Posts Tagged 'studio'

the highline revisited

Our project for the final undergraduate studio this year is titled ‘The Museum of Unnatural History’ and is sited on the High Line in New York.  More on the strange title will come later. Our studio is heading to New York tomorrow to see the High Line + other projects in New York. What  I love about traveling with professors is that they always have some in on tours and info. This time, it will be tours by members of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Field Operations, the two firms that co-designed the project.

The High Line during its period of disuse and neglect resulted in something beautiful and unurban. The juxtaposition is so strange that it looks like a photshopped image.

The High Line during its period of disuse and neglect resulted in something un-urban and quite beautiful.

This trip will be my fourth visit to the site, but this time through a more architectural and rigorous lens. Over the summer, I fell in love with the project and wrote about it as part of unpublished blog entry called ‘summer favorites’ (unpublished because it seems cheesy?).  Hopefully, I will come back from with a more balanced, critical view of the project, and its the success and inefficiencies.

One of the features that make Europe feel distinctly different from the U.S. is its omnipresent public space.  Barcelona felt like a endless series of plazas and Monselice’s square in a town of 12,000 in Italy, is buzzing with life on a weekend summer night.   After spending four weeks wandering, eating, sleeping in campos, campiellos, plazas, and ramblas, I was glad to have the High Line awaiting me when I returned to New York.

In fact, I had been waiting for the High Line since its MoMA exhibition years ago. The project was less than I expected but more stunning than I could have imagined. Architecturally, it is designed in every detail. DS+R invented a system that allows them to do everything they need for the project. My disappointments are only those differences between the subtle beauty of the renderings and the practicalities of real construction, and also that it is only a few blocks long at the moment.

The real beauty of the High Line is its spatial (sectional) relationship with New York. There exists no other place like it in the city. There are few things as surreal and beautiful as seeing people walking in the sky in Manhattan. From the street below, the pedestrians seem weightless as if they’ve defied the gravitational laws of New York. This feeling of surrealism derives from the fact that the city for many New Yorkers is a (under)ground level universe. The vertical real estate of Manhattan is an exclusive commodity usually reserved for those individuals who can pay to live there or work in places that can afford it. But even then New York is seen behind glass or from the stagnant view of a balcony, never traversing intersections in the open air like you do on the High Line. In the end, it  feels more ‘public’ than ground-level public parks  because it gives access to a previously exclusive and privately owned vertical dimension of  New York. What is also impressive is that the architecture is never a distraction. The design stays quiet without lacking complexity and power,  encouraging the public to experience the city in a way it never has before.

– August 2009

The High Line today with the tapering concrete strips and wild looking plants.

The High Line today with the tapering concrete strips and wild looking plants.


on creativity and reinvention

Out of laziness and a coming sickness, I stayed in my room last night, a Friday night, and read almost the entire issue of this week’s The New Yorker. Since subscribing to the New Yorker this summer, I’ve become much more informed I think or at least I pretend to be. I can tell you about V.S. Naipul (a crazy writer with a confusing background), an organic Chinese restaurant in Nanjing, the history of universal healthcare in Europe (and why it is ridiculous that we don’t have it). The New Yorker political writing is like news, but with more research, more depth, opinion and humour. But what I love in the magazine is its essays on people who I usually have never of.

Last night, that person was George Balachine, a Russian choreographer. Besides Balachine’s dance, he was famous for his sayings like “There are no mothers-in-law in ballet” and equally famous for his re-quotes “I am not a man, but a cloud in trousers” (what?) which he stole from some Russian poet. His knack for stealing quotes wasn’t a reflection on his own lack of a words, but his perception of creation as a sort of reinvention. An original Balachine quote: “If you like something of someone else’s, why not take it? The important thing is that it seem natural and fit in.

It reminds me of McGiff in every art class, telling us to walk around and steal from our classmates whether their technique, color, idea, any small tidbit we wanted we should take away. This is all good and nice, but the real question is when does it “seem natural and fit in”? A Goethe quote: “Everything has been thought of before; the task is to think of it again” and to that I would add “at the right time”. It’s figuring out which kind of roof your design really calls for after you spend an hour bookmarking 30 pages in 5 different books. That is the hard part. It is not difficult to find something I love, but oh so challenging to make it work for me.

As the spring studio looms ahead, the questions and insecurities about my own creativity come back again. It’s strange to me that in art major senior year, I was always convinced that I could eventually execute my idea however imperfectly, as long as I spent enough time adding layers of paint. But in studio now, I don’t have that kind of confidence which makes every project feel like the coin toss whether I’ll get it right or wrong.

A final quote from Walton Ford, a watercolorist, also profiled in this week’s New Yorker. “I hope I’m still going to do something more interesting than I do now. I feel like, right now, I am an interesting minor artist, a footnote in art history, you know? I’ve got this territory that’s my own…..but I’m not pushing the language of making pictures in any new direction. There’s nothing I’m doing that wasn’t done better by Gericualt. But maybe that will change. Anyway, I’m not there yet“.

photoshop silliness

It started off as an ambitious idea of working on portfolio over winter break. It turned into an attempt to sum up my year in a jumble of images. Images of people I met, stuff I helped make, things that inspired me, cities, mountains, and woods that I loved. The result is an incohesive collage that is hilarious only to me.

A brief tour through what was once an elevation of a community arts center and now a billboard for displaying pictures of my life. As you can see famous architects and former studio TAs have taken over the balconies of the building (along with Harriet, Renee, and Jack the dog), meanwhile a caravan of camel scale figures en route to their makeshift shelters ascend the ventilator building on a series of ramps made of leaves. West of building is San Francisco, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. At the center, Arquitectonica buildings dominate the landscape as Rebecca and I jump for joy because we’re finally done with those elevations. On the east side, Liz(a) and I dance in Delaware woods, our studio apparently in New York points to our sites, as Ira snaps pictures of the city or beautiful models (it’s unclear which).

Obviously, only a tiny fraction of my year is represented here (that faction being the one I could easily find going through my friends’ facebook albums). The whole other part consists of hours spent in studio many of them laughing, reading the new yorker, summer romances, running, polding, journeys to toscanini’s for russian caravan tea, not enough sleep, writing, stress, blogs, daydreams, music, too much time on facebook, champions league and euro 08, eating expensive food, being young and relatively carefree. In retrospect, it was fun.

[Photo Credits: Tiffany, Jasmin, Liz, Ruifeng, Rebecca. Others Credits: Anna – junk models, Jack – lasercutting camel figures, Arquitectonica]

21 units of studio

a typical class at mit : 12 units.
architecture studio this semester and onwards: 21 units

originally [and currently] the raison d’etre* of this blog for me was to document my process of design and to present my projects throughout the process in a more or less cohesive way. ideally, posting would be motivation for me to push forward and produce rather than sit and mull which is my natural state of being. also, having to explain my idea should hopefully help me be more eloquent and less rambling come review time.

beyond studio, my lofty goal is for the blog will become a documentation of all my work as well as the images, designs, quotes, food, people, anything that intrigues, amuses, and inspires me along the way.

*did i use raison d’etre completely incorrectly

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