July 3, 2010
Finally, today I got to be a tourist with the rest of my studio class and take a trip to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art! The trip was part of our “In the City” class, which forces us to get out of the design studios and enjoy all of the cultural opportunities that the city has to offer.
When the trip was first announced I assumed that the purpose of the visit would be to analyze form, color, context, and other artistic concepts in the works in the museum; when we arrived, however, our visit took some unexpected turns (literally). We were directed to head straight to the roof garden — past ancient relics in glass cases, majestic roman statues, and delicately woven linens — without being told why. Needless to say, I was a bit confused.
Arriving at the roof, though, all was immediately clarified at the sight of the installation in residence there.
The work, entitled “Big Bambu,” was a complex structure comprised of nothing but large bamboo stalks lashed together. A team of artists and rock climbers were continuing to erect the structure as we watched, adding to the sculpture’s interior network of catwalks and staircases incorporated to give visitors an alternate view of the structure.
It was impressive, to say the least, to see such a construction mounted on the roof of the museum, overlooking Central Park and downtown New York. Although the materials and construction methods were simple, the complexity and strength that arose from the project were incredible.
The experience of being immersed in the stalks at the base was also quite unique; it was in many ways very calming, like standing in the shade of a tree on a hot summer day. It may have been the beautiful weather, but it was very refreshing to enjoy the light breeze in the shade of the stalks. The patterns and textures created by the sunlight on the floor of the roof garden were also interesting to look at, as was the experience of watching the other museum visitors walk through it, the stippled patterns of light and dark animating their movements.
Again, I encourage a visit to my Flickr page to see more photos of the exhibit.
We were given the rest of the morning off to explore the rest of the museum at our leisure, or to go back to the studios to work. I, of course, elected to stay and walk through the museum. I, with a couple of classmates, explored the modern art wing, the Egyptian exhibits, the American wing, and the Medieval wing. Of course, the museum is enormous and there was no way we could see everything in one day; I definitely plan to go back to see more.
The afternoon brought with it our first “Representation” (a.k.a. drafting) class, in which we met our drafting professor, Aaron, and were given our first assignment. Given that most of our studio work thus far has centered around the High Line Park, it only made sense that our drafting assignment would go in that direction as well.
We were assigned to hand draft two plans and two sections of individually-assigned portions of the High Line on a 24″x36″ sheet of vellum. At first glance it sounded simple enough; it would be a great project because we were already familiar with the site and we had physically visited it too. I also have a great deal of drafting experience under my belt so I wasn’t too worried about it. As we were sitting in a circle introducing ourselves to Aaron, however, I quickly realized that a good number of my classmates had much less or no experience with drafting. Right away I knew this would complicate the assignment (not that I blame any of them for it). Having taken many drafting classes before I know that a class like this can only move forward once everyone understands each concept, and drafting by hand is not an easy skill to learn, no less in two days.
What didn’t help the discrepancies in our different skill levels was the fact that the drafting “class” we sat down for only glossed over the minimal basics of scale and how to use a scale rule, and then referred us to further online readings for more information; we were then set free to draft a complete set of finished drawings of a highly complex architectural structure running through the middle of downtown New York City. It may just be me, but if I knew nothing about drafting I would need more training than that to start drafting anything, let alone something of this scale.
As my studio mates and I sat down at our desks, slightly confused, to begin the project after class, we realized another complication in the project — we didn’t have dimensions for anything! The teachers and T/A’s had linked to a simplified set of renderings and drawings on the class website, however, much more information was needed to begin drawing the structure. Another layer of complexity arose from the fact that each of us had a different assigned section to draft, which meant that our drawings could not compare to each other for easy reference, and that dimensions that were found for one section of the park would not necessarily be accurate for another. When we questioned the professor and the T/A’s about the problem, their solution was to estimate whatever dimensions we didn’t have using photographs and Google Maps.
I was stunned. The entire point of hand drafting anything is to accurately represent an idea in scale! Without accurate dimensions the drawing is no more than a detailed sketch!
Despite these deficiencies none of the teaching staff seemed to question the validity of the project; so we set forth to begin drawing whatever we could using information we did or didn’t have.
What was an enlightening and enriching start to the day, unfortunately, gradually transitioned to confusion and chaos by the end of it. I certainly hope this project is further clarified in the next few days.