Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

Buy the gal a drink, she’s made it through the week.

Week one of Architecture Boot Camp has been a success. A true representation of studio-culture, it included deceptively simple projects, late nights at the drawing board, readings from Towards A New Architecture, and jokes about ducks. I’ll explain.

Deceptively simple projects and late nights at the drawing board.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in studio at 9AM on Monday, but it wasn’t as scary as I would’ve thought. After a round of paperwork and a tour of the building, we got to know our studio-mates and faculty with a quick round of introductions. We then promptly got our first homework assignment: a self-portrait using a mirror.

So the mirror I had handy was my iPhone...which became a commentary on our dual lives, having to create a digital persona and the bleed between the two realities. Not too shabby.

The rest of our studio assignments were familiar tasks, to me, that is: draw a room in your apartment, select and object and describe it using freehand orthographic projection…and would have been relatively easy, but I thought I’d challenge myself by choosing a spray bottle as my subject for the latter assignment, which proved more complex than the drawings I remember doing in drafting class when I was sixteen.  By the time I left studio at 2AM on Friday, I’d managed to wrap my head around a double rotation of picture planes in my auxiliary view (yeah, it’s as complicated as it sounds). Two hours later, as I tossed and turned in bed, I decided I wanted to re-do one of my earlier drawings, so wound up back in studio at 7AM, taking another crack at a section of my spray bottle. It all turned out for the best, I learned a lot more from tackling this project with the complex object I chose than I would have had I selected a simpler form.

The spray bottle: space towards the bottom left to be filled with another drawing, whenever I get a chance...

Towards A New Architecture and ducks.

I was very impressed by my peers: our group has representatives from across the United States, from Hawaii to upstate New York, from schools both in and out of the Ivy, those who’ve traveled around the world, worked on fishing boats in Alaska or flown in from Asia only two days before classes began. Though no one has a formal background in architecture, many have pursued the field through hobbies or internships or summer programs, and all are very intelligent, accomplished individuals. All of which made me (and my accomplishments) feel very minuscule in comparison! But it’s a good place to be – when you feel dumb, you can only become smarter, so bring on the lessons!

Speaking of lessons, we’ve got 200 pages of readings to do each week, and papers to write, on top of all this studio business. So far, I’ve sunk my teeth into bits of Le Corbusier, Venturi (thus, ducks), Rossi, Kruft and Scully. I think my perspective on architecture falls somewhere between Corb. and Rossi. I believe that architecture should first serve its utilitarian purpose before attempting to make any other statement, and that often another statement need not be made. But I don’t think that buildings are machines, and certainly don’t believe there is a ‘perfect form’ that represents the Essential home or Essential office, etc. On the other hand, Rossi’s argument for urban artifacts, connected to time, focused on individuality and memory…it’s starting to sound like my senior thesis all over again…though that itself might not be a bad thing. There’s got to be a reason why I keep coming back to it, right?

Anyway, before you start thinking we’re a bunch of stuffy snobs, smoking a pipe as we draw our hands across sheets of vellum, twirling compasses and articulating the ends of our line segments while cracking jokes about quacking buildings, I will point out that after our exhausting week, we went out for a rowdy night on Friday, and said almost nothing of architecture itself…for a whole three and a half hours.

Filed under: All Hail Yale, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Four score and Eleven Oceans ago…

I infiltrated the Brat Pack. Not really, but that makes for an awesome beginning, dunnit?

After gorging ourselves on seafood, our troupe thought it might be fun to detox by traversing a desert. There’s not much to say about traversing a desert en voiture, except that the trip is much quicker than if one were to attempt it on foot. At first, I found the rolling yellow hills to be mesmerizing.  It’s easy to see what drew Christo and Jeanne-Claude to this landscape.  But then it gets old pretty quick.  Occasionally the barren view is interrupted with a cluster of vegetation, or a passing train (one trailed us for a good hour), but for the most part, it looks like this:

They're so compelling, I had to take a photo.

They're so compelling, I had to take a photo.

Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s some evidence of the trees and trains I mentioned above.

We saw trees, and signs protesting government sanctioned water rationing posted by the tree farmers.

We saw trees, and signs protesting government sanctioned water rationing posted by the tree farmers.

Anybody else start humming songs from Rent whenever 'Santa Fe' is mentioned?

Anybody else start humming songs from Rent whenever 'Santa Fe' is mentioned?

Aaaaand eventually, we made it to our destination: Las Vegas.

Venturi, eat your heart out.

Venturi, eat your heart out.

Dino managed to reserve us a room in The Bellagio. The lobby was incredibly extravagant, and getting a chance to see some more Chihuly sculptures in person was fantastic! We were upgraded to a Strip-facing suite, whose bathroom was equal in size to my bedroom at home. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make use of the enormous bathtub, though we did all take turns wearing the slippers and flicking the electrically-controlled curtains open and closed.

It sure was a nice view, Danny.

It sure was a nice view, Danny.

Chi-who?

Chi-who?

In what turned out to be thematic of our road trip, we arrived at the check-in counter 15 minutes before we were supposed to be seated at Penn & Teller’s show at the Rio. But we hastened.  Having a super-speed elevator up to our room certainly helped, but I’m not sure what exactly got me out of jeans and into a dress, leggings and full make-up in less than 10 minutes. Magic.

Which was what we saw at Penn & Teller’s show.  Wasn’t that a brilliant transition? I’d heard of them before – seen glimpses, even, while flipping channels, but when Dino, Jr. first suggested their show, I had no idea what he was talking about. This is probably due to the way his (adorable) southwest Virginian accent morphs ‘Penn and Teller’ to ‘Pay-en aynd Taylor.’ Luckily, he wasn’t instructing the cab driver, and we got to the show with seconds to spare.

The show itself was a good balance of magic and satire. I’m not going to post any spoilers, but let’s just say you can’t ever really de-mystify magic.

We grabbed dinner at a noodles place in the Bellagio, dropped some dough at the casino, wandered the streets (stomping on scantily clad women – or their images, at least) and ended the night with a celebration in our suite.

Now, I’m a CSI fan (it’s a guilty pleasure that I suppose I have just opened up to public ridicule), so I couldn’t help but compare my experience of the city to the city portrayed on the show.  The tourist portions of Vegas take a smaller role on the set, and I regret not being able to explore the non-gimicky aspects of the city. The glamorous parts of the city, however, are equally flashy in person, if not more so.  Granted, we don’t get the bird’s-eye panoramas that punctuate the episodes on screen, but the worm’s-eye view is quite blinding.

While I have been known to tote the anti-Venturian architectural perspective of Vegas as an abysmal waste of dollars and design intent, there is some value to an opportunity presented in a ‘designer’s playground.’ In some ways, Vegas is America’s Dubai, and perhaps the millions clients are willing to spend can be used to experiment with innovative ‘sustainable’ solutions that are as attractive, or more attractive, than their ‘old school’ counterparts…

Ok, no soap box. All in all, Las Vegas was fun, as it should be.  My favorite new city? Probably not. I’m a Paris girl at heart, and the wannabe Eiffel doesn’t do the real thing justice.

It's too bad the fake tower doesn't have the snazzy flickering light show every night.

It's too bad the fake tower doesn't have the snazzy flickering light show every night.

Filed under: Around the world, , , , , , , , , , ,