Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

  • How to Stay Home (Pt. 1): The Three Easiest Ways to Protect Your Wellbeing During Your Shelter-in-Place

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 4, '20 8:55 AM EST

    Hi Archinect,

    Half of the world's population is now under orders to stay at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

    My own family has been feeling cooped up and longing for simple pleasures like meeting up with friends at a park or joining the hustle and bustle downtown. Then I realized that, as former architecture student on the mundanity of our domestic environments from the point of view of environmental cognition, I’m actually quite prepared for this situation.

    So we started incorporating some simple practices during our own shelter-in-place that have been helping us meet some of the physiological, psychological, and social needs that we typically meet by going out into the world. And over the course of a two posts, I’m going to share these ideas--none of which will be new to all of you in architecture, but they're so simple that they're easy to forget. 

    This first part has to do with bringing aspects of the outside world into your home:

    1. Open your windows for fresh air
    2. Get as much light as possible
    3. Reach out to others

    In the second part, I’ll share some ideas about some more unusual and creative ways that you can inhabit and manipulate your space to boost your family’s well-being–but here in Part One, I wanted to share the simplest and highest impact actions. So let’s dig in.

    1. Open your windows for fresh air

    The problem: Air inside a building is rarely as healthy as outdoor air, and poor indoor air quality causes significant and measurable changes in our mood, mental and physical performance, and even our long-term health. With your whole household crammed in the same space nearly 24/7, the air is getting warm, humid, low on oxygen, and high on substances such as exhaled carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds and pollutants such as carbon monoxide from cooking and other household activities–and even gasses such as methane from your flatulence. While this problem can be especially acute in modern buildings, which tend to be more airtight, most of us would benefit from opening our windows more.

    The solution: Open your windows. This clears out your stale air, letting in fresh oxygen and diluting smells, humidity, and pollutants that tend to accumulate indoors. Opening your window also lets in the sounds, smells, and views of the outside world, supporting a sense of connection to the world outside.

    If you live in a multi-unit building with a centralized forced-air heating or cooling, bringing more outdoor air into your unit is especially important, as it can dilute any coronavirus virus particles or other pathogens that are circulating. A recent study has found that maintaining a minimum level of outdoor air ventilation actually reduces transmission of the influenza virus as much as would happen by vaccinating 50-60% of the building’s occupants.

    Concern: Weather. What if it’s cold or hot out? You still need fresh air, but you can open your windows more at whatever time of day when the outdoor temperature is more moderate. You can also adjust your thermostat by a few degrees to spare your heating/cooling bill, and adapt your attire to stay comfortable. Then make yourself a hot tea or ice water, and enjoy that outdoor feeling.

    Concern: Letting in the virus. If your window opens directly onto a busy sidewalk, you may be concerned about the virus wafting in. In this case, try using a different window or door facing another exterior space–or ventilate at off-peak times. But you’ll still benefit from fresh air, and most of us should be opening our windows wide and often.

    2. Get as much light as possible

    The problem: Sunlight is much brighter than what we get indoors. Outdoors, we might experience up to 100,000 lux of brightness on a sunny day, or 1,000 lux on a cloudy day, as compared with 50-250 lux inside a home or office. Among other health benefits, daily exposure to sunlight promotes the release of mood-boosting serotonin, which helps us focus and feel calm; and melatonin, which regulates our sleep-wake cycles. Staying indoors nearly 24/7 could nudge us towards a form of depression akin to seasonal affective disorder, even in the spring or summer.

    The solution: Open your blinds during the day, get brighter artificial lights if you need to, and soak up some rays. Let as much natural light in as possible to your home, and don’t hold back if you want to follow those sunbeams around like a cat. If your lighting and mood are dim, consider investing in a light therapy lamp, which is a very bright full-spectrum light; or simply swapping some bright bulbs into your existing fixtures. If you’re going out at all, try to go when it’s sunny. It’ll be good for your mood, health, and vitamin D production.

    Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a balcony, backyard, or other private outdoor space–even if it’s shaded–you’ll benefit from any time you can spend out there, especially in the morning and midday.

    Possible concern: Will manipulating my light exposure disrupt my sleep? Not if you dim your lights, reduce screen time, and/or use a color shifting app on your devices for up to three hours before bedtime. Daylight and bright, full-spectrum light are otherwise beneficial for sleep throughout the day, and especially in the morning.

    3. Reach out to others

    The problem: You’re lonely. The social distancing that is necessary right now is also deeply alienating, as we’ve lost many of our usual social patterns and outlets. Family members outside your household, friends, work colleagues–and even the stranger with whom you would normally exchange nods or make small talk–are now farther away.

    The solution: Keep reaching out, to those closest to you, to distant friends, and even to strangers. Most of us have been using texts, phone calls, and video conferences to connect with family and close friends. One day, this might mean sharing meals with loved ones via FaceTime. Another day, it could be rounding up a group of friends to watch a movie at the same time, with a line open for real-time chatter. Or video playdates with your children’s friends. The feeling of presence–of sharing the same space and time with others–is a goal in itself, so don’t feel pressure for every moment to be dense or high quality in interaction. You can be quiet, tired, or bored together.

    It might feel awkward to reach out to people who you know less well, but it’s been shown that weak social ties are also important to our sense of well-being. If you normally chat with your nail technician or a colleague in another department for an hour each week, you’re now missing that interaction. So if you can, give a quick text to say hello. The same goes for old friends, your soccer teammates, online parenting group, and anyone else you might usually interact with.

    And yes, the same goes for strangers. Fleeting interactions can still be part of our routine, even if it’s just waving at a neighbor you’ve never met before, from your balcony.

    If you strike up a conversation with a neighbor, consider offering to exchange contact information (while keeping 6′ of distance), especially if they’re elderly or vulnerable. Prosocial behavior has been shown to reduce the negative impacts of stress on our mental health, so building ties and offering help will be good for you, as well.

    Possible concern: This is awkward. Yep. But remember that everyone is going through this same experience right now, and others are likely missing out on social time, too.

    Your Takeaways

    So, to review: get air, get light, and connect with others, since these are three things that are in short supply when we’re holed up indoors. While these ideas are obvious, I think it’s safe to say that most of us would benefit from doing one or more of these with more consistency, so now it’s your turn to start putting these into practice.

    In Part Two, I’ll talk about the bodily, sensory, and spatial practices and experiences that you can try out to relieve some of the grinding repetitiveness that can otherwise come from inhabiting the same space without reprieve.

    Thanks for reading!


    [Note: I originally wrote this post for a personal project I'm working on called Littldata, in which my goal is to lighten the logistical load on parents with data-rich content such as calendars, maps, spreadsheets, and lists.]

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  • A Hottish Take on the Future of Environmental Technologies in Buildings

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 30, '19 6:52 PM EST

    Hi Archinect! It's been a long time since I've posted; first, because I took a job in a (non-architecture related) tech start-up, and second, because I had a child and took a long pause from the working world to spend some time with him. But I recently had the chance to exercise my typing... View full entry

  • A Conversation with Courtney Sharpe and Cara Michell, Black in Design conference organizers

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Sep 28, '15 1:04 AM EST

    Hello Archinect,Black in Design is a conference organized by Harvard Graduate School of Design’s African American Student Union (AASU), coming up on October 9-10, 2015. The conference is by, for, and about African descendants in the worlds of architecture and design. But it’s also about the... View full entry

  • How Frank Gehry, who doesn't know how to use a computer, started Gehry Technologies

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 12, '15 7:32 PM EST

    Hi Archinect, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Gehry Technologies CTO Dennis Shelden and writing about Gehry Technologies, Frank Gehry's software and project delivery services company, for the data-driven blog Priceonomics. Gehry Technologies, as you may recall, was acquired this... View full entry

    The future is here, and the future is terrifying. Trimble and Microsoft's HoloLens.

  • Live Blog: Bethany Lang: Ugly Data Duckling: Grooming Messy Data With Policies and Procedures

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 1, '15 2:38 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,Another session at Do Good Data 2015. Bethany Lang is presenting. (Warning--no architecture here!) "Ugly data" here isn't talking about the nuances of metrics or computation, but very simply: wrong data. People change jobs often in the nonprofit world, and it's easy for... View full entry

  • Live Blog: Kristi-Lynn Jacovino, Using Data to Influence Your UX Decisions

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 1, '15 11:51 AM EST

    Hello Archinect!I'm in Chicago with the ACSA at Do Good Data 2015, and Kristi-Lynn Jacovino from the Onion and Clickhole is talking about user experience on the web. The Onion has a very small design team (two people, I think?) and they just launched their new site today! (There's a nice... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Cole Nussbaumer, "Storytelling with Data"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Mar 30, '15 10:06 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,I wiggled my way up to the University of San Francisco for the first talk of the season in their Data Visualization Speaker Series, given by Cole Nussbaumer. [Update: a video of the talk is here.]7:05pm: Until two years ago, CN worked in Google's People Operations team, where... View full entry

  • 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:MISSION STATEMENTS Many things have changed and many things have remained the same... View full entry

  • Live Blog: LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne at UC Berkeley

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 20, '14 9:47 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,I'm at UC Berkeley in the beautiful East Bay to hear Christopher Hawthorne speak at the College of Environmental Design. From the UC Berkeley website: Christopher Hawthorne has been the architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times since 2004. Before coming to The Times, he was... View full entry

    Gehry on fish

  • Live Blog - San Francisco NERT Training, Class 2

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 16, '14 10:03 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,I'm back at San Francisco's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team Training, for our second class. Same disclaimer as last time: this isn't really about architecture, but I AM focusing on aspects that relate to the built environment. 6:40 pm: The dust in the air after 9-11 spread... View full entry

    That escalated quickly.

  • Live Blog - San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) Training

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 9, '14 10:01 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,I'm in a hospital basement auditorium in San Francisco for the first of six sessions to learn how to be part of the city's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team. It's a volunteer team, and the city offers the 20 hour training for free in order to help build the city's resilience in... View full entry

  • Ai Weiwei is @Large on Alcatraz

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Sep 28, '14 3:04 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,Here are some images from Alcatraz, including Ai Weiwei's new show called @Large, open until April 26 2015. Organized by the For-Site Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, @Large includes seven new installations that... View full entry

  • Live Blog: W. Gavin Robb, "Roots Run Deep: A Tomb for Manfredo Tafuri" (M.Arch thesis)

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 18, '14 3:34 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!W. Gavin Robb is presenting his M.Arch thesis, “Roots Run Deep: A Tomb for Manfredo Tafuri."The tomb and the sublime are closely linked.Relation between technology and buildings at this scale. Empathy: a tight fit between a body and its space.Instrument: a domestic scale and an... View full entry

  • Live Blog: Anya Domlesky, "HOT ROT: A Breakdown Manual" (MLA thesis)

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 18, '14 3:08 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,I’m at the GSD for thesis reviews—Anya Domlesky is presenting “HOT ROT: A Breakdown Manual” for her MLA degree.Landscape architects should be not just the apologists or ameliorators for solid waste, but active agents in the procedures of dealing with waste.The site is South... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Marian Dörk, "From Bird's-eye Views to Street-Level Data Exploration: Taking Text for a Stroll"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 25, '14 2:35 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!From the OpenVis Conf website:Marian Dörk is a research professor for information visualization at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. Motivated by the design opportunities and research challenges arising from growing information spaces, Marian is particularly interested in... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Mauricio Giraldo, "NYPL Labs Building Inspector" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 25, '14 12:08 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!The full title of Mauricio's talk is "NYPL Labs Building Inspector: Extracting Data from Historic Maps." From the OpenVis Conf website:Mauricio enjoys playing with code, objects and all things interactive. He is currently an interaction designer at NYPL Labs, The New York Public... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Robert Simmon, "Subtleties of Color" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 25, '14 10:40 AM EST

    Hi Archinect!Back for the second day of this great event. From the OpenVis Conf website:The purpose of data visualization is to illuminate data. To show patterns and relationships that are otherwise hidden in an impenetrable mass of numbers.In many datasets, color is one of the most effective... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Andy Kirk, "The Design of Nothing: Null, Zero, Blank" at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 4:10 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!From the OpenVis Conference Website:  Andy Kirk is a UK-based freelance data visualisation specialist. Andy in February 2010 and this has grown to become a popular source of information about the data visualisation field. He became a freelance... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Jen Christiansen, "Visualizing Science," at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 2:16 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!The full title of Jen Christiansen's talk is "Visualizing Science: Developing Information Graphics for Scientific American Magazine."From the OpenVis Conf website: From its first data-based chart (on the topic of inertia, momentum, and projection) up through to today's web... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Kennedy Elliot, "Coding for the News," at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 11:55 AM EST

    Hi Archinect,Kennedy Elliot is up now, talking about using data in journalism.From the OpenVis Conf website: Each week the Washington Post publishes five to ten graphics, many of which are interactive and nearly all of them have a web presence. The reach of the graphics department covers breaking... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Mike Bostok from the New York Times, at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 10:45 AM EST

    Hello Archinect!I'm in East Cambridge for the two day OpenVis Conference hosted by Bocoup, an open web technology company based here in Boston.Mike Bostok, graphics editor for The New York Times, is the first speaker. From the conference website: He is also the author of D3.js, a popular... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Eric Fischer, "Mapping Billions of Dots" at Bocoup OpenVis Conf

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 24, '14 10:32 AM EST

    Hi Archinect!Eric Fischer is up next at Bocoup's OpenVis Conf. From the conference website: Eric Fischer is a data artist and software developer at Mapbox. He was previously an artist in residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and before that was on the Android team at Google. His work... View full entry

  • Yestermorrow Design/Build for Public Interest

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Apr 23, '14 9:50 AM EST

    Hello Archinect,This is a throwback to 2007 for me, when I attended the two week design/build course led by Jersey Devil co-founders Steve Badanes and Jim Adamson, along with New York-based architect Bill Bialosky. I had the pleasure of seeing Steve at our ACSA Annual Conference in Miami a couple... View full entry

  • Review - GSD's "Platform 6: A Year of Research through Studio Work, Theses, Lectures, Exhibitions and Events"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Mar 24, '14 11:08 PM EST

    [Image from Pimentel.]“You will be remembered for what you leave out or neglect.”Rosetta Elkin, Editor of Platform 6, includes these words in a short meta-essay entitled “Editing Pedagogy,” in which she retroactively imagines a brief for the project of gathering, selecting, and... View full entry

    Flip-through of Platform 6

  • Live Blog - Manuel Castells, "The Space of Autonomy: Cyberspace and Urban Space in Networked Social Movements"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Feb 18, '14 8:05 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,It's a packed house in (half) Piper tonight for Manuel Castells, Professor of Communication Technology and Society, USC Los Angeles. His talk responds to recent movements in Brazil and Turkey, drawing on themes from his book Networks of Outrage and Hope; Social Movements in... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Christopher Glaisek and Bruce Kuwabara on Waterfront Toronto

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Feb 11, '14 7:01 PM EST

    Hello Archinect,I'm back in Piper to see Christopher Glaisek, vice president of planning and design for WATERFRONToronto, and Bruce Kuwabara, founding partner of Toronto-based KPMB Architects and now Chair of the Board at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. As a... View full entry

  • Review - "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Jan 30, '14 12:06 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!Okayyyyyy, I'm back at the GSD to watch "If You Build It," directed by Patrick Creadon (2012), a film about the origins of Studio H's design/build education taught by Emily Pilloton and her team of teachers (including GSD grad Hallie Chen!).Studio H now hails from... View full entry

    If You Build It Official Trailer

  • Live Blog - Kyle Bergman and John Connell in conversation

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Jan 29, '14 10:49 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,After the screening of If You Build It, film festival director Kyle Bergman and John Connell, the founder of Yestermorrow Design Build School, had a short conversation and I wanted to share it with you here. I was interested to see Connell live, as I had been to Yestermorrow for... View full entry

  • Live Blog - Futures Past: Design and the Machine (Mindell, Steenson, Theodore, Galison)

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 24, '13 8:02 PM EST

    Hi Archinect! Drew Harry and I are here at MIT’s Media Lab for Futures Past: Design and the Machine, a conference organized by Duks Koschitz (Pratt/MIT), Olga Touloumi (Harvard GSD), and Theodora Vardouli (MIT). (Don’t worry, Kanye is not in the house though if you haven't been sated yet, you... View full entry

  • Update - GSD African American Student Union and Dean Mohsen comment on Kanye West Visit

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 18, '13 10:24 PM EST

    Hi Archinect, Over the past few days there have been over 30,000 views of this blog's Archinect post on Kanye, and many times that number of reposts and articles about the event at other media outlets (including Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, USA Today, and Buzzfeed). It seems as if... View full entry

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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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