Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    In Which Elizabeth Diller Accuses Us of Being Modernist

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Mar 31, '10 8:22 PM EST

    Hello Archinect!

    Tonight's Return of Nature event was called "The Nature of Information" and featured Liz Diller and Antoine Picon. This was at once the most lucid and the most light-hearted evening in the series. (There were also some unintentionally funny moments: at one point, Scott Cohen said "I'm fired. I mean, I'm tired of...")

    Picon talked about inversions between nature and fiction, and Diller presented the Blur Building, Soft Sell, the 'Joyful Trees' at the Liverpool Biennial (just Google it if you don't know this one), Pure Mix, and the High Line. She entertained more than theorized, but boy, did she entertain, ending with images of flashers "performing" for people on the High Line from their hotel windows in The Standard. About the High Line project in general, she observed that "our biggest architectural act there was to not fuck it up."


    One question from the audience, addressed to Antoine Picon, was about the line between fictionalizing nature and lying. In response, Picon said: "I'm not pragmatic-- I mean, I'm not a practitioner. I don't draw lines. To make something absolutely true, you often have to lie. Although it's not interesting if you just lie because you're sloppy." And he gave the example of Sullivan, who used columns that were not load-bearing in order to ensure an undisrupted rhythm and harmony. At this point, Liz Diller interjected: "I feel like this is a very Harvard discussion and I'm a strange guest in it. This is a very modernist discussion to have."

    Thanks for reading!



    • fictionalizing nature and lying - hah! but what is nature? if humans are not natural, then yes, we can fictionalize nature.
      Apr 1, 10 1:29 pm  · 

      isn't nature itself a fictionalization? it's the discussion of the raw and the cooked. without the cooked, there is no raw, there just is just as there is not nature until humans decided they needed to transcend and invented nature to separate themselves from their environment.

      Apr 1, 10 2:56 pm  · 

      Lian, Your post's title reminds me of the time one of my favorite studio instructors (now at Yale, I believe) assured us that --despite his and a few others' best intentions to introduce us to the timelessness of historic building types and the importance of designing with context in mind-- we were being educated as true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool modernists.

      This was in my fourth year, at the height of the postmodern classisict uprising (1982). It was obviously true, but it hadn't dawned on us that "the Modernists" continued to matriculate in architecture programs, and were not a quaint cadre limited to the 1920s and '30s.

      Is it any different today, really?

      Apr 2, 10 2:27 pm  · 

      "To make something ABSOLUTELY TRUE, you often have to lie."

      Picon might have to change that sentence into 'to make something SEDUCTIVE, you often have to lie.'

      Apr 3, 10 1:29 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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