, and projection) up through to today's web...

  • Live Blog - Kennedy Elliot, "Coding for the News," at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect,Kennedy Elliot is up now, talking about using data in journalism.From the OpenVis Conf website: Each week the Washington Post publishes five to ten graphics, many of which are interactive and nearly all of them have a web presence. The reach of the graphics department covers breaking...

  • Live Blog - Mike Bostok from the New York Times, at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    Hello Archinect!I'm in East Cambridge for the two day OpenVis Conference hosted by Bocoup, an open web technology company based here in Boston.Mike Bostok, graphics editor for The New York Times, is the first speaker. From the conference website: He is also the author of D3.js, a popular...

  • Live Blog - Eric Fischer, "Mapping Billions of Dots" at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!Eric Fischer is up next at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf. From the conference website: Eric Fischer is a data artist and software developer at Mapbox. He was previously an artist in residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and before that was on the Android team at Google. His work...

  • Yestermorrow Design/Build for Public Interest

    Hello Archinect,This is a throwback to 2007 for me, when I attended the two week design/build course led by Jersey Devil co-founders Steve Badanes and Jim Adamson, along with New York-based architect Bill Bialosky. I had the pleasure of seeing Steve at our ACSA Annual Conference in Miami a couple...

  • Review - GSD's "Platform 6: A Year of Research through Studio Work, Theses, Lectures, Exhibitions and Events"

    [Image from Pimentel.]“You will be remembered for what you leave out or neglect.”Rosetta Elkin, Editor of Platform 6, includes these words in a short meta-essay entitled “Editing Pedagogy,” in which she retroactively imagines a brief for the project of gathering, selecting, and...

    Flip-through of Platform 6

  • Live Blog - Manuel Castells, "The Space of Autonomy: Cyberspace and Urban Space in Networked Social Movements"

    Hi Archinect,It's a packed house in (half) Piper tonight for Manuel Castells, Professor of Communication Technology and Society, USC Los Angeles. His talk responds to recent movements in Brazil and Turkey, drawing on themes from his book Networks of Outrage and Hope; Social Movements in...

  • Live Blog - Christopher Glaisek and Bruce Kuwabara on Waterfront Toronto

    Hello Archinect,I'm back in Piper to see Christopher Glaisek, vice president of planning and design for WATERFRONToronto, and Bruce Kuwabara, founding partner of Toronto-based KPMB Architects and now Chair of the Board at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. As a...

  • Review - "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon

    Hi Archinect!Okayyyyyy, I'm back at the GSD to watch "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon (2012), a film about the origins of Studio H's design/build education taught by Emily Pilloton and her team of teachers (including GSD grad Hallie Chen!).Studio H now hails from...

    If You Build It Official Trailer

  • Live Blog - Kyle Bergman and John Connell in conversation

    Hi Archinect,After the screening of If You Build It, film festival director Kyle Bergman and John Connell, the founder of Yestermorrow Design Build School, had a short conversation and I wanted to share it with you here. I was interested to see Connell live, as I had been to Yestermorrow for...

  • Live Blog - Futures Past: Design and the Machine (Mindell, Steenson, Theodore, Galison)

    Hi Archinect!Drew Harry and I are here at MIT’s Media Lab for Futures Past: Design and the Machine, a conference organized by Duks Koschitz (Pratt/MIT), Olga Touloumi (Harvard GSD), and Theodora Vardouli (MIT). (Don’t worry, Kanye is not in the house though if you haven't been sated yet, you...

  • Update - GSD African American Student Union and Dean Mohsen comment on Kanye West Visit

    Hi Archinect, Over the past few days there have been over 30,000 views of this blog's Archinect post on Kanye, and many times that number of reposts and articles about the event at other media outlets (including Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, USA Today, and Buzzfeed). It seems as if...

  • VIDEO - Kanye stops by studio to talk about architecture with students

    Hi Archinect, Yeezy surprised students tonight with a short visit to Harvard GSD's design studio. I REALLY like Kanye--Late Registration, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Watch the Throne basically got me through studio, from first year to thesis--so I'm bummed that I wasn't there. He...

    Kanye speaks with architecture students at Harvard Graduate School of Design (Video by and courtesy of Flavio Sciaraffia.)

  • Live Blog - Mohsen Mostafavi in Conversation with Nicholas Negroponte

    Hi Archinect! Co-live-blogging tonight with Drew Harry from MIT Media Lab. Full house in (half) Piper! From the GSD website: Mohsen Mostafavi, architect and educator, is the dean and the Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at the Harvard GSD. His work focuses on modes and...

  • Live Blog - Walid Raad and Theaster Gates in Conversation, with Mohsen Mostafavi, "On Art and Cities"

    Hi Archinect! I'm co-live-blogging tonight with Allison Green, a first-year student in the GSD's Master of Urban Planning program who is also starting to blog at Archinect. From the GSD website: Theaster Gates, an artist trained as an urban planner and sculptor, has developed a practice that...

  • Live Blog - Robert Wilson, Sensory Media Platform

    Hi Archinect! Full-ish house in Piper tonight. From the GSD's website: Robert Wilson is among the world's foremost theater and visual artists, acclaimed for stage works that integrate dance, movement, lighting, sculpture, music, and text in striking, emotionally charged images. His productions...

  • Live Blog - Craig Edward Dykers, The Psychology of Space and the Moving Body

    Hi Archinect! I'm at the Boston Society of Architect's BSA Space for a lecture from Craig Edward Dykers, Founding Partner at Snøhetta. It's the opening event for the Association of Architecture Organizations' conference "Making and Measuring IMPACT: The Value of Architecture and...

  • Live Blog - Panel Discussion: Frontiers of Design Criticism

    Hi Archinect! I'm back at the GSD for a panel moderated by Shantel Blakely of Harvard GSD Public Programs called "Frontiers of Design Criticism." From the GSD website:  Today the feedback, spin, and other acts of interpretation that were once the preserve of historians and other experts are...

  • Live Blog - Dorie Clark, "Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future"

    Hi Archinect, Fair warning: this one isn't architecture. I'm at a Harvard Alumni event--author and marketing, branding, and business strategy expert Dorie Clark is talking about "reinventing yourself." Clark is an alumnus of Harvard's Divinity School. Clark opens with an anecdote about Joanne...

  • Useless Architectures: Interview with 2013 SOM Prize Winner James Leng

    The SOM Prize is an annual $50 000 fellowship allowing a recent graduate of an accredited American undergraduate or graduate program in architecture, urban design, or related fields to conduct research and travel for a project of their choice. The SOM Foundation recently announced James Leng, who...

  • Live Blog - Sylvia Lavin and Eric Owen Moss

    Hi Archinect! I'm in Los Angeles (yeah!) for an ACSA board meeting and we thought we'd take in Sylvia Lavin and Eric Owen Moss at SCI-Arc. SL: ...There are all of the different things that architects make and that we recognize as architecture in some way.  And then, what are the different...

  • Graduation: final post as a Harvard GSD M.Arch.I school blogger

    Hi Archinect! We graduated! Although I'll continue to blog and live blog when I can, this is my last post as a GSD M.Arch.I student.  Graduation was hot and sweaty, with lots of waiting--but also incredibly exciting and gratifying to enjoy this final day with classmates, friends, and family...

  • New Haven/Yale School of Architecture

    Hi Archinect! I was in New Haven today, to interview Michelle Addington. I haven't been here since I was a prospective student, so it is somehow fitting to be back now that my M.Arch.I degree is done. It was also great to spend some time with Michelle, as her work is so interesting and her move...

  • Live Blog - John David Todd, "Sometimes alone. Mostly with others" (M.Arch.I thesis)

    Hi Archinect, Last session of the day. John Todd, advised by Toshiko Mori. 4:30: JT: "We live in a post-utopian world...Meaning is not created from a transcendent source but emerges from around us [through an immanence]... The idea of individual vs. collective is a false dialectic. We are not...

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About this Blog

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.

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