Harvard University - GSD (Quilian)



Sep '06 - Dec '09

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    DISCO Project 1: The Stair Project

    Quilian Riano
    Jul 1, '09 5:40 PM EST

    The only way to describe any 6-week design program, such as Harvard GSD's Career Discovery, is INTENSE. Intense for the administrators, instructors like myself, but specially for the students.

    I empathize, back about ten years ago I did my first two semesters of design school in two six-week semesters over a summer, with studio meeting everyday. And one of those was with UF's infamous professor Bernard Voichysonk, a man known for being a GREAT professor who was rumored to occasionally destroy drawings and models (never happened to me). I did not sleep.

    This is a little different as no one here is in design school and we are all aware of it. However, design is design and it takes a lot of time and it takes its toll on everyone. Some of my students decided that this was not for them and out of the eleven I started with we are down to eight.

    This is the process we took during the first project.

    The first week project was to design a new staircase for the Laurentian library, except we did not tell the students. Their job was to simply connect an abstract tall room to a long room.

    This first project was so lose and open that I decided that what I would try to teach each student how to develop an architectural language.

    I began the process by asking each of the eleven students that were working with me to bring me a stair and a staircase of their choosing. We then took that staircase and tried to find its main concept. The way the staircase shaped the space. We sketched that and tried to separate it from the stair. We then went out into different spaces in Harvard yard and sketched similar conditions in real stairs.

    At that point we took all the sketches and tried to distill that concept in a watercolor. It was back in my second semester that Voichysonk (who worked for Joseph Albers) taught me how to make analytical watercolors. I had workshops for all the techniques used (focusing on quick and 'sketchy', if colorful, ways of working) and worked individually with each student to find their own individual spatial languages and logics.

    Those watercolors served as the 'blueprints' for the design of the staircase. By this point each person had both a spatial concept and a burgeoning architectural language to work with.

    The process this first week was clear but at the same time weirdly chaotic. I had to get to know my students, I had to teach them how to use all their tools and what the different media can do for them. Perhaps more importantly I had to remember what is like to not know what plans, scales, sections, etc... are. How to unlearn the archispeak that I have developed in the past ten years.

    The week ended with a joint review with DK Osseo-Assare's studio. DK and I are good friends and invited other people that we are close to for the jury. The result was a fiery yet friendly critique (among the jurors) that the students loved as entertainment and pedagogy.

    As the archinect blogger I obviously think that showing work and writing about it is an important thing for a designer to do, so I asked each of my students to make a flickr account to begin their digital portfolio.
    Check out this one week project (in no particular order):

    Tatiana Rodriguez11
    Jaclyn Jung

    Some of the students have not put up their pics.

    Up Next... DISCO Project 2: The two house project (final review is tomorrow)


    Above from left: Q, Jonathan Evans, DK Osseo Asare
    Below: Full crit mode

    (photos of the crit by Patricia)


    • Q!!!

      Jul 1, 09 9:48 pm  · 

      Great post!

      Jul 2, 09 3:29 am  · 

      Nice Q! There is some good work in there. I look forward to seeing more projects. I hope to be able to teach one of these next summer.

      Jul 2, 09 11:19 am  · 

      I took Career Discovery back in 2003 and really enjoyed it. I think it's a really good program. I think it helped a lot of people separate fact from fiction and make an educated choice before sinking the time into applying for arch school and even more so before sinking a ton of money on arch school once they were accepted.

      Jul 4, 09 12:23 am  · 

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