Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    Open House Edition, Part One

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 6, '09 12:05 PM EST

    Hello Archinect!

    Well, we’ve finished four short (12-14 days each) projects and are just starting our last one for the semester: a building/pedestrian bridge integrated into, and more or less based on, one of three locks that sit at the mouth of the Charles river. I say “more or less” because although these locks create very specific site conditions, the project is not supposed to be driven by site so much as by more formal architectural conditions related to the mechanism that allows for a transformation (that is, literal movement) between two states—the first allowing passage for boats and the second for pedestrians. The project brief also gives only a very loose idea of program, simply stating that about 60% of the building’s area should be for public areas for assembly, and the other 40% for back-of-house functions.

    The project is in this sense representative of this first semester of the M.Arch. I in particular, but also of our architecture department’s culture in general under P. Scott Cohen. That is, although we engage site and program and the whole range of concerns that relate to design, what is often central is the question of form and of generating form in a rigorous (rather than based on more personal aesthetic preferences) manner through the use of geometry. We also generally do this in the context of buildings, rather than through abstract exercises or through objects of other scales or natures.

    This seems like a good time to take stock of my experience here so far for two reasons. First, our studio critic asked us to write a bit about our intentions, our efforts in terms of representation, the criticism we received at reviews, and what we’ve learned, for each of the projects we’ve had so far. That’s because we’ve done these four short projects and are now heading into a longer one—a full five weeks—and particularly because this project is fairly open-ended, we need to have some clarity about where we’ve come so far and what we want to work on for the remainder of the semester.

    The second reason is that the GSD has its Open House for prospective students today, I’m excited about that! I’m really happy to be on the other side of the table now, as it was exactly one year ago that I attended this same event as a prospective, but the whole school shopping and admissions process is still close enough in my memory that I can totally empathize with what these visitors are going through.
    So right now I have to head off to lunch and to a student panel (in which all faculty members leave so the prospectives can ask a group of students any questions they want in a slightly different and more casual setting). But I’ll post again this weekend with some thoughts about my experience here so far. For now I can say that it’s been really intense, and probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I feel like I’m starting to find my bearings.

    Thanks for reading!


    P.S. I sometimes get emails from prospective students asking about how they can work on their admissions package or how I ended up choosing the GSD. I find this really difficult to answer because every person has a different background and aims for graduate school, so factors that were crucial for one person might not matter for the next person. But I’ll try to think about this for my next post too.

    P.P.S. Here is the fruit (in the singular; the only thing we were to present at the review was a physical model) of my labors for the last project.


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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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