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Exhibition Reviews: Wendy, Doktor A, Columbus, and more

This fall, I've been trying my best to make it around to more NYC shows and events.  Here are my thoughts on a few of them (more photos available here):

MoMA's PS1 Young Architect's Program (YAP): Wendy
The Young Architect's Program competition provides the chance for a "young" architecture firm to produce an installation at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, for the summer, to provide the site for multiple "Warm Up" concert events.  This year's firm was HWKN, and their creation, "Wendy," was a giant blue stylized explosion, intended to do something about cleaning air and water.  What it didn't do very effectively, in my view, was provide anything other than visual appeal.  There was hardly room to stand under/near it, no one was allowed inside (although off-limits stairs leading up into its interior indicated that there was space inside), and it was really too far from the stage to do more than serve as a piece of eye candy.  …

Urban Design Studio: Suburban Retrofit in Denmark

This fall, my studio course is with Richard Plunz, head of the Urban Design program here at Columbia, and our subject is "Aalborg, Denmark: New Paradigms for Global Suburbanization."  I spent the past week in Aalborg at the invitation of the municipality as part of the Urban Design Studio collaborative workshop between the University of Aalborg and Columbia University.  Together with 30 international students in various planning and management fields, the fifteen of us from Columbia (architects, engineers, and urban planners) researched the suburban fabric of East Aalborg and brainstormed solutions to problems of social isolation, inadequate housing stock, lack of accessibility, unemployment, and environmental impact.  In teams of 8 or 9, we developed strategies to address one or more of these problems using urban design, architecture, and planning interventions.



My group's theme was "sustainable business," which we tackled by proposing a distributed network …

Book Review: "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age"

Reyner Banham's Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) is an engaging overview of the important theoretical developments of the early 20th century leading up to the "International Style" of the 1930s-40s.  Banham does a fairly good job, in my opinion, of avoiding excessive editorializing, although he has a clear viewpoint on the Modern Movement and finishes with a strong conclusion.  In opposition to his teacher, Nikolaus Pevsner, whose own history of modernism came out in 1936, Banham dismantled the "form follows function" credo that became the stereotype of modernism, arguing instead that formalism (a preoccupation with style and aesthetics) was an important, if not overriding, concern of Modern architects.  Two sections of the book struck me in particular: his analysis of Le Corbusier's famous book Vers une architecture (Toward a [new] architecture) from 1923, and his Conclusion (chapter 22), where he breaks the link between functionalism and …

New Technologies and Swiss Trains

This August, I attended an international architecture workshop at the i2a (International Institute of Architecture) House in Vico Morcote, Switzerland.  A joint project of Columbia University, the Politecnico di Milano and the University of Shanghai, the workshop focused on how we can use digital technologies in tandem with existing infrastructure (in this case, a small commuter rail line) to enhance our experience of urban space.  My Italian partner, Giovanni Nardi, and I proposed a large-scale parcourse for the train line to provide commuters with an easy way to take their daily exercise and meet people.  Each station would have a different fitness activity, as well as showers, lockers, and amenities to facilitate exercise; the train itself would have an exercise car with stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and other equipment that could be used en-route.  To encourage commuters to meet up and form athletic teams, we proposed a smartphone application that would show what facilit…

Television Review: "Doctor Who"

I'm officially obsessed with the BBC's Doctor Who, the world's longest-running sci-fi show with 784 episodes as of this writing.  To be honest, I didn't know live-action television could be that good!  All my previous shows have ended in disappointment.  Firefly was good but was too short-lived to keep my attention.  House had great dialogue and an interesting plot device (medical detective story ftw!) but devolved into senseless drama unsuitable to such a logical main character.  Young Indiana Jones is fun for the history, but the acting is only so-so; Macgyver is hilariously campy but that's about all it's got.  MST3Kis really a series of movies, not a real show.  All the other shows of which I've willingly watched more than a couple of episodes have been animated.  Doctor Who is, like, awesome.  It combines all the things I want in my mindless entertainment: problem-solving, fantasy, sci-fi, speculative fiction, futurism, technobabble, plot continuity (…

Exhibition Review: EOYS 2012

The GSAPP End-of-Year-Show (EOYS), or final student exhibition, is what you might call a Big Deal.  This spring, the EOYS ran from May 12-19, 2012.  After grades are due, after papers are done and reviews ended, all students are expected to stick around for another week, more or less, to design and build our one shot at giving normal people (read: our family and friends) a chance to see our work.  Studio reviews are usually esoteric, confusing, or just plain boring to outsiders; the EOYS is supposed to make our work look exciting and impressive.  There seem to be two schools of thought on how to present our final work.  One is to treat the work like artwork: slather it over the walls, sans explanation, and overwhelm the visitor with visuals.  The other school of thought is to try to explain the work, condense it, and make it accessible.  This latter route usually results in lots of boring text.  The projects are often so complex that they can't be explained succinctly without los…

Happy First Anniversary!

It's been a year since our wedding, so of course now seems like an excellent time to write about it (right?).  Ever since the planning phase, I was interested in doing a write-up à la Offbeat Bride, having read so many interesting and inspirational write-ups there that helped me with my own planning.  Besides, this seems like a fitting conclusion to it all.  (If you're looking for any wedding planning help/tips, of course I recommend going to the source itself: www.offbeatbride.com.  Our wedding wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without the helpful writers and contributors there.)

Caroline & Justin's "Secretly Nerdy" not-at-the-beach Florida Summer Wedding


Name:  Caroline, graduate student in architecture
Partner's name: Justin, computer programmer
Wedding location:  Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, Sarasota, Florida
Date:  August 13, 2011

Wedding photos:  available on the Eleven Weddings website thanks to our fantastic photographer, Chip Lit…