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    The Minimum Maximum

    Nick Sowers
    Mar 31, '10 5:45 PM EST

    There are 24 days until final thesis reviews here at Berkeley. This fact has many of us letting out prolonged sighs. The pressure to produce something which culminates our time here is mounting. To make things worse, the pressure is coming from yourself. We all fumble half-blindly for the release valve.

    As architecture students we are used to lists of Minimum Requirements. From the 1st design studio onward, we are instructed to produce a certain number of drawings and models at specific scales. We pin these up in neat orderly grids on clean layouts. This regulation of representation is useful for many reasons, perhaps most importantly to see your work in the context of a studio and learn about how your decision making and formal process compares to that of others.

    Thesis is a different animal.

    We know this because there isn't someone handing you a sheet of paper that reads something like:
    For your thesis you must produce at least

    • Three 1/8"=1'-0" sections
    • One exploded axonometric
    • Four perspectives describing the entry sequence
    • Site model at 1/16"=1'0" (a.k.a. the token model that no one pays attention to)
    • etc
    • et cetera

    One of the values of doing an independent thesis is that you are running your own show. So you come up with your own final requirements. What I want to see is not a list of requirements but a single Maximum Requirement. Try this one out:
    For your thesis you cannot produce more than

    • A ninety-second animation.

    There will be
    No plans,
    No sections,
    No models,
    No diagrams,
    No mappings,
    No glossy renderings,
    and nothing else to be mounted on the wall except the screen which your animation will project on.
    Good luck.

    Of course this won't get you to the finish line faster. But, I wonder, is the "Maximum Requirement" a useful way for thesis students to think about the jury presentation? What is the least amount of stuff that I must produce in order to communicate my thesis? It could be a gorgeous set of three perspectives 8 ft square, and nothing else. A single sectional model. A short story that you read. A set of surround-sound speakers you built, with your building projected as the sound.

    The discussion I want to hear is one about architectural media, not about whether or not the design is appropriate for the site, etc. These things cannot be judged by the jury. The jury is about the jury, not the project. So let's let that be so, and not worry that the project must be fully and extensively documented. Do that for yourself, to be sure, but be bold in your thesis presentation. Go out on a treacherous limb because falling off would at least be more interesting than sitting in a pile of thesis mud.


    • 18x32:

      you're right that you can't just hide behind the fly-through model animation. But I didn't say 90-second building fly-through. In that particular example, I am curious how the convention of the architectural animation might have to change in order to communicate the same architectural understanding that is conveyed by plan, section, etc. Who says you can't just project plans and sections and animate them? If your thesis looks weak in plan or section, maybe it's because it demands a rethinking of architectural media in order to say something.

      Mar 31, 10 7:42 pm  · 

      Nick, you need to get back to work on your thesis.

      Mar 31, 10 9:03 pm  · 

      ALT + F4 works like a charm--

      Mar 31, 10 9:25 pm  · 

      I think what you are hitting on should not be missed. The idea of working an idea to fruition and into a fully developed project. (plans/sections/elevations/renders) But then the step that is so sorely missed in architectural education, the focused editing. For yourself, taking from what you have produced and pulling the pointed ideas out and representing those only. So it may be only a fly-over animation, but only if after all else, that is the conclusion.

      Mar 31, 10 9:36 pm  · 

      our studio this semester has a constraint that is, I believe, in the spirit of what you're describing: 2 minutes to present 20 slides (followed by 8-10 minutes of feedback/review from the critic(s), during which some slides are revisited).

      Mar 31, 10 11:41 pm  · 

      as long as the jurors/critics can cross reference plans/sections/perspectives to best understand the project more power to you. I remember going through undergrad/grad and having only drawn one elevation - it can be done. Defend the argument allow it to be taken all the way through.

      good luck

      Apr 1, 10 12:57 am  · 

      The key is figuring out exactly what the minimum requirements are to convey your ideas and strive to do no more. The maximum legibility with the minimum deliverables. That is not to say that you produce way more stuff then you present - but you only show the relevant pieces and don't plaster the wall with every shred of trace produced during your thesis.

      Apr 1, 10 1:28 pm  · 

      well said barry! the minimum or maximum ought to be the wall you pin up on (and quality not quantity being the impetus for layout). also, too many times i've seen beautiful drawings pinned up in an illogical order with little concern for correspondence and the narrative of the project. oh and i have always appreciated presentations where models hang from the wall, but could be removed for more closer viewing ...

      nick, I'm envisioning headphones integrated into your presentation somehow ...

      Apr 2, 10 1:28 pm  · 

      thanks for the comments all, and @jesskleinman I whole heartedly agree that narrative is woefully overlooked.

      I think, though, that headphones would be too quiet! I'm embedding one of these into my model: (video)
      <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value=""></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

      Apr 2, 10 1:43 pm  · 

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