Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    Slow summer...slummer

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Aug 17, '11 10:52 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,

    All good things must come to an end. This summer, for me, has brought a little bit of work and a lot of rest, with plenty of time to rehab my ankle, to catch up with friends, and to neurotically develop and re-develop my five-year plan reconnect with what really matters to me. It's been good.

    I stayed in Cambridge for the summer. A trip to the beach tomorrow--courtesy of some good folks in the Yale School of Architecture M.Arch.I class of 2014--will in fact be my only venture out of the Boston area.

    This might strike you as limited and boring. All I can say is that travel is relative: when I broke my ankle, one moment I was riding my bike down the street, and the next I was immobile on the pavement. For the next four days, the only movement I made under my own power was to sit up or lean back in my hospital bed, and even that was often accomplished with the help of the bed's motorized tilt. Then I started to travel modest distances with a walker: to the restroom; up and down the hallway; up and down some stairs on crutches and under the tutelage of a physiotherapist; and back to my apartment, which is mercifully compact and stair-free. A trip to the freezer to get ice-packs was something I'd plan in advance.

    Over the next two weeks, I expanded to a radius of three blocks around my apartment, and a week after that, my crutches and a bus pass were all I needed to get to campus. Two more weeks and I was walking without crutches--which very soon extended my range because, let me tell you, we are not meant to walk on our hands and armpits. Now I can go for long walks and bicycle rides, and, with the minor inconvenience of some additional ankle swelling, could hop on a plane if I felt the urge.


    But I don't feel a need to do this because, as you can maybe imagine, my sense of motion has been recalibrated. Do you remember when you took driving lessons and the teacher said to be particularly careful about your speed when you're exiting a highway, because you've adjusted to its high speeds? Same thing here, the other way around. And the lazy pace of a summer of glorious unemployment surely also helps, but a walk to the gym, to the river, or to see friends a few blocks away is enough for me at the moment. There are so many things to experience on the way--why, just today I saw this charming slug on Cambridge street.

    So I've had, as you can imagine, plenty of time to consider how motion, and mobility, enact both space and time. And how our experience of both grows directly from our ability to move, whether under our own power, assisted by mechanical advantage of a bicycle, the motor of a private vehicle, or the tedious rhythm of public transit.

    This leaves me both happy and a bit nervous about starting school again. The whiplash acceleration that will be imparted to my schedule and body by studio, courses, TA work, RA work--and what I am determined to maintain in terms of visits to the gym and some resemblance of a social schedule--will be interesting. I feel like a GSD veteran and a wide-eyed first-year student all at the same time.

    Thanks for reading!

    P.S. Earlier in this slow summer, I spoke with Bryan Bell, Design Corps founder and 2011 AIA Latrobe Prize winner, for the Boston Society of Architects. You can check out his story here.

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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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