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 Two

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 14, '09 12:48 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,

    I wanted to follow up on last week’s post with some thoughtful prose about the GSD, my experience of it so far, and what I’m learning. But—and maybe this is the best sign that I’m starting to be a real architecture student—I can’t seem to muster up the words. So I’ll show you some images and will try to narrate them the best I can.

    The best way I can describe what it’s like to be here—and this probably goes for most architecture schools—is that it’s like a really advanced kindergarten. Or maybe a really rigorous one. We play, we invent, we get immersed in our own fantasy world, and we push ourselves so far that the normal conditions of the civilized adult world cease to apply and only a thin shell stands between us and a temper tantrum or, say, complete loss of continence.

    With this in mind, here is a time lapse video, taken by one of our TAs, of our class setting up our inflatable projects for our materials and construction class which ended a few weeks ago. [follow the link for the video: ]] The giant one at the front totally rocked—this team was the only one that realized you could create air locks and actually inhabit the inflated structure. To keep it together, so that the air pressure didn’t just push the plastic out into a more or less spherical blob, they built these tensioning elements (like columns, but acting in tension) that cut through the space. This created strange orifices on the exterior that passed completely through the structure but which you couldn’t see through without moving them with your hands, since the air pressure from the inside closed them off. image

    It’s also a giant playground because every day there are all kinds of events, most with eye candy, food for thought (and often food for the belly), and opportunities to see and mingle with Important People, or indulge in perfectly uneducational play with absolute seriousness.

    image [The above is Dean Mostafavi speaking the opening of Le Laboratoire at Harvard, which is run by scientist/artist David Edwards.]
    image [This is Mark Jarzombek from MIT responding to Marcel Meili's talk in a symposium on Materiality + Construction in Swiss architecture that is going on at this very instant.]
    image [This is my desk space.]
    image [This is a party.]

    But let’s settle down for a moment and talk about the work. I had a little mid-term discussion with my studio prof (Danielle Etzler from SHoP Architects) about what I should work on for the rest of the semester, and we talked about wanting to be more deliberate in achieving something specific through each artifact, whether it’s a drawing or physical or digital model. So I need to strategically deploy my (limited, but growing) skills so that each representation is not just trying to “show the project” but is a testing ground to develop a complete thought. This thought should neither be identical to nor developed in a linear fashion from the previous thought, but instead stand in a kind of genealogical relationship to it, so that at the end of a project I’ll have a series of artifacts that document the development of an idea over time. It’s basic, in a way, and it’s something we talked about quite a bit in my History and Theory program at McGill, in terms of the history of representation—but actually doing this in studio on a daily basis is another story. So wish me luck!

    image [This was my desk crit from yesterday, one week into the "Locks" project: analysis of one artifact so I can extract its essential juices to congeal into a new form.]

    Before I go, a few more pictures. Here is the review for our third project, which was called “Hidden Room” and for which we were only able to present our ideas through two plans. image

    Our critics are so passionate about the work and about our pedagogical adventures that they get pretty excited in their conversations, to the point where sometimes they forget that there are sixty students standing or sitting behind them, trying to see and hear what’s going on. So much of the review looked like this. image

    And this last picture encapsulates everything that I find wonderful and frustrating about the GSD. I’m sitting in on an class taught by Sanford Kwinter that I find pretty awesome—it’s about the last 30 years or so of architectural theory, which is really crucial to understand where we’re at today in terms of parametrics and fabrication all the software we use. But this Wednesday was Veteran’s Day, and the GSD doesn’t take a coherent stand on these kinds of minor holidays, so what ends up happening is that we all have classes but without the normal technical and logistical support—and Kwinter has to show his slides on his MacBook Air. Those of us with laptops were able to follow along on our own screens, so it wasn’t a complete loss, but still. image

    Thanks for reading!


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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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