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 losing a lot of what makes them interesting (so the theory goes), so we either have to write about them at length, or avoid trying to explain them altogether.

Personally I would love to see an exhibition that manages to walk the line between these extremes by presenting the work artfully, since many student projects are purposely experimental or "artistic," while also allowing a casual viewer to have some idea of what's going on.  Maybe that's asking too much from a bunch of sleep-deprived people who would rather be on vacation, but that would be my goal.

So here are the M. Arch. exhibitions from this year, and we'll see what C-BIP, my own studio, managed to put together.  (If you're curious, past EOYS images can be seen here (2009) and here (2010) and here (2011).)  My full album of photos of the exhibition is here.

Third-Year Studios:
Hawkinson Studio* went for the artistic approach, displaying everything on the wall and table without text.  The work was nice, though, and I thought this display was one of the most impressive.  All the models were milled, which requires some skill and planning.  There was something on a screen, but usually things on screens can safely be ignored.  I have no idea what the project was about, but it seemed interesting.  This is a fairly typical art-oriented display.

Below, from top to bottom: nARCHITECTS Studio, Shigematsu Studio, LOT-EK Studio, Bell Studio.  Not pictured: Wasiuta Studio (it hurt my eyes too much - I couldn't stand the bizarre 3D glasses effect they were going for), and a few others.  nARCHITECTS Studio's display was quite nice, I especially liked their oversized renderings that were hung up like room dividers.  Shigematsu Studio's display was cutesy with quotes in the red squares from their trip to Japan.  LOT-EK Studio's display was, well, coffee-shop hipster, I think.  I didn't read any of the monographs on the chairs, although I liked the fancy bulbs, sort of steampunk.  Bell Studio's eco-minimalist design (it gives off a recycled-paper vibe) was appealing and made me want to investigate the project further.

Kaseman Studio, below, was another slather-it-on approach, with models hanging from the ceiling, stuffed under the counters, and covering all the flat surfaces they constructed.  I don't know if the hanging/flying models were supposed to indicate something that would actually be in the air, or not.  Some of the models were lit up internally and were pretty cool looking, although, again, I had no idea what they were supposed to be.

Second-Year Housing Studio:  This display of our first-semester work was put together by a TA, but I think he did a nice job despite the wall text falling off repeatedly.  It came down in a curve from wall to floor, but the wall part wouldn't stay put.  I don't think the title ("Different States of Housing") made any sense, but this was one exhibit with so much text that one couldn't be bothered to read it, so I'm not sure if it somehow linked in there.  I think the title was a critic's, and not the TA's, anyway.  My model is below, in white and blue (with thanks to my studio partner, John Barnes).

C-BIP Studio (Marble, Benjamin, Kurgan):  Here it is, my own studio's contribution!  Since there were 30 of us in the studio (and three critics), we couldn't really agree on how to do the exhibition, so it has several discrete parts that didn't quite mesh in the end, unfortunately.  In the middle of the room we built a freestanding "black box" with some explanatory text, photos of ourselves and our "elements" in a connecting grid, and a game with stickers.  Inside the box was a blacklight and pages of white code on a black background to symbolize the "black boxes" we all created as part of the studio (that is, working pieces of code that we passed off to our neighbors, who then had to use the code without understanding how it worked).  And there was a screen mounted on it for some reason.  Around the box were posters of the different building elements and strategies, supposedly stratified (strategies above, elements below), but I don't think that distinction came through at all in the final display.  That part was contributed by the throw-everything-on-the-wall adherents in the studio.  In the end I don't think our display made much sense, but then again, neither did our studio, so perhaps it was the perfect reflection of our semester's work.

More second-year studios.  From top: Space Studio, Solomonoff Studio, Marino Studio, Kim Studio.  Not pictured: tiny dioramas from Varnelis Studio.  I was most impressed with Marino Studio's display - their projects were for a shipbuilding museum on Long Island, and their display used sand as the model base.  The skeletal, uniformly cardboard models really did remind one of ships being built on the shore.  Well done.  Space Studio was appropriately "out-there," while Kim Studio's postcards were strange and confusing.  I applaud their decision to make their display interactive (I think the idea was to take a postcard and mail it to the pre-printed address as a political statement), but I don't think it showcased their work very well.

First Year studios.  From top: Kumpusch Studio, Rothstein Studio, Klein Studio, Andraos Studio, Rakatansky Studio.  Not pictured: Goberna, Wilson, Seewang studios.  The first-year projects were for banks.  I wasn't able to figure this out until about halfway through the exhibition, when I finally remembered what my first-year friends had told me.  Klein Studio gets honorable mention for the giant $100 bill printed on the back of their display that reminded me.  As we ourselves did last year, the first-years put a lot of effort into their generally "high concept" displays, but I don't think this helped explain what they were doing at all.  Kumpusch Studio's giant frame and prism was especially weird and unintelligible.  Maybe I'm missing something.  The matching "fans" of displays on the two sides of the room (Rothstein and Klein) were nice, although I doubt that they were coordinated in the advance.  Most of the studios seemed to be going for the slathering approach ("just put it all up there!"), although I thought Rakatansky's group did a nice job addressing their terrible location (on two sides of a very active hallway).  Wilson Studio built a straw contraption suspiciously similar to last year's cardboard tube contraption that was in almost the same location.  Goberna Studio, thanks for the non sequitur buttons.  Mine says, "I am a double agent architect.  Welcome to my machine."

And finally, special mention goes to the creators of FY-Langes, a fun and innovative seating installation as part of the Fast Pace/Slow Space class.  It seemed to be a great success, and I saw it again at the Governor's Island "Figment" art fair where it was further abused by enthusiastic visitors.  Below, before-and-after shots from the show opening.  My only disappointment with this project was the choice of material, since I think packing foam is a waste of energy and fossil fuels.  You couldn't find any natural material that would fit your needs?  Maybe I'm being a humbug for calling you out on your material choice, but really - would nothing but plastic foam work?  It's an extremely durable material being used for an extremely temporary use.  I just hope you recycled it afterward.

Of course, there were displays from all the other GSAPP programs as well - Historic Preservation, Urban Planning, the technology and visual studies classes, etc - but I didn't find these to be as interesting and I don't have any photos.  This year our displays were more cramped than usual because Buell Hall is under renovation, so the usual third-year gallery space wasn't available.  Tech classes and visual studies were relegated to the corridors, making for awkward displays.  In all, though, the EOYS was an impressive outpouring of energy from the student body, and surely must have rivaled the final exhibitions at a number of art schools.  Good work, everyone, and I hope you enjoyed your well-deserved rest afterward!

GSAPP classes resume next week, so I apologize in advance if posts slow down during the year.  But stay tuned for more summer reading comments!

*Note on studio critics:  I chose not to link to the critics' websites for two reasons: 1) The critics usually have very little input into the final exhibition; 2) Architects' websites are notoriously bad, and I would be embarrassed to show them to you.  So please excuse the lack of links in this post.


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 Litherland, at this address  (contact me for the password).  All photos in this post are courtesy of Eleven Weddings Photography.  Selected photos are also viewable on my web album here.

Wedding highlights (the "offbeat" bits):  We tried to incorporate little nerdy touches into all aspects of the wedding.  For example, for the invitations, I drew an illustration of two swallows carrying a coconut (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail); for the wedding website I drew a "cable bouquet" of different connectors, like USB, Wii, ethernet, etc; and in addition to the regular program we made an "alternate" program using lolspeak with references to a variety of internet memes.  Materials used in the invitations and table cards were recycled from the Slide Library where I work and from discarded architectural drawings.

And did we mention that the wedding was at a marine laboratory and aquarium?  More nerdy details included: our cake's Latin inscription with decorations based on architectural details, and Justin's dragon buttons on his vest (think Trogdor).  The wedding party wore Star Wars buttons in their boutonnieres (and on the bouquet, below), and walked down the aisle to excerpts from Yoda's Theme, Leia's Theme and The Throne Room.  Unless you were looking for them, you wouldn't necessarily notice these "secretly nerdy" pieces - but of course we and our friends knew, and loved it!

What were the most meaningful moments of your wedding?

Caroline: Getting a few minutes to ourselves during the photo shoot before the ceremony (even though it was awkward since neither of us like having our picture taken); hanging out with our friends before and after; and getting to see all of my family in one place at the reception, together with my best friends and other important people in my life.  Also, trying not to cry while Justin was crying during the ceremony.

Justin:  I highly recommend having tissues available for this contingency.

What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?  One of our biggest challenges was staying within budget while satisfying everyone involved, from parents to grandparents to ourselves.  It's easy to get sucked into the standard wedding idea and buy lots of things you don't really want or need!  We didn't spend much on decorations, deciding that the fantastic view of the water from our air-conditioned venue was all that was needed in August in Florida.  No outdoor wedding for us, and no real flowers, either, since Justin is allergic and they're expensive.  Instead, our friends hand-made dozens of paper flowers for our table decorations, and I re-used vases from a cousin's wedding.  I don't think anyone missed having real flowers!

What was the funniest moment of your wedding or reception?  At one point during the reception, our friends spontaneously formed a conga line and snaked their way around the room.  Some of the pictures from this are the funniest ones of the day!  Some of the other funny moments came before the actual wedding - one of our attendants got stuck in the elevator during the rehearsal, and during the photos before the wedding we took some pictures with large stuffed marine animals that were sitting around the venue.

Tell us about your ceremony.
 We wrote the majority of the ceremony ourselves with help from our officiant, Rev. Cherrie Henry, who was my pastor at Duke University.  Cherrie was incredibly gracious and helpful, and we think the ceremony managed to reflect both of us.  We were concerned because Justin is not religious but I am, so we tried to balance and respect both of our beliefs during the ceremony.  We had readings from Ogden Nash (To My Valentine) and John Stuart Mill (philospher of utilitarianism and women's rights), our good friends Roger Zare and Alex Dee performed a piece that Roger wrote, and the other music in the ceremony included a Mozart sonata and Bach prelude performed by another friend.  It seems like practically all our friends helped us with the wedding, and we couldn't have done it without them!  We also had an all-female group of four honor attendants instead of the traditional bridesmaids/groomsmen, and both of us walked down the aisle with both parents.

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great?
 We weren't expecting any disasters, but we were both nervous about the first dance.  Justin is a great dancer, but I hate dancing.  We discussed various alternative "firsts" for a while (first Wii game?  first argument?)  but decided to try to dance after all, with the help of our friends joining in the dance after a minute or so of us alone.  We opted for a waltz since that's one of the few dances that works well with a wedding gown.  We didn't rehearse much with our friends, but everything went great and it was a success.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
Take advantage of your friends and family to help you with everything!  Usually they will be thrilled to help, and if they aren't, well, ask someone else instead.  It's a more fun event for everyone if they get to be involved.  And don't be afraid to do what you want to do, even if it's not usually done.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
Photography by Eleven Weddings Photography
Catering by Simply Gourmet Catering

Cake (Tropical Delight) by Pastries by Design
Recessional, "Vinculum Matrimonii," by Roger Zare
Videography by Monique and Ryan Lebar
Silk flowers from Afloral.com, paper flowers hand-made by our friends!  Thanks everyone!
Caroline's dress: family heirloom, worn by her mother and grandmother in their weddings
Caroline's earrings by Victoria Dumbaugh
Caroline's ring by Boone Titanium Rings
Caroline's tiara by ElnaraNiall
Caroline's reception shoes by Tom's

Justin's vest from Rags A Gogo, with dragon buttons from Patterns of Time

Advice for other offbeat brides:  If you're worried about how to incorporate your geeky/nerdy sides into a wedding that your grandparents will still be proud of, you can do it!  For us it just meant thinking a little harder about how to incorporate what we wanted in an elegant rather than obvious way.  We didn't wear anything unusual but we still had Star Wars music, I wore a tiara that reminded me of Lord of the Rings, etc.  If you're happy at the wedding, your friends and family will be, too.

geeky "offbeat lite" interfaith eco summer Florida laboratory DIY

Book Review: "The Great Bridge"

David McCullough's 1972 history of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge, is an engaging story that follows the life of Colonel Washington Roebling, the son of the bridge's designer and the Chief Engineer of the works throughout the construction.  McCullough is an engaging historian and had access to a huge amount of archival material from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to use in the writing, so he was able to cover all aspects of the construction from a personal as well as a technical perspective.  The Brooklyn Bridge was the first bridge to cross the East River, the world's largest suspension bridge at the time, and an enormous undertaking by any reckoning.  Of particular interest is the involvement of Roebling's wife Emily Warren Roebling, who acted in Roebling's place after he was paralyzed by the bends and served to direct the works by transmitting his instructions to the assistant engineers.  Constructed before "caisson disease" (the bends) was fully understood, many workers in the huge caisson foundations of the two bridge piers were affected by the disease, including Roebling.  Reading about the obviously short-sighted protests against the construction of the bridge, as possibly being deleterious to shipping traffic - and besides, the ferries were good enough, certainly! - is entertaining, especially in light of how many more bridges and tunnels we have built subsequently.  The Great Bridge is easily readable even for those with no technical background, and a thorough investigation of engineering construction in late 19th-century America.  A fun read.