Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    The Return of Nature

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 17, '09 9:33 PM EST

    The Return of Nature is a symposium discussing "the question of architecture's autonomy in relation to contemporary debates." Each of the three panelists (a historian, theorist, and architect) presents a thesis, perhaps positioned polemically relative to the other two, and then engage in discussion: first, among just the three panelists; second, taking questions typically from the bigwigs (or the big haired, in a few prominent cases) in the front row; and third and finally from members of the peanut gallery. These events have been heady and entertaining, and very well attended. The conversations have been a bit too glib and theatrical to get at some of the potential intersections between the three presentations in an orderly (and therefore accessible, for us little peanuts) manner, but overall they've been pretty exciting.

    One of my professors, Michael Hays, was on the panel tonight and I thought he gave us a very lucid and touching moment in a response to an audience question. This is a very loose paraphrase, but what he said is that the reason why he's so interested in the sublime (a topic to which he's returned frequently this semester in his lectures) is because in a world where everything has become so ever-available and immediate, it has to do with negative reasoning, in that it calls up and faces that which is absent. In this anecdotal and rather garbled form, this may not seem like that profound of a comment, but coming at the end of an event that saw both a good amount of high-level discourse as well as tussling egos and extravagant claims, this very simple and heartfelt statement of one person's position somehow struck a chord with me.

    Anyways. That was the third installment of this series, but we have not yet had the second, which unfortunately had to be postponed. But I really hope to see Liz Diller, Mark Jarzombek, and Andrew Payne up there at the front of Piper auditorium sometime very soon.



    • i watched the first one and wasn't impressed. The speakers seemed to be fighting to be heard/speak over each other and they didn't but barely seem to touch on topics...

      Nov 18, 09 8:30 am  · 

      oh. so since sylvia lavin is a theorist, would farshid moussavi be the hysterical woman in the first panel? i agree that there was more fireworks than substance, and i don't mean to be oversensitive, but that first sentence of yours made me cringe a bit.

      Nov 23, 09 9:47 pm  · 

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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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