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 Tschumi, Dean Mostafavi, and K. Michael Hays had a "conversation" planned. This means that 100+ people were crowded into a small underventilated** room, eating sandwiches and cupcakes, listening, looking, and asking questions. It was great, even though I somehow managed to smear chocolate icing across the front of my sweater.
Tschumi's message, in a nutshell, was to point out and problematize the current emphasis on the envelope--that is, on architecture as surface and exterior form as represented through hyper-real renderings, in which all the projects look the same--at the expense of program.
Bernard Tschumi Quote One (the take-home message):
"Because we get all our information on the internet and we watch it on the screen, there are certain images that just don't get through. The exploded axonometric, the drawings of Eisenman, they just don't read on the screen. The hyper-realist renderings are what read on the screen. So there's a discussion of diagrams but the popular mode of representation is the hyper-realist image."
Bernard Tschumi Quote Two (a more nuanced view, he's basically saying that the "death" of criticality today isn't an absolute shift from the past):
"Even though retrospectively we think there was so much going on in the 1970s, remember it was only a small group of people, and they basically all knew each other. And sometimes this kind of [critical] discourse is at the forefront of things and sometimes it's not, but it's never as simple as the activists of the 1920s made it sound: 'Now the time for thinking is over. Now is the time for action.'"
Bernard Tschumi Quote Three (just to continue with the lunch theme):
"...Because in the last 40 years, it was not a global discussion of architecture. If you were in Venice with Tafuri, if you were in New York, these were different conversations: it was a whole series of discussions from a number of very specific local discourses, each creating its own oppositions. Think about that! Nobody today would name an architecture magazine "Oppositions." Today, there's a common discourse, and we're all using the same software. So what I'm trying to say is, 'hey, we don't have that anymore. We're all in the same soup.'"
K Michael Hays Quote One:
"There's a floating question in the school, at least for some of us: the moment that we moved from critique to technique, we stopped drawing
buildings and moved towards simulation. I hesitate because it sounds so old school to say this, but in a way, at the same time we went from drawing to simulation, we moved from diagram to surface. And we've decided to stop teaching drawing as such in the school, if that's fair to say."
In response, Dean Mostafavi objected:
"That's not entirely true; drawing is very important in the school today, but it's a different method of arriving at that drawing; part of this is about the parametric, and where the drawing comes from.
What do you think about this? I'm ambivalent about whether the parametric is actually about drawing, even if it can produce beautiful things (and even if it can be justified and theorized in ways that are not directly about representation per se).
I should mention that my MArchI class took a (near-universally popular) course on freehand architectural drawing with T. Kelly Wilson in our first semester, so we did actually "learn to draw," even if only for a six-week module. But it seems that maybe this is changing at the GSD: sadly, our class was the last to have Kelly as an instructor and maybe the last to learn freehand drawing at all. I'm curious which other schools are still teaching freehand drawing and which are not--is yours?
Thanks for reading!
*buttmate: colloquial GSD term for the person with whom one shares a U-shaped desk area, the idea being that one spends the better part one's life "butt to butt" with this person. Mack Scogin has said that he's seen six buttmate pairs from his studios get married. (James and I have not yet made any such announcements.)
**We had just gotten out of a lecture in our Environmental Technologies of Buildings course with Christoph Reinhart, on infiltration and internal heat gains, and he said that buildings should have 10L/s of air exchange (exterior air coming in) per person in order to be well ventilated. Sitting in Stubbins, I was pretty sure we weren't getting our requisite 10L/s per person.
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.