Changing Lanes

There is something to be said for the steady pace of a semester and the studio ritual of rethinking, redesigning, losing faith in a project, regaining it and, ultimately, bringing something to a final review that, in truth, represents two weeks worth of hustle. But there is also something to the architectural tradition of a charette, of a timed drawing or a mad dash to the finish line that does not indulge in re-anything, but identifies a gut reaction and relies on an agile skill-set to make the photo finish.

The opportunity Lebbeus Woods, Winka Dubbeldam, and I had in organizing two studio modules this past summer was an opportunity for us as educators to test the core skills of exiting graduate students and push them to realize their true creative metabolism which can no longer be wed to the idyll of a semester crawl, but to an office’s impacted timetable. It was also our chance to look at a curriculum’s ability to edit and get mercilessly to the point.

Architecture = architecture

What you see in the coming pages is a test of wills, reflexes, and identity. Students come out of their first module with what Lebbeus called unmediated work, schemes to connect the city to to the sky (from “Earth to the Stars”) where the section’s scale became silhouette. The seminar interim before the second module energized the students enough to propel their next work which dealt with the site and a program of the student’s choosing. This could have been a disaster, choice always slows things down, but the metronome ticked quickly and the options were clear: finish of fail. Everyone finished.

Our approach could not be applied to a core education, not anymore. It was appropriate for a last graduate studio where a thesis is not entertained, where research is rooted in the city and the seminars that treat it as preludes to a creative exercise. The stunning thing, of course, is that work could stand up next to the output of a semester. But that was not our goal. We wanted to give these students – on the eve of taking their post-professional degrees – supreme confidence. There is no better way to accomplish this than showing them what they can do in three-week sprints. That is the span of schematic design in an indulgent office.

Architecture ≄time