SCI-Arc (Marlin Watson)



Jun '05 - May '06

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    By Marlin
    Jun 1, '05 12:05 AM EST
    At First and second place in competitions generally tend to go to: 1. The Best 2. The Unique. In 4B competition studio I cheated and went for unique, primarily because I'm not supposed to know the aforementioned proverb.

    Buttafly I use the same email address I received my senior year of high school. This address' rudimentary domain and the fact that it's an independent noun followed by the @ instead of a bunch of numbers is testament to its age. I got platinum status: I haven't paid for it in years. More than likely the company has grown so much I've been phased out of billing by accident. I like to flaunt its longevity, my “dedication” to it. I used to tell friends the phone number at my childhood home in Westwood, SoCal would always be on if ever they needed to reach me. It's harder to convince anyone that I truly have had and always will have this address open so long as my ISP is in business. Such is the nature of email accounts. Close to twenty others actively connected to me have already been demolished and most likely belong to someone else. Longevity is endearing, except when the contrary is the truth: an AOL address is embarrassing, even if I have had it for twelve years.

    Comps Shopping malls, housing, live/work: the question, “...most appropriate program for urban revamping” offers few permutations. What aspect of the project, then, was flexible enough to allow for uniquel program permutations that could be reasonably rationalized. Clearly the information base that pointed at renewal institutions like housing, supermega mall, etc. were pragmatic and just: provide for contemporary needs. Easy. But what about that fact base? And what about “contemporary”? What if the standing conditions were based temporally somewhere else, but the physical boundary was contemporary? Programming the site instead, historically, in a work of fiction that was geographically specific to the city. Somewhere within a selfishly constructed past.

    Double That was my approach to a competition studio two years ago. The project, in brief, was to redevelop a site of abandoned railroads adjacent to the former Berlin wall. My rationale, in brief, was about the erasure of politically imposed boundaries over time, particularly one imposed by an external nation. To acknowledge it was to leave it. What was needed was some other trajectory / boundary somewhere else in history, represented in fiction, that had subsequently been erased. I became armed with a short story by Camus, another by Anais Nin, and porcelain trade route maps that linked to the silk road. Where I ended up was a program of: A mulberry farm, a silkery, a public butterfly house, refugee live/ work housing, and an extension of the cemetery already across the river. Dark project.
    It was a broad proposal, more about a polemic than tactical execution, and polemics rarely make for studio projects that can sustain my interest through a semester. But man, I got to say in a juried review, “yes, that does say giant butterfly atrium.” After studio wrapped, I wanted an excuse to fully design it.

    Elevated this semester I'm paperless, with a laptop and a tablet. No call to Dubble for the Gaffer Van in order to speed up the studio move-in. No mayline and board, no monitor heavier than my toolbox. No toolbox.

    Friendly advice In some respects, the project this semester suggests a boundary trajectory similar to the Berlin project, except this time it operates in the opposite direction: occupy the railyard adjacent to a canal, except the canal is the empty LA drainage channel and the railyard remains operational. The portion of the river adjacent to the ¾ mile site will be dammed off and filled to create an artificial lake, and four thousand housing units are to occupy the air rights above the fully operational train depot and maintenance yard. Roughly 3 million square feet of program on a one million square foot plot.

    Gala The brother Billy used to say I made too many problems for myself. Architecture runs counterpoint to the daily practice of life: I create problems and solve them. If I were only a problem solver, I'd be an engineer. Brother Brandon: “Are you a jack of all master of none?” nope. Master of jacking all. These are both flippant responses to otherwise common sense.

    Host site Former SCIArc director and former skin-folder Niel Denari gave the commencement speech for the 25th anniversary celebration of SCIArc. He opened with an anecdote about his first visit to SCIArc founder Ray Kappe's house: space exploding like a blooming magnolia, sectional transitions without handrails. There were slides, and eventually Niel led into an introduction for the keynote speech by Ray. All I could think about was the house.

    Immanessence, plane of At Princeton University, there's a gate the students avoid per taboo: never exit through there until you graduate. Former students of SCIArc talk about Ray Kappe's house in much the same way: before you graduate, you make a group visit to Ray's house. I think I was primarily concerned that because Ray was no longer actively teaching, I'd never have a chance to visit. Ray returned this summer after ten years to teach a studio. For reasons that can only be explained by an additional studio offered by the talented upstart Simon Herron and Susanna Isa, only myself and a handful of other students opted for Ray Kappe's studio.

    Jamb, that's the “fact and fiction work as a team”-Jack Johnson
    “there's only two eras of rap: me and post-that.” - Mos Def

    KCRW After a mid review crit this past week, Sam drew two pictures on my roll of trace paper. One was of a molecular structure of three hexagons linearly aligned. At one end, Sam wrote the letter, A, and at the other, B. The second was of an erratic squiggly line that spiraled alinearly between A and B. The first picture, the disciplined, calculated path between A and B represented the mind of Ray Kappe. The other drawing, the Miasma between A and B, was me. The truth doesn't hurt, it persists as an itch. Sam offered condolences: they both do eventually arrive at B. I do a double take every time Sam says my name. There's something very vertigo-like about having a broadcast voice you know so explicitly address you directly.

    Lead-in Sam Hall Kaplan wrote “LA Lost and Found”, one of the first books on Los Angeles I read after returning here to my hometown to attend college. In 2000, While working in Jim Stafford's El Segundo office, NPR played over the speakerbox. Once a week, for a brief few minutes, this fabulously syncopated, brash BrooklynQueensBoogieDown accent broadcasting from a basement in Santa Monica boomed across the office, delivering a call to arms about urbanism poignantly titled, “The City Observed”. The closing title cracked like bats in Cooperstown and had a dramatic pause worth its weight in FCC dead air fines: “This is Samuel Hall Kaplan with............The City Observed.” Sam Hall Kaplan: Journalist, Radio Commentator, Activist, Urbanist, Designer, Emmy winner. Professor as well, apparently, because in addition to Ray, Sam is my studio instructor.

    • 1 Comment

    • 10pm

      cherry breaka! I enjoyed reading your entire blog, and ending up here.
      Thank you

      Mar 27, 06 11:49 pm  · 

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