California College of the Arts (Ted Rzad)

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    Less than 5 weeks left ‘til the gallows swings

    By Ted Rzad
    Mar 30, '06 12:33 PM EST

    Why do I feel so calm? I am presenting my Thesis four weeks and two days from today. I have my macro story, but have yet to catch the micro moves fluttering around in my brain and my sketchbook in a fully compelling fashion. My desk crit from yesterday boiled down to “you have a bunch of great pieces but you have yet to stitch them together in a way that respects their potential”.

    I recognize this. The real struggle is patience. I have ideas for the patchwork already. I had a vision going into the semester, and I have a vision now. My sketchbook contains 4-5 schemes as well. The trick is to allow the process to remain ”˜bottom-up', not ”˜top-down'. The current philosophies surrounding ”˜emergent' organization are poignant here:

    MIT link

    book link

    My thesis stipulates that current practice in Historic Preservation fails in respecting the existing context and the cultural knowledge it embodies by approaching it from the top down. It's analogous to the debate between creationism and evolution. Contemporary HP architects seek to freeze a building in time, despite comments to the contrary (see Michael Mills' essay in the January 2006 issue of the AIA Journal of Architecture). Even if the project is Adaptive Reuse, in that a contemporary program is allowed to make limited physical changes to the building (as in ADA ramps and railings), the ethos persists that anything new must “respect” the existing by blending in with it. Not only does this amount to enslavement of the present by the past, but also prevention of the use of future technologies. Arguably, this practice is in defiance to the Secretary of the Interior's “Standards for Rehabilitation” (1978) that states any addition to the existing fabric must be clearly different for the existing fabric. Current preservation practice is sentimentalism above all else, not a pedagogical tool to continue the lessons of the past. It is architectural embalming, denigrating historic buildings to little more that a death mask.

    But my thesis is different! I have devised a methodology that combines social historical analysis and fine art photography based analysis of the physicality to develop a ”˜Rule Book' for a given site to be used in developing both a programmatic and tectonic strategy. Yes, I advocate removing or otherwise permanently changing existing fabric if it can be justified in retooling the building for its next life time. I reason that by directly engaging the context, not just the building as an isolated object tragically languishing in the wrong time, I can digest the knowledge embedded in it; not just what was there as originally constructed, but also the myriad of layers that have accrued over the life of the building. This is far more respectful of the social value of the building than attempting to erase the past, or even worse, adding a new layer that is a synthetic version of the past. Our cities are not Disney World!

    Stay tuned for when my website is up in a couple of months: it will have a special section just for my thesis.

    • 1 Comment

    • ted's wife

      Well since you haven't been posting on your blog, I'm glad to see you've at least been thinking about your thesis.

      Can't wait 'til this is over!


      Mar 31, 06 3:14 am  · 

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