Columbia GSAPP M. Arch I (Jesús Mariel Maldonado)

3 years of GSAPP



Aug '13 - Jan '14

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    Smiling at too many options, Humanism, and a shell: the first two days of GSAPP M.Arch I.

    By jesusmaldonado
    Sep 5, '13 3:52 PM EST

    Hey there Archinect,

    It has been a pretty jam-packed few days here at the GSAPP for me, as I tried to secure a good gig and do bureaucratic stuff. Recently, we were introduced to the options students are "globally" pummeled with in an "informal," "rigorous" and "critical" way. GSAPP's four favorite buzzwords.

    Should read: "welcome to another world"

    At the GSAPP, professors contest for your attention in their courses by showing their offerings through professional presentations that rigorously describe the course aims and prior work. Mostly everything from second semester on in the M.Arch program is chosen by you through a lottery system. I attended the Visual Studies and Building Tech electives, where there were at least 40 courses alone. There is no way to condense the nearly 3 hours worth of presentations, but this a summary of the courses that I remember:

    • understanding Computational Fluid Dynamics and Finite Element Analysis software in engaging with a structural engineering firm. Visits to and introductions to the staff supervising the construction of two Renzo Piano sites in NYC.
    • developing measuring devices to measure various paramaters (Temperature, movement etc) that send input to a microcontroller that will result in an output. Making adaptable architecture.
    • speed learn Javascript and Python to engage with algorithmic design software and designing a poster presentation for submittal to a scientific conference.
    • examining biomaterials, discussing relevant scientific papers as related to architecture, and employing site visits to current biomaterial production companies. (so up my alley)
    • dissecting typography to produce a classical, stream-lined book and a modern product of your choosing
    • using Maya and other software to create physics-engine guided short video clips of various artistic pieces (this was way cooler than it sounds, the pieces made my mouth drop)
    • creating construction documents of a realistic modular architecture

    Some of the options (very few) seemed repulsive or confusing to me, but that is the thing that was so wonderful. The immense offerings of the school force you to take a stance and develop an agenda; much like NYC, if you sit still in GSAPP you get lost.

    After seeing these lectures, I realized that the GSAPP is absolutely horrible at communicating itself. I have been in the place for over 40 hours now and I am just beginning to realize why. The program is immense and unlike other schools. The offerings were so disparate amongst each other, and this was only two departments. Historic preservation, urban design, advanced studios (of which there are 20...), real estate courses weren't even mentioned. You can also take electives in all the other graduate schools at Columbia, and that is not even mentioning the various Studio-X locations of Columbia all around the world. Add to that the body of research, that goes to the point of questioning the very definition of architecture, and subsequent production of projects around this point of departure.

    If I can even make a dent in the school, I could only be so lucky. I hope that I can explain what occurs here more rigorously, for myself and for others to examine. Oh no, I am talking like one of them.

    The immense variation of the work produced here and the innate talent within the school creates a flurry of intellectual activity that becomes difficult to keep up with. It can get overwhelming as you try and sit and eat a sandwich when you realize you're sitting in a building designed by an architect of the school, adjacent to a building named Pritzker.

    But in the final notes of the school introduction, Dean Mark Wigley stated that: "Aside from this rush of ideas, it is important we remember we are human." He urged the new students to watch over each other and confirmed the absolute discretion the fourth, administrative floor of Avery would take against any problems.

    A dean of an architecture school said that before the whole school.

    Soon after, we broke into our sections and I met my studio professor. He worked with Toyo Ito, my favorite architect right nowt, and we were introduced to our project brief: visually and rigorously explain a sea shell.

    Parting words: the head core professor, Galia Solomonoff, said:

    "I'm busy, busy, busy. All day I do things I enjoy, from the moment I wake up until the moment when I decide to sleep, because at that moment, sleep finally sounds better than that next thing."

    I have some ideas I want to pursue. I need to rethink them.

    Calcium carbonate never looked so elegant

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About this Blog

A blog that attempts to record the overload of people, perspectives and projects that run through the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University. 3 years of M.Arch studies from 2013-2016. Lectures. Tours. Crits, reviews, juries. Studio transgressions. Contentious viewpoints. Facts and fiction, with a side of parti(e)s.

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