Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    Thickened Wall: Mission (more or less) accomplished!

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Mar 19, '10 3:35 PM EST

    When this project started, my goal was to have a clear direction from the beginning, and I took for this starting point the idea of urban fabric on the Greek island of Santorini. I was interested in stacking, nesting, and complexity in section, and the use of one building's negative space as its neighbor's positive space. I was also interested in the idea of continuous circulation, or circulation spaces that are not separated as a system from dwelling spaces.

    Here are the results of the three-week investigation. My projected ended up being about reconciling a bottom-up approach (a little orthogonal module that would aggregate to form bookshelves, stairs, floors, and allow for gaps or apertures) with a top-down approach (of an overall form defining circulation). An intermediate module, or a mid-sized assembly of modules forming a little platform that splits into two stairs, was my tool for bringing these two approaches and scales together. This aggregation is repeated, in different orientations (upside down, rotated) to achieve one of the goals set out for us in the brief: a system creating repetition and variation throughout the length of a "thickened wall," or section of a library facade and the spaces immediately behind it.

    The main weaknesses to my scheme were that I developed circulation more than defined places of pause (which were supposed to be spaces for library carrels of different sizes), and--not unrelated--that most of my moves acted in two dimensions, leaving the facade and elements parallel to it entirely flat. The flatness in itself wasn't a problem, and actually I kind of liked its effect on the facade, but the problem was in the fact that the flatness was related to the lack of definition of the carrel spaces.

    Anyways, I enjoyed the process, and felt that having a clear goal from the beginning did help me to focus. Not that this prevented a last-minute rush! The final design decisions and all the production still got crammed into the last two days before the review.

    On another note, the exhibitions people are putting up a show on Claude Cormier, a landscape architect from my adopted hometown of Montreal! Check out the pink lipstick forest. Cormier gave a lecture at McGill when I was a student there, and he said that the pink color was something he had to gradually warm the client up to. The first time he presented the idea, the tree-trunks were brown, and in each successive meeting he gradually made the color brighter and pinker.

    Thanks for reading!


    image Here's my module.

    image Here's an early study model of the bottom-up aggregation, looking at the idea of these bifurcating (to use a fancy word) or split-level (to use a vernacular one) stairs.

    image Here's a concept model of the top-down circulation pattern.

    image Diagrams.

    image Drawings: elevation, plan, long section, series of short sections.

    image Here's the facade on the model.

    image Here's an interior shot of the model.

    imageimageimage The Claude Cormier exhibition installation. The pink lipstick forest (part of Montreal's Palais de Congrès, or Convention Center) can be seen in the last photo.


    • awkeytect

      looks great Lian, lot of work - wish I could see the diagrams full size.

      Mar 20, 10 12:53 am  · 

      this looks really interesting. I like the facade pattern a lot. may I ask what kind of wood you used for your early study model and how you cantilevered it out through the repetition? was it just glued?

      Mar 20, 10 1:39 pm  · 
      Lian Chikako Chang

      @ aveclaudenum: very advanced: (laser cut) chipboard and scotch tape!
      @ awkeytect: thanks so much! I don't know how to put images up here at more than 400 dpi wide... I'll work on it (or email me at lchang1 at gsd dot harvard dot edu and I'll be glad to send you the file!)

      Mar 20, 10 3:59 pm  · 

      Lian after the image file name you just have to have a space and then type Width=436 or whatever width you want...

      Mar 21, 10 10:24 am  · 

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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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