Harvard GSD



Sep '04 - Aug '08

  • And Now It Is Done (thesis and all)

    By bryan boyer
    Aug 4, '08 1:34 AM EST

    Stepping into these first days of August I finally find myself with some free time. I spent the entirety of my last year at the GSD completely enmeshed in my thesis work which was the design of a new US Capitol Building. I expected my life to get a lot more simple as soon as my thesis crit was over, but of course that didn't happen. First there were post-thesis parties, then there were portfolios to be made, graduation (oh yeah, that), and a family wedding to attend.

    For the first half of the summer I was a studio instructor in the Career Discovery program here at the GSD. Exciting and exhausting and a great way to end my time at the GSD. The students are super excited about having their first taste of architecture and it gave me some time to work on my portfolio and start to sort out my job search.

    As a last post to my school blog I figured it was fitting to share a bit of my thesis project (This conversation on thesis projects in general is also interesting).

    A note about process

    I found it incredibly useful to keep a blog about my project while I was compiling the research. Having a group of thesis-mates who were also keeping blogs gave me a bit of a nagging incentive to post regularly but it was also the medium that I used to communicate with my advisor. All entries I thought he should read were tagged for him. When I started working on the design project I switched to tumblr since its formatting and interface are better suited for a quick and dirty progress blog. The way archives are displayed is particularly nice.


    Advisor: Timothy Hyde

    Final Jury: Diana Agrest, Henry Cobb, P. Scott Cohen, Joe MacDonald, Detlef Martin, John McMorrough, Michael Meredith, Robert Somol, Sarah Whiting.

    Program: US Capitol

    "At 10am, the delegates walked to the Carpenters� Hall, where they took a view of the Room... The general cry was that this was a good Room and the question was put, whether we were satisfied with this Room."- John Adams recounting the first meeting of the Continental Congress on September 5, 1774

    What happens when the symbolic life of a building outweighs its functional life? Since its initial construction the US Capitol has become a key symbol of democracy that now threatens the very process for which it serves as an icon: the inner workings of the Congress are actively hobbled by a prohibition against making visible modifications to the Capitol building.

    Starting with intense research into the history of the Capitol Building and the Congress, this thesis proposes a new US Capitol Building that uses the fabric of Washington, DC and the structure of the American political system to align the needs of representative democracy and architectural representation.

    Our New Capitol reacts differently to each of the city�s main axes, an initial asymmetry that satisfies the urban-scale problem of monumentality while allowing for freedom at the scale of the building to organize the different groups of inhabitants in a productive manner. A group of towers form the main image of the building from typical viewing distances in the city. Forming the monumental element of the building, these towers are still generic enough to allow the building to weather the vicissitudes of time.

    As a scheme that is expansive in both plan and section, the Congressional population is split into primary members (Senators/Representatives), committee experts, and public visitors, distributed such that they all converge on the meeting chambers now located at the very heart of the building.

    Circulation within the building is focused around a large interior plaza that acts as an extension of the National Mall and a programmatic connector for the Capitol. Hovering in the center of this plaza is a rock containing all of the meeting chambers for both Congressional bodies and all of their committees. As a foamy mix of spaces, the rock contains a variety of rooms from short to tall, big to small, and orthogonal to oblique that become an ad-hoc territory of decision making. Preceding politics there is always architecture.

    Notes on Representation

    I presented the project as a set of conventional architectural drawings in black ink on white paper (even printed them on the OCE) accompanied by a series of ephemera: four plates, a cross stitch, a pair of ash trays, and a sheet of new $50 bills. Given the program of the project these forms of representation are an essential test for the project. That is to say, rather than entertaining add-ons, all of the trinkets, photographs, and other ephemera of a building such as the Capitol are equally important as the life of it as an inhabited structure. Indeed, shortsighted thinking about the symbolic potential of the building is what put the building into the problem spot it's in now. Nevertheless, these alternate forms of representation did not seem to be taken well by the majority of the jury who seemed to assume I was being ironic and refused to believe me when I answered that I was absolutely serious. I mean, come on, I designed individual borders for each plate.

    Finally, a video

    Our New Capitol from bryan b on Vimeo.

    And in closing: Goodbye, school blog

    We were young, we learned new words, we shared our vices, we collected cups, we learned rhino, and now we're done. It was great; thanks for reading.


    Since the "what now" question always follows the "I graduated" comment, I am spending the month of August in Berlin at the PROGRAM Gallery, a fantastic institution run by the inimitable Carson Chan and Fotini Lazaridou Hatzigoga.

    View full entry

  • In Which A Forest Shutters

    By bryan boyer
    May 5, '08 2:11 PM EST

    This gem comes as an aside in a longer email from the GSD listserv: "in the 36 hours from Friday 5/2 - Monday, 5/5, ~1000 color plots were printed in preparation for this week's presentations. Exactly zero of those were mine. Thesis reviews are (mercifully) still more than a week away... View full entry

  • Elite Modeling School { Special Stairs Edition! }

    By bryan boyer
    Mar 16, '08 7:43 AM EST

    Dear internet,I'm sick of making stairs and auditorium risers by hand in Rhino. Easy enough if you're working with a continuous width per tread/riser but when you want to step an irregular plan shape it becomes a nightmare of trimming and clean up. No more!As per my usual warnings, this script is... View full entry

  • Neufert Vs. AGS: Cage Match

    By bryan boyer
    Mar 6, '08 2:34 AM EST

    Uh, yeah, excuse the absence. Little busy working on my thesis right now. My desk is lodged between two bookshelves so, as you may imagine, the books that are close at hand tend to matter to me a bit more than the ones that stray to the outer limits of the shelf. It's this immediate access that... View full entry

  • Zombie Eyes

    By bryan boyer
    Nov 2, '07 7:28 PM EST

    Last night I was in Providence, RI working in the Graduate Graphic Design studio down there with a friend who is doing the identity for the Space Rocks! event. It was nice to be back at RISD for a bit, but it always sucks to be up all night. So here's the question, what do you call it when you've... View full entry

  • Space Rocks, DARPA & Student Orgs

    By bryan boyer
    Oct 30, '07 2:06 AM EST

    I'm taking a break from Elite Modeling School while all sorts of other things are taking my time. The great thing about being in thesis prep is that I only have one class and ostensibly that would leave me with a lot of free time. However, the magic of grad school is that your workload expands... View full entry

  • Elite Modeling School { Day 3: Rhino }

    By bryan boyer
    Oct 18, '07 12:40 AM EST

    Once again, welcome back to Elite Modeling School. We hope you've been following along, otherwise you may want to jump in the time machine. As a reminder, we're not focusing on extreme cases: this tutorial is about optimizing your workflow in Rhino. In fact, this is the last day of Rhino tips (for... View full entry

  • Elite Modeling School { Day 2: Rhino }

    By bryan boyer
    Oct 12, '07 1:28 AM EST

    Welcome back to Elite Modeling School. If you missed it, day one would be a good place to start. As a reminder, we're not focusing on extreme cases: this tutorial is about optimizing your workflow in rhino and later maybe we'll cover other programs.In general, the instructions here will be fairly... View full entry

  • Elite Modeling School { Day 1: Rhino }

    By bryan boyer
    Oct 9, '07 7:32 PM EST

    Today I'm going to start a small series of posts summarizing some basic software techniques that will make your life easier. These have been accumulated over the past three years at the GSD and are not groundbreaking, but hopefully it will help someone (especially students who are just... View full entry

  • Open Letter to the ICA Boston

    By bryan boyer
    Sep 27, '07 11:01 AM EST

    Dear ICA, Congratulations on opening your Design Life Now show last night. It was excellent to see local faculty like Howeler Yoon, Scott Cohen, and surely others that I didn't even know were from the north east. As far as I can tell this is the first design show that the museum has hosted and it... View full entry

  • Personal Infrastructure

    By bryan boyer
    Sep 26, '07 1:13 AM EST

    Tonight at MIT Saskia Sassen lectured about the possibility of "cutting edge, state of the art architecture" behaving in the role of infrastructure to facilitate global capitalism. In summary, that there are certain qualities of space which cater to the needs of and assist the development of... View full entry

  • Oh, hello.

    By bryan boyer
    Sep 21, '07 12:21 AM EST

    Tap tap tap. Is this thing on? Well, that was a blur. In the past year I had one of the best studios of my life with Wes Jones, designed a Zeemonster during my second option studio with Francine Houben of Mecanoo, TA'd both semesters, and then spent the summer working in Spain for F451, a great... View full entry

  • Is it Fall already?

    By bryan boyer
    Sep 15, '06 4:14 AM EST

    Summer was nice and while it's great to see all my friends here at school, being back in Cambridge is a little less than exciting. This summer I worked for Toshiko Mori on Varrick St. in NYC. Varrick is an interesting place because it's stuffed with architects and designers. Our floor had... View full entry

  • End Of The Year Mess

    By bryan boyer
    Jun 12, '06 2:00 AM EST

    Commencement has come and gone, so this is a bit late, but here are a couple images of the devastation left after the end of the year. Not pictured are the piles and piles of models, drawings, and assorted crap that people heap into, onto, and near the trash cans. The semester ended well and I'm... View full entry

  • Zoom Extents

    By bryan boyer
    Apr 29, '06 6:48 AM EST

    I'm interetsed in how the UI in various programs informs our way of seeing. People often lament the 'lack of scale' in autocad and rhino-- a symptom of the ease with which one can zoom in and out-- but I think it's just a new way of thinking about the relationship between 2d and 3d, scale and... View full entry

  • That Time of Year Again

    By bryan boyer
    Apr 26, '06 5:41 PM EST

    Yes, final reviews are a mere thirteen days away. What am I doing with my time? Photographing the collection of beverage containers collecting on my desk. What's your favorite procrastination technique?YikesRandom, unexplained diagram. The best kind. View full entry

  • GSD Begins Green Roof Initiative

    By bryan boyer
    Apr 21, '06 2:20 PM EST

    Students in a course organized by Katrin Scholz-Barth recently installed a test patch of green roof on the top of the trays in Gund Hall. I believe that the intention is to cover the entire roof, but right now it's one column and one bay of green. Anyone in the class care to weigh in with more... View full entry

  • Chad

    By bryan boyer
    Mar 12, '06 11:59 AM EST

    How many ways can you pronounce "facade" in English? There's the standard way of saying it with the middle "ca" pronounced as "saw." Another typical way of saying it comes from native Spanish speakers who say "fuh-chad." The other day I added a new one to my collection: "fuh-sad". The speaker was... View full entry

  • The Good and The Bad

    By bryan boyer
    Feb 27, '06 11:23 PM EST

    The good news is, I finally figured out how to get usable surface geometries out of Cinema4D in such a way that Mastercam will let me make toolpaths for them. The (not really) bad (at all) news is that now I get to spend a lot of time in the basement routing said surfaces. Good thing these... View full entry

  • Barcelona! [and] Want a fellowship?

    By bryan boyer
    Feb 6, '06 12:53 AM EST

    With the fall semester finally over (Harvard has this weird hold-over system wherein finals are completed in late January after returning from the holiday), YK and I got out of Cambridge to clear our heads and, most importantly, thaw our toes for a while. Neither of us had been to Barcelona, so it... View full entry

  • Current Strategy

    By bryan boyer
    Dec 20, '05 4:26 AM EST

    The current strategy is: drink so much water that the need to urniate urinate keeps me awake. View full entry

  • a.l.m.o.s.t.

    By bryan boyer
    Dec 13, '05 8:37 PM EST

    We're down to 7 days till final review. Last night I drew out some sketch elevations and tightened the plans. As usual, I haven't gotten as far as I would have liked with this project. Have you ever been truly happy with the level of resolution of a studio project? EH came through studio a couple... View full entry

  • Not on Such a Roll Here With the Posts

    By bryan boyer
    Nov 4, '05 8:11 AM EST

    I'm not even going to fake any sort of narrative, all you get are some random images collected over the past few weeks.Every studio needs a rubber banana, doesn't it? The object that results from pouring casting rubber into a taped up banana peel is not only surprisingly realistic but also quite... View full entry

  • Oh No, Not Again!

    By bryan boyer
    Sep 30, '05 6:12 PM EST

    Today is the end of year two, week two at the GSD. My head is still on vacation and I'm slowly getting back into the groove of school. I spent the summer working at IDEO in San Francisco and Palo Alto, CA as part of their "Smart Space" group which deals with architectural and environmental... View full entry

  • Goodbye Sweden, Cambridge; Hello San Francisco, London!

    By bryan boyer
    Jun 3, '05 2:09 AM EST

    Student Forum sponsored three days of free massages during finals. I did not partake. The semester has been over for weeks (?) and I'm just now starting to recover. Lots of ice cream and sleeping in until noon every day have helped this process immensely.At least we only had to pay them $100+/hr... View full entry

  • The Real Inspiration Behind HdM's Munich Stadium

    By bryan boyer
    Jun 3, '05 2:05 AM EST

    Left: Pierre De Meuron's shoe during thesis crits @ the GSD. Allianz image from the Guardian. Now the secret's out. View full entry

  • 7 people, 17 hours, 1 cloud

    By bryan boyer
    May 15, '05 12:51 AM EST

    Wednesday morning we had our final reviews, which went fairly well considering the minimal amount of time I spent on studio. At 5pm that day we started working in the shop to finish up some last minute fabrication for the Swedish project. At 3am I went to logan and rented a mini van which we... View full entry

  • Swedish by Inflection

    By bryan boyer
    May 8, '05 4:33 PM EST

    4pm on Sunday with a final jury rapidly approaching at 9am on Wednesday. Plans done? Nope. Sections? Nope. Model, renderings, animations? No to all. Yet, what we're learning today, if nothing else, is that even when you're not being productive there's still room for procrastination.Portion of... View full entry

  • Shelves for Sweden

    By bryan boyer
    May 7, '05 1:39 AM EST

    We have our final presentation in studio next week and I ended up spending two days in rural, central Vermont getting polycarbonate panels waterjet cut for the Swedish By Design project. Trust me, when you're on deadline there's nothing better than eating two whole days. There's a lot to talk... View full entry

  • Vaseline? Proactivity?

    By bryan boyer
    Apr 30, '05 5:21 PM EST

    This week the trays were terrorized by gobs of vaseline smeared onto desk drawer handles and hand rails. Thankfully I haven't personally experienced this yet, but apparently one of the studios on the 3rd tray was the primary target. What are you people doing up there to inspire such acts? Student... View full entry

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