Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

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

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    Um, hello

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Jan 30, '10 1:31 PM EST

    Hello Archinect!

    So I'm feeling guilty for neglecting this blog. I have the usual excuses about being busy or trying to compose my thoughts, or whatever--but suffice to say that it's not you, it's me... and I’m going to do better now that I’m on the wagon again for semester two.

    Apology accepted?

    If so, I want to tell you that our first semester is over and our spring semester started on Monday. The workload is higher, as are expectations, but so is—or at least this is the plan—my capacity to deal with it.

    By “capacity,” I mean software skills, drawing and model-making abilities, and familiarity with the tools and resources here, of course, but also more than this: First, knowing how to strategically organize one’s efforts is crucial, and I’m hoping that I’ll continue to get better at knowing when to invest time in open-ended exploration and when (and how) to just produce. Actually, the key is to somehow engage in open-ended exploration WHILE cranking out a whole lot of relatively polished-looking shit—but for now, it’s usually enough for me to prioritize one and hope for the other.

    The second factor is what Obi-Wan Kenobi called “the Force,” or perhaps what we saw in Avatar as Eywa, or to put it in more pedestrian terms, just a kind of psychological strength and resolve. On this one, everyone has their own way of motivating and managing themselves, but for me this has to do with having a pretty strong conviction that I’m here for my own reasons: my personal amusement and edification, and a piece of paper that says “Harvard” on it—that is, I’m not here to compete with my colleagues who are on the path to becoming starchitects. These being my goals, my strategy is to do the best that I can within the limits that I set (for me, this means getting three workouts and forty hours of sleep each week; if I have these things, I can be pretty much game for anything else), and to forgive and forget my shortcomings beyond this.

    All of this is helped by the third factor in play this semester: I feel much more in control about my own education here now. I was able to waive two modules so I’m taking as an elective Sanford Kwinter’s class, “Light and Space: Experiments in Transforming the Photosphere,” and I’m also taking a history class that serves as the prerequisite for a summer drawing course in Rome. Studio promises to be really great again—this semester, it’s on “Matter,” or materiality—and our other courses are more focused than last semester, and deal with things I want and need to know more about (building systems, construction).

    Can one maintain sanity by anticipating insanity? Let’s just all say yes and move on.

    I gotta go reinvent the brick now, so I’d better stop and just leave you with some pictures.

    I counted no fewer than 25 bottles of Purell in our cafeteria this morning (not all are visible here, but I promise I counted 25 in the room). Some even have touchless dispensers and their own floor stands.

    This was the laser sign-up line in this same space at the end of last semester. The online reservation system crashed so we had to partake in what is apparently the time-honored GSD tradition of camping out all night (sleeping bags, laptops, and many, many extension cords) for the chance to spend a couple hours of quality time with a laser cutter.

    Here is Sad Finger, who made an appearance during the first month of my first semester due to careless use of an x-acto knife. I hope I don't see Sad Finger (or any other Sad Body Parts) this semester. A friend at Columbia mangled his thumb on a table saw a few weeks ago and needed reconstructive surgery--a reminder to all of us to be careful!

    My concept model for our wood construction class. We had a day to design a little bookstore, and will spend the next five weeks working out the details for it. During our pin-up, our professor kept asking what materials we were going to use for different parts of our projects--and since most of us hadn't yet thought about what specific products we would use, we all just answered "wood." Seemed like a safe bet.

    Thanks for reading, and see you again soon!

    Dr. Lian (defended my Ph.D. during the winter break!)


    • Kamu Kakizaki

      Congrats on becoming DR.!

      Please keep up the blogging, i'm personally reading all of your posts!

      Jan 30, 10 4:09 pm  · 

      Congratulations, Doctor!

      That is awesome, Lian. I haven't had a chance to write you back. I'm terrifically busy despite un(der)employment, but am so pleased for you and your accomplishments.

      All best...

      Jan 31, 10 3:43 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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