Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

  • anchor

    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:


    Many things have changed and many things have remained the same in architectural education. This we know. Yet the debate as to what requires conservation and what requires experimentation continues. In this opening keynote event, seven academic leaders of a new generation have been asked to present what they consider to be an ideal mission statement of architectural education, free from the constraints that institutional and professional inertia often impose, in order to articulate what is new or persistent about architecture in the 21st century.


    First up: John McMorrough, U. of Michigan. 

    1. It's all about jobs.
    2. Without a job, one retreats into a defensive posture.
    3. McMorrough ends with a quote from beleaguered former Dean at Princeton, Alejandro Zaera-Polo: I believe that the best education today is delivered through research and a direct engagement with the outside – with the industry, the community or the public at large – rather than through a retreat into a self-referential system which does not take into account the broader audiences that make the work significant and enable individuals to develop a truly transformative practice.


    ​Next: Heather Woofter, Washington U. in St. Louis.

    1. Housing. Engaging architects from around the world, to work with our students on how we can negotiate a complex set of variables--economics, demographics, cultural contexts, developers and communities, regional responses to landscape?
    2. The divide between hand and digital drawings collapses. Changing the way we translate ideas from sketch to space, with Google Earth models, computer science, digital fabrication.
    3. We should be student advocates first. Not burdening students under excess curriculum. Like the AA's logo, Design with beauty; build in truth. 


    Here is ​Chris Perry, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

    1. Perry directs GEOFUTURES, a post professional program in Architecture and Urbanism: Fifteen years ago, Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen announced that the world had entered a new geological age, what he termed the Anthropocene, a period characterized by industrial anthropocentrism as a new geophysical force on Earth. The principal qualities and conditions of this new age, namely those of global warming, mark a fundamental shift in human-nonhuman relations, the end of one world and the beginning of another, in which human social, psychic, and philosophical space has been infiltrated by a nonhuman presence, bringing with it a new period of environmental anxiety and existential uncertainty.
    2. Beyond the human, or between human and non-human. Animals? The aesthetics of ambiance, ambivalence.
    3. The aesthetics of the sublime. Programming for non-humans. "Does the sublime, in terms of a general displacement of humans, have implications for architectural programming?


    Fourth is Ferda Kolatan, U. of Pennsylvania 

    1. Facts Amended. Moving in a straight line vs. change.
    2. Reason has been privileged in western culture since the Enlightenment. Any attempts to address today's difficult problems without shattering this principle are doomed to fail. 
    3. Boundaries are not always bad--they encourage niche thinking. Interdisciplinary thinking requires disciplines.


    Number five: Jason Payne, U. of California Los Angeles 

    Subpop Redux (Still Keeping it On the Down-Low) - a reference to a talk that Payne gave at an ACSA conference in Chicago.

    1. Smaller is better, it allows you to pursue a specific agenda. Don't seek an audience--stay underground as long as you can. Certain freedoms come from this. If you can't stay underground, at least stay alternative. A big audience isn't necessarily smarter than a smaller, hardcore audience. "The best project always comes in second."
    2. Whatever, nevermind. Don't worship false gods--the canon. Learn the currently sanctioned canon, then learn to nevermind your way around it. Keep it real: sustainability, parametricism, affordability--these terms mean little.
    3. Keep it dark. Don't render everything out. Render for effect, not just for explication. Or are we really a service industry? But I'm not against digital imaging: post-process and post-rationalize. 


    Finally: Jonathan Massey, California College of the Arts

    "It's my privilege to have your attention alongside these panelists, and before the alcohol."

    1. PROJECT BETTER FUTURES. We aren't satisfied with the status quo. We should find points of leverage where we can tip systems and relationships into better relations. Politics, economies, disciplinary tools. I'm a pragmatist and pluralist.
    2. Architecture's whiteness and maleness is a weakness. We need to redress exclusion, and to address those who feel they might be better served by a degree in business or medicine. One thing we can do is reduce the cost of architecture degrees in time and money. Listen to Missing 32%. Black lives matter! ...And study multiple classical traditions.
    3. BUILD IT TOGETHER. ESTRANGE INSULARITY. I'm guessing that many of you have seen animals in architecture models lately. References to Corbusian modernism--also, some of them are cute. The BAAAHS big-ass amazingly awesome homosexual sheep roams the playa during Burning Man.

    Thanks for reading!


    • No Comments

    • Block this user

      Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?


      This is your first comment on Archinect. Your comment will be visible once approved.

    • Back to Entry List...
  • ×Search in:

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.

Affiliated with:

Authored by:

  • Lian Chikako Chang

Other blogs affiliated with Harvard University:

Recent Entries