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Showing posts from 2013

Biking to Work

I don't like biking to work.  I don't like it much at all.  I arrive at my destination grumpy and sweaty, having fought traffic and other cyclists, the cold, the wind, and my own fatigue the entire way.  Now that it's nearly December, it gets dark early and my 6pm commute takes place after dark.  And perhaps worst of all, I can't listen to music while I ride or do anything except concentrate on the task at hand, for fear of distraction leading to injury.



This part of California should be ideal for biking.  I live in an area with strong aspirations to be a bike-friendly place.  The weather is rarely too hot or too cold for outdoor activities, and it hardly ever rains.  There are plenty of bike lanes, and even a pedestrian- and bike-only bridge that allows me to get across a creek without having to take major roads.  It's flat, unlike San Francisco.  And lots of other people bike, so it generally feels safe on the roads.

I like to make excuses: I don't have the …

Rejected from McSweeney's

Worst Sports Team Names*

San Francisco Fog

Los Angeles Traffic

Miami Humidity (It’s not the heat…)

Anaheim Acne (We’re mildly irritating!)

Sacramento Sabines

Utah Unibrows

Las Vegas Vegans

Los Angeles Lapdogs

Brooklyn Plaid

Boston Drivers

New York Minutes

Pittsburgh Pits

Houston Hiccups

Alaska State Wintry Mix

University of Vermont (UV) Rays

San Diego Sniffles

West Point Light Brigadiers

Silicon Valley Studs

And last but not least - the Toronto Maple Leafs.  (Yes, I know that's a real team.)

*Not actually rejected from McSweeney's.  Yet.

Written in collaboration with jlebar.

From the Architectural Archives: Skyscraper Airship Docks

Maybe this will turn into a series - I can't tell yet.  Just pretend this is the first installment of a series of posts on historical architectural curiosities.

Justin asked me the other nightif it was true that the Empire State Building was built with the intent of mooring zeppelins (German airships, which themselves have a fascinating history) to its mast.  I thought I had recalled hearing this tidbit myself, and had to investigate.  Turns out the answer is a somewhat qualified yes!  The New York Times describes some of the history of this architectural quirk, along with great photocollages of the intended result.  Apparently, the skyscraper's spire was given additional height during the construction process, which the building developers claimed was to give it the advantage of a landing platform for dirigible traffic.  The real goal seems to have been to achieve the extra height needed to surpass the Chrysler Building.  Evidently the whole dirigible-landing-platform idea wa…

Thoughts on the Studio Model

In which will be discussed architectural pedagogy and its bizarre relationship to the real world, with the caveat that apparently all architects love talking about themselves, so I can't help it.


I can't speak to the long and surely interesting history of the studio model, which I expect is a holdover from the days of medieval mason's guilds, but I can speak to its practical effects on my life.  And having survived almost two three years of it [this post has been a long time in the making], I'm ready to make a few remarks.  (For those without any experience in this mode of instruction, this pdf gives an excellent outline of the recent history & current structure of the typical architectural design studio.  Ignore the weird characters - I think something went wrong with the pdf generation.)  Since I spent at least one semester in an "experimental" studio setting, and many others in more traditional studios, I am especially interested in this topic, so bear…

In Memoriam: John Barnes

John, we won't forget you.

I will remember not just our housing studio project together, or that first semester where we - you, me, Jenny, and the other non-architecture-students in Yoshiko Sato's studio - struggled to get a grasp on that thing that is architecture school; but I'll also remember the giant bag of chocolate-covered acai gummies you kept in your drawer, your endless series of documentaries to watch on your sticker-festooned laptop, your street art obsession, your fearlessness, and your crazy imagination.


Choosing a partner for the housing studio at Columbia is in many respects like getting married, requiring similar levels of commitment and determination to stick it out.  I should know, because I did both around the same time.  Our housing studio was fall of 2011, right after my wedding.  The housing studio semester can be amazing or terrible depending on one's choice of partner, and while John and I disagreed often and argued at length, I think our part…

The Best of Times

Happy anniversary to the best friend, co-conspirator, and husband I could ask for.  Somehow it seems like it's been a lot longer than two years, and in some sense it has, but these two years have gone faster than I could have imagined.  If these have been any indication, then I have a lot to look forward to in the next two, and in all the years after that.  You're the best.


PS: Maybe this year I'll get around to printing some of our wedding photos?  Maybe.  No promises.

Hello Silicon Valley!

We've had a whirlwind couple of months since my graduation, and have finally settled down now in Mountain View, California, a town as suburban as they come, and a new challenge for me to navigate as a fledgling urbanist.  Three years in New York has changed the way I see urban environments, and so as I figure out how to find the grocery store, get up to speed on my new job, and finish unpacking from our move, I'm also trying to figure out how to grapple with our new environment.  I can't feel smug any longer in my relative lack of carbon footprint.  Our new circumstances mean that we are now car-owners and I have been driving to work every day.  But I think we've been successful in at least a few areas, so far, to reduce the impact of our new less-dense lifestyle.

While we do now own a car, we plan to have only one, in an area where almost everyone drives alone.  We chose our new apartment carefully based on location: Justin can walk to work (15-20 minutes) and my com…

Whovian Hiatus

If you're like me, you've been wondering what to do with yourself since Season 7 of Doctor Who ended in May.  Since we still have practically an eternity to go until the November 23rd 50th anniversary special, I thought I'd help out with a handy list of ways to pass the time until then.

1.  Cry.  I can't believe Matt Smith is leaving.  I will miss his hair.
2.  Find a local Doctor Who fan club, so you can cry together about the fact that November is so far away.  Sooo far....
3.  Cry while re-watching recent Doctor Who episodes.  (The end of Vincent and the Doctor always kills me.  Also every season finale episode, ever.)
4.  Do laundry?  Or something useful?
5.  Watch all the nearly 700 previous episodes of classic Doctor Who.  Or watch them again, depending on your age.  I started from the beginning in June, and have managed to finish seasons 1, 7, and 8, plus a random selection of episodes from other seasons.  I'm currently on season 10, with the Third Doctor. …

EOYS 2013 & GSAPP Graduation

Last year I had the luxury of visiting the annual GSAPP End of Year Show (EOYS) after the opening night, so I could spend some time looking at the projects and thinking about how they represented the work of the school.  This year, with graduation and moving directly after the opening, I didn't have that opportunity, but I have a few images of the set-up and projects from opening night and the previous day.



My own studio decided to go for a minimalist approach, painting our area dark grey and hanging seven identical screens, one for each project.  We built out a shelf for models, painted the inside neon green, and installed an LED strip to illuminate the models on the shelf.  I helped install the screens, which took much more time than it should have!  I think it looked pretty classy.  Our location was in a short hallway leading to the cafe, which was great for getting lots of people to see it as they went by, but terrible for people who wanted to spend any time looking at the pr…

New York Minute

And so, three years in New York have gone by like a flash, and Justin & I are beginning our next adventure - San Francisco / Silicon Valley.  But before we dive in to our new city, here's a wrap-up of some final New York experiences.

Four Freedoms Park

On a still-cold but sunny day this spring, three of us made the trip to Roosevelt Island to see the recently-opened Four Freedoms Park, designed by Louis Kahn and dedicated as a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The park gets its name from FDR's famous State of the Union address declaring freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech & expression, and freedom of worship.  Roosevelt Island, the park's location, is itself named after FDR.  This memorial and park has an unusual history: Kahn designed the park before he died suddenly in 1974, but the project was suspended after that and only begun again in 2005.  The final design was kept as close as possible to Kahn's original, under the direction of…

Kinne Trip: Part 5

This is part 5 of a multi-part description of my trip to Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan, as part of my Kinne Traveling Fellowship grant through my studio at GSAPP.  See also: first post, second post, third post, fourth postTo see all my photos from Tokyo, visit my Google+ album here.

March 20th


On Wednesday, halfway through our week, we spent the day with Azby Brown on a great tour through more of the neighborhoods of Tokyo.  We started at the covered market of Ameyokocho, built below the elevated rail tracks.  We checked out Akihabara, the "Electric Town," with its odd anime-centered shops and "maid cafes" where awkward young men can, supposedly, learn how to talk to women by having conversations with the waitresses.  This would all seem a lot more acceptable if the "maids" weren't dressed up as French maids, but alas, it all seems a bit sketchy to me.


Then we went to Iidabashi and visited the Share Yaraicho house, a strange house with a plastic exterior…