University of Arizona CALA

A student's perpsective on all things architecture and design

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    Introductions and setting ground rules

    Joe DeBenny
    Oct 22, '11 4:31 PM EST

    Introductions are inherently difficult. I've often been told that I need a hook-- that something that grabs the reader by the collar and sucks them in. I'd prefer not to be that aggressive with my first post so instead I'll just stick with an introduction as to who I am and why I'm doing this.

    CALA, Tucson, Arizona

    My name is Joe DeBenny and I am a second year student at the University of Arizona College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA) in Tucson, Arizona. Architecture and design are my passions. I eat, sleep, and breathe Louis Kahn. I pray to Dieter Rams and look to Le Corbusier for guidance. The Salk Institute is my Mecca and Scarpa's Brion family tomb my Medina.

    Sure, I have other hobbies. I play the guitar, read, write, and even DJ and produce music those rare instances when time allows. But architecture dominates my life. I spend around 70-80 hours a week at the studio and catch myself referring to it as home every once in awhile. When I'm at that other place where I sleep and shower, I'm often still in studio in mind even if I'm not in body.

    That's the 'who' and now for the 'why' I'm writing this. Believe it or not, but I'm not receiving a grade for the number of words I manage to pump out or the quality of the ideas that stem from them. This is an entirely voluntary initiative. I'm writing because... well... I like to write.

    I suppose I'm a bit of a rarity for the architecture community in the sense that I love writing. I approach it as a means of clarifying and articulating my thoughts and processes. I found that after awhile I exist exclusively in the visual realm for so often that my mind becomes a muddied mess. Almost like a vaporous collage of images with no author or clear intent. Writing classifies and delineates them into a legible whole.

    I've come to learn that architects are communicators-- nothing more. It gets romanticized and sexied up, but that's what it boils down to. So I strongly feel that if I don't master (or at least try to master) all forms of communication, I'm failing as an architect.

    I'd also be remiss if I didn't set the ground rules for myself either. I want to assure you that this is not an open diary or a vent to bash a project, professor, or colleague. This is a blog about ideas and an open forum for discussion.

    It will be the scene where I express my raw reactions to my educational process. CALA is a school not about doing projects for the sake of doing them. They are springboards to much more interesting ideas of theory and practice. I will approach this blog in the same spirit and strive to embody that value in my writings.

    I will do everything in my power to avoid giving what I call "project review updates" and telling you how my morning went. I'm well aware that many of you are somehow involved in the design field and live that reality already so there is no need to read it as well.

    I feel that there is an opportunity to be had in observing my educational experience for those of you who are practicing designers. I am somewhat unadulterated in the sense that I am not yet fully acquainted with the dogmas of conventional theory. I will write about the ideas that seem unsettling and even flat out wrong to me that some jaded designer would perhaps glance over because he has come to begrudgingly accept it rather than resist it. I want to capitalize on my own naïveté and use it to engage both practicing designers and design students alike.

    There will be many times when I'm wrong. I can already imagine experienced designers potentially rolling their eyes at my some of my thoughts. And I welcome it! If you disagree with me, please say so in the comments. I am here to learn and grow just as much as you, the reader.

    Also keep in mind that I said I enjoy writing. I never implied I was any good at it. I will make as many grammar mistakes as I do design mistakes so bare with me and be kind as you read. As I write, I have several projects next to me that jealously beg to be finished with deadlines always looming on the horizon. My brain is consistently being pulled in more directions than I think there are dimensions. I'm willing to bet that many of you can relate, so I thank you for your understanding in advance.

    I will update as often as I can with writings big and small. If you don't hear from me in awhile, I assure you I'm not dead-- just busy. I hope.

    -Joe DeBenny


    • Xenakis


      I used to live a mile from Salk, and while attending NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego I would visit Salk every week, sketch, make models, and create case studies for school. A great book to read-  Louis I. Kahn - the Idea of order - Klaus -Peter Gast. Kahn was influenced to a large degree by Le Corbusier, and another book that you should read  is the Modular by Le Corbusier - both "Modular" and Idea of Order, read together could provide you with insights. But visiting Salk brings it all together.

      Oct 23, 11 12:52 pm

      I need to read both of those! My public library had neither so I was waiting to head back to school and check it out at the Architecture library. Then a research project began and... well you can imagine I started reading far more dry books than I would like.

      I plan on making a trip down to California this summer and see it for myself. I'm going to treat it as an architectural pilgrimage of sorts and make a few other stops as well. Any suggestions?

      Oct 23, 11 1:40 pm


      Yes - near Salk is Neuro Sciences by Tod Williams + Billie Tsien

      Then, I would wander around UCSD, there are many interesting buildings there too, such as Giesel Library by William Pereira - 




      Oct 23, 11 4:14 pm

      I took a look at some of those sites online. They look great! Thanks!

      Oct 23, 11 8:22 pm

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About this Blog

Design is a field rooted in the marriage of the objective and subjective. The line between the two is often blurred and obscured to the point that there is little to distinguish them apart. A student can offer a unique perspective on the tenets of architecture with thoughts and musings unadulterated by the dogmas of traditional theories of practice. This is a blog about ideas. It's not a diary or a means to vent my personal frustrations. My aim is to stimulate architects and students alike.

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