UCLA (A Center for Ants?)

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    In reflection

    By A Center for Ants?
    Sep 19, '09 8:17 PM EST

    Wow. I can't believe that it's been almost 3 months since I graduated. In the last 3 months, it's been a roller coaster of emotions in every respect. A ride that I definitely wasn't anticipating when I first got to grad school, but my classmates and I were well aware of the grim reality of the "real world" months before we were to graduate. I have to say, also, that I didn't expect needing a while to recover from school, but the time has been nice. School's sustained intensity and the resulting isolation from the outside world totally shifted my mindset and it's taken a while to adapt to the pace of things. Another thing that I've realized was the amount of independence you have as a student. You're really able to do what you need to do in order to get things done and that kind of freedom is insanely liberating.

    I've been bouncing around LA working for a few firms and doing odd jobs to get by, and consider myself lucky to be still active. However, working FOR someone is a strange sensation that I'm unaccustomed to. I'm on their clock and their time so I have this anxiety of "wasting" time. But it's been getting better and I think I've slowed things down a bit and am readjusting gradually.

    But lets rewind three months back to the crit. The Crit, as mentioned below, was a star studded affair full of egos and everyone vying for a little talk time. It was a terribly difficult thing to manage as I felt like I was peppered with questions and never got a chance to finish answering one before I was bombarded with three more. In the end, I think the finished product wasn't bad but I put myself out of my element in the process of design and ultimately paid a price for trying something new. But I guess that's what school is for right?

    Images from final project, Greg Lynn Studio:

    The drawings don't quite show all the detail as it's been rasterized. But I shall move on.

    I was offered a position as a Jumpstart studio instructor. Jumpstart is UCLA's summer intro to architecture program, much like Harvard's Career Discovery, or SCIARC's Making and Meaning. It was a great chance for me to get to lead a studio again. The last quarter, I was TA'ing for Jason Payne's terminal undergraduate studio and it was a blast. I think the students put out quite a bit of impressive work and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of it. Teaching is really satisfying and I found it incredibly helpful in a reflexive manner. Especially when you deal with students who never have laid their hands on an olfa or ever seen illustrator or AutoCAD before. I've always thought if you really truly understood something extremely well you'd be able to explain it very easily to someone that had no knowledge of it. Not to say that I was a supremely adept instructor , but I looked forward to this opportunity to force myself to think about what I was saying at every moment. Too often we can hide behind a wall of jargon and split hairs, but when "extrude" or "tectonics" cause bewildered looks, you're forced to rethink everything.

    The studio went really well though it was hard to be faced with the fact that several students were just testing the waters of architecture and was a little tough to see when they began to realize architecture just wasn't for them. The hardest thing to do is to teach a student that just isn't interested in the work they're doing. It just feels like a huge waste of your time. So you have to adjust and make certain concessions for the student. Conversely, it was extremely inspiring to see students begin to "click" and start to be able to talk about their projects as designers.

    After that I was lucky enough to land a temporary gig at a professor's firm for a short period of time to help on a competition. The pace was incredibly grueling and going back to working long days and nights was a shock when I was suddenly on someone else's time. No little mental health breaks or taking an hour to run and errand. It was a little disorienting and frustrating and I had a tough time adjusting to the fact that I had literally no time for myself.

    After that wrapped up, I found myself embroiled in a new competition of my own. At least at this point, the competition was under my terms and I felt like I could do what I needed. We entered the Shinkenchiku competition sponsored by JA magazine and judged by Jun Aoki. It was really interesting and we decided to take on a very conceptual approach to the prompt. The competition asked for us to consider the new residence with respect to film and movies. Photography was a major catalyst in the reconsidering of the way architecture was understood and represented, and film has that same potential, especially considering the ease and ubiquity of film/video through the internet now.

    However, we decided to take a contrary approach which said that it wasn't just film, but rather the ease in which ALL raw information could be spread and shared now. Rather than a strict apparatus of knowledge making and legitimization through academia and the newsmedia, we are confronted with the ability to see all the raw information immediately. As a result, knowledge generation is a product of how we as individuals choose to filter the vast quantities of information put before us. I'd go on and on, but I know that this is pretty esoteric stuff. So we proposed that the new architecture wasn't about form or philosophy or theory even. It came down to how we generate what we "know". This filtering process.

    So now we come to today. I found another short term gig at the firm I worked at before I started school. It's a little tough because most of my working experience (and by most, I mean all) has been in everything from the beginning of a project through DD. I've never gotten a chance to see a project through CDs and CA. I think that it's incredibly important experience to have but realize it's going to be tough to get my hands on that now. So right now I'm content doing competitions, RFPs, and short-list proposals.

    Some days I feel incredibly energized by the current state of the market as it provides anyone with talent and dedication an opportunity to really rise up, and other days the bleakness of it all weighs down on me and I feel like I'm not moving forward at all, despite being inspired by school. But I persevere. Most of my classmates are only partially employed or not at all in the industry and its tough to see so many people that work hard and are talented completely stymied. But I remain optimistic and keep plugging forward. I think the most important thing now is to keep the knives sharpened and staying active, whether on my own or with another firm.

    Well that's enough for now. More reflections on school and how I feel coming out of UCLA to come.


    • Plumber Sydney

      Those are quite impressive images. I wonder if they will ever turn into reality.

      Aug 27, 10 5:58 pm  · 

      That is a very good concept. Its really beautiful. Hope it does become a reality someday.

      Jan 2, 11 2:11 pm  · 

      Nov 26, 13 11:15 am  · 

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