Harvard GSD M.Arch.I (Lian)

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

  • Live Blog: Naginski, Jarzombek, Savage, and Wodiczko on Memory, Vision, and Practice

    Hi Archinect!

    Live-blogging tonight from Piper Auditorium, where we somewhat inexplicably (and to my endless fascination) have a new gold lamé curtain. Krzysztof Wodiczko, Erika Naginski, Mark Jarzombek, and Kirk Savage are talking in an event marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The webcast can also be seen here.

    6:48 pm: Krzysztof is starting things off by talking about the notion of memorial. "Someone said that our era is not post-modern, but post-traumatic."

    "How do we build memorials that inspire pro-active engagements, so that the next generation has fewer tragic events to commemorate, and fewer memorials to build?"

    Now he's introducing Mark, listing off all his awards, publications, and fellowships, and in the middle of the list, Mark gets up and starts walking to the podium, trying to get Krzysztof to stop. Laughter.

    image [Gold lamé curtain, with Mark Jarzombek in the foreground.]

    6:53 pm: "When we talk about memorials, we often assume that it's somehow a question of design, compatibility, and politics, as if we somehow know what the event is that we're memorializing, but just not the memorial itself."

    Mark is framing his presentation from below, from the point of view of death--something which has changed in recent years and since 9/11. He uses a quote that also appears as an epigraph to his paper called "The Post-traumatic Turn and the Art of Walid Ra'ad and Krzysztof Wodiczko: From Theory to Trope and Beyond."

    I'm too lazy to re-type the quote. Just look at it here:


    What is the death-making that lurks within the social fabric? What does popular marketing tell us about the psychiatric industry of death? "The irony, of course, is that humans have been killing each other for millions of years...but it was only in 1992 that PTSD was recognized--and then, only for Vietnam War veterans." So it's only now that "we recognize the consequences of the crap that we do to each other." But "now that we've opened this up, there's no turning back."

    "We've produced a culture where death-making is ever more remote. you get an interesting paradigm in which PTSD has been proposed but [with pharmaceuticals] we can heal it." He's suggesting that it's in the best interests of the pharmaceutical industry for large parts of the world to continue what he calls its "DNNS" or "Dysfunctional nation-state syndrome."

    7:00 pm: Mark is done; Erika's up next, introduced by Krzysztof who comments that he pronounces "Naginski" the Polish way.

    7:04 pm: After excusing herself for being a historian of earlier periods than today's topic, Erika opens by reference to a piece by Simon Schama in the Financial Times called "The remains of that day." ...The title of this essay refers to Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Remains of the Day as well as ("equally obviously," Erika says) Freud's "residues of the day," in the form of dreams. The memorial is, in Schama's view,"a model of moral tact and poetic indirection."

    For Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial, Erika sees that "while we find abstraction and figuration," it's more often the abstraction that we respond to. But figuration haunts us. "I'm struck by how abstraction and figuration have, in truth, haunted each other's margins.

    ...But if minimalism is perceived as being "locked in a nostalgic state," then...

    [Oh good grief, Archinect, I am OUT of live-blogging shape and cannot keep up...I wasn't really able to properly catch the gist of either Mark or Erika's talks. I will do what we're supposed to do in studio: try harder.]

    7:15 pm: Krzysztof introduces Kirk Savage.

    Savage: "I'm very conscious of being an out-of-towner here--the only one on this particular stage...and that my thoughts are still pretty raw on this. I'm still puzzling through my responses [to a recent visit, over the September 11 weekend, to the 9/11 memorials]."

    "We can begin with Washington D.C., which became an incredible space of the mid-20th century, during the Vietnam War. If you go to the Vietnam War Memorial today, you hardly hear a murmur about the anti-war movement. It's only recently that it's burst into public space in a small way, at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial."


    "What tends to happen is that the cacophony of voices is radically simplified, and the monument gets radically condensed into something like a list of names."

    [President Obama, President Bush, and First Lady Michelle Obama at World Trade Center memorial on September 11, 2011.]

    "I went to the site of the Flight 93 Memorial [on the 11th]. This has particular potency for us because this is not only where the passengers made an act of resistance but also because they did it in a democratic way: they took a vote before deciding to attack the terrorists."

    "Before you enter the site--which is huge, you drive in 2 or 3 miles...and in effect it's a national park--there are text panels that explain the significance of the site and the response of the passengers on the plane, as well as names and pictures of the faces of the passengers."

    "...After walking down a long path, you get to the listing of names which is, by now, pretty much mandatory in monuments of this kind. The name of each passenger is listed on these beautiful granite panels. The scale of the solution is interesting: the idea is that the fewer individuals are commemorated in a memorial, the more space can be used to focus on each one." If this were the Vietnam War Memorial, Savage says, the wall would be several miles long. "So there's an extraordinary pressure put on the individuals and the commemorative weight that they have to hold."

    "The ceremonies at the Flight 93 site were, if anything, more elaborate than those at the World Trade Center, with three presidential administrations [Obama, Clinton, Bush] represented."

    Quoting from George W. Bush's speech on Sept 10 at the commemoration of the memorial: "At the moment America's democracy was under attack, our citizens defied their captors by holding a vote. The choice they made would cost them their lives, and they knew it. [...] With their selfless act, the men and women who stormed the cockpit lived out the words, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And with their brave decision, they launched the first counter offensive of the war on terror."

    Savage points out that this is a bit revisionary: "not to diminish the presence of mind and bravery of the passengers," but Savage in fact points out that phone conversations between passengers and their families suggest that the passengers knew that they'd die if they did nothing, and that attacking the terrorists was, if anything, the only way that they might live.

    Elaine Scarry has argued that the military was helpless on September 11, and that "the only successful defense that day [September 11] was was carried out by the passengers on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania."

    Turning to the design of the memorial, Savage is saying that he has a problem with it: it has a perimeter wall that keeps visitors out of the field which is the crash site. "And when we come to the end of the black [perimeter] wall to the white wall where the names are listed, there's a gate." It's a rough-hewn wooden gate, and "the only people allowed through the gate to the crash site are family members and other important people." "There was a big crater at the crash site that has been filled in, covered with a boulder, and planted with wildflowers...and it is in a sense doubly-sacred; it's also where the remains of the people who died are, since the plane was largely incinerated when it crashed. And that is the general rationale for why the public is not allowed out there."


    "So President Obama and his wife walked out there on September 11, but most of us stayed behind the gate. And it was unprecedented; I couldn't think of anything like it in the United States. Many thousands of people died at Gettysburg; many of their remains are presumably under there [and you can walk on the site]." Similarly, Savage argues, it's also different from the ABMC cemetery at Normandy.

    "This led me to think more about questions of democratic accessibility and debate that would take place at sites like this, where the public is almost completely excluded, or herded into a particular location; and for me the gate itself stood for an emblem of the experience. And you'll see ordinary tourists there, putting their point-and-shoots in the gaps of the gate to take photos."

    7:40pm: Presentations done. Discussion time.

    Krzysztof: "I've never been a moderator. I've been moderated, but not moderator. And nor am I moderate. But..." he asks Mark about the question of memorials.

    Mark: "...I was interested in another history...we've already assimilated terror, and monuments become strangely ineffective."

    Krzysztof: "The trauma industry."

    Mark: "I don't want to point my finger just at them, but...for 9/11, if this allows Time Magazine to come out with a new history of America--if it allows us to find America--then we evoke death at every turn to [narrate] America."

    Erika: "The trauma history that we know...also has a complicated history. There's no word, "trauma," in the early modern period. But the execution of Louis XVI was celebrated, or it caused Kant to lose the ability to philosophize. ...So I think that trauma itself can be associated with a post-capitalist, consumerist relationship with death."

    Krzysztof: "What is the origin or history of the term 'nameless'?"

    Erika: "The notion that you could have a monument to the public or the 'nameless' is in the 18th century." Hercules is "all brawn and no brains." But the first instance that Erika knows is in the 18th century of a monument to an anonymous or class-based personhood.

    Krzysztof is asking: what about other people who should also be memorialized--children in Iraq? And what about the aftermath and afterlife?

    Savage: "There's an incredible power in naming: who you name or not. What categories of people don't deserve to be named on a monument. But one of the first questions I asked myself after 9/11 was why people thought that the names of the victims deserved to be etched in stone, because in an earlier period they wouldn't have been."

    "But the all-encompassing power of the names drains after a few years. That's why a visitor's center is being built right now at the Vietnam War Memorial; they say that the names have become anonymous. Think of that; it's an oxy-moron."

    "A Washington Post columnist argued that we should take down monuments as they become obsolete." ...But about the memorials that were commemorated this weekend, "at some point the family members of those victims will die off, and that memorial [for flight 93] will become [obsolete]."

    Erika: "when you broached the question of public access, I remember an archive in Paris on this question: on the distance and barriers to monuments; how you calibrate vision. For this, you have to recognize that there's a public to be controlled."

    7:54 pm: Krzysztof is opening the floor to the audience for questions. He finds some occasion to say (quoting someone else, I think) that: "there is a terrorist in each of us."

    And they're talking about the American tradition of leaving Beanie Babies at sites of tragedies, as a spontaneous memorialization. Mark: "...a meaningless vomit of schluff; you go to the mall and buy a teddy bear and leave it there."


    Mark: "And minimalism is no longer a Maya Lin, slightly counter-culture aesthetic. It's state-sponsored. Pretty soon, architects are going to wake up and realize that whenever you design some minimalist thing and call it a holocaust memorial. When I was in Israel, I went around and took photos of every odd, minimalist thing that could be a holocaust memorial. Of course, they weren't, but a piece of concrete or an odd chair. ...There's a saturation that isn't going to be able to survive much longer. People will get sick of looking at minimalist things and trying to figure them out. So as architects we should be really frightened, because minimalism is what we do."


    Thanks for reading!

    P.S. The Tokyo studio lottery was announced today. I did not get a spot in it, but it's OK because I've been shopping another course that I'm really keen on for next semester, and I think I might have secured a seat in it. But for this semester, my final roster is: Weiss/Manfredi for studio, as well as Building Technologies with Mark Mulligan, a seminar/workshop on books with Lars Müller, and a column and opinion writing course with Jeffrey Seglin.

  • Tennis, not architecture.

    Hi Archinect! This post is as advertised. "Site visit" on Saturday, September 3, 2011 to our site from last semester's studio project--Flushing Meadows. [I was crouched in the bushes like a pervert to take this photo. Tennis fans, you know that I know that you know who this is.] Now I'm back at my...

  • Schmancy new website for the GSD

    Hello Archinect! Just a quick note to say that it looks like the GSD's new website, which has been in the works for the past few years, is live! I haven't even looked through it yet, but you can check it out here. The site is designed by Lisa Strausfeld's team at Pentagram. Thanks for looking!...

  • Arigatou gozaimasu, Mohsen-sama!

    Hello Archinect!!! I was very happy to wake up to this email from Dean Mostafavi this morning:Dear Students, Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to this semester’s Paris studio offering, we have made plans to continue the Study Abroad Program in Tokyo for the Spring 2012 term. Toyo...

  • Gund Hall is Naked

    Hello Archinect! Like everyone else who's heading back to school this fall, I'm not yet prepared to let go of summer. There are so many things I wanted to do but haven't yet done! I just need a bit more time. I'm not ready yet! Apparently, Gund Hall feels the same way: The GSD's 75th anniversary...

  • Slow summer...slummer

    Hello Archinect, All good things must come to an end. This summer, for me, has brought a little bit of work and a lot of rest, with plenty of time to rehab my ankle, to catch up with friends, and to neurotically develop and re-develop my five-year plan reconnect with what really matters to me...

  • The long road

    Hi Archinect! You may have seen from an earlier post that I broke my ankle at the end of May. Here is an update on my recovery, and also my first Archinect video blog! Thanks for watching, Lian

  • On Loyalties Divided (re: sacking of Michael Jemtrud at McGill)

    Hello Archinect, This past Thursday, Michael Jemtrud was forced to resign as Director of McGill University School of Architecture. My response to this news is not unbiased. It is entirely biased because this is entirely personal. I want to tell you why this, for me, is the only possible response...

  • things of unusual beauty (x rays of my broken bones)

    Hello Archinect! So, I had a bicycle accident almost three weeks ago now, in which I broke three bones and dislocated my tibia. Yesterday I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and got copies of my x-rays and the radiologist's descriptions of them. Here is...

  • Live Blog: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron

    Hello Archinect! Live-Blogging Herzog and de Meuron's lecture at the GSD this afternoon, after their directed thesis studio had their final reviews. Introduction by Dean Mohsen Mostafavi. 4:08 pm: JH: I don't believe in books on architecture; they're bound to fail and disappear even sooner than...

  • Korean Dance-Off and Cory Booker

    Hello Archinect! Korea GSD hosts one of the very best Beer and Dogs* events of the year because they prepare Korean food and a dance performance. This year, the Graduate School of Education (GSE) also sent a group to perform. The GSE team. I wish I could dance. The GSD team. They did us proud...

  • In which I question David Brooks on his support of the GOP budget. Read Brooks' reply.

    Hi Archinect! David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times, spoke at the GSD this evening as part of the Kennedy School's 'Science and Democracy' series. The talk was called “Politics, the Brain, & Human Nature,” and covered many of the talking points from Brooks'...

  • Letter from "Harvard Design School" re: Ai Weiwei

    Hello Archinect! Thanks for looking. Lian

  • 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...

  • 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...

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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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