Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

I graduated in 2013, but still live-blog here once in a while.

  • A Conversation with Courtney Sharpe and Cara Michell, Black in Design conference organizers

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Sep 28, '15 1:04 AM EST

    Hello Archinect,

    Black in Design is a conference organized by Harvard Graduate School of Design’s African American Student Union (AASU), coming up on October 9-10, 2015. The conference is by, for, and about African descendants in the worlds of architecture and design. But it’s also about the larger role of design in shaping our material culture and the responsibilities that we all share. I sat down with conference organizers Courtney Sharpe and Cara Michell, both members of the GSD’s Master of Urban Planning class of 2016, via text chat to learn more about the conference and the current state of diversity conversations at the GSD.

      [All images courtesy Black in Design. Photo credit for this image: Allison Green]

    LC: Hello Courtney, Cara!

    CS and CM: Hi!

    LC: I just got the GSD's very pink Fall lecture poster in the mail. What’s your take on it?

    CS: I was digging the pink and purple! And I'm excited by this fall's lecture series. Last year I wasn't interested in as many of the speakers but I feel like there's greater diversity of topics coming up.

    LC: I imagine that the AASU's work to foreground diversity issues helps keep this on everyone's mind.

    CM: Yes, hopefully! I’ve seen some new developments. On the academic side of things, we have the “MLK Way: Building on Black America’s Main Street” studio this fall, which is the first course I’ve seen outside of core studio foregrounding issues of race and social justice. The financial and administrative support that the GSD has recently given to the AASU is also a new thing.

    LC: And of course there’s your upcoming Black in Design conference. What is its goal?

    CS: First, we want to provide a platform to showcase the work of Black designers and other practitioners whose work positively impacts Black communities.

    CM: Our second goal is to expand the definition of what design is and what it can do for issues of social equity beyond the GSD’s dominant discourses in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning and design.

    LC: In terms of formalism?

    CM: Formalism in a vacuum.

    CS: Yes. And third, we want to introduce a younger and broader audience to the field of design in hopes of inspiring new career paths and opening conversations for cross-disciplinary collaboration.  We've allotted 25 tickets for high school students to attend for free, including 11 local students from the Urbano Project, and a group of 6 students from New York’s Made in Brownsville.

    LC: Super. How do you think about these different goals--one focused on a specific community and one extending outside this community?

    CM: First, I should say that although this year's conference is focused on the United States, we want to be inclusive of everyone who is part of, connected to, or influenced by the African Diaspora. So we’re using the term “African Descendants” rather than “African American.”

    CS: Yes, even though AASU stands for “African American Student Union,” our group has mixed feelings about the term "African American." The conference intends to build bridges, not walls, so we want to be as inclusive as possible by not specifying “African American.”

    LC: In terms of this community-centric aspect, how would you describe the current state of the Black design community/communities and what kind of bridges do you hope to build there?

    CM: We can speak most specifically about the Black design community within the GSD. We are unfortunately at a point with the AASU where we do not know what our future will be. Only 5 of 10 newly admitted Black students at the GSD actually enrolled for the 2015-16 academic year. The majority of the AASU leadership will also graduate this year.

       [A group of AASU members in the GSD's backyard.]

    LC: How many AASU members and leaders are there currently?

    CM: We currently have 10 members in leadership roles and about 5-7 additional members who are regularly active in the group, and maybe 50 more who are on our listserv and attend/volunteer at events.

    CS: Part of the leadership issue is that most of the board is comprised of students in urban planning, which has the highest percent of African Americans, and as a two year program it’s much shorter than the M.Arch.

    That is an interesting phenomenon--the fact that the Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program is able to attract and offer admission to more Black students than the other degree programs definitely impacts the lived experience at the GSD. There’s speculation that part of the reason why there may be more MUPs is that it’s one of the few programs that doesn't require a portfolio--so the barriers to entry, while still high, don’t require as much in terms of previous specialized experience.

    LC: Do you think that part of it is that young Black people who are into design and the built environment see urban planning as a more viable way to make an impact than, say, architecture or landscape?

    CM: It’s possible. I think that barriers with unpaid (and underpaid) internships, and the cost of materials for architecture and landscape studios might also be a factor.

    CS: So this decline in our numbers at the GSD is an extra impetus for our goal to expand our outreach to include younger and broader audiences, to reach people who might like to do this kind of work but have yet to be exposed to it. For people who see changing the built environment as part of the solution but who did not study architecture in undergrad, it could be daunting to take on that skill-set on "later" in life.

    LC: And this fuels the disproportion because architecture undergrad programs tend to have more Whites and Asians, and fewer Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

    CS: Yes. That said, many of the urban planners in our program, of all nationalities and ethnicities, DO have design backgrounds and made a decision to shift to planning.

    LC: Whatever the reasons, these declining numbers certainly add some urgency to your efforts.

    CS: Yes! The survival of a culture of Black designers depends on widening this funnel--getting more young people interested, helping more to apply and attend, etc.

    LC: What about Black design culture outside the GSD?

    CS: I'm not as immersed in that world yet. What I can say is that BosNOMA, the Boston chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), has been very supportive. They had us present at one of their summer meetings and their Co-Chair, Racquel Davey, is volunteering at the conference.

    GSD alumni have also been very supportive. Some, like you, have found us through Twitter and have been offering connections, stories and advice. It's been great. One alum reached out and shared with me a bit about the GSD’s Social Change and Activism (SoCA) group. Was that around when you were there? I understand that some of their key people were from South America and Africa.

    LC: Yes! SoCA was around. Archinect’s Quilian Riano was involved, and Quardean Lewis-Allen, I believe.

    CS: The alumni who have reached out to us have been generally excited for us and that's so cool. Some have also shared that these issues we're fighting are, unsurprisingly, not new. Part of what we need to do is increase institutional memory. It's easy to ignore students because they'll be gone in a few years, but when numbers get so low that the groups fade away, only to have to be reinvented later, it's hard. The ‘new’ group has to reinvent the wheel.

    CM: We're also hoping that the conference might help increase enrollment rates of Black students who are admitted. The GSD seems to want to help with outreach, but in terms of reaching out to alumni, FERPA regulations create barriers. We wanted to create a database of Black alumni, but the school says it doesn’t even track that information with regards to its alumni.

    LC: You've had success on Twitter and it seems that social media, on an opt-in basis for everyone involved, seems like a good way to get around these legal and technological barriers.

    CS: We've been trying!

    LC: One question I have is about the relationship between AASU and the rest of the GSD, and between students of different colors and backgrounds. For example, how does it work for students who are not Black or of African descent to participate in the AASU--does that get controversial or challenging?

    CS: Not in my experience. They are completely welcome. We recently wrote down our constitution and there are no race requirements for membership or leadership in the group. One of our current executive members is Latina. I think it's a self selecting group--and again, many of them are Planners!

    We are so small in number, so having people show up in solidarity has been warmly welcomed. That said, no one who has come has been forceful about taking things over. It's been respectful and mindful.

    LC: Cara mentioned that AASU has recently started getting financial and administrative support from the GSD. Can you tell me about that?

    CS: Let’s divide that in two--the AASU and the BiD Conference. Like most student groups, the AASU gets funding from Student Forum which allocates funding to groups by application from the student activities fee that each student pays.

    The BiD Conference has a separate budget, which has received funding from various GSD offices. For example, the communications office is covering the cost for our space and tech needs during the conference as well as making the travel arrangements for our speakers which is a huge help. We’ve also undertaken a significant fundraising campaign. This is not the GSD's conference, it is ours.

    LC: So you, and not the GSD, assembled the speakers and organized the schedule.

    CS: Yes, and we’re really excited about the diversity of speakers! It's not just architecture and planning. We'll have interior designers, a photographer, food historian, historic preservationist, agriculturist, eco-fashion designer, etc. During the interludes we'll have poetry, dance and singing! This conference is also a celebration.

    LC: Are the conversations still built-environment-centric? Your blurb talks about scales ranging from the building to the city, region, and globe.

    CS: We’re thinking of "design" as broader than the limits of the fields of study at the GSD and we want to increase interaction between disciplines. So the focus is on the built environment, but we’ll open the conference with workshops that play with the idea of the “body as a scale” because if not for each of us in our respective skins, there would be no experience.

    LC:  How many people are you expecting?

    CS: The full capacity of Piper is 400, so that's our goal.

    LC: Love it! Thank you so much for your time!

    CS: Thank you!

    ...And thank you for reading!



    P.S. If you want to get involved with Black in Design:

    P.P.S. It's been a while since I've blogged, in part because I've changed jobs and am now doing data viz design at the SF-based fintech startup Earnest. It's not at all architecture-related, and I have thoughts on this which I'll share in a future post.

    View full entry

  • How Frank Gehry, who doesn't know how to use a computer, started Gehry Technologies

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 12, '15 7:32 PM EST

    Hi Archinect, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Gehry Technologies CTO Dennis Shelden and writing about Gehry Technologies, Frank Gehry's software and project delivery services company, for the data-driven blog Priceonomics. Gehry Technologies, as you may recall, was acquired this... View full entry

    The future is here, and the future is terrifying. Trimble and Microsoft's HoloLens.

  • Live Blog: Bethany Lang: Ugly Data Duckling: Grooming Messy Data With Policies and Procedures

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 1, '15 2:38 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,Another session at Do Good Data 2015. Bethany Lang is presenting. (Warning--no architecture here!) "Ugly data" here isn't talking about the nuances of metrics or computation, but very simply: wrong data. People change jobs often in the nonprofit world, and it's easy for... View full entry

  • Live Blog: Kristi-Lynn Jacovino, Using Data to Influence Your UX Decisions

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 1, '15 11:51 AM EST

    Hello Archinect!I'm in Chicago with the ACSA at Do Good Data 2015, and Kristi-Lynn Jacovino from the Onion and Clickhole is talking about user experience on the web. The Onion has a very small design team (two people, I think?) and they just launched their new site today! (There's a nice... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Cole Nussbaumer, "Storytelling with Data"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Mar 30, '15 10:06 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,I wiggled my way up to the University of San Francisco for the first talk of the season in their Data Visualization Speaker Series, given by Cole Nussbaumer. [Update: a video of the talk is here.]7:05pm: Until two years ago, CN worked in Google's People Operations team, where... View full entry

  • Live Blog: ACSA 103 Opening Plenary

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Mar 19, '15 7:04 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,I'm in downtown Toronto for ACSA's 103rd Annual Meeting, themed "The Expanding Periphery and the Migrating Center." The first plenary session is "the pecha kucha of keynotes." From the program book:MISSION STATEMENTS Many things have changed and many things have remained the same... View full entry

  • Live Blog: LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne at UC Berkeley

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 20, '14 9:47 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,I'm at UC Berkeley in the beautiful East Bay to hear Christopher Hawthorne speak at the College of Environmental Design. From the UC Berkeley website: Christopher Hawthorne has been the architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times since 2004. Before coming to The Times, he was... View full entry

    Gehry on fish

  • Live Blog - San Francisco NERT Training, Class 2

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 16, '14 10:03 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,I'm back at San Francisco's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team Training, for our second class. Same disclaimer as last time: this isn't really about architecture, but I AM focusing on aspects that relate to the built environment. 6:40 pm: The dust in the air after 9-11 spread... View full entry

    That escalated quickly.

  • Live Blog - San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) Training

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 9, '14 10:01 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,I'm in a hospital basement auditorium in San Francisco for the first of six sessions to learn how to be part of the city's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team. It's a volunteer team, and the city offers the 20 hour training for free in order to help build the city's resilience in... View full entry

  • Ai Weiwei is @Large on Alcatraz

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Sep 28, '14 3:04 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,Here are some images from Alcatraz, including Ai Weiwei's new show called @Large, open until April 26 2015. Organized by the For-Site Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, @Large includes seven new installations that... View full entry

  • Live Blog: W. Gavin Robb, "Roots Run Deep: A Tomb for Manfredo Tafuri" (M.Arch thesis)

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 18, '14 3:34 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!W. Gavin Robb is presenting his M.Arch thesis, “Roots Run Deep: A Tomb for Manfredo Tafuri."The tomb and the sublime are closely linked.Relation between technology and buildings at this scale. Empathy: a tight fit between a body and its space.Instrument: a domestic scale and an... View full entry

  • Live Blog: Anya Domlesky, "HOT ROT: A Breakdown Manual" (MLA thesis)

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 18, '14 3:08 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,I’m at the GSD for thesis reviews—Anya Domlesky is presenting “HOT ROT: A Breakdown Manual” for her MLA degree.Landscape architects should be not just the apologists or ameliorators for solid waste, but active agents in the procedures of dealing with waste.The site is South... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Marian Dörk, "From Bird's-eye Views to Street-Level Data Exploration: Taking Text for a Stroll"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 25, '14 2:35 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!From the OpenVis Conf website:Marian Dörk is a research professor for information visualization at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. Motivated by the design opportunities and research challenges arising from growing information spaces, Marian is particularly interested in... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Mauricio Giraldo, "NYPL Labs Building Inspector" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 25, '14 12:08 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!The full title of Mauricio's talk is "NYPL Labs Building Inspector: Extracting Data from Historic Maps." From the OpenVis Conf website:Mauricio enjoys playing with code, objects and all things interactive. He is currently an interaction designer at NYPL Labs, The New York Public... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Robert Simmon, "Subtleties of Color" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 25, '14 10:40 AM EST

    Hi Archinect!Back for the second day of this great event. From the OpenVis Conf website:The purpose of data visualization is to illuminate data. To show patterns and relationships that are otherwise hidden in an impenetrable mass of numbers.In many datasets, color is one of the most effective... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Andy Kirk, "The Design of Nothing: Null, Zero, Blank" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 4:10 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!From the OpenVis Conference Website:  Andy Kirk is a UK-based freelance data visualisation specialist. Andy in February 2010 and this has grown to become a popular source of information about the data visualisation field. He became a freelance... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Jen Christiansen, "Visualizing Science," at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 2:16 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!The full title of Jen Christiansen's talk is "Visualizing Science: Developing Information Graphics for Scientific American Magazine."From the OpenVis Conf website: From its first data-based chart (on the topic of inertia, momentum, and projection) up through to today's web... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Kennedy Elliot, "Coding for the News," at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 11:55 AM EST

    Hi Archinect,Kennedy Elliot is up now, talking about using data in journalism.From the OpenVis Conf website: Each week the Washington Post publishes five to ten graphics, many of which are interactive and nearly all of them have a web presence. The reach of the graphics department covers breaking... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Mike Bostok from the New York Times, at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 10:45 AM EST

    Hello Archinect!I'm in East Cambridge for the two day OpenVis Conference hosted by Bocoup, an open web technology company based here in Boston.Mike Bostok, graphics editor for The New York Times, is the first speaker. From the conference website: He is also the author of D3.js, a popular... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Eric Fischer, "Mapping Billions of Dots" at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 10:32 AM EST

    Hi Archinect!Eric Fischer is up next at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf. From the conference website: Eric Fischer is a data artist and software developer at Mapbox. He was previously an artist in residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and before that was on the Android team at Google. His work... View full entry

  • Yestermorrow Design/Build for Public Interest

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 23, '14 9:50 AM EST

    Hello Archinect,This is a throwback to 2007 for me, when I attended the two week design/build course led by Jersey Devil co-founders Steve Badanes and Jim Adamson, along with New York-based architect Bill Bialosky. I had the pleasure of seeing Steve at our ACSA Annual Conference in Miami a couple... View full entry

  • Review - GSD's "Platform 6: A Year of Research through Studio Work, Theses, Lectures, Exhibitions and Events"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Mar 24, '14 11:08 PM EST

    [Image from Pimentel.]“You will be remembered for what you leave out or neglect.”Rosetta Elkin, Editor of Platform 6, includes these words in a short meta-essay entitled “Editing Pedagogy,” in which she retroactively imagines a brief for the project of gathering, selecting, and... View full entry

    Flip-through of Platform 6

  • Live Blog - Manuel Castells, "The Space of Autonomy: Cyberspace and Urban Space in Networked Social Movements"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Feb 18, '14 8:05 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,It's a packed house in (half) Piper tonight for Manuel Castells, Professor of Communication Technology and Society, USC Los Angeles. His talk responds to recent movements in Brazil and Turkey, drawing on themes from his book Networks of Outrage and Hope; Social Movements in... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Christopher Glaisek and Bruce Kuwabara on Waterfront Toronto

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Feb 11, '14 7:01 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,I'm back in Piper to see Christopher Glaisek, vice president of planning and design for WATERFRONToronto, and Bruce Kuwabara, founding partner of Toronto-based KPMB Architects and now Chair of the Board at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. As a... View full entry

  • Review - "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Jan 30, '14 12:06 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!Okayyyyyy, I'm back at the GSD to watch "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon (2012), a film about the origins of Studio H's design/build education taught by Emily Pilloton and her team of teachers (including GSD grad Hallie Chen!).Studio H now hails from... View full entry

    If You Build It Official Trailer

  • Live Blog - Kyle Bergman and John Connell in conversation

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Jan 29, '14 10:49 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,After the screening of If You Build It, film festival director Kyle Bergman and John Connell, the founder of Yestermorrow Design Build School, had a short conversation and I wanted to share it with you here. I was interested to see Connell live, as I had been to Yestermorrow for... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Futures Past: Design and the Machine (Mindell, Steenson, Theodore, Galison)

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 24, '13 8:02 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!Drew Harry and I are here at MIT’s Media Lab for Futures Past: Design and the Machine, a conference organized by Duks Koschitz (Pratt/MIT), Olga Touloumi (Harvard GSD), and Theodora Vardouli (MIT). (Don’t worry, Kanye is not in the house though if you haven't been sated yet, you... View full entry

  • Update - GSD African American Student Union and Dean Mohsen comment on Kanye West Visit

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 18, '13 10:24 PM EST

    Hi Archinect, Over the past few days there have been over 30,000 views of this blog's Archinect post on Kanye, and many times that number of reposts and articles about the event at other media outlets (including Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, USA Today, and Buzzfeed). It seems as if... View full entry

  • VIDEO - Kanye stops by studio to talk about architecture with students

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 17, '13 7:17 PM EST

    Hi Archinect, Yeezy surprised students tonight with a short visit to Harvard GSD's design studio. I REALLY like Kanye--Late Registration, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Watch the Throne basically got me through studio, from first year to thesis--so I'm bummed that I wasn't there. He... View full entry

    Kanye speaks with architecture students at Harvard Graduate School of Design (Video by and courtesy of Flavio Sciaraffia.)

  • Live Blog - Mohsen Mostafavi in Conversation with Nicholas Negroponte

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 29, '13 10:00 PM EST

    Hi Archinect! Co-live-blogging tonight with Drew Harry from MIT Media Lab. Full house in (half) Piper! From the GSD website: Mohsen Mostafavi, architect and educator, is the dean and the Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at the Harvard GSD. His work focuses on modes and... View full entry

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About this Blog

Lectures and exhibitions, news and events, now primarily from the Bay Area! Please note that all live blogs are abridged and approximate. If you want to see exactly what happened, in many cases a video of the event is posted online by the event's hosts.

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