Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    details and grass and jobs

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Mar 27, '10 6:37 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!

    Since it's about that time again, I just wanted to share a few things about this school, and the M.Arch.I program, that would have surprised me at this time last year:

    1. Building Construction courses, aka "City of Wood" and "City of Steel." I thought Scott Cohen was just humoring me when he assured me, at a prospective-arm-twisting event last April at OMA's office in NYC, that I would really "learn about buildings" at the GSD. But it turns out that these courses on the detailing and construction in wood, steel, and concrete are actually a helluva lot of work. We're supposed to design and innovate at the level of the detail, thinking about structure, construction sequencing, weather, and economy of materials to achieve whatever architectural expression we're going for.

    Here's one of my drawings for our first assignment from our “Materials, Constructions, Processes” course , which was just to document an existing operable window. Our next task will be to extend the range of motion of this window in some way.

    2. It’s not all digital. (Just mostly digital).

    Here’s part of a really beautiful student exhibition that some landscape students put on last week. Maybe I could just take this moment to apologize to my fellow Archinect-er, Andrew, and publicly say that landscape architecture is not “just about grass.” (Just mostly about grass.)

    3. Career Services. Prior to coming here, my impression of the GSD was that it focuses on getting its students out into professional practice, and that most students end up in corporate or starchitect firms. The corporate and starchitect thing is partly true, partly not, but what is definitely true is that the school focuses on forwarding the careers of its students and on cultivating its alumni network.


    We had a Career Fair yesterday for full-time and summer internship recruiting, and SOM, HOK, AECOM, and other big firms were there--as well as some mid-sized ones, like Moshe Safdie and Martha Schwartz. There was only ONE firm, as far as I know, that didn't have a major presence in the USA, and they (O2 Planning + Design) happened to be from Calgary, very near my hometown in Alberta, Canada. So I talked with them--turns out they’re doing the master planning and environmental design for half of that province!

    Career Services does more than the Career Fairs, though. Just in case we’re ever tempted to go five minutes without stressing about our futures, they send us emails every day about jobs, scholarships, networking and salary negotiation workshops, cocktail parties with real estate professionals, and resume/portfolio reviews. That’s what we’re here for, though, and they’re very good at what they do. I had a job interview this morning, so earlier this week I had a mock interview at Career Services to prepare, and I think that may have made the difference between not getting and getting this one. (Wish me luck!)

    Thanks for reading!

    P.S. Shigeru Ban, who's teaching an options studio this semester dealing with structures for refugees (in Haiti), gave a lunchtime presentation (one of the "conversation" events with Dean Mostafavi) this week. The Dean had to hold the event in Piper Auditorium, which he was loathe to do because it's a less "intimate" setting, but it was nice to be able to breathe and move my elbows. The images were inspiring, but the discussion was disappointing; it was hard to tell whether Ban was held back by difficulties communicating in English or a reluctance to really explain his work.


    [Note, March 29, 2010: Just re-read our "City of Steel" assignment. The task is not necessarily about "extending the range of motion." It says: "Transform the analysis of the window into a design for a new window type. Modifications may include: a change of scale, the repetition of the window, a change of material, an increase in its range of motion, a change in orientation."


    • Lian you are from Alberta? Did you consider the EVD program at U of Calgary? It is a program I have looked into.

      It seems pretty advanced when it comes to environmental design...

      Mar 28, 10 11:00 am  · 
      Lian Chikako Chang

      Hi Nam! Yes, I grew up in Edmonton and studied as an undergrad at the U of Alberta. (Are you Canadian too, or where are you from?) I don't know much about the program at the U of Calgary, though. It sounds like you might know more about it than me; what's the deal there?

      (BTW, I looked into changing the width of images in this blog, but it didn't work for me, as it just crops parts of the image that are wider than 400 pixels... but THANKS.)


      Mar 28, 10 1:25 pm  · 

      Go Canada! I was born in Calgary and grew up in Victoria. I've now officially spent the majority of my life in Los Angeles though.

      Mar 29, 10 2:56 pm  · 

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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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