UC Berkeley (Nick)



Aug '08 - Jun '10

  • anchor

    final reviews recap

    Nick Sowers
    Dec 12, '08 6:45 PM EST

    Monday and Wednesday were final reviews of the 201 studios. Since I wasn't in a studio this semester, working only on thesis prep and a few other classes, I had the luxury of wandering around and absorbing the spectrum of studio activity that took place this fall.

    I ended up staying with Ron Rael's Border studio almost the entire time. It was a captivating conversation, and kudos to the jurors for staying until nearly 8pm to see it through. So often a good jury will disintegrate as time begins to run over and good projects still await.

    Here's but a taste of things on display:

    Ron's studio:

    Nicholas de Monchaux's studio, in the lobby:

    Jean-Paul's studio:

    Griffin/Haesloop studio:

    Mark Anderson's studio:

    Peter Testa's studio (reviewed on Monday)

    At the end of the reviews, Mark Anderson called everyone together for a recap of the semester and to raise some questions and thoughts about the state of architectural design at Berkeley. Oh and of course we had wine and cheese, otherwise all of the students would have collapsed from exhaustion.

    I was pleased to hear a lot of passionate and provocative questions from my fellow students, both about their work and their hopes for the future of the school. We talked a lot about the collaborative nature of studios, and one person raised a really good point that collaboration vs. competition is a false dichotomy. As collaborative as our studios are, there's a healthy dose of competition as well.

    It always seems that a school's strengths are also its weaknesses. I raised the issue that many students here are wishing for more connectivity within the discourse, and I suggested that some of that leadership weight should fall on the professors. It is my belief that the multivalence of Berkeley studios is only successful as a whole if we can clearly identify how the various ideological strands relate to one another. This requires some effort, perhaps a lot of effort, and students should be involved as well. It seems necessary that the burden of leadership be dispersed as a central figure with a strong ideology might rob some of the intellectual freedom that Berkeley enjoys.

    We can still maintain the design breadth which is a strength at Berkeley; all I'm asking is for more effort to connect to the outside. And I don't accept the lazy argument that we are West coast and so we can't connect with what's going on in the East. This is the internet age, people. Besides, there's already been excellent efforts by Rene Davids linking in with South America, Renee Chow in China, Nicholas de Monchaux in Venice, others in India, and more.

    There's also a new journal that some students here are putting out, which deserves its own entry, so stay tuned for that.

    It's clear to me that Berkeley is in a transition period, choosing a new dean of the CED hopefully soon as well as a new chair of the department of architecture. It is my belief that this period of transition, this deterritorialized moment, is in fact a fruitful time for design work. As we search for an identity I think we, as students, are working harder than last year in an effort to forge this identity. Studios are competing, we are pushing to expand digital resources, and a new wave of faculty is beginning to get a foothold.


    • Moody


      Dec 12, 08 6:54 pm  · 
      MArch n' unemployed

      i miss it....

      Dec 12, 08 8:16 pm  · 

      Nice post

      Dec 12, 08 8:59 pm  · 

      i never had a cool studio like dat MArch n`unemployed so i miss it more !!!! b ut cant aforid pay to m arch course in da usa :/

      Dec 12, 08 9:18 pm  · 

      its always good to reflect, it actually makes all the work worth while, because then you can put a good perspective on what accumulated in the last few months...good post

      I think the biggest thing to realize is how to stay hungry:

      I was reading in earlier posts of what not include in Arch School:

      -Finance Majors
      -popular music form the current era
      -contact lenses
      -Microsoft office software
      -shaving razors
      -sleeping pills

      now i get the pun of this list, but i would reconsider finance major and MS Office reference. With this I economy I believe that we should not treated this period as just a slow down period for a lot of practices but in this case: our own 2000 burst. Just 14 months ago contemporary practices were popping left and right in mainstream media circuits and star architecture was at a tipping point. However, there was just an inlfux of us 'young, fresh, talented, but with little or no business sense'. I am not saying that learning to make a business plan should be in all course curriculum's (far from it!)- but it should be considered as a topic of discussion. So many of us expect to get jobs, then only 40% land one within the first 6 months, Then only 30% of us with those jobs stay employed for more than a year- based on our current unemployment rates.

      Now I think this article touched on some key issues. One of them I am going to directly quote it: "I raised the issue that many students here are wishing for more connectivity within the discourse...all I'm asking is for more effort to connect to the outside. And I don't accept the lazy argument that we are West coast and so we can't connect with what's going on in the East. This is the internet age, people." I think this needs to go beyond whether you have Study Abroad or not. Rather, can an architectural curriculum teach collaboration beyond its own borders. Before, I go on, I want to say that my daily reading is : Nigel Coates, Edward Tufte, Jeffery Kipnis and Cecil Balmond etc etc. I read , Economist, and Time on occasion- but not daily. However, I think they can be a place where architecture programs can allow studio projects in conjunction with non-design fields- and some have done this.

      (see below)

      Dec 16, 08 3:41 am  · 

      No matter whose ahead in this type of teaching, one fact remains the same: it can be a rude awakening. It can be in these types of scenarios one can learn the value of a drawing, model, project description, etc and others outside of design fields see them.

      Look, yes what I talk about comes with experience in a practice, but now more graduates don't have than chance right out of school. I think its important that along with teaching definitive standards in design development, research, building material, site work, and spatial geometries- there should be a development for every design student to learn how to be in tuned on what socio-political economic take foot. But not in the sense of data mining like OMA and many others- which has been great to some extent. No architecture student should be ever taught to save the world! Instead, it should be the case of how to sense these external factors of economics and cultural shifts and have the ability to extract from these : components that work with a good design- never should they be the design entirely. Its a new balance of enough socio-economic foresight to complement one 's budding design skills and development.

      This approach is not in any way, an end all means solution, but a hard question on how education, practice, discourse should intertwine for this time that we are in now.

      Dec 16, 08 3:41 am  · 

      I like your thoughts orangebang. I will have to reflect more on them. You seem to have a level-headed approach to integrating practice into education. It's interesting, actually quite funny, that the thesis prep semester I just went through was all about removing our 'sense of responsibility' to the world and diving into our own muddied and convoluted ideologies, picking apart our existence as 'historically constituted subjects'. The thesis is so self-indulgent, but I don't think it excludes responsibility and connection to the outside world, not at all. I think a good thesis student finds a way of seeing that allows him/her to pull in outside influences, perhaps even propose a new way of working for the architect (i.e. serving the public, directly)

      The culmination of architecture school is a process of self-emancipation, decoding the way that you think about space so that you might be not only aware of it but in control of it. No, you can't change the world, but you can be conscious of your place in it.

      Dec 16, 08 12:12 pm  · 

      A. Is that an overhead projector?
      B. Why does that guy have to point with both hands?
      C. How did you get on the ceiling and wasn't everyone distracted by you crawling around up there? Freak.

      Looks like the work got better since I left. I'm glad. That I left I mean.

      But seriously, it's great that you're doing this. Berkeley needed it.


      Dec 17, 08 12:51 pm  · 


      A. in fact, two overhead projectors
      B. he really meant what he was saying
      C. I'm just that tall.

      Thanks for reading.

      Dec 17, 08 4:43 pm  · 

      did you show me around berkeley this past summer, in early july?
      (came looking for taylor medlin...)

      if so


      Dec 17, 08 5:40 pm  · 

      Block this user

      Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

    • Back to Entry List...
  • ×Search in:

Affiliated with:

Authored by:

Other blogs affiliated with University of California, Berkeley:

Recent Entries