Portland State University

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    3 weeks in... my 1st entry.

    By crillywazzy
    Jan 25, '05 12:37 AM EST

    my first entry, though school started on january 3rd...

    i'm in beginning design studio I (arch 180). that's 3 days a week, 4 hours a day. there are 80 of us split up into 5 sections / 5 different instructors. i registered for classes a bit late last december and so i missed out on my first choice instructor, but did get one of the final spots in nikola boscanin's section, my second choice. nikola was my instructor for the intro to arch 100 class i took over the summer. nice guy whose method of teaching suits me just fine most of the time...

    i stumbled across the studio website a few days before class started and was able to buy my materials in advance. the department worked out a deal with utrecht in town and the whole bundle was about $380 with a drawing board. i managed to grab the best seat in the room on the first day -- a window seat and i'd wager one of the best views on campus.

    the first two days were basic informational stuff and an assignment to graphically depict a few abstract terms from a list. this spanned half of the first week and an 18x24 was the final piece. my final word was "bright" and i did a decent, if fairly literal, rendering of a gothic rose window and tracery in conté.

    after that we dug in for the next two and a half weeks on the famed "nine square grid" exercise. this started oh so slowly but built up to a fever pitch and finally ended with an all-section crit today. we worked from 3x3 chipboard grids to full size 9x9 models out of a combination of three materials. each step of the way was accompanied by various technical drawings -- plans, sections, elevations and isometrics -- and by diagrams of "spatial hierarchies/relationships".

    diagramming has been tough to grasp for most of us. rich shiga's kids (he heads up the first year program) had the best work in this respect, but we later found out that he spent a good amount of time working on reading the space and discussing methods of doing the diagrams with them. they got a handout we never got (though i photocopied it for us) and i discovered today they have their own section on the website with further thoughts on the matter. we haven't been rigorously focused on reading space in the same way i think. in fact, we haven't really been rigorous at all... i think nikola's style precludes him from forcing what he might term "unethical" instruction on us. of course this means we've been a bit slower out of the gates. at our first all-section crit (a week and a half into the exercise) i grabbed shiga and made him run me through a reading of my stuff which i hardly managed to fumble my way through. it was exciting as hell though. he's an infectious teacher with a zest for the material and i promptly went back to studio after that and asked nikola why we weren't learning that stuff too. upon reflection, it might not have been the smartest move pulling that in front of the group. i felt a bit shitty after the fact... his response was diplomatic and gave me something to chew on though. he asked why i wanted to learn to communicate in those terms when no one but architects will understand that and when the language we already have is well-suited to it as it is... nikola's a phenomenologist i guess you'd say and though this is gross oversimplification and won't do the man justice, we spend more time sniffing around the edges of things and rooting at their essences and after three weeks of this i'm starting to find my feet and get more comfortable with it. one more thing on all this... today at our second crit, nikola sent shiga my way and told him i was "losing my faith" and could use a bit of a chat. again very exciting to me... chatting with the other students from other sections and even with second year students has been great too. it's nice getting input, criticism and knowledge from so many people and so many viewpoints. enough on that...

    (having reread this, let me point out that i intend to try to get into shiga's studio when we switch instructors at the 10-week point. after a mellower "essences" approach, an abstract "archibabble" approach will provide nice contrast for me. and far from dissatisfied, i've been recommending shiga's students follow up with nikola for the flipside to their experience too.)

    one other bit i should mention: the time i've put into studio so far is absolutely astonishing. i'd guess i'm in there at least 70-80 hours a week or more. every day, every night, weekends. my section has already lost 1 and might lose 2 or 3 more people before long due to the intensity and commitment involved. i'm not getting enough sleep (which is a bitch for someone who can't drink any caffeine and gave up cigarettes), can't keep up with readings for my two other classes, see my wife about a half hour a day, haven't seen my mates or surfed the web in ages... even though the archinecters and other psu students prepared me re: the time in advance, it's still been a shock. i feel like a zombie. i'm not eating as healthy as i should be, don't have time to get my exercise in, etc. in spite of this all i'm having a helluva time. i want to despise it for robbing me of my life and wife, but i can't.

    we got our new exercise assigned today. it'll carry us through february 14. we're adding in design "goals" to this round of projects so we have something to assess the approach by i guess. i have 2 collages due by friday.

    tonight i'm staying home and doing nothing but slugging a beer, popping a xanax and hanging with my girl. more as time permits...


    • david basulto

      wonder what do the 380 dollars buy you? ;)

      Jan 25, 05 10:06 pm

      board and vyco cover, mayline, rapidograph set, 3 triangles, lead holders and lead, pens, charcoals and contés, ruler and scale, olfas, glues, erasers, trace paper, sketchbook, sketch pad, cutting surface, and a few other little things... once i had it all dumped out on my tabel, it didn't seem like much for the money.

      Jan 25, 05 11:13 pm

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