Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

  • Live Blog - Iñaki Ábalos, 'Thermodynamism and Architecture'

    Hi Archinect!

    I'm in Stubbins (a smaller room) tonight for a lecture by GSD Professor in Residence Iñaki Ábalos, widely rumored among students to be our next chair of Architecture. The lecture, entitled "Thermodynamics of mixed use high rise prototypes: theory and practice" will be introduced by professor Kiel Moe who will also present the recently formed Sustainable Design LAB.

    6:37: Pre-introductions by student Carlos Cerezo, who is part of either the LatinGSD club and/or the GreenDesignGSD group, which are co-sponsoring the lecture.

    6:38: Prof. Kiel Moe is introducing IA, who he describes as representing strengths in both theory and practice. If we follow IA's work--his technical and programmatic concerns, etc.--it becomes clear why he's interested in thermodynamics in buildings. IA and the options studios he's been teaching, represent an emerging research agenda within the school, with which KM will at times overlap. Evidence: the new book Thermodynamics applied to highrise and mixed use prototypes. This is a lecture tonight, but we're also being exposed to a research agenda.

    6:43: IA thanks us for coming out on Halloween. The lecture will be a bit of a 'mixed salad.' These books represent the theoretical aspects of his work, over 25 years. Books develop even slower than buildings. Interest in time and space: time is the main preoccupation of philosophy, and space of architecture (but we're interested in both). Increasing interest in architecture in blending ideas from landscape and architecture, and in investigating the roots of the attraction to blend these categories.

    Daniel Ibañez, the assistant for IA's options studio, helped prepare the book Thermodynamics applied to highrise and mixed use prototypes, based on that studio's work. "I love the...Swiss pharmacy look" of the book.

    6:48: "I've brought some works that are very different, or similar, depending on the way we look at them." This project is in a suburb of Madrid; the history of this building is curious. It's an industrial city, where they store the products that come from the east, and it's very flat. The development has been "multiplied by 3" in the 25 years since then.

    "The situation has changed drastically." The population here is 55% without jobs--a record in Spain.

    "I became aware of these beautiful drawings of the 'heroic' period of modernism." I made this comparison--which is a joke--but it's not a joke. It's a serious thing. In the image from the left, from the communist Russian period, note the layers of industrial, residential, green program types alongside the river. On the right, a similar organization for the siting of IA's project. The center is a place to give people a sense that they belong to the city, that they have a role, and...obviously that they can re-educate themselves.

    Then the authorities say to the architect --'we don't have money, it has to be really cheap, but it also needs to be monumental.' It's always this way. They wanted to produce an extension of the interior space, and an interior that literally mimics a factory. But the idea of how to use the space is completely different. "We had a problem that was not very well developed--they didn't know exactly what the needs of their people were." It didn't have any relationship with a medical center, or centers for the aged, etc. The organization is from south to north, with some patios in between, to cross ventilate the whole thing and have heat gains in the winter. Programs that generate more heat--like gyms--are oriented towards the north, and those that need more heat are to the south. And trees.

    6:56: With this prototype or typology, it comes from typical Arab construction in south Spain--strips of roofs with some of the rooms having open patios. So there aren't corridors; it's a kind of labyrinth. The use of the rooms depends on activities, organized on a gradient of privacy, or depending on whether it's summer or winter. Another factor is the hearth; using a higher height and better insulation than normal in the roof. Efficiency, but also dignity for the space.

    "I don't want to be deterministic; we don't have a religion called sustainability or thermodynamics. We believe in history, in memory." The community center project started with an earlier project that couldn't be realized, a house for a gallerist--a lady who lives alone with many paintings. "The construction is minimalist, in the economical sense of minimalism, not just the figurative sense."

    The glass facade is a collector of sun in the winter, whereas the activities take place outside during the summer, covered by the shades. Mention of use of photovoltaic panels and vertical ventilation shafts. It's completely industrial--we use cheap finishings--"wood..well, today we call it wood, it's an incredibly thin (veneer)."

    The strucutral tubes (above) also hold the glazing.

    Space for watching soccer and dancing. "They're around 50 or 60 years old and they have a lot of parties. Every day." All the elements are repetitive to make the construction as cheap as possible, but with dignity. The roof--the only way to organize the garden with some kind of pattern was to lay out these lanes.

    7:05: Tàpies Foundation, Barcelona. "In this case...the building was functioning before we arrived, but had a lot of escapes, etc." They needed a stair (seen below), and wanted to transform and give visibility to the building.

    The building had housed a famous printer, and was the first industrial building in this particular urban fabric. A loft. There was a well-known intervention from the mid-80s, with a "plethora of postmodernism." "I was visiting this building; I thought it was interesting in those days. Culture evolves." We have to understand how and why it evolves. When he came back, colors and materials--everything was hidden: the changes in the years since the beautiful work in the 80s had no sense.

    By destroying the intervention of the 80s, IA realized that he could fulfill 4 of the 5 pages of requirements. The original building was very good.

    Original concept sketch--programmatic concerns, natural light. It was a historical building but also a statement about how a museum should be nowadays. You could see--or at least have glimpses--of all the functions and departments of the museum, from the galleries to offices, and archives.

    1980s state (inset image, above)--fake bronzed painted columns, with air conditioning ducts making Greek references.

    Beautiful cloud intervention on the roof. Intervention on the facade was minimal--cleaning, etc.

    Columns were made minimal according to their shape. Hypostyle type space. Left the skylight.


    Little patio--the columns mimic the original structure, not because he wanted to so much as for structural reasons. In terms of economy, it's the most simple construction system you can have, but with a strong relationship with the existing fabric.


    At the top of the pavilion, access to a roof garden. Tàpies wanted to use this sculpture which had been a scandal when it was original made several years before. "The patios are something I love more about Barcelona...they are full of real life," surrounded by facades of other buildings.

    7:16: Osmose RATP, Metro Paris: They had commissions in Paris, London, and Madrid. "It was a very interesting exercise, mainly because in Paris the infrastructure is not just...belonging to the engineers. Historically all the interesting architects made interventions in the metro, and it's part of the patrimony of Paris."

    The company wanted some return on their investment, and to give a new idea of what a metro station should be. The only thing that changed technically is that they're planning to protect the tube with another tube so that nobody can fall down. "This increases the efficiency of the metro incredibly, because a lot of people fall down." In Paris...they are drunk. And the environmental situation changes.

    The idea was to establish a new relationship between the tube and the exterior atmosphere. They had the idea of wrapping a building around the tube--thinking of the metro as a big geothermal infrastructure. Use it to establish a prototype that...helps us to begin thinking about zero emissions--a fantasy of politicians in Europe. They worked with Jasper Morrison. The project aims to retain qualities of traditional metro stations while evoking something of the atmosphere, and air movement.

    The tube wraps inside a mixed-use building--residential and office.

    It has some photovoltaic brise-soleils, "and all these gadgets." They used very simple technologies--heliostats that are programmed to bring down the sun when the metro is very crowded. And a way of dealing with heat gains off the facades of the towers.

    7:24: THM, Thermodynamic mixer. (GSD studio projects).

    Nowadays in high-density cities, especially in Asian countries...this prototype can suggest a new organization of space. The difficulty of being an architect is that you go from project to project. ...But we (as a profession, I think he means) are unable to use simple ways to have certainty that we're (doing things right). The model allows a kind of visualization of heat gains; who needs grasshopper when you can understand these things visually, directly?

    Aggregations of units.



    Many pages of thermodynamic studies by GSD students.

    Converting everything into watts, to understand proportions of program and the energy it takes to heat or cool those spaces. "What began completely random became a way to criticize the absurd simplicities we have attached to the type of mixed use." It produces spatial transformations. These are prototypes developed exclusively through thermodynamic principles. "We forced students to renounce gravity, and tectonics. Thermodynamics was the only paradigm they had to be attached to." They called the projects "monsters."

    "I (usually) hate these books, especially these books where there's student work and you can't understand anything on the page. If you have the time, I promise you can understand everything on these pages." Psychrometric charts--primitive, practical, and nobody understands them in architecture schools.

    7:34: A building created without a site or client. Just an idea to morph two kinds of towers. Then a project in Valencia. Lots of politics about protecting farms, blending housing and farms. The project is compositional; they didn't want to make poor-looking towers; the top needs to be ornamental, evoking the fantasy of living in a wonderful world of terraces. Losing the Protestant image that social housing has to be sad and boring. "This, applied to social housing, increases the degree of difficulty enormously."


    80% homogeneous and 20% compositional games.

    Nobody pays for terraces--"a crime" given the climate in Valencia. If you make stepped buildings, the terraces are for free. Tricky things to gain a thermal balance. Towers also increase ventilation, which is the only way to escape the humidity. Note the long unit on the top left for cross-ventilation, and the one to the below-right of that, with its scalloped edge creating different views.

    The loneliness of the building, surrounded by nothingness.

    "And we are using this corrugated aluminum," because it's the only material that allows us to make bright, curved surfaces without economic penalty. Modest interiors, "but I think they have a dignity."

    "I wanted to bring this social housing project after the thermodynamic prototypes," because it shows the pragmatic limits of projects.

    7:40: Another project. River and train station, which unifies the city and creates a new center. Created a hill instead of an object for the station. "Around we just made a kind of correct organization of residential typologies--north, south, etc." Just "A, B, Cs."

    This is the image from the competition--the idea that the ambience of the city could change through these infrastructures. Simplest modeling tools for the geometry.

    The whole idea was to create a configuration that was similar below and above the roof--so the two programs, the public park and the station, could become a single system, that the citizens could use. We wanted to maintain the complexity of the structure and at the same time wrap it. So we used a system of lamellas that articulate as you move around.Mirrored lanterns that create patterns with light. A kind of constant ornament.

    The geometry "isn't casual"--the columns are located where they can be, because the tracks are complex in their arrangement. "Goes without saying" that it works without air-conditioning 99% of the days.

    The station was the only one of the three projects commissioned to star architects that was on time and on budget. One of the others went 10x over budget. Referring to his project, IA says "it looks stupid, but" these things are not so easy.

    End. Applause. "I don't know if this is a lecture on thermodynamics or on the limits of ideas."

    7:48: Question about the columns--balance between performance and expression. IA: Doesn't see these as separate. "One thing you learn in practice is that you have to be really opportunistic." You have to study the conditions and find the opportunities. Sometimes all you can do is have your building "look like" they perform, which is useless. There are buildings that perform well and look normal, and they "don't change your life."

    When we work metaphorically with the air in motion, we're very close to working technically in the correct way. "This is why I was insisting with the students that we ignore tectonics" within the studio projects.

    In the Valencia project, "you can't imagine" how many constraints there were. The project hasn't paid a single Euro to receive any green certifications, but has received the highest commendation. It doesn't have any facades "painted in green" but it performs. So technical efficiency and expression need to be understood as an authentic dialectic in contemporary architecture.

    7:53: Question about the metal wrap in the Valencia project. Looks nice but expensive; would like the project without it as well.

    IA: You cannot leave the structure unprotected; it's sprayed with fire-resistant stuff and it's obliged by law. The screen is an extruded aluminum, and it gives a quality and homogeneity to the system. "Honestly, I thought they were not going to use it, but thanks to the crisis, it became exactly the same price as the cheapest aluminum system that you can destroy with your hands. This is what construction is about--finding opportunities."

    Question: Between the performance of the building--the grotto and the lightwell; or in the Paris metro, the air movement and the lanterns. But in the studio projects, the idea of "pure knowledge" in architecture, lack some of the things that are most interesting in architecture.

    IA: I would say no. I like a lot the way you present the discussion and the observation you have made. But for example--I think there is a similarity in how these projects are showing the interactions and optimizations with wind. And the science is "metaphors" more often than something like engineering. And the projects are "monsters," not architecture, because they're so literal and direct in their use of the metaphors.

    Comments from Kiel: "Thesis in general--from the Dean on down," we want the thesis projects to become part of a larger research platform in the school, not just individual projects that go away after. So we want the thesis prep work and so on to lead to publications. Starting to construct a more specifically architectural agenda for these things. We've been borrowing the agendas of sustainability (from more technical fields) but this kind of work is building an architectural agenda.

    There are going to be thesis groups, but also Energy, Environments, and Design Labs, and various funded research projects...from the scale of molecules to global Neo-Liberalism.


    Thanks for reading!



  • Live Blog - Toyo Ito, "What Was Metabolism? Reflections on the Life of Kiyonori Kikutake"

    Hi Archinect, We're in full, full Piper tonight for Toyo Ito's lecture. (You can watch the full video at the GSD's YouTube Channel.) From the GSD website: The Metabolist Movement in the 1960s established the foundation from which contemporary architecture in Japan has emerged up to the present...

  • Live Blog - Aggregate and Ed Eigen

    Hi Archinect, I haven't normally attended the GSD's "PhD Talks" as I'm not a PhD student here, but today the researchers collectively known as "Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative" are having a conversation wtih Ed Eigen, about a book that I admire very much called Governing by Design...

  • Live Blog - Kengo Kuma, "After March 11th"

    Hi Archinect, Kengo Kuma in full Piper tonight! You can view the video at the GSD's YouTube channel. I came in a little late, unfortunately, but just in time to see KK show a picture of a recent project in which "nothing happens"--there was no evidence of the project in this image of a hill...

  • Live Blog - Günther Vogt, "City as Territory as Landscape"

    Hi Archinect! I'm in Piper for Zürich-based landscape architect Günther Vogt's lecture. From the GSD website: Günther Vogt will present a talk on the nature of outdoor spaces, making reference to his projects, which approach landscape in the context of the city and urbanization...

  • Thesis: is performance in architecture like the performance of a machine, or a theater?

    Hi Archinect! This post goes along with this one where I shared two videos that started my work on thesis this semester. Here, I wanted to explain a bit about what I mean by "unaccomplished performances," which is the working title for the project: I’m starting with the question: what do we...

  • Thesis: unaccomplished performances (video)

    Hi Archinect! I’m in thesis this semester in the M.Arch.I program, and am being advised by my studio critic from first (!) semester, Danielle Etzler, as well as K. Michael Hays. We kicked off the semester with a pin-up in the first week of September, and a desk crit this past Monday. The...

    unaccomplished performance - time lapse

    unaccomplished performance - charcoal dawn

  • Live Blog - George Lakoff, "The Brain's Politics"

    Hi Archinect! I'm at MIT for George Lakoff's talk,"The Brain's Politics: How Campaigns Are Framed and Why." The talk's blurb says: Everything we learn, know and understand is physical — a matter of brain circuitry. This basic fact has deep implications for how politics is understood, how...

  • Live Blog - Jürgen Mayer H., "pre.text / vor.wand"

    Hi Archinect! It looks like a cat sat on my keyboard, but "pre.text / vor.wand" is the title of Jürgen Mayer H.'s lecture tonight in Piper. This has been the first week of classes. (I'm in my thesis semester and second last semester of my M.Arch.I.--more on thesis soon.) 6:36pm: Scott Cohen...

  • Economic Considerations Regarding the Future of the Architecture Profession

    Hi Archinect, Here's the excellent slide deck from a presentation by Kermit Baker, Chief Economist at the American Institute of Architects, in a "collateral discussion" (whatever that is) held on March 4, 2012 (as posted online at The main theme, as I see it: baby boomers holding on to...

  • ContemPLAY: Adventures in full-scale digital fabrication (interview with Sophie Wilkin from McGill)

    Hi Archinect! M.Arch. students from my alma mater, McGill School of Architecture, have designed and built a steel and wood pavilion that they’re calling ContemPLAY, and I recently sat down with team member Sophie Wilkin (via text chat) to find out more. Here’s an edited version of our...

  • A Single Surface, Multiple Players: Design and Construction of the Stair for the BSA Space

    Hi Archinect! It's been a while--I've been enjoying summer! But I did find time to chat with Eric Höweler (Höweler + Yoon Architecture), Patrick McCafferty (Arup Boston), Jason Smith (Commodore Builders), and Tom Couturier (Couturier Iron Craft) about their collaboration on the stair...

    Patrick McCafferty: “Arup’s in-house finite element software was used to analyze the dynamic response of the stair in order to fine-tune the structural design and detailing requirements.” This video, courtesy Arup Boston, shows the stress contours as load is applied to the stair.

  • Live Blog: Marikka Trotter and K. Michael Hays

    Hi Archinect! I’m at the very beautiful Cambridge Public Library (by William Rawn Associates) for a conversation between Marikka Trotter (co-editor with Esther Choi of Architecture at the Edge of Everything Else) and K. Michael Hays, who was co-author together with Trotter of...

  • Live Blog: Scott Cohen and Nader Tehrani, "my house is better than your house"

    Hi Archinect! This one is for the lols. The GSD's Scott Cohen and Nader Tehrani, Head of the Department of Architecture at MIT, are having a friendly lunchtime debate--as illustrated by the hot air rising from each house in the poster. 12:10: Scott opens things, describing his close and collegial...

  • Live Blog: Margaret Livingstone, "What Art can tell us about the Brain"

    Hi Archinect! I'm at MIT today for Margaret Livingstone's lecture on visual perception. She'll be talking about how works of visual art can inform us about how we see. (Her excellent book with many visual games and informative optical illusions is called Vision and Art: the biology of seeing.)...

  • note to incoming GSD and Career Discovery students about housing

    Hello, Sorry to abuse my blog in this way, but this is just to reach out to incoming GSD (and MIT) students, as well as GSD Career Discovery summer students, who are looking for apartments. We have a Facebook group with almost 300 members called 'Harvard GSD Housing' where you can post ads...

  • video: Marc Simmons, you talk pretty

    Hi Archinect! I wasn't able to live blog last night's lecture by Marc Simmons from Front, but it's just as well, as he talks so articulately that it's better to watch the video yourself, at the GSD's YouTube channel. It was a great presentation of Front's façade consultation and...

  • Live Blog: One Harvard: Lectures that Last

    Hi Archinect! I'm at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square for the Harvard Graduate Council's 'One Harvard: Lectures that Last.' Top professors from each of Harvard's twelve schools have been rounded up to to give a talk:     Roland Baron | Harvard School of Dental Medicine...

  • maps

    Hi Archinect! By now, you've probably seen Google's April 1 release of its 8-bit map for NES. But have you seen this real-time animated map of wind in the United States? And this Metro Distortion Map that shows the travel time to stations in Washington DC? And Mapnificent, which shows what places...

    Google Maps 8-bit for NES

  • Live Blog: George Baird

    Hi Archinect! George Baird is giving a lunchtime lecture today, hosted by the student groups CanadaGSD and LandGSD. Baird is the former Dean (2004-2009) of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, and is a partner in the Toronto-based architecture and urban design firm...

  • Wide Open: Young designers discuss their professional horizons and architecture’s future

    [Photo by Julie Chen for ArchitectureBoston] Hi Archinect! ArchitectureBoston, a quarterly publication of the Boston Society of Architects, is undergoing a change in leadership. The founding editor, Elizabeth Padjen, is stepping down after fourteen years of service and Renée Loth, a Boston...

  • Live Blog: Rosalind Williams, "Infrastructure of Lived Experience"

    Hi Archinect! 6:25: I have springtime allergies here and would rather be at home...but here I blogging Rosalind Williams' keynote lecture for this weekend's Landscape Infrastructure conference. The conference, organized by GSD Landscape professor Pierre Bélanger, is subtitled...

  • Apeira: architectural speculation

    Hi Archinect! Just to mention that my former roommate, recent GSD M.Arch.II grad (and thesis prize winner) Etien Santiago, has launched a new print and online journal called 'Apeira.' The first issue includes: The Whole of Apeira / Etien Santiago Fêlure in Humans and Machines / Lea Anglais...

  • Comment: GPS-based social networking, or the death of the flaneur

    Although I'm actually pretty keen on the potentials of pervasive computing, the current hype about GPS-based social networking apps makes me uneasy. The idea is that your mobile device will be able to tell you when somebody in your vicinity has or shares certain interests (or other...

  • Live Blog: Rem Koolhaas

    Hi Archinect! Koolhaas in the haas. Omagawd! [Photo from Chauhaus--our cafeteria--courtesy of Paul Cattaneo.] Koolhaas just introduced the study-abroad Rotterdam studio he's teaching in the fall, and now...he's giving a talk called "Current Preoccupations," with Q+A led by Sanford Kwinter and K...

  • Live Blog: "Ethics of the Urban: the City and the Spaces of the Political"

    Hi Archinect, I'm sitting on the floor in a very stuffy, very tiny room for the last session of this weekend's conference, "Ethics of the Urban: the City and the Spaces of the Political." Gerald Frug and Richard Sennett are speaking, moderated by Neil Brenner. 4:45: Gerald Frug: "Richard Sennett...

  • Live Blog: Saskia Sassen, "Immigrants and Citizens in the Global City"

    Hi Archinect! The sultry r&b is playing, and Saskia Sassen is in front of the gold curtain this Friday night for the keynote lecture of the conference, "Ethics of the Urban: the City and the Spaces of the Political." This is the third in a series of conferences organized by Dean Mostafavi...

  • Live Blog: Samuel Klein, "Future of Civic Participation: Lessons from the cult of Wikipedians"

    Hi Archinect, I'm at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government tonight for a talk with Samuel Klein, Trustee at Wikipedia. It's a small crowd, but we'll see how it goes. 6:43: How ironic, we're starting with some technical difficulties. 6:44: SK is asking who has started a Wikipedia entry that...

  • Live Blog: Richard Sennett, "The Architecture of Cooperation"

    Hi Archinect! I'm a bit under the weather today, but this is one not to miss. Richard Sennett, the GSD's Senior Loeb Fellow for 2012 (and faculty member at New York University and the London School of Economics) is talking about the "Architecture of Cooperation": “The theme of the lecture...

  • Live Blog: “Design Technologies as Agents of Change,” with Bock, Seletsky, Oxman, Rocker, and Bechthold.

    Hi Archinect! Tonight's event is called “Design Technologies as Agents of Change,” with Thomas Bock (TU Munich), Paul Seletsky (ArcSphere New York), Rivka Oxman (Technion Haifa), and Ingeborg Rocker (GSD). Moderated by Martin Bechthold (GSD). Three Germans tonight! 6:32: It's still a...

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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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