Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    Hello Archinect!

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Jul 27, '09 10:13 PM EST

    I left Montreal and crossed the border between Canada and the United States on July 10, 2009, in the passenger seat of a mini-van driven by my best friend (I don't have a license), filled with all my worldly possessions, and headed for Boston. In just under a month I'll be a first-year M.Arch.I student at the GSD.

    It took me a couple of weeks to get settled into my new place (furniture, cleaning, unpacking, organizing, and setting up banking and filling out various forms at Harvard), but now I'm "all set" (as I've discovered Americans, or at least Bostonians, like to say). I just have to finish off my Ph.D. dissertation before the Digital Skills Workshop starts at the GSD on August 19...

    So I won't have much school news until then!

    But, to introduce myself, I'll share the paragraphs that I submitted to become an Archinect blogger. It's probably more than you could ever want to know about me, but here they are:

    My grandfather was a Japanese-Canadian fisherman/carpenter who kept an amazing vegetable and flower garden and did all kinds of humble but ingenious and useful renovations and additions on his property. His house and garden formed a perfect place for a young child to explore, and I'm pretty sure it was my visits there that planted in me a curiosity about architecture.

    I grew up in a suburban setting in western Canada (Edmonton, Alberta), however, and not knowing any architects growing up it did not seem like a likely career goal. So I only decided to pursue architecture after a few years of mixed undergrad studies at the University of Alberta in sociology, visual arts, and the sciences. I did one year in the undergrad program at the McGill University School of Architecture in Montreal, Canada, and in my first semester started auditing an upper-year history course that really interested me. I decided to transfer into McGill's History and Theory of Architecture master's-level program--after all, it was only a year--and ended up enjoying it so much that I am just now, six years later, finishing a PhD in that same program.

    During the five years of my PhD, I've taught a bit, worked as a manuscript editor and an assistant editor for a book series, worked as a grant-writer, organized a conference which grew way larger than we originally imagined, and developed a pretty good tennis game. During my undergrad, I also worked in a biochemistry lab. So I have work experience, but none in the “real world.” (I did have a “real-world” office job lined up for this spring and summer, but it fell through last October when the stock market crashed.)

    My PhD dissertation, entitled 'Articulation and the Origins of Proportion in Archaic and Classical Greece,' looks at ancient Greek ideas about craft, politics, and the human body which were formative in early notions and theories of proportion, from Homer to Plato. As I finish my PhD, a future research interest for me is in the relationship between bodies--and how they are defined, in modernity, by being bound--in medicine (hygiene), politics (the nation-state), and architecture. Eventually, I think this project will have something to do with understanding why modernity gave us so many unsustainable practices in terms of the environment and economics--but that is for the future.

    I guess all the garden paths, secret doors, and multiple stairs and passageways that my grandfather built must have gotten to me: I'm fascinated by how we move from place to place and occupy a given space, and how (you could say, in the way that cognitive-science or phenomenology would look at it) these kinds of architectural situations in our immediate, often small-scale, environment help form our experiences.

    As for non-architectural (!) interests, I enjoy tennis, mini-gardening, gerbils (who have their own architectural ideas), aquariums (freshwater fish and plants), painting and drawing, writing, and reading fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Cormac McCarthy, Mark Danielewski, and Haruki Murakami.

    Thanks for reading. See you soon!


    • Kamu Kakizaki

      just wanted to say just from reading this, i think you have a lot of insightful and interesting things to share. keep us posted!

      i emailed Paul Petrunia about starting an blog as well. Yay for noobies!

      Jul 28, 09 4:09 am  · 

      So are you switching to Harvard for a new degree? If not why does your banner say Harvard GSD Lian?

      Jul 28, 09 8:17 am  · 

      Oh never mind i must have just skimmed through that sentence.
      So i guess the real question is why you are getting a March after getting a PhD? Do you want to practice? Most people with a PhD i would think plan on going into the academic side of things.

      Jul 28, 09 8:20 am  · 

      welcome Lian! great first post, i'm looking forward to following your blog, and following how your past/current research interests inform your education, and transform as you take part in a design program.

      Jul 28, 09 11:16 am  · 

      this is on my list of bloggers to follow - great news

      Jul 28, 09 12:34 pm  · 

      welcome Lian! and have fun with the blog... a good way to get away from the everyday dreariness of studio.

      Jul 28, 09 5:17 pm  · 

      looking forward to your posts as m.arch student. cool that you did phd already too!

      i am also curious to hear about why you think modernity is unsustainable (or at least why it is any less sustainable than any other human period)

      great intro!

      Jul 29, 09 7:05 am  · 

      Welcome Liam! like the others, I'm curious about what prompted your sideways step from academia to practice and the motivation to get an M Arch...

      Anyways, enjoy the beantown summer and good luck finishing your book.

      Jul 29, 09 10:13 am  · 

      Lian! Good to see you are blogging. I guess GSD was the final choice. I look forward to following your blog.

      Jul 29, 09 10:21 am  · 
      Christopher Richard

      I enjoyed reading your blog, but what really intrigued me is what you said "modernity gave us so many unsustainable practices in terms of the environment and economics". Perhaps you can elaborate on that.

      Looking forward for your posts! (I'm a newbie also)

      Aug 6, 09 12:26 am  · 

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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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