Columbia GSAPP (George Showman)



Jan '05 - Jul '05

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    3rd-year Studio Lottery

    By George Showman
    Jan 22, '05 5:58 PM EST

    Hello! It's Saturday evening on the 7th floor of Avery Hall.

    I'm sitting in studio surrounded mostly by empty desks. Almost all of the studios met on Friday, but there is as yet very little stress. My studio critic, Ed Keller, will not be coming until Monday, so I am in limbo. I've been running around trying to get as many of the books from Ed's quirky reading list as possible.

    But more on the content of the studio later. For now, I will tell you a little about the studio lottery process here, which was particularly trying this year. Basically, for the 3rd year students and AAD's (that's "Advanced Architectural Design" -- people who are here for a one-year Masters' after having worked for a while), there were 16 studio choices. Only a handful of them were really popular, though, with Steven Holl's overshadowing all the others (I heard something like 60 people put him first). Given a studio size limit of 13 or so, this means a lot of people ended up with their third, fourth, fifth, even sixth choices this semester. I haven't heard of any previous semester being quite as bad.

    For example, I'm now in my fourth choice. I got into my first choice, but was then moved to fourth just to fill out Ed's studio (we are a slim 6). This doesn't bother me much, because I'm quite curious about what Ed has to teach us. Some students were pretty unhappy with their lots, though. In past years most people have gotten in their top three, so far as I know. I've had my first choice every semester except one, where I got my third and came to feel later that it was by far the best studio in the year (that was Phil Parker, first year). I have been a little bit lucky, but there are others like me.

    Why did we have a particularly poor distribution this semester? The 3rd-year studio selection (go to the gsapp's main page at, then go to "studios in progress" ... now look for "Advanced studio VI" -- [insert rant about Flash pages and linking here]) was full of strange choices. I was pleased to see a large number of people who want to do research into the complexity of our urban and global environments without necessary letting that research determine a formal strategy for building. In other words, I think several studios will help students develop approaches to thinking about the world and how architecture fits into it without necessarily caring much about what the architecture "looks like". In that group I would put Reinhold Martin, David Turnbull, Laura Kurgan, and Ed Keller. Maybe some others, too. The presentations by the faculty at the lottery were notably devoid of formal agendas, I thought. At the same time there was a certain dryness to a lot of the options; we certainly had to use our imaginations to figure out how an interesting architectural project could come out of the types of research they proposed.

    Unsurprisingly, therefore, the few studios that were directly formal or more traditional seem to have been quite popular: Steven Holl, Lars Spuybroek, Hani Rashid. There were also several options about whom I knew very little, such as Galia Solomonoff, Moji Baratloo. I have only myself to blame for not knowing their work going into the lottery. I had read the briefs for their studios, but had no idea what they were like as architects, so I put them pretty low on my lottery list.

    My major complaint about the studio selection, and this is one I've had for a while, is that the projects that were particularly architectural (e.g. a clear program was included in the studio brief) tended to be large and almost infrastructural. Having no undergraduate background in architecture, I would still love to see studios where the program is really small, like a house, so that we can address issues particular to how individuals interact with the architecture, rather than always having to address issues at the scale of cultural institutions. There was also not enough discussion of building, tectonics, material, logistics... I'm not sure how many of these teachers are even particularly qualified to teach the details of architecture -- some have never or don't build.

    All of the above is based on my only partially-informed opinions, incidentally. You should check out the other Columbia blogs here to see what others thought. I'll try to convince John to write his views on the lottery.

    Next post I'll give you my schedule, discuss some of the other classes here (which, for me, are going to be awesome this semester).


    • George, you should check out what some of your alumni are relation to small spaces and tactility
      I saw this during the week at :
      nice work

      Jan 22, 05 8:07 pm
      Mission St.

      I'm guessin' Ed Keller's a pretty damn good 4th choice! I've no idea what he's like as a studio instructor, but ... he easily came across as the smartest man in the building during thesis reviews at sci-arc a few weeks ago. (he was a visiting critic). Wish i could remember some gems of wisdom but they'd be useless anyway without the context of the projects.
      Anyway, good luck and enjoy.

      Jan 23, 05 10:56 pm

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About this Blog

I did an M.Arch. I at the GSAPP between 2002 and 2005. I started this blog only in my final semester, when I had Ed Keller as my studio critic.

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