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Sep '06 - Oct '07

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    Halfway done with school!!!!

    By mikilee
    Dec 16, '06 12:47 AM EST

    So... I just finished up my 3rd semester at Columbia, and it was a great semester. Towards the end of the term, everything I thought would happen did- the studio became a trashy mess, with models, dust, and half-empty food containers scattered about the studio. Sleeping bags and sleeping cots were all over the place, underneath desks, stored next to the aisle, making walking through the studio a bit of a hazard, not to mention all of the dangerous models with sharp parts sticking out in every direction. The grossness of the end shows the intensity in which students pushed themselves, and one can only imagine the piles of unpaid bills, and dirty clothes that were strewn across each student's apartments in New York City.

    Our Housing projects all ended with a bang at the final housing wrap-up, in which each studio presented work to share and discuss between students and professors. The studios that showed work came from David Turnbull, Laura Kurgan, Michael Bell, Scott Marble, Karla Rothstein, and Lotek, (Guiseppe and Ada). The wrap-up allowed everyone to see everyone else's work, share, and reflect upon the semester-long work that we did. This was interesting, because it's never been done before. Usually students quickly pack up their stuff and go. And usually, discussions end in the uni-directional manner of the final review, in which students present, then get shot down or praised by the critics. The wrap-up began with the question of, 'How was housing studio different than last year?' This year, attention was placed on the connection between the designer and his/her constituency, 1500 people with specific conditions and needs. While the Kurgan studio focused on how to respond to social needs through statistical analysis and research, Rothstein's studio looked at how intimate experiences- namely, domesticity- allowed us to emphathize with the design of space. Scott Marble's studio looked at ways the role of the designer could expand by having the designer play a larger role in fabrication, and Bell's studio looked at how the designer could expand his/her role through political and economic issues. The general trend, of the entire semester, was that of the expanded architect, the expanded role of the designer to take upon issues traditionally outside of the discipline. Architect as researcher, fabricator, politician, socialite, communicator, heightens the role of the architect and what he or she is meant to do.

    By biggest question is this. While I DO think architects and designers should work interdisciplinarily, + expand their role and position, will they have the skills to get PAID for doing so? If designers are unique in their capacity to understand and visually-articulate a new and better society, can they also articulate the VALUE of what they do, and get paid for it?

    At the end of the day, if someone pays you to do something, it is because they find what you do valuable. Payment can come in many forms- it can be cold hard cash, or a trade/barter exchange. In my mind, however, it must be articulated so that the value of the profession itself can be elevated.

    As an educational institution, Columbia must be optimistic. I think Mark Wigley is bringing this to the institution, and it's a very positive thing. It is why I came to Columbia, because as an institution it is progressive, constantly trying to transform the discipline. I have no idea what I am going to do after I graduate, and now that I've hit the 1/2way mark I'm starting to think about it.

    I'm not that interested in becoming a starchitect in the conventional sense- building huge buildings for credibility then ignoring the consequence of what they have on the people who will live in them. I'm interested in smaller-scale, meaningful projects that have a clear impact on the world. And at the end of the day, feel good about what I do.

    I've been reading essays from a book recently published by the MOMA, called "The Universitas Project." I highly recommend it- it is about a symposium put on by the MOMA in 1972, that brought together renowned people from all disciplines to rethink the future of design and design education. I think a similar trend is happening now, social issues and problems can not be solved by any ONE discipline, so people are reaching out. The concept of interdisciplinary collaboration comes in historical waves, I believe, and we are now, in one of them. If you do get the book, check out at least one essay, written by Richard L. Meier, not to be confused with Richard Meier, the architect. He was one of the founders of the University of Berkeley Environmental Design School in the 70s, and has a whole lot of good things to say.

    Happy Holidays all-


    • TED

      mikilee. interesting post. the biggest plus of the various 4+2-3.5 moves in architectural education in the last 10 years has moved that way in allowing folks with non-arch first degrees to contribute to the practice.

      the secret is redefining practice not focusing on should we get paid or not. collaborative practices are growing in the field that bring those disciplines together not with the intent of compromiseing ideas but making rich idealogies.

      Dec 16, 06 4:34 am

      Hi TED, that is interesting. I agree with you- the creation of rich idealogies is probably one of the best 'trade' situations regarding interdisciplinary work. It's important to document these things and reflect upon the practice when they do happen. But I still wonder about the issue of sustainability. Collaborations tend to fizzle when the funds for running them run out- ie. the whole generation of inventors that came from Xerox Parc labs. They all went their own directions, but the culture of collaboration requires a funding source. Without it, the work often just leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

      That, and it seems that there is in the culture of architecture, this intense desire to get paid badly, or if not that, an acceptance of it. I see this happening in many friends that work. It's sad. But maybe they just haven't found the right job yet. I don't know.

      Anyway, I do think the two need to go hand in hand - $ + ideas.

      Dec 16, 06 12:28 pm

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