Harvard GSD M.Arch.I (Lian)

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

  • 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 Graduate School of Design has planned a series of individual lectures entitled A New Innocence: Emerging Trends in Japanese Architecture. Speakers include Sou Fujimoto, Junya Ishigami, Toyo Ito, and Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima (SANAA).

    This group represents one of the most significant informal collectives in architecture and design today. Their dedication to the simplicity and pleasures of everyday architecture and their engagement with location and interior distinguish their work from that of many of their contemporaries. They approach their task with a freshness and delight which in many respects is reminiscent of the innocence of a child’s eye; however, in their case this innocence is deliberate and highly artificial. One characteristic of many of these architects’ projects is the integration of landscape and nature within buildings; another is the subtle fusion of furniture and architecture. Toyo Ito, a mentor within the collective, counterbalances this lightness of approach with chthonic and seemingly excavated interiors, such as his designs for the Taichung Opera House.


    6:07 pm: It's a packed house in Piper for Junya Ishigami, and Mohsen is giving the introduction. Before we started he recapped the (many) events and student group projects organized for the coming weeks to raise funds and learn more about the disaster recovery in Japan. Then he spoke about the extreme lightness and ephemerality in Ishigami's work...and then mentioned how significant it is that Ishigami won the Architectural Institute of Japan Prize in 2009: "It's not an emerging architect's award. It is the major award for architecture in Japan, and for someone so young to win this award is an incredible accomplishment. Without revealing too much, Ishigami-san was born in 1974..."

    "Originally we thought that this lecture would be translated, but Junya's English has improved so much recently that this will not be the case."

    ..Ishigami looks so young--I saw a young, punky-looking man setting up at the podium and thought he must have been a staffer, so was looking around for Ishigami--but it was him!

    6:15 pm: table

    Ishigami is explaining the first project--an impossibly thin (3mm) table--that he did after starting his own office. And he's annotating his own slides in real-time! These crazy Japanese kids.



    It's an aluminum table with a self-weight of 700 kg; the straightness was achieved, he's explaining, by pre-bending the table (by over 360 degrees, so it actually curved around on itself), but "when this table is put on the floor, gravity makes it flat." (I'm so glad he's explaining the technical background here! This is one thing that Sou Fujimoto didn't do.)

    "This is the elevation of the table."

    He's showing a video of the table: "it's soft like a paper." The table is undulating under it's own is extremely flexible.

    6:23 pm: Japanese pavilion, Venice Biennale 2008

    "I wanted the plants and the building to have an equal presence. So the plant and the column of the building are the same diameter: 1.5 cm."


    The landscape inside and outside the greenhouse is continuous; there are plantings on both sides and you hardly notice the separation of the glass (although it calls attention to itself materially in other ways, like when raindrops fall on its surfaces).

    6:27 pm: lake project

    The form of the lake changes depending on the water level; when the water level is high, there are islands; when the level drops a bit, there start to be connections to the shore; and when it drops further, "a complex topography appears."



    6:31 pm: building in existing building

    They proposed connecting rooms in a skyscraper vertically from the 1st to the 22nd floor, making a 500 square meter house that is 70m high. "In Japan, any hill over 60m is a mountain."


    "This is a study of how to create a vertical relationship in the existing building."

    "On each floor, the shape and place of the opening is different, and the stair is different."


    "Sometimes, like in mountain climbing, it takes more than a day to climb up to another floor. ...I hope in this way, a new lifestyle will appear."

    6:36 pm: KAIT workshop

    "This is the plan. These are the columns." image


    Every column has a different profile (I don't think he said this was based on the loads; this seems to have to do with making the space nonstandard even though it's repetitive, as in a forest). "And there are different trails, like animal tracks. ...With this ambiguity we are trying to create a new flexibility of architecture."

    "This space is like a landscape."

    "This movie is taken by the security camera. This column (pointing to two close together) is like a wall, so nobody goes through. But sometimes they do." (Laughter was we watch people wind their way through the columns in different, often playful ways; but there are also patterns--like one column that many people stop to touch or lean on.)

    "Furniture is not decided in this place, so it is always changing."


    6:47 pm: cafeteria for university


    "This is for a cafeteria, napping place and party area." No columns for a 120m span; one big room. The roof is 8mm steel plate; it's like the table. "Average ceiling height is 2.3m, same as a private house, so it's an intimate space, but one that extends like a giant grassland scenery."

    "Now let's think of the space of the earth. We are living in the interesting space between clouds and land. We call this scenery."

    "The floor and the ceiling have a subtle curvature, making something like a horizon; the ceiling is like the sky and the floor like the ground. It is a new scenery as architecture. This building will be completed in September of next year."

    6:55 pm: Venice biennale 2010 Arsenale



    "The quest of transparency is a fundamental part of architecture. This is usually created by material, but in this project I was thinking not of transparency of material, but transparency of the architectural structure itself."

    The beams are 1mm thick, the columns are 0.9mm, and wires are 0.02 mm. "The components of the model are the same scale as components in nature." He's zooming in on a photograph where they're making the columns in a workshop; given their thinness, they're almost impossible to see!

    "By [twisting] the carbon fiber by hand, a column is made." "This project was a limit to test the limit of architectural construction."

    7:03 pm: Yohji Yamamoto NYC store

    In NYC meatpacking district.

    "Like cutting a piece of cake, I cut the building. We cut it minimally; just here."


    I think he's saying that they used the bricks from the walls they took down to create the new wall.


    image [Before and after]

    "I made a free-standing building in NYC. You can go all the way around it and see everything inside." "From this angle the building is so thin, you can hardly believe it is brick."

    7:10pm: square balloon

    "Our space was large with a ceiling height of 20m. So I wanted to make something like a scenery instead of an object that you put in the space."



  • 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...

  • Krieger: "reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated"

    Never met the man but I like him already: Anyways, the conference next week is sure to be packed, for all the wrong reasons. You know I'll be there.

  • midterm

    Hello Archinect! While digging through my photos, I found this: Turns out I did go to Neil Denari's lecture after all! Here, Neil is showing his competition entry for the Maribor Museum of Art and Scott is pressing him about the window openings. Why, he was asking, does this window have a rounded...

  • On the Flagship with Preston Scott

    Election day is as good a day as any for partisanship, so I thought I’d share with you the conversation I had with our department chair, Preston Scott Cohen, as he set up for his presentation in our studio this afternoon: PSC: So what have you blogged lately? LC: The new desks…and...

  • In defense of homasote

    Hello Archinect, Wow, such modernists here! I've been following the comments to my post about our new workspaces and--partly because I know that outsiders' impressions of our school often align with these comments--feel compelled to use this space to respond. I have to say that just because...

  • Lessons from the Superfly Machine

    Hello Archinect! The greatest thing just happened at the GSD. The context here is my day: counting square feet of programmed space in my building, constructing a spreadsheet and making charts in excel, being given way too much information about the various algorithms that V-Ray uses for rendering...

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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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  • Lian Chikako Chang

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