Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

  • Live Blog: LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne at UC Berkeley

    Hello Archinect,

    I'm at UC Berkeley in the beautiful East Bay to hear Christopher Hawthorne speak at the College of Environmental Design. From the UC Berkeley website

    Christopher Hawthorne has been the architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times since 2004. Before coming to The Times, he was architecture critic for Slate and a frequent contributor to the New York Times. He is the author, with Alanna Stang, of “The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture.” Hawthorne grew up in Berkeley and has a bachelor’s from Yale, where he readied himself for a career in criticism by obsessing over the design flaws in his dormitory, designed by Eero Saarinen.

    6:44 pm: Introductions. "What really characterizes Hawthorne's writing is his search to find vigor...what creates that vigor and to put it in a setting of culture and place." He understands what is happening in the profession in both a large and small context.

    "What's marvelous about what Chris does is that he looks carefully at places, then walks past the boxes and labels and gets at how the piece works itself, and how it's part of an ongoing evolution of the profession." 

    Christopher Hawthorne: ..."In discussing what I would talk about tonight, we considered Sea Ranch and Los Angeles...but in the end I decided to do what I always hoped, as a student, that architects and critics would do. Which is: to hear about what those people were talking and thinking about at that moment, rather than what they've done in the past. You don't want to sit here and look at sections of the LA Times."

    My talk is called 'Basic' for reasons that will become apparent soon...

    "...If you have questions about writing, I'd also be interested to entertain those at the end of the talk."

    ...At the Venice Biennale, Rem Koolhaas' show was about the basic building blocks of architecture--ceiling, stairs, etc. So the opening space had a dropped ceiling and the idea was that the show was going to reveal what was behind architecture. If there's one thing Rem is good at, it's putting his finger to the wind and sensing what is there at the time.

    In some way the project was a rejection of the star system in architecture. The Biennale for me in the past has often been a good way to see who is new and up and coming, and this was very different. 

    Rem's project in some ways builds on a previous exhibition called Common Ground curated by David Chipperfield. As is often the case, the most interesting exhibition was one of the national exhibitions--in this case from Belgium--which foreshadowed Rem's, separating out the parts of architecture and exploring how they age. Even the exhibition catalog was cleverly designed--it was shrink-wrapped and as soon as you took off the wrapper, it started to curl and age in ways that you couldn't reverse.

    For many of us, there were strong echoes in Rem's exhibition of Rudofsky's book Architecture Without Architects--a book that also came out of a time of crisis for architecture, and concern about the environment.  

    There's also the connection between the 'fundamentals' and 'fundamentalism'; Rem doesn't make these choices lightly so I think he would have expected people to consider talk about this connection, which hasn't been forthcoming.

    The recent issue of Log also delves into the idea of fundamentals.

    In architecture since the crisis, there's been an effort to go back to Platonic forms. Herzog and de Meuron's Parish Museum was redone, changed after a pre-crisis scheme had been developed, and many critics including me thought that the new scheme was very effective.

    It's dangerous to look at awards as any kind of bellweather, but the political statement to give the Pritzker to Wang Shu may also signal a return to primitive forms.

    Or Studio Mumbai and it's attempts to talk about regionalism while also playing to a global magazine audience.

    Here's an exhibition at LA's REDCAT gallery right now...The Blue Whale by Cesar Pelli is in the show.

    Sou Fujimoto's work is also in this vein--he's very interested in the primitive hut. 

    Good luck trying to build this anywhere but Japan, but regardless it's a great essay about this idea.

    A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry.

    There's a race to see who can go back to the most primitive, the most basic basics. And lately who seems to be winning that race is Chilean architect Smiljan Radić who is moving in a more primordial direction.

    The other recent project that I've been covering quite a bit, that I'd put in this primordial category is Zumthor's project for LACMA. The tar pits are right there in the [lower right corner].

    Zumthor is playing with the idea of destruction [which has also played out in popular culture's imagining of this project, since the beginning.] One of the images of the project that's gotten a lot of attention is this one in which these animals look like they're about to be taken over by the tar pit. 

    Change in plan: the only way to maintain the square footage and avoid the tar pits has been to turn the building south, which I think weakens the project.

    The tar pits continue to be both an inspiration and, I think, frustration for an architect like Zumthor. 

    Going back to an earlier time when architects were returning to fundamentals, here's Danziger Studio, built by Frank Gehry in 1964. This is before the more aggressive forms that made Gehry famous. It's a deadpan look at the streetscape of Los Angeles.

    The recurrence of fish for Gehry--I asked him about the fish a few years ago in a series of videos I did for the LA Times--I'll show a short clip [see below--Gehry talks about fish being from millions of years ago, and how the idea just came to him and started to be absorbed into his work.]

    So the question is, what's causing this turn? I think it's a reaction to excess in terms of scale and client, if you think about Baku and this Zaha building--projects where the rendering and real building can't be distinguished, or distinguished in disappointing ways.

    There's an environmental element to this, certainly. 

    And also a political frustration. One of the things I find fascinating about architecture is the way it highlights struggles--in this case, the failed collaboration between Daniel Libeskind and SOM.

    "Here's the building that is soon to be the tallest building on the New York skyline, by Rafael Viñoly. There's a sense that this building is less architecture, than a container for capital--like the skyline of Dubai, capturing excess wealth. There is capital from all over the world to reside in this container."

    Spotify and our ability today to call up any old song...are related to a kind of retromania. ...We have the strange situation of teenagers listening to the same music as their parents, instead of using music as a form of rebellion. So there's a kind of stagnation in music...and also in architecture.

    ...The emblematic project for this in Los Angeles is the Ace Hotel, the old United Artists' building. Ace is really great at knowing where a neighborhood is about to turn.


    In LA, gentrification is creeping southward. In some ways this is a successful preservation story, for example in the theater, with this Spanish gothic.

    But there's also an anachronistic layering of architectural references. It's different from postmodernism, more about a kind of ease that the current generation feels in moving from one historical representation to another, just like it's easy to move from one track on Spotify to another. There are direct quotations of the Schindler House--not sure how many people drinking cocktails there pick up on that--and to Vienna, and a Mayan cement block style. [Note: I'm pulling images off the internet to illustrate this post, and the pictures I found of Ace Hotel's interior aren't the same ones that CH showed--they're a bit less architect-y].

    This building isn't discussed that much because the designers are a bit outside architecture culture, or at least out of architecture academia. I think this building deserves a lot more attention that it gets, for being emblematic of this use of history.

    Your generation has such a different relationship to history, which I think will be one of the most fascinating chapters to follow in architectural history in the next several years. Thank you very much.


    Question from the audience about "the current situation in the bay area." CH: Having grown up here I watch with great interest. If you grow up in Berkeley, you are brainwashed to hate Los Angeles. I've been surprised how much I like Los Angeles. It's incredibly tolerant, it's the least judgemental city I've been in. Although that can cause some problems, in terms of creative work that's a fantastic quality. San Francisco and the Bay Area...strike me as increasingly provincial. It's a more judgmental place.

    Seeing what the first wave of dot-com money did to the city, we're seeing 5x that now. I'm more interested in seeing growth and development in San Francisco than in individual projects. Seeing at how Market Street has been remade by tech companies, there's been a sense of ease about history, which gives me optimism. But in general I think in San Francisco there's too much money in too small a place.

    Question from the audience about the relationship between quotation and the interior project. CH: I think that has a lot to do with LA, as a place where you can't do "grown-up" architecture. We think of LA as a place where young firms make their name doing interior projects. 

    In one way there's more freedom because interiors are a part of practice that has been ignored in 'serious' discourse. Freedom gives you room to do terrible things, which also makes room to do some great things. I think there's been an interior turn in LA, and I think there needs to be a more rigorous conversation about what that means, and I don't think architecture schools are doing that.

    The offices that I'm most interested in have forced themselves into the fray, and have figured out what it takes to build even though that means imperfections. This goes back to Irving Gill and Schindler and Neutra, but what's different now is a layer of complexity and regulation. 

    Question from the audience: Unlike the major markets, where you say the individual project isn't happening, are there places in the United States where it is? CH: It's a great question I've been thinking a lot of about--next year I'm hoping to tackle this question of regionalism in the context of a digital architects, especially with younger architects. I wouldn't say there are particular cities that come to mine.

    Question from the audience: Are you seeing more interest among your readers about the existing built environment and adaptive reuse? CH: I did a series on boulevards in LA...a city that is so connected to the car. Thinking about the street as public space, park space, in a city that lacks such things. In LA you have to think both at the local and much larger regional scale, and the boulevards are the only things that are changing at both scales.

    Also, during the recession, there was not a lot new being produced. I didn't pursue these topics for that reason, though--I have been interested in what happens after an intense 50 years of privatizing public spaces. But now there are new projects again, and I have to think about the balance between talking about the city as well as covering [the traditional critic territory of new construction]. 

    I'm losing my steam here during the question period, but CH also shouts out to Woodbury University as an architecture school that reflects the demographics of Los Angeles, but also thinking beyond that; casts shade at Patrik Schumacher ("as hard as he tries, parametricism isn't politically relevant"); and mentions his recent piece on MIchael Maltzan's One Santa Fe.

    Thanks for reading!


    Gehry on fish

  • Live Blog - San Francisco NERT Training, Class 2

    Hi Archinect,I'm back at San Francisco's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team Training, for our second class. Same disclaimer as last time: this isn't really about architecture, but I AM focusing on aspects that relate to the built environment. 6:40 pm: The dust in the air after 9-11 spread...

    That escalated quickly.

  • Live Blog - San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) Training

    Hi Archinect,I'm in a hospital basement auditorium in San Francisco for the first of six sessions to learn how to be part of the city's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team. It's a volunteer team, and the city offers the 20 hour training for free in order to help build the city's resilience in...

  • Ai Weiwei is @Large on Alcatraz

    Hi Archinect,Here are some images from Alcatraz, including Ai Weiwei's new show called @Large, open until April 26 2015. Organized by the For-Site Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, @Large includes seven new installations that...

  • Live Blog: W. Gavin Robb, "Roots Run Deep: A Tomb for Manfredo Tafuri" (M.Arch thesis)

    Hi Archinect!W. Gavin Robb is presenting his M.Arch thesis, “Roots Run Deep: A Tomb for Manfredo Tafuri."The tomb and the sublime are closely linked.Relation between technology and buildings at this scale. Empathy: a tight fit between a body and its space.Instrument: a domestic scale and an...

  • Live Blog: Anya Domlesky, "HOT ROT: A Breakdown Manual" (MLA thesis)

    Hi Archinect,I’m at the GSD for thesis reviews—Anya Domlesky is presenting “HOT ROT: A Breakdown Manual” for her MLA degree.Landscape architects should be not just the apologists or ameliorators for solid waste, but active agents in the procedures of dealing with waste.The site is South...

  • Live Blog - Marian Dörk, "From Bird's-eye Views to Street-Level Data Exploration: Taking Text for a Stroll"

    Hi Archinect!From the OpenVis Conf website:Marian Dörk is a research professor for information visualization at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. Motivated by the design opportunities and research challenges arising from growing information spaces, Marian is particularly interested in...

  • Live Blog - Mauricio Giraldo, "NYPL Labs Building Inspector" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!The full title of Mauricio's talk is "NYPL Labs Building Inspector: Extracting Data from Historic Maps." From the OpenVis Conf website:Mauricio enjoys playing with code, objects and all things interactive. He is currently an interaction designer at NYPL Labs, The New York Public...

  • Live Blog - Robert Simmon, "Subtleties of Color" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!Back for the second day of this great event. From the OpenVis Conf website:The purpose of data visualization is to illuminate data. To show patterns and relationships that are otherwise hidden in an impenetrable mass of numbers.In many datasets, color is one of the most effective...

  • Live Blog - Andy Kirk, "The Design of Nothing: Null, Zero, Blank" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!From the OpenVis Conference Website:  Andy Kirk is a UK-based freelance data visualisation specialist. Andy in February 2010 and this has grown to become a popular source of information about the data visualisation field. He became a freelance...

  • Live Blog - Jen Christiansen, "Visualizing Science," at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!The full title of Jen Christiansen's talk is "Visualizing Science: Developing Information Graphics for Scientific American Magazine."From the OpenVis Conf website: From its first data-based chart (on the topic of inertia, momentum, and projection) up through to today's web...

  • Live Blog - Kennedy Elliot, "Coding for the News," at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect,Kennedy Elliot is up now, talking about using data in journalism.From the OpenVis Conf website: Each week the Washington Post publishes five to ten graphics, many of which are interactive and nearly all of them have a web presence. The reach of the graphics department covers breaking...

  • Live Blog - Mike Bostok from the New York Times, at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    Hello Archinect!I'm in East Cambridge for the two day OpenVis Conference hosted by Bocoup, an open web technology company based here in Boston.Mike Bostok, graphics editor for The New York Times, is the first speaker. From the conference website: He is also the author of D3.js, a popular...

  • Live Blog - Eric Fischer, "Mapping Billions of Dots" at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    Hi Archinect!Eric Fischer is up next at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf. From the conference website: Eric Fischer is a data artist and software developer at Mapbox. He was previously an artist in residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and before that was on the Android team at Google. His work...

  • Yestermorrow Design/Build for Public Interest

    Hello Archinect,This is a throwback to 2007 for me, when I attended the two week design/build course led by Jersey Devil co-founders Steve Badanes and Jim Adamson, along with New York-based architect Bill Bialosky. I had the pleasure of seeing Steve at our ACSA Annual Conference in Miami a couple...

  • Review - GSD's "Platform 6: A Year of Research through Studio Work, Theses, Lectures, Exhibitions and Events"

    [Image from Pimentel.]“You will be remembered for what you leave out or neglect.”Rosetta Elkin, Editor of Platform 6, includes these words in a short meta-essay entitled “Editing Pedagogy,” in which she retroactively imagines a brief for the project of gathering, selecting, and...

    Flip-through of Platform 6

  • Live Blog - Manuel Castells, "The Space of Autonomy: Cyberspace and Urban Space in Networked Social Movements"

    Hi Archinect,It's a packed house in (half) Piper tonight for Manuel Castells, Professor of Communication Technology and Society, USC Los Angeles. His talk responds to recent movements in Brazil and Turkey, drawing on themes from his book Networks of Outrage and Hope; Social Movements in...

  • Live Blog - Christopher Glaisek and Bruce Kuwabara on Waterfront Toronto

    Hello Archinect,I'm back in Piper to see Christopher Glaisek, vice president of planning and design for WATERFRONToronto, and Bruce Kuwabara, founding partner of Toronto-based KPMB Architects and now Chair of the Board at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. As a...

  • Review - "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon

    Hi Archinect!Okayyyyyy, I'm back at the GSD to watch "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon (2012), a film about the origins of Studio H's design/build education taught by Emily Pilloton and her team of teachers (including GSD grad Hallie Chen!).Studio H now hails from...

    If You Build It Official Trailer

  • Live Blog - Kyle Bergman and John Connell in conversation

    Hi Archinect,After the screening of If You Build It, film festival director Kyle Bergman and John Connell, the founder of Yestermorrow Design Build School, had a short conversation and I wanted to share it with you here. I was interested to see Connell live, as I had been to Yestermorrow for...

  • Live Blog - Futures Past: Design and the Machine (Mindell, Steenson, Theodore, Galison)

    Hi Archinect!Drew Harry and I are here at MIT’s Media Lab for Futures Past: Design and the Machine, a conference organized by Duks Koschitz (Pratt/MIT), Olga Touloumi (Harvard GSD), and Theodora Vardouli (MIT). (Don’t worry, Kanye is not in the house though if you haven't been sated yet, you...

  • Update - GSD African American Student Union and Dean Mohsen comment on Kanye West Visit

    Hi Archinect, Over the past few days there have been over 30,000 views of this blog's Archinect post on Kanye, and many times that number of reposts and articles about the event at other media outlets (including Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, USA Today, and Buzzfeed). It seems as if...

  • VIDEO - Kanye stops by studio to talk about architecture with students

    Hi Archinect, Yeezy surprised students tonight with a short visit to Harvard GSD's design studio. I REALLY like Kanye--Late Registration, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Watch the Throne basically got me through studio, from first year to thesis--so I'm bummed that I wasn't there. He...

    Kanye speaks with architecture students at Harvard Graduate School of Design (Video by and courtesy of Flavio Sciaraffia.)

  • Live Blog - Mohsen Mostafavi in Conversation with Nicholas Negroponte

    Hi Archinect! Co-live-blogging tonight with Drew Harry from MIT Media Lab. Full house in (half) Piper! From the GSD website: Mohsen Mostafavi, architect and educator, is the dean and the Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at the Harvard GSD. His work focuses on modes and...

  • Live Blog - Walid Raad and Theaster Gates in Conversation, with Mohsen Mostafavi, "On Art and Cities"

    Hi Archinect! I'm co-live-blogging tonight with Allison Green, a first-year student in the GSD's Master of Urban Planning program who is also starting to blog at Archinect. From the GSD website: Theaster Gates, an artist trained as an urban planner and sculptor, has developed a practice that...

  • Live Blog - Robert Wilson, Sensory Media Platform

    Hi Archinect! Full-ish house in Piper tonight. From the GSD's website: Robert Wilson is among the world's foremost theater and visual artists, acclaimed for stage works that integrate dance, movement, lighting, sculpture, music, and text in striking, emotionally charged images. His productions...

  • Live Blog - Craig Edward Dykers, The Psychology of Space and the Moving Body

    Hi Archinect! I'm at the Boston Society of Architect's BSA Space for a lecture from Craig Edward Dykers, Founding Partner at Snøhetta. It's the opening event for the Association of Architecture Organizations' conference "Making and Measuring IMPACT: The Value of Architecture and...

  • Live Blog - Panel Discussion: Frontiers of Design Criticism

    Hi Archinect! I'm back at the GSD for a panel moderated by Shantel Blakely of Harvard GSD Public Programs called "Frontiers of Design Criticism." From the GSD website:  Today the feedback, spin, and other acts of interpretation that were once the preserve of historians and other experts are...

  • Live Blog - Dorie Clark, "Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future"

    Hi Archinect, Fair warning: this one isn't architecture. I'm at a Harvard Alumni event--author and marketing, branding, and business strategy expert Dorie Clark is talking about "reinventing yourself." Clark is an alumnus of Harvard's Divinity School. Clark opens with an anecdote about Joanne...

  • Useless Architectures: Interview with 2013 SOM Prize Winner James Leng

    The SOM Prize is an annual $50 000 fellowship allowing a recent graduate of an accredited American undergraduate or graduate program in architecture, urban design, or related fields to conduct research and travel for a project of their choice. The SOM Foundation recently announced James Leng, who...

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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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