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    Studio Lottery: Before & After

    By Wayne Congar
    Sep 7, '08 5:40 AM EST
    Before (I wrote this first part on Wednesday, during Palin's speech):

    It's another night watching the American political circus/soap opera unfold and instead of wasting more time bickering on politi-blogs with other chronic comment posters, I figured I'd instead spend the energy writing on an issue with a bit less consequence, the 2nd year Housing Studio lottery at the GSAPP!

    So, here are the candidates:

    Laura Kurgan
    Fred Levrat
    Scott Marble
    Robert Marino
    Karla Rothstein
    Ada Tolla & Giuseppe Lignano
    David Turnbull
    Michael Bell

    And here are the talking points according to my former classmates (advisors), now 3rd year veterans of Housing Studio:

    Laura Kurgan: There's an emphasis on the diagram perhaps to the detriment of architecture--in other words, the research doesn't yields graphic design rather than built environment.

    Fred Levrat: Rarely shows up and somewhat disinterested in students' progression.

    Scott Marble: CNC, water jet, laser cutter, steel, glass, wood, fabrication masturbation--the end product is a prototype divorced from the site.

    Robert Marino: Michael Bell introduced Marino; he was at the GSAPP for 15 or so years before heading up to the GSD for 4 years. Now he's back. None of my 3rd year advisors know anything about Marino and the talking points are pretty thin...

    Karla Rothstein: Unnecessarily the taskmaster, pushing students to complete unnecessary tasks.

    Ada Tolla & Giuseppe Lignano (Lo-Tek): Charming duo with obsession for building infrastructure: water, HVAC, electrical, parking, etc. Under those circumstances, it’s difficult to let form take precedence.

    Michael Bell: Bell is the housing guru and certainly well-informed, but the political, social & economic implications of the architecture can be paralyzing: how can you design the effect could be so disastrous?

    Scott Marble: The importance of the studio site/context is greatly diminished once the fabrication fetish grabs hold.


    Gladly, the pageantry of political convention season is over (so many balloons!), and the comparatively non-dramatic school scene has come to dominate my purview. And now I'm free from political bickering until the debates and can blog about GSAPP/Architecture instead...

    Perhaps the best part of taking a year off is the counsel you get from friends and former classmates. They took the courses, they have another year of experience negotiating school bureaucracy, and are that much more adroit at making their education work for them instead of against them. However, the presentations by all of the critics had their convincing portions. My housing partner and I (Junhee Jung, who also took a year off to work at BIG) chose to go against our recent work experience (She at BIG and me at BIG & OMA)--highly research-oriented, obsessed with site and program analysis--and expose ourselves to something new.

    So, we chose Scott Marble and, fortunately, "won" the lottery. What's my argument for his studio over others? Well, besides the ability to break away from the research ball-and-chain temporarily and immerse in physical production, there are other reasons. With competitions and most studio projects, the paper project is sufficient. This is particularly the case at the GSAPP where space is limited, generally decreasing the ambition of models or making it altogether an impossibility. Work can be completed on any laptop anywhere that has CAD, Rhino, MAX and CS3. Tutorials are all over the internet and people are generally receptive to requests for cracks. Exposure to CNCs, Water Jets and other fabrication machines is a much harder to come by: some large offices have laser cutters, but as far as I know, almost all firms outsource small-scale fabrication to specialists (I'd like to know names of offices that have either...please comment).

    Another argument for Marble's studio. Beside enjoying his contribution to the current MOMA show--Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling--he has an agenda to promote small-scale collaboration, a model he believes empowers "the little guy," undermines the necessity to work for SOM et. al. after school, and has significant value in a school where the individual project is extolled and often, as a result, projects suffer under homogeneity of thought. Naturally, this jives with the aims of my own collaborative think-tank, labRAD.

    Beyond all of that, Scott seems to be, as many former students mentioned, keeping it real. Faculty at architecture schools are, understandably, obsessed with their own bent: in the age of specialization, school faculties are populated with specialists. Marble is certainly dedicated to the fabrication, design-build model, but it doesn't seem to have devolved into fetish. He placed his method squarely within a larger context of production where the CNC/Water jet/Laser cutter take are another means of output, a way to take design out of the computer, qualitatively no more profound than an inkjet printer.


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