Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

  • Sparking Social Change (Maurice Cox, Marshall Ganz, Duarte Morais)

    Hello Archinect!

    Last night, Bryan Bell of Design Corps (and currently in residence at the GSD as a Loeb Fellow) held a panel called ‘Sparking Social Change,’ with Maurice Cox, Marshall Ganz, and Duarte Morais.


    Maurice Cox—professor at University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, former mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, and recently the Director of Design for the National Endowment for the Arts—presented his organizing/planning work in the early 2000s for the ‘New Rural Village’ in Bayview, Virginia. In this farming community composed of descendents of slaves, there was abject, grinding poverty: he quoted local community leader Alice Coles, who said that "Some people have lived and died here and never flushed a stool.” They were living in shacks and drinking water polluted by their own sewage. But they had a cohesive community and leadership, in Coles and others, who already had come together to successfully fight a state plan to build a maximum-security prison where they lived.

    Cox explained how he and his team worked with people there: they “met with people where they were at.” At first, they held meetings on Coles’ patio; when their group outgrew that space they went to the church; and when they outgrew that, they went to the gymnasium of a local school. The Bayview residents were used to starting their meetings with a prayer circle, and Cox respected that and other traditions that they were used to. It took six years from when they started meeting with people in Bayview until they had the new village—affordable houses on land that they owned, together with a market, community center, laundromat, day care, clean water, and an economic base to help residents earn a living wage—and Cox explained how these meetings—the sharing of stories and building of relationships, were able to sustain their momentum and commitment for the project during that time.

    It was not a fast process, but the upside of all of that work was that the residents not only embraced but owned the process themselves. Beyond constructing buildings and other physical infrastructure, the community was able to develop its capacity for leadership and determination to continue improving the conditions of their lives. He closed his presentation with the aphorism: “Nothing about us without us is for us.”

    I was too brain-dead last night in my post pin-up state to take more notes, but there is really fascinating media coverage of the Bayview project available if you’re interested: Early in the process, The Washington Post brought national attention to Bayview’s poverty after Coles brought the NAACP to inspect local conditions. In 2003, 60 minutes featured the organizing work of Alice Coles. And in 2004, a documentary film called "this black soil: a story of resistance and rebirth" was released.

    Marshall Ganz, lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (and one of the consultants who developed the organizing model and developed leadership capacity for the grassroots organization of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign), was the next speaker.


    Ganz built on some of the themes that Cox brought out, starting by quoting Alexis de Tocqueville, who said that "in a democracy, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all forms of knowledge." Combining, Ganz insisted, is not just about aggregating individuals or individual opinions—something which we do all the time today—but rather, it requires really associating with each other, to learn and develop new, shared interests. Even people who don’t seem to share much can come together in this way through storytelling: when people talk with each other in a way that allows them to share the narratives of their lives, they are able—without denying either person’s story—to develop a new, third story that they can share. Ganz has done this recently with high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials (“and not the peace loving ones”). By having them each talk about what originally motivated them to join their work, they were able to find that they held certain values and stories in common. This has not yet, of course, brought peace to the Middle East, but it’s a start.

    How can we bring about change when we’re fighting from a side that lacks in power? Power, Ganz explained, has to do with peoples’ need for each others’ resources. "If your need of my resources is greater than my need of your resources, who has the power? Whoever holds this imbalance has the power to influence." But there’s also a difference between resources and power: “a community may lack resources but doesn't always lack power.” And he talked about the Montgomery Bus Boycott to explain this distinction.

    In Montgomery in the early 1950s, busses were white in front, black in back; and an armed deputy stood in the middle patrolling a no-man's land. “The bus was a microcosm of the deep inequality in the society.” But despite the deep racial inequalities in Montgomery, black people there had their bus fare, which they could choose to withhold. “In the end, you got not only desegregated busses but a community that is organized and that has power.”

    Ganz used this to segue into a bit of an advert for his (and his colleagues’) teaching at the Kennedy School’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. At a certain point in his work in the civil rights movement, he said that he discovered that “communities don't do this naturally. It takes the craft of leadership and organizing.” The leaders of the civil rights movements learned their trades in unions and in the Southern Baptist Church. So leadership—which Ganz defined as “accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose under conditions of uncertainty”—can be learned. (Note: Ganz tipped his hat to Ronald Heifetz here, talking about how leadership as such doesn’t exist in easy times. In easy times, we just continue doing what we’ve been doing; it’s the adaptive work of dealing with uncertain and difficult times that requires leadership.)

    Ganz breaks down the leadership work in organizing into five parts. Each of which, he says, is a natural process, but needs to be done with intentionality in an organizing situation:

    1. relationship building
    2. storytelling: “developing a shared motivation for action: it’s not ideas that move us to action, but the heart.” As St. Augustine observed, there’s a difference between knowing the good and loving the good.
    3. strategizing: “turning what you have into what you need in order to get what you want.”
    4. action: translating this into concrete action on the ground that can be evaluated, and upon which more can be built.
    5. structure: need to find a leadership structure somewhere between chaos and authoritarianism. And Ganz works with what he calls a “cascade model, or distributed team leadership.”

    Ganz is a wonderful speaker, and he gave us many gems. Here are a few, a bit out of order:

    "If you want to make change, you have to learn to compensate for a lack of resources with resourcefulness."

    In response to a question about the best book we can read on organizing, he suggested the Holy Bible, saying that Exodus 18 is pretty good in describing the task of delegating, and that the David and Goliath story describes strategy.

    Near the end of the panel discussion, Ganz talked about how destructive capitalism has been in hollowing out civil society in America. “The path we’re on now is a deeply destructive one. But I'm hopeful.”

    And he asked us, as designers, what kind of spaces facilitate or inhibit peoples’ ability to not only aggregate, but to really associate?

    Thanks for reading!

    P.S. My computer ran out of juice before the third speaker, Duarte Morais, gave his presentation. But he talked about his work helping communities develop tourism in a way that is on their own terms.

  • 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...

  • 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...

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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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