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SSCE, Day 7: Advanced Topics in Architecture … Finally!

July 8, 2010

fischerlighting

Praise the summer school gods! Finally we’re starting to get somewhere in this program!

Today was an enormous turn around, from my point of view, from the past week of classes.  It was not only an incredibly enlightening and thought-provoking day, but we finally had the opportunity to pass out the coveted “Best Speaker in the SSCE Program” award — to a visiting architect!  I’ll start with that story.

The highlight of the day was absolutely the “In the City” class in which we listened to a presentation from David Lewis of LTL Architects.  David’s presentation was about materiality in architectural projects — an obvious gesture to our current studio projects dealing with the use of materials and repetition — and it was incredible.  David discussed ways in which his firm designed the interior of a coffee shop using the materials of a coffee cup (cardboard, Styrofoam, paper) as inspiration, how they visually drew passers-by into a bakery using plywood, felt, and creative lighting, and how they designed the interior of a seafood restaurant around a wooden skewer (which turned into 110,000 more suspended from the ceiling)! (See photo.)

His firm’s use of materials and sensitivities to all aspects of a client’s project was fascinating. The presentation read, to me, much like design presentations from a theatrical production meeting, or as a design portfolio being presented to a panel.  He presented the inspiration for the project, the process and stages the plans went through, the steps in the final production (and sometimes fabrication) of the project, and the finished result.  You could follow every step of his logic from beginning to end, and by the end of the presentation it was crystal-clear how his firm designs and functions.  It was simply brilliant.

Not to name names, but a lot of the professors (and some of the T/A’s) this summer have been making presentations and lectures in what I refer to as “expanding speech,” an overly-articulated, highly technical language that uses as many lengthy words as possible, which, ironically, results in very little actually being said.  A number of them are also guilty of … pausing … in the middle of … thoughts and sentences when they speak.  Not David!  He didn’t waste a word or hesitate for an instant, and he had a great sense of humor too!  Thus he wins the “Best Speaker” award. 10 out of 10 SSCE students agree!

Another of the better speakers in the program, a T/A, Jeff, I also met for the first time today in my first breakout section of “In the City.”  Jeff happens to be a current dual-degree M. Arch/MFA Lighting Design student at Parsons, so it was great to meet and chat with him.  He assured me he would fill me in on all the juicy details of being a grad student there.  What I really appreciate about Jeff, however, is that he is really smart.  He made an eye-opening presentation at the beginning of class about language as it relates to theories of architecture, which brought my mind to a whole new level of blown away.  He also made sure to plan several days ahead for an informed in-class discussion by sending us readings that would relate to our assigned walking tours of the city — a forethought which definitely proved fruitful when it came time to discuss our reactions to the architecture we saw.  For example, I presented my lighting sketches as they related to a discussion of decoration and billboards found in two of the readings, which generated some interesting discussion on signage and architecture.  Of course, I discussed the theatricality of the lighting on some of the buildings as well — I had to; just look at the hotel I saw!

Progress was also made in our drafting class today when we finally made the jump to AutoCAD.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly understand and appreciate the values of hand drafting and I highly recommend a thorough class in it before even attempting CAD, but two and a half years is enough for me!  It was nice to get back into the program after having been away from it for a while.  I was worried that I wouldn’t remember any of the commands or keystrokes, but I quickly found it was like riding a bike: you never forget it once you learn.  I also realized how thankful I was to have taken Keith Cornelius’ AutoCAD class.  Due to time constraints Aaron had to teach the beginners in our class how to draft using the different buttons at the top of the screen (gasp!).  I was much more efficient because I not only knew all of the commands and keystrokes I needed to use, but I knew the exact right place to use them.  I actually ended up finishing my homework during class time, which was a first for the summer!

Overall the day just felt more productive, intellectually and physically, than an other day so far.  My brain was going a thousand miles a minute, all day, which doesn’t happen very often.  I’m also extra excited because at the end of the day we signed up to take a tour of a local design firm of our choice — I’m going to visit a downtown lighting design firm next week!  I can’t wait!

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