SCI-Arc (Marlin Watson)



Jun '05 - May '06

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    By Marlin
    Sep 6, '05 7:45 AM EST

    LaBranche Witold Rybczynski, in 1995's City Life, cites the LA river as the thing which gives the standardized grid of LA's street plan a sense of poetic character. The ability of the river to fracture and cut apart the grid, adds a poetry to the planning found normally only when the systemic grid model collides with the natural landscape.

    LaCroix “English you can learn in thirty days. French in thirty months, German in thirty lifetimes” - Mark Twain

    LaCled “For the clearest ice cubes, use boiled water in ice trays.” - random note on pg. 177 of my father's copy of Mark Twain's Roughing It.

    LaCleie Harvard GSD's Dept of Landscape Architecture put out a publication in 2002 on it's studio project titled, LA River Studio Book. The studio investigated landscape revitalization and redevelopment of the LA river. Student Han Song Lee's project has SCIArc and my summer studio site in part of his proposal. Lee writes, “Railroads along the river will be moved outside of this downtown area, and many warehouse structures will be transformed for new uses or eliminated. Ecologically friendly flood control measures will replace the current concrete channel.” Tabula Rasa

    The first day of fall semester, Tuesday Sept06 10 AM, SCIArc has its vertical studio presentations for the semester. Professors offering vertical studios (upper year studios where graduate and undergraduate students intermingle their skill sets) this semester are:

    Perry Kulper
    Jeffrey Inaba and Paul Nakazawa
    Eric Owen Moss and John Enright
    Ed Keller
    Peter Testa
    Wes Jones
    Coy Howard

    My choice of whose vertical studio to take is still up in the air. I don't know all these cats, and my absence from SCIArc prior to the summer semester means my opinions are based on old assessments.

    LaForesterie In the 4A Berlin wall site studio project, my direction had a lot to do with the reality of a site too large to truly comprehend, too foreign to culturally gather, and so inextricably linked to a history so overwhelming that not much here on the Left coast could compare. So I located the site in literary fiction instead of dealing with the wholly real pragmatics of the site and its surrounding condition. Essentially I obliterated the material history and identified a different one that served as the basis of historical fiction. I imagine Lee's approach of total obliteration of the surrounding area of the LA River operates along a similar trajectory.

    Lambert This past summer, my studio site was localized. A river revitalization project in my hometown, a culture I think understand explicitly. Add to this, the river site is the adjacent railyard directly across the street from SCIArc.

    Lamothe I have always believed that a great strength of SCIArc is the preeminence of transfer students in the undergraduate program. All things being equal, the transfer students are unified by their shared experience of the heavy decision to transfer to SCIArc from institutions with dining halls and dorms. The majority of transfer students bring with them the work ethic and design sensibilities that are the strengths of their original core education. I feel that, as a result of this, SCIArc flourishes because these students take one another to task for their prior conceptions and conclusions on architecture. Perhaps the progeny of SCIArc is not necessarily designers, or a design language, that can be easily categorized by a word, or even by a language, but rather by a union similar to Giger's Alien: The transfer students may all ultimately share the same alien parent DNA, SCIArc, but the other half comes from thier host species: the transfer student's OG institution.

    Langlois The third Aliens movie highlights an important conceptual idea behind the alien: The alien is based on one universal female parent species, and one infinitely variable male parent species. The host species fulfills the role of the male parent and incubates the egg like a male seahorse. The female parent's DNA is the OG alien DNA. Thus, each alien is a product of its male host species and the universalizing female alien species.

    Lanna A strength of SCIArc, then, is its ability as an institution to nurture the faculties that transfer students have learned from their previous institutions, and add to these SCIArc's gene pool of critical design investigation. Who's your allele?

    Lanquille My understanding of the LA river is informed more by my being a native Angelino than as an architecture student. I always felt that Los Angeles' freeways were its rivers, that a stream of lights, fluctuation in flow, and a constant white noise operating as a transportation thoroughfare was a more adequate place to start in developing a treatment of the LA river and it's day-to-day function. If the river is the “traditional commercial thoroughfare along whose banks public life can gather,” then the LA river is not that place. The LA river has never been treated by its residents like a river, though this is not entirely because of misdirection in planning its eventual functions, but ultimately a condition of its appearance in the city. Day to day, it's a destination point for location scouts and transients, and an infinite perspective within the normally condensed view of a sprawling city. I travel along it, above it, see it. I don't even think it's an eyesore, but rather this casually meandering vector that, in spite of LA's schizophrenic freeway disorientation, gives the comfort that perhaps this city is tied together by a single thread.

    Coy Howard: An old school head a while back, Joe Fliesher, suggested I take the studio with Coy Howard before I graduate. He suggested that Coy would be good for my strengths of designing in perspective, and my inability to move to the computer until the final stages of the design process. I'm an old fart I suppose, because my core years seem very far away. I began with three years of hand drafting prior to CAD standardization, and that sensibility has never left me (a tiny factoid: the oft-mentioned Ali Jeevanjee's parent's house was renovated by Coy Howard when Ali was a young child.) Joe's currently at an architectural engineering firm in Santa Monica.

    Laroche Perry Kulper: Hailey Friedman and I had lunch recently. Hailey graduated from SCIArc a few years ago, and became a project designer at Clive Wilkinson (CW) Architects in Los Angeles. Recently, CW was awarded a Next LA prize for the design of the new Fashion Institute (FIDM) in downtown Los Angeles. Hailey was the project designer. On stage with Hailey to accept other awards in the same category: former SCIArc director Niel Denari and Ex-SCIArc professor Roger Sherman. Neither one of them recognized her as a recent graduate of their former institution. I asked Hailey where exactly her sensibilities originated, because she transferred to SCIArc in third year from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. “Perry Kulper,” she responded. “Perry. All Perry. I still do collages at the onset of a project and this is something whose value I picked up from Perry. A technical language of building, sure, Cal Poly, SLO. But the strength of the design is all Perry.” The set designers of the new Big Brother season admittedly jacked Hailey's pool design from her FIDM project. Hailey and I had Studio 3B with Roger Sherman. I suppose neither Hailey nor Roger impacted the other as much as Perry impacted Hailey.

    LaRonde Moss and Enright: Enright was the project architect at Morphosis for Diamond Ranch High School and Hypo Alpe Adria Centre. I had Enright on a juried review during second year, and I remember his criticisms as being poignant, critical and articulate. Enright has moved on to start his own firm, Griffon Enright architects. Hot shit, this guy. However, I worry that with the combined responsibilities each of these professors has, Moss and Enright, that their time available for studio may be limited. Additionally, I feel Moss is certainly not for the weak-stomached.

    LaSalle I caught the hotrod race scene in Grease the other day on AMC. The river is, in fact, seen. When my river is clogged with cars, this drainage channel is an unassuming graffiti hall of fame outside the passenger window. During increment weather, it's a local news spectacle. The Sepulveda basin, specifically constructed to manage the watershed for the whole of the San Fernando Valley, appears to “flood” when it drizzles. Consequently, local news copters will hover there all day to capture both the “flooding” and the inevitable idiot who didn't heed the warning that Burbank Blvd was closed through the flood basin, and decided to proceeded along anyway. On NBC Channel 4, local news anchor Paul Moyer interrupts the soaps and stirs the locals up in “storm watch” pandemonium with aerial footage of the LA river. As one Neanderthal after another manages to tumble in the river by virtue of his own stupidity, tax dollars go into action as the local fire department shows up to pluck them out. While the freeways are LA's rivers, conversely, the concrete LA river seems to operate more like the stretches of Route 66 now rendered moot by later, straighter, highway development. Think north of Twentynine palms an hour or so outsideof LA. All along these stretches of 66 are abandoned roadside architectures serving as playgrounds for looky loos, vagrants, graffiti artists, filmmakers and tourists.

    Latapie Ed Keller: I recently started reading up on this cat, oddly enough, on the suggestion of Brother Damon, the video game lawyer. Keller's recent focus has been video game design or, more loosely, the potentials of the first person shooter gaming engine. In Keller's bio, the seminars he offers, “focus on the overlap between cinema, architecture, and digital game design.”

    Lariuex I'm perhaps the most vicious and flippant skeptic of bold statements that bridge medias so easily in syntax. “Chronomorphology,” this is his book title for a compendium of Columbia projects. MS Word gives me the jiggly red line under that one. Mega Latin prefix suffix combinations, so 1990's. Either way, minus the video games, his work and pedagogy intrigue me. The nineties thing is me being flippant. Damon has his childhood Vectrex, the vintage vector graphics game system, happily on display in his Law office.

    Lavalle Maybe the promise in the LA river isn't in its “becoming-river,” serving as the public commons aching for the rebirth of Georges Seurat and retro parasols. I consider some of the student renderings in this Harvard redevelopment book: Downtown LA and the river have somehow transformed into an idyllic pastoral scene replete with trees, drumlins, Starbucks, contemporary collage popstars the skater and laptop user. Instead, I ponder something even more optimistic. Maybe the real promise is in the incidental way the river already delivers sublime doses of hope: At any moment, the LA river can make an ordinary Angelino life instantaneously extraordinary. One day I, too, may be plucked from the gently careening river by a hero and have the helicopter footage replayed over and over until tomorrow, when they rescue another idiot who ignored the big orange sign reading, Detour. If the footage is sound, I go CNN.

    Lavespere I can be a runaway bride, a fingertip finder. I am a Travolta T-Bird from Venice beach, and win the pink slips from the Dogtown boys, talk like Vinnie Barbarino and hit the two-lane blacktop in my ”˜39 Mercury choptop. Some teen from Canoga Park High, to whom graffiti means the world will yesterday in the river execute the greatest graf piece of his life, win a battle as a result. The teen goes home with Fame, the recognition of the entire city's underground population. This is the way the river offers the promise that you, too, by no fault of your own, can have your fifteen minutes of fame. Be a popstar minstrel. Isn't that what Hollywood's about? Warhol's caveat to the world? Isn't that better than a Sunday on the Grande Jetee? A commuter sings a grunge anthem out loud during his drizzly drive home while the beastly drainage channel goes quietly back to sleep.

    Lavigne “If the revolution were to be televised I'd be the theme music.”-Common

    LeClaire Lane Barden, in his essay accompanying his photography exhibit on the LA river, writes, “The city of Los Angeles is often represented as a kind of victim of pop a setting of narcissism and perpetual sunsets.” Well, yes. But, we Angelinos do it to ourselves. The Chili Peppers ultrapop classic “Under the Bridge” is about lead singer Anthony Kiedis leaving Fairfax High in West Hollywood to shoot smack at the Belmont Tunnel downtown. Without knowing that, it's really an uplifting little jingle.

    Leclere Barden continues, “An increasing number of tourist destinations satisfy commercial stereotypes...but never touch on the vastness of the metropolis and its landscape.” I consider the literal derivative, “[Create] tourist destinations that touch on the vastness of the metropolis and its landscape.” This derivative of Lane Barden's assertion leads to a programmatic treatment of the LA river: a theme park based around LA's complexity. To be frank, this sounds like just about the worst theme park ever. But if I consider the converse of this program, I arrive at something really, really fun.

    Leduc Consider: Boston has a wonderful park system strung through it. This can be a model for a brand new river development: instead of parks, however, terminal mall-like destinations themed around pop culture victimization and mass consumption can be strung throughout the LA River. One of the targets in Lane Barden's indictment of “isolated tourist destinations” could easily be the new Hollywood and Highland mall and Kodak Theater. The basis for this mall's architecture is the massive “Babylon” setpiece from the 1916 production of the movie Intolerance, a set piece that a few decades ago used to be visible from all over Hollywood per its storage and construction at the corner of Sunset and Hollywood. This was the largest set ever built in metropolitan LA. Tourists flocked to see the giant elephants that peered above a set whose structures had subsequently been transformed into offices and live/work spaces. In the new Hollywood and Highland mall, the Hollywood sign is framed by a giant archway just like the one in the movie. Giant stone elephants and all. Themed tourist developments of this type can be built in the channel. All sorts of pop culture and LA infrastructure moments are ripe for the picking. A scale version of the LA river can be built inside the LA river complete with retail, and be heralded as the racetrack set from Grease. A miniature version of the 405 will serve as a public walk; tourists can reenact the low speed OJ chase on foot or by White Ford Bronco Monorail. A statue of Governor Arnoldator greets guests at the mall themed after his rescue of young John Connor, and subsequent escape from the menacing T-2000 from the depths of the LA River's ancillary channels in Terminator 2.

    Lefevre This Harvard GSD book saved me hours in demographics research.

    Legoaster Inaba and Nakazawa: not a clue. I do know, however, that colleagues of mine from Cornell who moved on to GSD took classes with Jeffrey Inaba, and it turns out we all share the same opinion of his merit. I'm reminded of Harvard Professor Cornell West's term, “Harvarditis” and Jeffrey Kipnis' notion of a “False Sense of Transgression” cited in SCIArc's Sessions01 publication.

    Lemaitre I can't go near the Howard Hughes center mall, in spite of being capable of appreciating it as a development. I remember when it was an empty plot of marsh that indicated you were near the La Tijera exit of the 405, close to arriving at LAX. In the Howard Hughes Center, none of the public space on the upper level has views of the freeway, most conspicuously the movie theater plaza. Instead, the public space is oriented back in on itself, or toward the car thoroughfares accessing the garages. In the daytime, these car thoroughfares are populated by the local office folk. At night, in a rush to arrive at the movies, the thoroughfares are a chaos of traffic, a dull spectacle when viewed from the top level retail. In this way, the Hughes center fails to take advantage of a splendid visual steam of lights from the freeway . In Jamaica, honking means hello. What could be cooler than interacting with people stuck in freeway traffic from a balcony promenade? In this way, the freeway becomes the basis for Lane Barden's “destinations [that] touch on the complexity and vastness of the metropolis and its landscape.” Enough streets in LA are as wide as its freeways; public proximity to the street isn't a concern, in spite of the guy who drives through the flooded street. Red Stripe in hand, I imagine myself and the Peeps watching and waving to the slowly moving cross section of LA demographic floating by. This would say everything that needs to be said about the “realities of the actual city.”

    Leroy Peter Testa: Jambmaster Jay Vanos was hamming it up about felt. Upon examination of the structural integrity of a piece of felt, the use of a conventional structural grid as an expression of structure starts to seem like a rather silly convention. Testa's firm is currently pushing the boundaries of materials research, in particular carbon fiber and lightweight glass. Five times the tensile strength of Steel, the possibilities of carbon fiber and materials research I speculate may be the focus of the studio.

    Llorens This here city is a tough place to fully grasp, man. Perhaps it's not unlike every other branch of the Germanic tree sans English, and takes more than a lifetime to master. I still don't know how to get to Norwalk, another nondescript city in South LA. From now on in my journeys, maybe I should start honking and following it up with a big wave, a stupid ear-to-ear grin, and a big hello.

    Loriot Wes Jones: dunno. Pfaujones. Chartpak stopped manufacturing Shading Film. That cooling plant at UCLA is dope.


    • sarah123

      Your blog is one of the main reasons I check into archinect.

      Sep 6, 05 1:36 pm  · 

      "I feel Moss is certainly not for the weak-stomached. " I had him twice and this is the truest statement I've read in a while. I thought he was great.


      The Moss-Enright vertical sounds like the place to be.

      Sep 6, 05 3:14 pm  · 

      Lane Barden, would be a he and not a she.

      Sep 6, 05 4:23 pm  · 

      ED NOTE: gracias. Hitting the control panel.The photos have a curious gentleness. He should be proud.

      Sep 6, 05 4:25 pm  · 

      what did you think of moss' presentation on the baja studio? i thought it sounded like an incredible opportunity. and intense.

      Sep 6, 05 4:35 pm  · 

      Is that the resort city in the city of cortez?

      Sep 6, 05 4:49 pm  · 

      the name of the town is Balandra. It's near La Paz on the southern tip of baja. it ain't ugly....

      Sep 7, 05 12:48 pm  · 

      go with coy howard.
      thank you, marlin for your blog.

      Sep 8, 05 7:50 pm  · 

      Thank You! To passerbys that catch this comment, delivering the entries for the summer log was my pleasure. For me, the zero point between Failure and Success is labeled, "doesn't suck." I said in one email, the pleasurable feedback, "it's encouraging," and it is. It was a pleasure to have kept a personal log that apparently "doesn't suck." So, thank you all!

      No fronting, this semesters verticals seem otherworldly and amazing.
      I'm curious to see if this indeed engenders a unique atmosphere around the Grand ol freaight yard.
      I will offer greater description later if Steve Fuchs doesn't get to it first.

      MossEnright: if i had a BArch, seven plus years of pro experience, and both the insight to return for an MArch and one year of MArch under my belt, surely this studio would be a breeze and, as i said before, an otherworldly and amazing experience. Instead, i have emotional issues with autocad.

      Jones: design from film derivatives i'll touch base on later.

      Testa: self-weaving buildings. I'm excited to see the work, because Testa's "angle," apologies for lack of a better word, is not the generation of form, but the self-generation of construction. Again, my explanation lacking in poetry and precision, builder-robots generating thier own parameters for how they form a building.

      Keller: Keller's presentation was interesting, because the variable of choice in the project, A school of architecture, is the era of history in which the chosen site resides, sorta. The program, an architecure school, may seem benign, but it's a straightforward enough program to attack with the intense concept of where in history the school is sited.

      Sep 9, 05 3:52 am  · 

      Coy: Next semseter is my thesis. I'll likely petition for Coy as an advisor.

      Inaba: Subsidized studio trips to Palm Springs. In a word: Fab

      Kulper: I'm taking Kulper. My first choice. To take Kulper is to take one of the few studios that only SCIArc can offer, and is rooted in the purest intentions of SCIArc's stated intentions. Any alum, student, and in particular former students of Perry know even Perry's still trying to make sense of his studio, and i speculate it will take a semester long log to sententially make sense of Perry's studio. I wish myself luck. No one else wishes will do me any good with this one.

      Sep 9, 05 4:02 am  · 

      even better...
      good luck, glad to hear you plan a thesis.

      Sep 9, 05 9:45 pm  · 

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