Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

I graduated in 2013, but still live-blog here once in a while.

  • Live Blog: Ryue MIT

    Konnichiwa, Archinect!


    In lieu of attending the March 31 Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa lecture at the GSD, I went to the Nishizawa-only lecture tonight at MIT on April 1. Word on the street was that when Sejima and Nishizawa brought their minimal approach to the lecture format at the GSD ("this is our project. This is the outside. This is the inside."), it wasn't that engaging. Was it better the next night at MIT? Here's my coverage of what happened: you tell me!

    6:27 pm: The lecture hall isn't even full! Ryue Nishizawa is at the front, wearing converse sneakers.

    6:34 pm: Nader Tehrani, chair of MIT's department of architecture, is giving the introduction. "In light of the recent traumatic events in Japan, SANAA's work resonates in a particular way...The mere shelter from the elements is a pale shadow in comparison with the" way the Japanese historically have had to grapple with the violent forces of nature.

    "SANAA sets out to evacuate their presence...Sejima and Nishizawa find ways of editing out everything, out of sight...It's contents are deviously omitted...a work of erasure...If the conventional task of the detail is to bring emphasis to the joint...SANAA undermines those things that we expect to see."

    Tehrani is talking about how their work hides not only the physical articulation of structure, but programmatic specificity, in the interest of foregrounding affect. "The strange absence of lines are to be taken literally...on the other hand, each building is accompanied by a thick stack of working drawings," of the structure and systems that are hidden in each work."

    Tehrani says more than this--his thoughts are sensitive and critical, if not radical or unsurprising--and it struck me as an eloquent introduction that was respectful and positive without being fawning.

    6:43 pm: Nishizawa comes to the podium. "Thank you for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to tell you what I'm thinking about the projects. In Tokyo, I belong to the SANAA office and the Nishizawa office." He's explaining how he and Kazuyo Sejima started their joint office in order to enter a competition at the time when he decided to strike out on his own (in 1997), and how they've maintained that office since then. Tonight's lecture will show work from both offices.

    6:46 pm: Teshima Island Museum. Interesting program: the client wanted to show just one work of art, and it would never change.

    The site has no straight lines; everything is an organic topography.

    It's a concrete building, "but we did not use plywood for the formwork. We made a mountain of soil and installed the reinforcement on the soil." The workers poured the concrete for 22 hours straight so that it would be a single pour without joints.

    image [Note: some of the images I'm posting are from the internet, not from the lecture itself--some of the slides are similar, and others identical. I'm using my photos from the lecture mostly when I didn't have equivalents already from online.]

    "I didn't install any glass roof in the opening. I thought it was nice to leave it open to invite rain or wind, or even insects inside. So this is a semi indoor/outdoor space. ...In the morning, water appears somewhere on the floor. It's kind of a moving water project."

    6:54 pm: Serpentine Gallery.


    "The shape and height of the roof is defined in relation to each situation." It's high, at 6m, near the road, and 3m near the existing building. "And there is no beam to support the roof. The roof is supported by a bunch of columns. The roof is a shiny aluminum plate, reflecting the landscape. ...This is the lowest part, at 60cm, where adults can't come--this is for kids. Normally it's a very open space, with no walls, but when rain comes, it creates an envelope [where the water is pouring off the roof.]"


    7:00 pm: Toledo Art Museum.

    "We are trying to keep the height of the building as low as possible to not disturb the beautiful landscape."


    "The idea of the plan organization is that we give curved glass walls--balloon shapes for each part of the building." And he's describing how the buffer space between the different bubbles allows for climate control: the hot shop where staff blow glass is hot, the exhibition spaces have to be carefully climate controlled, and so on.


    "The wall is curved, but the space feels straight; you can see through to the beautiful green landscape."

    7:07pm: "The open feeling of architecture is something we're getting interested in. It's nice even for a house....The rooms are lined up, but shifting, to create gaps between them. Every room has its own dimension, with very high ceiling height. Some roofs can be opened create semi-indoor, semi-outdoor spaces."

    7:11pm: House in Kamikura in progress.

    image [Site in Kamikura]

    "Kamikura city is very strict." So they only have 60 square meters of floorspace for a house and shop. "And then I started working on this smallness and density to find out what kind of interesting idea can be made."




    The stacked spaces go from the shop on the ground floor up to a tiny bedroom on the top floor. Every room has its own terrace.

    7:15pm: Tree House. Now in late design phase.



    "This is a small house for nature in NYC state." It's on a "mountain top" (a ridge). "This is a very special shape so I didn't want to have the house on the ground. So the house is floating on the air and they have a very long slope to reach the house."

    7:18pm: "For the New Museum people, who used to live on Broadway street." (The project of our 2nd year critic, Florian Idenburg!) He's talking about the expanded concrete mesh; how it gives a sense of depth on the facade, a kind of "unclear feeling," with some transparency.



    Every exhibition room has a skylight, which has a different position for each room. Each room also has different proportions.

    "Nighttime, you can see where is the window and wall, but daytime, everything just looks like mesh facade."

    7:21pm: Louvre-Lens project outside of Paris.


    "This is the big museum project we're now working on." This used to be a coal mining area, and he's explaining that the loss of this source of employment is one reason why the museum wanted to open a new branch here.

    It's a big site, and they broke it down into a number of rooms, so it doesn't feel so big. "The facade has a transparent part and an opaque part, which is an aluminum wall to reflect the landscape."



    The Louvre collection follows a long history: 4000 BC to the 19th century, so they gave the exhibition hall a long room to show this. "When they walk, people can feel European history through the collection."





    The aluminum walls reflect the landscape (on the outside) and the collections (on the inside) in a kind of foggy way.

    7:28pm: Rolex Learning Centre. Except that he calls it the "student center in Lausanne." No mention of the fancy watch.






    "This is really big space. 180m each way. This is a space where every student and faculty member can stay in one space. The space is divided by round patios but people can go between these patios. Since this building is really huge, we gave this three dimensional topography to create transparent, open space, so that people can go through the building to reach the existing campus." So the space under the building "becomes a kind of public street."



    "Roof and floor keep a parallel relation...this gives a very special landscape feeling inside the building. For example, this is the valley where you're bound by the two hills; but from this side, you can't see the next hill, because the roof comes down. So you can't see the other levels but the space is connected."

    "The biggest jump is 80m."


    Done. Applause.

    Question from the Audience: What is important for you about transparency and dematerialization?

    RN: "I want to create a relation. If I create an opaque wall, there's no relation. ...But I want to make the opportunity for people to make many different kinds of relation."

    Question from the Audience: "I'll ask it a different way: you're often held to be the inheritor of the Miesian tradition of transparency, but I sense something...deeper in your work. Sejima complained that the photographers wait until the light is transparent to take their photos, but that misses the point."

    RN: I don't understand question. [There was no answer, no attempt to rephrase or understand the question; we just moved on entirely.]

    Question from the Audience: "There's something very special about community, which we've lost in this country. Your country is better. But there's something about open space, and seeing where other people, which is very beautiful in your work. And you've done it so I thank you for that." OK, that wasn't a question, but it was a nice way to end. Everyone applauded and it's over.



    The GSD's Japanese lecture series is called "A New Innocence." My question is, are Sejima and Nishizawa really so innocent? Do they not engage the big questions about their work because they deliberately choose not to speak about these things, or is it because they really don't think about them? Or is it a language issue? Have they substantively engaged these questions elsewhere? I don't know enough about them to know.

    Thanks for reading!

  • The Cognitive Science of Embodiment and the Place of Architecture Today: a conversation with Alberto Pérez-Gómez

    Hello Archinect! So I know I've been posting quite a bit lately, but I have two really important things to share: 1. My former PhD advisor, Alberto Pérez-Gómez, will be in town next weekend for Boston University's Architecture + Philosophy Conference, and will be joining us for an...

  • Live Blog: Eclipse of Beauty, vol. II

    Hello Archinect! Here we are in Piper for more blah blah blah. This, the second volume of the Eclipse of Beauty symposia, features Evan Douglis, the Dean of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Georges Teyssot, a professor from Laval University's school of architecture in Quebec City. And it is...

  • Great shame upon our family.

    Hello Archinect, I love my hometown of Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada (a.k.a. Texas of the North), but sometimes I just have to throw my hands up. Edmonton is apparently the largest city in North America to not have an architecture school. There are good architects there and a decent art scene, but...

  • GSD M.Arch.I Q+A

    Hello Archinect! Occasionally I get emails from people asking about what it's like in the GSD's M.Arch.I program, if I enjoy Harvard, if the people really are evil and competitive, or what it's like living in Cambridge/Somerville. The best way to find out all these answers is to visit our school...

  • Live Blog: Junya Ishigami in Piper

    Tonight's feast is the second installment in the series "A New Innocence: Emerging Trends in Japanese Architecture," which is sponsored by Dean Mohsen Mostafavi with the support of Harvard University Asia Center. Here's a description of the series that Mohsen emailed to us earlier today: The...

  • Nicholas Kristof Win-a-Trip finalist, UVA architecture student Hannah Silver!

    Hello Archinect! This year, Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times is picking one university student and one senior citizen to accompany him on a reporting trip in the developing world. One of the student finalists, Hannah Silver, is also an undergraduate architecture student at the University of...

  • On Fukushima

    Hello, all, I'm packing for an impromptu spring break trip to Chicago, to check out Theaster Gates' Dorchester Project and other community-building and earth-reconciling art, architecture, and urban projects that are growing there. It's a happy thing. I'm looking forward to kicking it in Chi-town...

  • They can't stop me from live blogging this one: The Eclipse of Beauty

    6:20 pm: Starting in ten minutes: Harvard GSD Symposia on Architecture / The Eclipse of Beauty: Parametric Beauty (with Mario Carpo, Michael Meredith, and Ingeborg Rocker.) Symposium co-convened by Antoine Picon and Preston Scott Cohen. Here's the short description from the GSD website: "What has...

  • Conversation with U Michigan's Architecture Program Chair

    Hello Archinect! John McMorrough, Chair of the architecture program at University of Michigan Taubman College, visited our studio this week. I sat down with him to find out about the pedagogical initiatives underway there. Here is an edited transcript of the conversation: LC: Thanks for talking...

  • Vito Acconci, again and again

    Hi Archinect! Vito Acconci was in Piper tonight. Andrew Zientek, MLAII, and Krzysztof Wodiczko, the GSD's Professor in Residence of Art, Design, and the Public Domain (yes, that is his actual title), provided heartfelt introductions. Acconci himself spoke in a straightforward manner, without notes...

  • Hamlet on the Red Line

    So here's the setup. I was on the red line of the T (Boston’s subway) and a guy (pictured here on his knees) starts talking to himself in a loud and agitated way. He looks borderline between hipster and crazy. But as he's talking, I realize that it's Shakespeare, and then that it's a...

  • Inflated

    Hello Archinect! Elizabeth Federic and Laura Harrison's 2008 documentary, "Ant Farm," was screened last night at the GSD. Timothy Hyde provided the introduction and, inspired by the film, the Inflatables Club built an inflatable to fill the Piper floor. Unfortunately, because it is no longer the...

  • Mubarak steps down.

    We don't know how the military will handle their power and how this will all play out. But can we hold on to this image, and remember it when we talk about public space, not just in Egypt, but here at home, and everywhere where we aspire to democracy? Lian


    Hello Archinect! I just wanted to tell you about a new website--something between a blog and an academic journal--called YES NO. It was started by two GSD students, Ted Baab and Jade Yang, in order to create a new public forum for GSD students and the wider community to contest and discuss...

  • Out

    Hello....Archinect, So I don't know if there's a blogging equivalent to drunk dialing but, well, here goes: I want to contribute to the built environment in some direct way, and that may even be as a licensed architect at some point in my life. It's not even impossible that I might have my own...

  • Deciphering Tracks

    Hello Archinect! In his (free and open to the public) lecture today at the GSD, structural engineer Guy Nordenson cited this passage from Carlo Ginzburg on "Clues." It speaks about the decoding that we do of our environment every day--but which, because we are so immersed in its methods, can be...

  • The coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

    Hello Archinect! My studio critic read to us the code for the Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner series today, as part of a discussion about what code (which our section is going to often interpret in terms of the constraint) can mean in the context of artistic and architectural production. And this...

  • Spring 2011

    Hello Archinect, I'm baaaack! The holidays were super: I investigated the, uh, sub-urbanism of Burnaby (part of metro Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada), the landscape of the ski trails of Kananaskis (in the Alberta rocky mountains), the interior architecture of West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton...

  • Not the GSD

    Hello Archinect! I'm taking a course at the Kennedy School over J (January) term. So today, two weeks before the course begins, I was able to pick up my course binder--which, as you can see, looks like this: It is not the GSD. Happy holidays, and all the best for the new year! Lian


    Hello Archinect! For my class on Pynchon, we were supposed to write papers, but I got permission to do an animation instead, then I made a book. Here it is. The cut-out shape is of a V2 Rocket, which is the overarching (heh, if you excuse the pun) image in Gravity's Rainbow. Whether the rocket is...

  • Finally.

    Hello Archinect! I'm still cranking for other classes--making a V2 rocket-shaped void for my Pynchon class...who knew negative space would be so time-consuming to build?--but wanted to share with you what I presented at my final review last Tuesday. Massing model. View from the water. Approach...

  • 100 hours to go.

    I'm going to take risks, I'm going to have fun, and I'm going to make it beautiful. Game on. See you on the other side-- L

  • Edward Norton -- seriously??

    Hello Archinect, So, Edward Norton is coming to the GSD tomorrow to talk about social entrepreneurship with real estate developers Jonathan Rose and James Rouse. It seems that a large crowd is expected, as the events department is whipping out the protocol they used for GSD grad Shaun...

  • Better than Gund.

    Hello Archinect! Because a recap of some of places we've been is more interesting than photos of 72 sleep-deprived people at their desks. You don't have to go far. Here's the Charles River between the Allston and Cambridge sides of the Harvard campus. Studio trip to the Boston conservatory to...

  • Martin and Kipnis: What Good Can Architecture Do?

    Hello Archinect! I’m a bit behind, because we’re now in our final push for studio, but I couldn’t NOT share with you some snippets from last week’s dense, but worthwhile discussion between Reinhold Martin and Jeff Kipnis. It was one of a series of departmental events this...

  • Ten signs that the GSD has ruined me

    Ten signs that the GSD has ruined me: 1. I briefly considered making Mom a diagram for Christmas. This follows on my present from last year, which was prepared on the laser cutter. 2. When 45 minutes go by without an email appearing in my inbox, I check my server settings. 3. I don't have strong...

  • Campus Catalyst: MASS weighs in at World Architecture Festival

    Hello Archinect! Big congratulations to GSD architecture students Robin Bankert, Michael Murphy, Caroline Shannon (my M.Arch.I. 2nd year classmate!!) and Joseph Wilfong, who brought home the top prize from the World Architecture Festival earlier this month in Barcelona! This year's theme at the...

  • On the function of folly

    Hello...! I started to compose these thoughts in the comments section, but it got too long as I started chasing digressions, so here it is as a new post: Although I don't know BIG's work very well, I agree that it's hard to pin down. It's slick, beautiful, and shallow, and feels no guilt or shame...

  • Live Blogging Bjarke Ingels with Preston Scott Cohen

    Hello Archinect! Please bear with me for an experiment tonight, as I attempt to live blog Scott Cohen's discussion with Bjarke Ingels. Even this late in the semester, the house is packed and the mood is buoyant. Not, the consensus seems to be, because Bjarke is that important of an architect, but...

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About this Blog

Lectures and exhibitions, news and events, now primarily from the Bay Area! Please note that all live blogs are abridged and approximate. If you want to see exactly what happened, in many cases a video of the event is posted online by the event's hosts.

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  • Lian Chikako Chang

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