Columbia Graduate School of Architecture (Greg)



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    Kindergarten words

    By gbugel
    Mar 7, '09 3:39 PM EST

    Several weeks ago a class of adorable 5 year olds marched through the studio while it was in session. This isn't out of the ordinary, as potential students and (sometimes) their families visit fairly regularly, as do classes from other schools or programs.

    When it became obvious that the class of kindergarteners weren't just passing through briefly (much to the delight of many students, who immediately dropped what they were doing to gawk and smile at the timid visitors) we realized that there was a definite purpose to their visit. Why were they remaining way in the back?

    They were invited critics for Mark Rakatansky's studio.

    The logic was that, if you cannot adequately convey your project and ideas to a five year old, you need to rework something, or everything.

    This idea resurfaced again recently in my own studio (more later on that), but at the time I started thinking about the language we all speak as architects and students. Archibabble is term that receives much derision on this website, but is alive and well in the studio and in reviews. Of course, an individual word can be well placed and sufficient in a specific sentence, so maybe it is the circuitous stringing together of bullshit that never gets around to saying something that is the actual problem, less than the words themselves.

    Here is a list of words that have taken on new meaning, usage or frequency since I started this program in the fall. To be honest, I am amazed at how easily I just drop them now.

    Render- I use this WAY too much now, even out of school, saying things like, "The cilantro rendered this sandwich delicious."

    Performative- This is one I never used before, but now I say things like "the performative traits of this shirt just suck."

    Yield- Not a very common one, but I sometimes wonder what design will yield me the best results.

    Space- This has become the most used word in my vocabulary. It's disgusting how much I use it.

    Structure- I try and analyze the structure of things I never did before, like newspaper pages or pizzas.

    Element- Everything has become an element. "The drum element of this song is the best part."

    Member- Like element, but used less often, though I never used it before. "The flowering members of that bush are amazingly bright."

    Tension and Compression- Two basic states that I look for in everything now, especially in how people stabilize themselves when riding the subway....seriously, it's either one or the other.

    Programmatic- The word program itself has take on new and more frequent usages for me, but the form programmatic is a totally new one, and I look for the programmatic layouts of mundane things like kitchen cabinets and laundromats.

    Skin and Envelope- These are similar, though envelope seems to be used more in technical discussions of environments while skin is often a vague term. Why do I think of my notebooks skin now instead of its cover?

    Load- The way that the load passes through a stack of washed dishes is very important, really.

    There's more, these are just the ones that popped into my head.


    • boxy

      don't forget 'systematic'

      my condolences for ending up with rakatansky

      Mar 7, 09 5:07 pm

      and "order"

      great post. 5 yos in the studio - hilarious!!

      Mar 8, 09 12:28 am

      Hysterical. My relatives often have no clue what I'm saying half the time. I actually stopped myself from using 'psychogeography' the other day during a trip to NY with my parents. My cousin, who is a kindergarten teacher, would probably get a kick out of this.

      Mar 8, 09 2:35 pm

      Awsome post.
      Coast to coast, academic to professional to stoned (or any combination), ADVERBS are where it's AT for ruined language!
      Actually, basically, essentially, virtually, totally! Fluff, all of it.
      Oh, and the word awesome, too.

      Mar 8, 09 9:46 pm
      Mar 9, 09 12:35 am

      Ah, yes, both systematic and psychogeography belong in this list. As do infill, diametric and diagrammatic...all read/heard by me today.

      And actually I have Bob Marino's studio, not Rakatansky.

      Mar 9, 09 3:46 am

      wasnt there a list that was posted some time ago about what words within archispeak could be combined with what other words to make confusing sentences amounting to total archi-bullshit?

      we've gotta get that list into this thread..

      Mar 9, 09 1:41 pm
      liberty bell

      Greg, you may be annoyed at your use of these words in describing the world around you, but your ability to apply architectural analysis to the world around you is a fantastic thing. The way cilantro interacts with a sandwich, the way a forces move through a stack of anything - that's all evidence of your brain revising the way it sees, and that's the point of school. Great post, and as mother of a 5yo, no matter what language I used I would be hard-pressed to impress him with ANY of my work (unless I built with Legos).

      Mar 9, 09 2:21 pm

      psychogeography, and both belong to the organization of this list. Similarly, charts, and infill of all positive ... read / heard today.

      ( Research Papers , Essays and Thesis )

      Jun 20, 09 7:58 am

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      Jun 22, 09 6:28 am

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      Nov 6, 09 6:50 pm

      And I really mean it
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      Nov 6, 09 6:51 pm

      "If you cannot adequately convey your project and ideas to a five year old, you need to rework something, or everything." Hah! I ought to give this advice to my University students before they hand in their term papers. It's not that I don't appreciate rich vocabulary, but as you said--it's less about the words themselves and more about the fact that people often pad their writing (and speaking) with unnecessary nonsense. I suppose they're just trying to appear smarter (and to stretch out the length of their papers to meet page requirements), but it really is frustrating when people use pretentious and circuitous language that takes up a lot of space without really saying a lot. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all. :)

      - Maria

      Dec 21, 09 3:48 pm
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