Harvard GSD M.Arch.I (Lian)

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

  • Three States of Hors d'oeuvres

    Hi Archinect!

    Guest blog this week from some of my friends in the MDESS, MLA, and upper-year MArch programs, who are embarking on the injection of the GSD into the arts-science-technology-design-branding fest that is the Lab at Harvard. Their exhibition is opening at 8:30 pm on October 7, 2010, at 52 Oxford Street on the Harvard campus--and you'd better be on time if you want to inhale the clouds of food!

    Here it is (text and images from Etien Santiago, Day Jimenez, Mariela Alvarez, Zenovia Toloudi, Andrew Zientek, and Stephen Schaum):


    We started Project on Spatial Sciences as a way for GSD students to get involved with the Lab at Harvard, which is directed by David Edwards. Like its cousin in Paris, the Lab is meant to be a breeding ground for strange inventions that defy the usual dichotomy of "art" and "science." We saw this as an opportunity to engage the experience and knowledge of people in other Harvard departments, and to explore the ways in which their research matters to architecture. It was also interesting that our group brought together not just MArch but also MDesS, PhD, and Landscape Architecture students from the GSD - countering the programmatic separations that its social habits often reify.


    As we brainstormed, we realized that we could offer a unique insight to the Lab as well as to our own design professions. The study of "space" indeed underpins all of our individual work, but moreover space permeates the work of every single discipline. Why? Because space, like time, is something that humans cannot ever get away or out of. It characterizes our basic condition of existence. Everything exists in space, and nothing can exist in some abstract, space-less, relation-less vacuum.


    Indeed, we quickly discovered that many researchers at Harvard are currently thinking about some properties of space and the role it plays in their field of work. Certain psychologists have realized that humans do not in fact live in a white, space-less world, but that space is integral to humans' learning and communication. We found musicians who study the essential spatial component of music, biologists who theorize how different animals occupy and move through space, artists who work with fields instead of objects, mathematicians who think about non-Euclidean space, philosophers who ponder contemporary changes in our notion of space, biomedical engineers who study the body's responses to its environment, and many more. We also got in touch with people outside the academic realm whose job is to manipulate space and its many properties for commercial and infrastructural uses.


    For us, architecture is not some pristine, built object that can conceptually be frozen and plucked out of the world. Instead, it exists in our messy, spatial, temporal reality - tangled up with every human's distracted apprehension of it. If we were to think about architecture as space (but not the abstract, white, Cartesian, and empty space that we usually think of), then we would open a whole new realm of possibilities. Space is very complex: it is made up of distances, of air (and its inherent sounds, particles, smells, and temperatures), of speeds, of electromagnetic radiation, of communication, of memories, of social customs, of economics... Space separates things from one another but it also joins them together; it is simultaneously our environment and information about other environments. So space is not a Euclidean grid that stays fixed while objects and people move within it; instead, it constitutes the essential relationships between all bodies.


    In the words of Sanford Kwinter, "Space is not a passive, unchanging physical object inside of which interesting things happen but is actually the interesting thing itself: a living tissue constantly changing and adapting to events."


    Our first installation for the Project on Spatial Sciences is an experiment where we make space breathable and tasteable. It is one of two installations that kick-off the 2010-2011 year for the Lab at Harvard. Working with a technology that the Lab originally developed for Le Whaf (a machine that transforms liquid foods into clouds, ) we created four chambers filled with different "flavor-clouds." Each chamber generates a particular environment with its gradations and temporal qualities. Visitors will be handed a tray with solid and liquid food samples which they can consume as they please, in a kind of choreography, while traversing the four taste environments.

    Our aim is to provoke visitors to expand their definition of space. What if you could taste space? Since everyone is familiar with taste, this would give non-architects a meaningful and impactful way to engage conversations about space. And what if architects used smells and tastes instead of bricks and mortar? Better yet, what if architects studied and worked with space's infinitely variable properties in order to create unprecedented kinds of designs?


    The exhibit will open at 8:30 pm on October 7, 2010, on the ground floor of the Northwest Sciences Building (on Harvard Campus), 52 Oxford St., Cambridge MA. (Be sure to arrive around that time in order to not miss out on the food-sample handouts.)

  • He said they should be rough.

  • To the ends of the earth...and back

    Hi Archinect! I was planning to write some long, thoughtful posts over the summer, digesting and meditating on my first-year experiences at the GSD, but it turns out that what I really needed was just a break from the school routine. I definitely got that, as did most of my classmates...

  • China!

    Hi Archinect! In a week and a day I'll be en route to Beijing for my one month trip to Beijing, Shanghai, and a number of smaller places in between. The trip is funded my my alma mater, McGill School of Architecture, with the only condition being that I bring back materials to hold an exhibition...

  • Career Discovery

    Hi Archinect! I'm making my guilty face again because it's been a while since I've written, but... The semester ended well enough for me, and since then it's been fun and busy and all over the place. I went on vacation with some friends to Washington DC and NYC, spent time with family in Boston...

  • School's out!

    Hello Archinect! It's late May. Theses have been defended (congrats everyone)! The yard has been set up with chairs and tents for graduation. The graduating students' posters are being put up. The trays are being cleared out and cleaned up for graduation ceremonies in the GSD. The first tray is...

  • What it Takes

    Have you read this recent New York Times piece by David Brooks? The questions he raises have been on my mind lately, and I'm hoping to write about career and life decisions and choices (in the Ivy Leagues and in the architectural profession) over the coming weeks. Until then, what do you think?...

  • Richard Meier Model Museum

    Hello! Last Thursday I had the chance to represent Archinect (thanks, Archinect!) at a press tour of the Richard Meier Model Museum, which is reopening for the summer 2010 season. Apparently Mr. Meier is recovering from hip surgery so wasn't entirely his normal voluble self, but we did get to hear...

  • Game on.

    Hello Archinect, Ten days to go in studio this semester. I had a breakthrough yesterday, finally realizing how to phrase my guiding concept, and how I can use it to shape my process. While I'm a bit nervous because it's so late in the game--basically the last week of a five week project--I also...


    Hello Archinect! So, we like algorithms at the GSD. Not only in design, but in optimizing options studio and electives lotteries, and--apparently--in the naming of lecture series. And I've cracked the code. Recent major conferences and lecture series have been called: Critical Ecologies Ecological...

  • In Which Elizabeth Diller Accuses Us of Being Modernist

    Hello Archinect! Tonight's Return of Nature event was called "The Nature of Information" and featured Liz Diller and Antoine Picon. This was at once the most lucid and the most light-hearted evening in the series. (There were also some unintentionally funny moments: at one point, Scott Cohen said...

  • What should I ask Rafael Moneo?

    The lottery gave me one of two student seats at dinner with Rafael Moneo tomorrow night, after his lecture. What should I ask him? Lian [Addendum: The lecture was great. It was called "Design Conditioned by Circumstance: The Advantages of Obstacles for the Architect." Michael Meredith described it...

  • details and grass and jobs

    Hi Archinect! Since it's about that time again, I just wanted to share a few things about this school, and the M.Arch.I program, that would have surprised me at this time last year: 1. Building Construction courses, aka "City of Wood" and "City of Steel." I thought Scott Cohen was just humoring me...

  • Thickened Wall: Mission (more or less) accomplished!

    When this project started, my goal was to have a clear direction from the beginning, and I took for this starting point the idea of urban fabric on the Greek island of Santorini. I was interested in stacking, nesting, and complexity in section, and the use of one building's negative space as its...

  • Three things I love about the GSD.

    1. GSD Student Announce. It's an email list for the whole GSD student population (optional, but almost everyone seems to use it). It adds a substantial amount of bulk to our inboxes, but it's the voice of the school, and I just think of it as fiber: it just passes happily and healthily through...

  • Yes, James, it was utopia.

    As we lined up to get into Stubbins today, I asked my former buttmate*, James Martin, if he thought lunch was already being served. He said "this isn't utopia: we can have either Tschumi or free food, but not both." However, the fact of the matter was that today, we did get both, because Bernard...

  • the field trip was a success.

    Louis Kahn's Exeter Library.

  • Thickened Wall

    So, to conclude our first project, we hauled all our models out to have a "round-table" discussion, in which talked about how they represented "bottom-up" processes dealing with the unit towards the whole, and how the investigations at the level of the unit and aggregations were more successful...

  • Aggregate 21 days

    Hello Archinect! It’s hard to say which is more unbelievable, that over three weeks of this semester have already gone by, or that a mere twenty-two days ago I was on my winter holiday, watching movies and hanging out with friends. The thing is that one’s experience of time is...

  • Um, hello

    Hello Archinect! So I'm feeling guilty for neglecting this blog. I have the usual excuses about being busy or trying to compose my thoughts, or whatever--but suffice to say that it's not you, it's me... and I’m going to do better now that I’m on the wagon again for semester two...

  • really advanced kindergarten

    Hello Archinect, On Friday, GSD alum Andrew Hartness brought a kindergarten class to the GSD. They toured the facilities, were greeted by Dean Mostafavi (who talked to them about Career Discovery!), and got a lesson from Andrew on the different orthographic drawing types (plan, section, elevation)...

  • The Return of Nature

    The Return of Nature is a symposium discussing "the question of architecture's autonomy in relation to contemporary debates." Each of the three panelists (a historian, theorist, and architect) presents a thesis, perhaps positioned polemically relative to the other two, and then engage in...

  • Open House Edition, Part Two

    Hello Archinect, I wanted to follow up on last week’s post with some thoughtful prose about the GSD, my experience of it so far, and what I’m learning. But—and maybe this is the best sign that I’m starting to be a real architecture student—I can’t seem to muster...

  • Open House Edition, Part One

    Hello Archinect! Well, we’ve finished four short (12-14 days each) projects and are just starting our last one for the semester: a building/pedestrian bridge integrated into, and more or less based on, one of three locks that sit at the mouth of the Charles river. I say “more or...

  • Second Project Done.

    Hello Archinect! Our second project, which was a house in a 7.5' gap between two existing gable-roofed houses, is finished. It was great to see what everyone came up with; this project required formal invention much more than the first one, which was more analytical, so there was a great deal of...

  • "Psychoanalysis with twenty people on the couch at once"

    Oh goody. Preston Scott Cohen is grilling Thom Mayne in Piper tonight. He asked him about style. Mayne, presenting himself as someone who solves problems and steers a process without a priori formal notions, said "Oh, I don't think about style. I'm very ambivalent with aesthetics." PSC said "But...

  • Frankly Speaking

    Hello Archinect! A couple of quick notes from the Gehry/Brown conversation in Piper tonight. Joe Brown is great, but he is very PC and says the right thing; Gehry is more, well, Frank, so the notes and quotes I jotted down are from him: Gehry started by talking about how it's important to "stay...

  • Project 1 done. Project 2 starting.

    Hello Archinect! It’s been three weeks since my last post, so I apologize for my absence. I’ve been busy! Our first studio project—the addition of an elevator to a 19th century building with convoluted staircases and other circulation patterns—has come and gone, and our...

  • Orientation Week

    Hello Archinect! We’re just over half way through our pre-semester horse and pony show at the GSD. It’s a long haul. On Wednesday we had international student orientation, on Thursday was a general orientation, on Friday we had more presentations and facility tours, and these will...

  • This makes me very happy.

    I printed out my dissertation today and put it in the mail, so now I can focus on my schoolwork and getting to know my new friends here!

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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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