City College of New York (Paul)



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    A Brief History

    By PaulAM
    Jan 19, '09 2:45 AM EST

    I had intended to blog on a regular basis, at least once a week, during the fall 08 semester. But I was unable to get a moment free from study. Studio was overwhelming. So much so that by the midterm I was in danger of failing quite a number of classes simply because I could not make time for studying the material required. How is it that some people are efficient in their studies? They do good studio work, do well in their other classes, have time for a social life. And they also have time for a bit of extra curricular activity – reading books, journals and bloging. It was not as if all those extra hours spent in studio – the days without sleeping or sleeping on an air mattress on the filthy studio floor for a few hours – was all that justified. My studio work was mediocre. It was all so frustrating. And the previous spring and summer semesters had gone so well. Well, there was no studio in those semesters.

    But now I have some time to blog over the new year break.

    Thirty or so years ago I dropped out of the undergraduate architecture program at Cooper Union. In January of 2008, I went back to school at CCNY to finish my architecture degree. It has been a long and difficult road, with no guarantee of success.

    I graduated from New York’s High School of Music and Art, where I was an art major, in the early nineteen seventies and went to the then very young architecture school at CCNY. From there I transferred to the Cooper Union. In the first term of third year, headed towards failure, I dropped out. I then proceeded to be a bum, first living off my parents, then my brother. Finally, I was forced by my brother to either get a job or face eviction. So I got a job as a draftsman in an architecture firm. And for almost thirty years I have done architectural drafting, with just a little bit of design work.

    Over the years, every now and then I would flirt with the idea of developing into more of a designer. But every flirtation ended with my accepting that I was not going to be more than a draftsman. Then something changed about two years ago and it is not clear what it was.

    Perhaps in my middle age there was less fear of change. Or perhaps an awareness of mortality, of how time just starts to fly by as you get older, produced enough fear to force me to change. Whatever the reason, I decided in a very intuitive, irrational, impulsive way to go back to school, develop into an architect, and not let anything get in my way. Of course there was the element of redemption, of washing away the failure of the past with success in the future. But I would not have gone back to school if I did not think that doing so might have positive creative consequences.

    The decision to go to City was a partly practical one and partly an emotional one. It was clear that I was going to go to school in New York. I did not want to move away from my family or give up my rent stabilized apartment. And school would have to be inexpensive. This left me two basic choices. CCNY and Cooper. It was of course possible that I would be allowed re-entry to Cooper. But it was unlikely and the rejection would have been so humiliating. On the other hand the school is two blocks from my apartment. At a rational level I should have tried to re-enter. But I was a coward. I did not even pursue Cooper.

    So I visited an academic advisor at City and we agreed that I would take four non-studio courses in the spring 08. At end of the semester, I would submit a portfolio of professional work which would be used to determine what level of design studio I would enter. The advisor warned that I might be required to start all over again as my studio classes from thirty years ago did not count. I expected that it would be second year to which I was assigned. This depressed me a bit.

    So, while working four days a week, I took four non-studio classes, did well, submitted my portfolio, was assigned to third year, took two more non-studio summer classes and did well in those. Hell, I was ecstatic. In fact I got down right cocky. Yeah, this was going to easier than I had thought. Well, I did not really think that. But I was hoping that things would be that way. When fall came, studio hit me like Katrina. In the back of my mind I had feared it might be that way.


    • Dapper Napper

      Looking forward to more, Paul. I'm really fascinated by the non-traditional routes people take in life.

      Jan 19, 09 5:21 pm

      Paul, I wish there was a way to make your blog more public because yours really is an inspiration...Returning to school after so many years, not many are strong enough to brave that ! I wish you the very best of luck and look forward to reading of your ups and downs..and hopefully there will be more of the latter :)

      Mar 4, 09 12:22 am

      Also, judging by the fact that you got into third year, your portfolio must be damn impressive..any chance you could e-mail me a pdf of it ? Or perhaps its up on flickr or something ?

      I'm a 2nd year engineering student and i've had it with all this boring math, switching to architecture and i'm wondering what calibre of drawings/artistic skills are required of an architecture student ? Sorry, I know you must be really busy but if there's anyway you could offer me some advice, i'd be very very grateful.

      Mar 4, 09 12:25 am

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