University of Southern California (Daniel)

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    What a lark! What a plunge!

    By Daniel
    Sep 27, '06 6:23 AM EST

    Our current project—and I do realize I haven’t updated on the previous two, which I have yet to document properly—is to create a ‘writer’s retreat’: a space scaled for one person on an isolated lakeside site. While we are furthering our investigations into relative proportion from the previous projects, this one is meant to introduce the concept notion of concept or conceptual content. This isn’t to say our projects haven’t had ‘concepts’ before now, but now we are focusing on what a concept is, how it is used, and how it is distinguished from ideas like parti and program.

    At any rate, each instructor is conducting this project a little differently. A few had their students choose specific authors for whom the retreat is intended. I think that may be what Arianne is having my section do, but I’ve sort of gone in a different direction. I chose Virginia Woolf, but the retreat isn’t for her as much as it is inspired by and derived from her work and particular philosophy of narrative style. I’ve been a bit passive in the actual design process, and have instead focused on reading a lot of criticism and analysis as well as bits of Virginia Woolf’s diaries. She describes how she wants to write using words and phrases with definite spatial, material, and what I find to be ultimately architectural connotations:

    “Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions—trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel... Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; but a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surround us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

    “Suppose one thing should open out of another... doesn’t that give the looseness & lightness I want...”

    “I should say a good deal about The Hours, and my discovery; how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; ...The idea is that the caves shall connect, & each comes to daylight at the present moment.”

    These are very exciting ideas to me, but what they mean for my project is proving hard to pin down. J. Hillis Miller mentions “her attention to minutiae of the mind and to apparently insignificant details of the external world”... how is something like that translated into an inhabitable form or a structure by a lake? I guess that’s the point, so maybe I’m not too far off after all.

    My problem is that I think faster than I produce. By the time I’ve finished something, whether model or drawing, the concept has already scrambled ahead, often more than a single traceable step. I worry my processes and progressions look broken, desultory at best, inconsistent at worst. Punctuated equilibria. I’ll get there, of course, but I’d like more to show for my work than some highlighted photocopies with sketches vining up the margins.


    • vado retro

      "My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery - always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?"

      Sep 27, 06 7:15 am

      "at the age of 59, Woolf filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse"

      ...a lakefront retreat for Virgia Woolf seems compelling and, given the circumstances of her suicide, rather intimate. keep us posted on the progress.

      Sep 27, 06 11:10 am

      wow, they're changing things over there for sure! This is the first I've heard of a detatched home being assigned at USC, ever. It should be very satisfying to do a project of that scale because of all the detail you can get into on it.

      Sep 27, 06 12:11 pm

      2 things:

      I chose Virginia Woolf, but the retreat isn’t for her as much as it is inspired by and derived from her work and particular philosophy of narrative style. your approach sounds more sophisticated than the obvious "Gershwin played the piano and was a private guy, so here's his cute little concrete box of piano playing privacy..." ...that's a good thing. sophisticated metaphors have great potential.

      and 2, produce without thinking - you have some foundation (research analysis, etc floating around in your mind). proceed intuitively. the hands can often tell you more than the head.

      Sep 27, 06 3:27 pm
      vado retro

      virginia woolf born 01/25
      vadoretro born 01/25
      same birthday same letter v at the beginning of our names. only dif is she was talented and comitted suicide. i am mediocre and just keep going and going and going...

      Sep 27, 06 4:40 pm

      Rationalist -- it's only a retreat. The square footage limit is 250.

      Marlin -- I thought briefly about a house for Sylvia Plath. You know, with a big gas oven in a convenient corner. Or William Faulkner, with an extra-large fridge.

      Sep 27, 06 11:09 pm

      that is even more to the point that it's the smallest project I've ever seen USC assign! It's a good thing, I'm not criticizing. It seems like a wonderful opportunity to make something beautiful in every respect, because you can fully pay attention to every little bit of it.

      On a completely separate note, I do believe that we may have met this past Saturday, briefly. I had let my facebook notifications pile up for a while, finally got on to accept some friends and such, and saw on the 'news feed' (that is the wierdest feature ever) that someone named Daniel, of your year, from Oregon, joined a group with which I am connected. The dots seemed to point this way, or is it a strange coincidence?

      Sep 28, 06 1:06 am

      I'm the only Daniel in my year from Oregon, as far as I know.

      As far as the project goes, it is also only a two and a half week project--I hate these short ones--so it's almost impossible to make good details unless you find your form quite early, which I am not. :(

      Sep 28, 06 1:10 am

      aww, I didn't realize that. It would be nicer if they gave you a proper length of time for it, so that you could get a little beyond form.

      I was the red(ish)head in the Reggie Bush jersey (though there's no shortage of those being worn on a saturday around here and I know of at least one other girl there who could be described as such), and I teased you about something on your shirt. I'll say 'hello' next time I see you, but won't mention the blog to mutual friends if they don't know. Good luck with the Woolf retreat.

      Sep 28, 06 2:06 am

      Aaaaah I was trying to remember what I did last Saturday and I just remembered. I was going to blog about that, eventually.

      Sep 28, 06 2:11 am

      oh, it's all right if you don't. I completely understand. Although now I see why there haven't been many entries lately.

      Sep 28, 06 10:47 am


      Rationalist is right, you are very lucky to be a part of this unprecedented project, because usually at this time you'd be doing a precedent!

      Be sure to show us pics =)

      Sep 28, 06 11:27 am

      Interesting that you chose Virginia Woolf...
      I am a former student at the Univ. of Kansas and one of the exercises given to us by my design instructor Curtis Simmons was to three dimensionally explore the light, sound, texture, and movement contained within Woolf's "Waves." You might check out this narrative if you haven't already, and maybe try focusing your thoughts on light, sound, texture, and movement. For me, it led to some really great concept work that became the basis for a 3000 sq. ft. live/work house... my most favorite of my design projects to date. Oh, and i should mention that such concept work, or "sophisticated metaphors" as AP termed it, DOES NOT FLY at the University of Kansas and that is why I left. Also, is anybody familiar with Curtis Simmons? He has an incredible resume and was wondering how much clout he carries out west... graduated from UCLA and worked with Moss, Predock, Richter, and others.

      Apr 19, 07 1:02 pm

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