Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    Arigatou gozaimasu, Mohsen-sama!

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Aug 27, '11 5:27 PM EST

    Hello Archinect!!!

    I was very happy to wake up to this email from Dean Mostafavi this morning:

    Dear Students,

    Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to this semester’s Paris studio offering, we have made plans to continue the Study Abroad Program in Tokyo for the Spring 2012 term. Toyo Ito will instruct the studio, focusing on the tsunami-hit area of Japan. [...]

    The fourteen places in the studio will be determined by lottery, and I imagine that everyone and their dog, their dog's mom, and their dog's mom's friend's goldfish, will put their name in. So will I. I'd love to eat me some udon.

    [Why HELLO, pretty noodles. I'd like you to meet my mouth. (Image from]

    And YES, learn about post-disaster reconstruction and try to be helpful to one of my motherlands.

    But that's in Spring semester. (And may I add here that I love the fact that I go to a university that has Fall and Spring semesters? At the University of Alberta and McGill, we had Fall and Winter--and believe me, the difference is not purely semantic.)

    For this semester, I've started to look at courses. The options studios that caught my eye so far are:

    Istanbul: Between Contour and Silhouette with Hashim Sarkis. Everybody loves Hashim. My guess is that this will be the most popular studio.

    Dominant types and the idea of the City: Housing Beijing with Christopher Lee. It's about new typologies for affordable housing. The irreducible unit and the city, with its surplus. It's not an original idea, but an honest and important one, and this will surely also be a very popular studio. (On a related note, did you know that China will complete a new skyscraper every five days on average for the next three years?)

    Evolutionary Infrastructure - the new mega form with Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi. The course description says that the studio will revisit the idea of the utopian megaproject--specifically, a large (mega, one might say) live-work complex that engages infrastructure and ecology near the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan. It's an Urban Planning and Design studio but seems to be pretty interdisciplinary in its approach, including architectural and landscape questions. It's ambitious, and my guess is that the results will either be brilliant or a fiasco.

    Light Monumentality with John Hong and Jinhee Park sounds something like Gianni Vattimo's approach to modernity and "weak" (but not just in a negative sense) thought. A kindler, gentler monumentality. They're going to Seoul to grapple with the question of how architecture there has been powerful in shaping identity and the public realm.

    Forward into the (Deep) Past / Back to the Future: The Harvard Kalahari Project Revisited with Lindy Roy. This studio is going into southern Africa to study the KhoiSan hunter-gatherer culture and environment (piggy-backing on major anthropological work done on this culture from Harvard in the 60s and 70s.) Then they're going to do a "deployable architecture" project related to a cultural tourism project with these people. This is certainly one of the most fascinating trips, but I wonder how the architecture will turn out?

    Water Line...Chicago's Urban River Corridor with Philip Enquist. This is another urban planning studio, and one that sounds like it will be dealing with the real richness and complexity of its context. Like the New York trips, a big plus for me here would learning about and meeting key experts and stakeholders that I might want to work for one day.

    There are several other option studios, which you can see for yourself. Toshiko Mori is teaching one on 'itinerant architecture,' working with boat and sail manufacturers and re-conceiving some of their methods in the service of underserved communities. Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu from the hip Chinese firm Amateur Architecture are teaching a very non-GSD kind of course in which everyone will practice Chinese calligraphy every day. This sounds wild and wonderful and I'll be paying attention at the studio presentations to whether the critics' English is good enough for in-depth communication. The course description was a little choppy and I definitely don't speak Mandarin.

    Wes Jones also has a studio about games; Luis Rojo de Castro is going to Venice; Roisin Heneghan and Shih-Fu Peng are doing a project in New York that focuses on housing, public space, and structure; Martha Schwartz and Emily Waugh are going to Gothenburg, Sweden; Henri Bava, Michel Hossler, and Olivier Philippe are going to New Haven (whooooot!); Eelco Hooftman and Bridget Baines are "revisiting" Central Park (so many studios in New York!); Juan Rois and Leire Asensio Villoria are going to Rosario, Argentina; Jose Castillo is doing yet another urban/housing studio, but this one in Mexico City; and Shane Coen is taking his students all the way to...MIT.

    Now, even though I described them this way, I don't actually think that the inclusion of an international trip is the deciding factor for most people in choosing a studio. But it can be one factor, especially when the trip is off the beaten path.

    Oh yeah, and the students who are on their way to Paris will be working with Anne Lacaton in a studio called 'Storyboard as Architecture Project.' They're starting with small things and fragments. I love small things, and am kind of envious. The Paris students also get to work with Sebastien Marot and Antoine Picon.

    ...and for electives, I'm looking around at other Harvard schools as well as the GSD. This is just my idiosyncratic list, but there's a half course at the business school on "leading the professional services firm"; a course at the education school on "the having of wonderful ideas"; a course on urban policy that is joint-listed between the GSD and the Kennedy School; and a course on "column and opinion writing" (that's so I can do a better job for YOU, Archinect). And Sanford Kwinter is teaching a new course on "a science of the environment," but I'm not sure if I can resolve the schedule conflicts.

    We'll see, we'll see. If what happened in previous semesters is any indication, what I actually end up taking may well be totally different than what I've identified here. It all depends on how the presentations go and how I fare in the lotteries!

    I'll also be a TA for the second-year structures course, taught by Pat McCafferty, and for Jonathan Levi's section in the second-year studio section (coordinated by Eric Howeler). And I have a few other small projects on the go, so it'll be a busy semester no matter how it shakes down. But I am DETERMINED to hit the gym (or the tennis courts, or the Minuteman trail on my bike, or running along the Charles) at least five times a week this year, come hell or, um, Irene. I'm starting to be more able now on my feet (and played tennis for the first time since breaking my ankle, yesterday!), so I have to use it or lose it.

    I hope you're high and dry, wherever you are! So far it's just oppressively humid in Boston, with intermittent (but heavy) rain.

    Thanks for reading!

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About this Blog

This blog was most active from 2009-2013. Writing about my experiences and life at Harvard GSD started out as a way for me to process my experiences as an M.Arch.I student, and evolved into a record of the intellectual and cultural life of the Cambridge architecture (and to a lesser extent, design/technology) community, through live-blogs. These days, I work as a data storyteller (and blogger at in San Francisco, and still post here once in a while.

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