Archive for November, 2009

design for flu season

It’s strange that I have not had a serious fever for so long (middle school? elementary school?) that I thought I was immune. Obviously this is not the case since I am officially in ‘self-isolation’ mode for flu at the moment.

The best things to come out of this experience so far are 1 – I’m being asked to drink ginger ale and 2 – super sweet disposable thermometers from 3M. Given the terrible state of hospital decor (terrible patterned/textured draperies, gloomy lighting, strange spotted linoleum), the 3M thermometers were the sole bright spot in my afternoon at MIT medical yesterday.

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The red dots turn to blue dots are the thermometer goes into your mouth. Each line is a degree (i.e. 95, 96) and each dot is a .2 degree increment. The blue dots are filled in more uniformly when it first comes out of your mouth.

Sleek, compact, and legible. 3M is doing it all with Tempa.DOT.  This makes me want to take my temperature every 4-6 hours like they said.

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fashion, it is irrelevant

I am putting off Chinese homework, diagramming the uses of my building, reskimming S,M,L,XL (a canonical architecture book), scanning for thesis because I just received The Sartorialist by Scott Schumann. It is the first compilation of his work as a street style photographer and it is a bible, treasure chest, a gem, an encyclopedia, a wunderkabinett of style . Too many cheesy words come to mind.

I discovered The Sartorialist the summer after freshman year in college and it has since held my absolute loyalty and respect. Within the first week of discovery, I had gone through 2 years worth of the blog’s archives. There was some inexplicable magic in Schumann’s photographs that revealed the thoughtfulness and true skill with which these people dressed, but also conveyed, somehow, that good style was easily within reach. I remember thinking “Of course, I can do this too”. Over the course of the summer, I went from being superficially interested in fashion to completely being fascinated by the details and grammar of style.

Studying the diverse range of Schumann’s photos gave me a language with which to understand style. Suddenly  I realized that a good outfit which I previously understood as a lucky, magical set of matching clothing, could be dissected into the choice of proportions, choice of fabric/texture, and choice of color (there is much more variety than you think). Schumann’s work has been and still is one of the greatest influences on my ever changing ideas about ‘good style’. The magnitude of his influence is up there with St. Andrew’s preppiness, a handful of fantastically and individualistically dressed friends and the T style magazine.

Despite my complete admiration for his work, I do have some criticism. After two years of following the blog,  I find the proportions and silhouettes he captures too repetitive  and his photos compositionally look too much the same. Ironically, someone who does these two things very well is his girlfriend, Garance Dore, who constantly shocks me with the beauty of her images. What Schumann does consistently well, and better than any other blog, is capturing the texture of clothing. It’s obvious that he is obsessed with it and if you look closely enough, his blog is an encyclopedia of matching textures, contrasting textures, unexpected textures, everything textured.

Below is a few excerpts from Schumann’s book of my favorite ‘texture’ photos. (Sorry for the terrible quality. In fact, I’m not sure you can see any texture at all. This will be fixed later.)

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Giorgio Armani. To pull of monotone is all about getting the weight of the materials right.

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(Right) Rubber, cotton, knit, tweed, silk, canvas. He's got it all.

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(Right) This is probably my favorite. I love the lightness of the shirt dress in contrast with the kind of bag I would normally categorize as a 'winter' bag. It's perfect because the thick texture of the bag makes her shirt seem even more weightless.

A soft, fitting cotton/synthetic turtleneck with an extremely structured skirt. It's unexpected and beautiful.

(Left)A soft, fitting cotton/synthetic turtleneck with an extremely structured skirt. It's unexpected and beautiful.

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(Right) A heavy jacket with smooth light + pajama looking pants.

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(Right) Denim vest and tweed jacket? That is daring. And corduroy pants on top of that!

fashion and/or architecture

It is both frightening and exhilarating that after 6 continuous semesters under the constraints and demands architecture studio, we will next year be designing our thesis, an entity completely of our own ideas and obsessions. This fall we have started to define, research, and edit our interests, architectural and otherwise, into the beginnings of a thesis. Under the guidance of Yung Ho Chang, the head of the MIT architecture department, the thesis prep class has taken on a more architectural/physical angle than in recent years past. His approach has been a source of debate. In Yung Ho’s mind, a design thesis goes like this: define an architectural/material/physical question that interests you, then from the exploration of that architecture some greater idea, purpose, “world benefit” emerges. But some prefer the reverse: an idea that is realized through architecture. To me, the emphasis on physicality/materiality is a good and useful constraint that (hopefully) leads to more thoughtful design rather than the long, convoluted discourse that too often results in lukewarm architecture.

Perhaps I enjoy Yung Ho’s approach because the only constraint I gave myself at the beginning of the semester was to avoid any serious social, political, environmental, economic issue in my thesis and his assignments never asked me to put my ideas in a more ‘worldly’ context. Our first assignment was to define our thesis in three words: a critique on what exists (RESTRICTIVE), a physical material (SOFT), and one other word (ENERGY).  Explanation – My thesis questions whether building materials can be something besides the typical concrete, steel, glass, brick, wood. The almost universal use of ‘hard’ materials is restrictive to how we experience spaces and the kind of architecture we create. An alternative is textile or ’soft’ architecture which can provide a different way to think about space and also a new way to incorporate the technical needs (energy, ventilation, insulation) of a building and its users.

The turning point for my enthusiasm for my thesis was when Yung Ho suggested that fashion could be incorporated into my work somehow. Since then it has infused itself into all aspects of my thesis. For the first draft of our thesis proposal, we turned in a page with three words (above) and three phrases with three explanatory sentences as well as a page of sketches. Here are some excerpts:

1) Tool+ Method for initial research into our thesis
Re-stitching the Membrane – Can the fashion industry’s innovative use of textiles inspire architects to think beyond a thin membrane roof?

fashion

The idea is that I will actually create (scaled down) clothing that explores a variety forms. This is partially an architectural exploration into rethinking how ventilation, enclosure, energy amongst other things can be enhanced/reimagined with textiles, and partially a practical necessity to be familiar with sewing/patterning/(laser)cutting fabric.

2) Site for the building
Softscape/Hardscape – Hunts Point and Bruckner Avenue, Bronx, NY and/or Near Fordham University, Bronx, NY

The decision to site the building in the Bronx is completely arbitrary. It is driven solely by my desire to actually learn about the borough where I grew up but never knew. Both sites are near commercial centers in the Bronx, but the Fordham site would be an infill while Hunts Point is more free form. Perhaps both sites will be used as a way to explore the adaptability of a textile enclosure to different site conditions. Obviously siting in the Bronx brings up issues of contrast between softscape and hardscape and maybe issues of textiles as effective building security.

3) Program is architecture jargon for building use
House of Street Style – The popularity of low cost, well designed clothing from stores like H&M and the omnipresence of street style photo blogs have ‘democratized’ fashion and challenged notions of fashion as a top-down system.

The building has three uses: one part clothing exchange store, one part concept store, one part workshop.

exchange

The exchange store is in essence a thrift store, but people receive store credit for the clothes they bring in, so it is more of a barter system than a commercial store. The clothing would be curated to some extent, so that only the ones worth keeping are in the store (i.e. not Salvation Army, more Beacon's closet). The clothing collection would begin before the store opening and for the first week after opening, the clothes are displayed as an exhibit of Bronx style. Exchange happens afterwards.

feedback

The concept store is for a brand heavily worn by Bronx residents to publicize and get feedback for the newest lines of their clothing. They would also be the main financial source of the whole project (if it were real). Brands like North Face, Nike, Ecco, Adidas, Timberland etc. etc.

skills

In the spirit of the innovative textile building, the workshop also teaches about working with interesting textiles and hopefully provide underprivileged aspiring fashion designers with skills that would be difficult to get elsewhere.

As much as I would love to dwell in the world of intersections between textiles, fashion, and architecture, it’s now time to do real research + cataloging and actually create these articles of architectural clothing I keep talking about. But on the blog, at least I can continue to dwell in this conceptual architecture/fashion world and talk about how Yung Ho completely floors me every week with his extensive knowledge of contemporary architecture, how I have come to have more appreciation for Rei Kuwakabo’s clothes, the mind-blowing book from MoCA’s exhibition Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture, and the pretty badass blog, Street Etiquette, about Bronx influenced style. To be totally honest, I could forget all the architecture and just do the fashion…..


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