27 February 2009

open a new window

window of opportunity

ash wednesday was a couple days ago, but it could've been any day of the week. instead of being marked by the familiar ash cross on the forehead and quiet reflection, my day was marked by the same old classes and studio time...which felt weird and sort of wrong. sighs. and actually, lent never had a presence in my life outside of brie's coin collecting in high school, and even then it took until college to figure out that the season is much more than just a "catholic thing."

i did actually get to explain it to a friend in bible study, who had never really heard of it before. i guess the idea of giving something up initially sounds legalistic or masochistic/self-depriving, although it means a lot more than that. i understand it as being about getting rid of the excesses of life and refocusing on Jesus, esp. in prep for easter. somehow the ideas of joy and contentment come to mind. but even so, it's hard for me to articulate why this time of the year has become so important to me. maybe it's the necessary pause and reflection in the midst of crazy daily life, the reminder of the reason why i have purpose.

still no idea what i might do for lent, although i have a sense that this'll be a very renewing and growing next 40 days (or, now 38 days). very necessary. i've been tired lately - mostly physically tired - and need some soul refreshment, esp. in this time of pending work craziness.

refreshment's also been found in:
- actually talking w/ people after service instead of just bolting back to studio
- leisurely walks in beacon hill at night
- catch up conversations w/ good friends :)
- going out to dinner on a weekday
- field trips!

general mood: slightly weary
currently listening to: "the more" - downhere

25 February 2009

two down!

from our first project review (book device): jordan + phil, jennifer + yushiro

project two is officially done! we had our review today with our first guest critics, which meant it was a bit more formal than the last one, but not so terribly intense despite the long hours put in to make the project. the review ran long, though, since all 24 of us had to present and get comments.

a typical architecture review runs in a similar format each time. basically, you prepare and present your work to critics, who will then assess the project and give feedback. hopefully it's constructive criticism, although sometimes it can be intimidating and crits could totally bash your work. the idea is that you're "selling" your concepts and ideas to people who might have never seen your project, using your models and drawings to support your argument for why you made design decisions. i guess that's where presentation skills are key to how you do.

i used to get sort of anxious before review time, but nowadays it's been much easier to talk about my stuff (preparation is key though, esp. when you haven't slept the night before and need to be coherent). it also helps not to take criticism personally - even if the reviewers are harsh, it's the work that they're pinpointing and not the person his/herself. (hard to separate sometimes, though)

anyways, today's review went pretty well, praise God! too exhausted now to post any photos, but i'll play catch up in the next few days.

wheee....the bed calls!

general mood: relieved and sleeeepy
listening to: pandora

19 February 2009

starting over

there're a couple things this phrase could apply to in life, but right now referring to starting my studio project over. since our studio instructors (aka critics) give us guidance w/ our projects, our work is part personal, part directed by their own design approach. it's a tricky balance...but in this case, my crit won out and several of us have to go back to an earlier beginning of our work.

this project is another 1 weeker, this time designing a book stack (aka one unit of the stack) to accommodate 3 people.

frustrated, but still charging ahead... now, on to research the acoustics of music.

18 February 2009

food blogging central

one of the things near and dear to my heart is food (and if you know me, you will know this to be the case). not to be a gourmand, but i just very much enjoy the subject, not simply just the act of eating in itself. i've grown out of most of my culinary pickiness, so i will willingly tolerate food from la verdes (aka "across the street," our student center). however, i always appreciate the good/interesting/new stuff and have my eyes peeled for new restaurants, different cuisines, and cool food photography/writing. hence food blogs and books being some of my reading materials of choice.

anyways, long intro short, the times uk compiled a list of the 50 best food blogs. i've read two of them (the food section and chocolate & zucchini), but no matter. such a great source of procrastination! (as if i need another one!)

general mood: tired but positive
currently listening to: cirque du soleil's
O soundtrack

15 February 2009

a vday of many dates

v-day dessert...complements of the king and i

typically valentine's day in my family is like another mother's day, since february 14th also happens to be my mom's birthday. but as this year i'm away from home and can't celebrate with her, and since i have no other romantic ties, then it left the day open and free of any real commitment beyond a phone call to mom.

it was quite a nice day, actually, mostly spent with good friends. first there was brunch at cafe luna with my architecture bible study. this place really surprised me. i can't tell you how many times i've passed this unassuming little nook without a second glance, and yet after experience, i would certainly go back. the staff had such an attitude of hospitality and made scrumptious homemade food (brioche french toast, mmmm). so the group sorted out when we would be meeting this semester, and i'm praying we'll be able to really commit to the group and to each other even despite our crazy schedules.

yushiro, jennifer, reem, and kathy before digging in

then some work in the studio...and then dinner with a few studio folks over at the king and i, a thai restaurant just across the longfellow bridge in beacon hill. the last time i had been there was at least 3-4 years ago with jeanette and allan, so i wasn't sure what to expect this time around. the food really was quite yummy and made for a lovely valentine's day family-style feast. we joked and said that yushiro had 4 valentine's day dates...not to make his girlfriend jealous, of course.

then some post-dinner fun...too distracted to get back to work:

and lastly, a mit valentine:

roses are red.
actually, a rose, as you may know, is a perennial flower shrub or vine of the genus rosa, within the family rasaceae, that contains over 100 species. each petal is divided into two distinct lobes and is usualy white or pink, though in a few species yellow or red. therefore most roses are really not red, but many have been selectively grown to exhibit this specific phenotype

violets are blue.
much like hte rose, flower colors vary in the genus, raging from vilet, as their common name suggest, through varios shades of blue, yellow, white and cream, whilst some thypes are bicolored, often blue and yellow. let's assume that in this case we are dealing with a flower that reflects electromagnetic waves dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 440-490 nm.

i have a problem set (or studio project) due monday,
and so do you.

so please accept this token of endearment and do not attempt further social communication with me until
1:05pm EST monday, february 16, 2009 AD.
thank you for your time.

14 February 2009

rem on fire

original rendering of what the tower was supposed to look like

the tvcc tower, part of the cctv complex and one of the most celebrated and widely-anticipated projects by rem koolhaas in beijing, burst into flames a few days ago. this is probably old news.

and yet...it still stands. some people make comparisons between this and the world trade center and wonder why this tower survived and the others didn't. speculation...and something to think about as a designer, how to take these sorts of events into account.

pasta for the rest of your life?

i have nothing against pasta...here, from giacomo's in the north end

one of my favorite newsletters is the food section, with loads of tidbits on food things in the world. it occasionally makes me sad because it's based in nyc and i'm now 4 hours away from sampling any restaurant or attending any food event they might mention, but at least i have the pleasure of reading about them on occasion.

one article in this week's edition caught my eye this time around. apparently some italian cities are banning foreign foods in their city centers, which seems completely close-minded. homogenized palates? what if the U.S. did the same thing? we'd be left with...maybe burgers but no fries. maybe chicken but no teriyaki. no rice and definitely no sushi.

on another note but related tangent, my friends and i were debating about the best asian cuisines. the non-asians ranked chinese food at the bottom of their lists, which made those of us with origins in the mainland indignant. american chinese food like chow mein and general tso's chicken have tainted them! so far from the truth. we'll have to cook for them to prove them wrong.

general mood: content
currently reading: lamentations, which is indeed a sad book

13 February 2009

the joy of power tools

huang, using the band saw to cut steel

this past week was unexpected: instead of hunkering down in front of my laptop or being holed up in studio, i instead was covered in sawdust, learning to use the jigsaw.

our first studio exercise was to design and build a device that would allow for 2 people to read at the same time. however, it had to be built for real at 1:1 scale, meaning no cardboard (which we call chipboard), foamcore, or other representational materials - just actual wood, metal, or whatever other things you could think of (one group used wax). so we put away our little x-actos and headed to the wood shop instead.

and boy, did people end up making some crazy-cool stuff. our review yesterday looked a bit like an art installation, as we demonstrated devices that did everything from help people spy on each other's books, use an open flame to melt away wax and reveal the newpaper underneath, or have enough privacy to read out loud in the library.

my partner and i built a dual-hinged magnetic window that allows 2 people to read newspapers at the same time, then lets them exchange reading material and interact by annotating the text or talking directly through the opening. i haven't documented the end product yet, but have a couple progress photos:

(L) some attempts at using the chisel (varying results), and (R) hinging the panels

the thing i discovered through this whole process, though, is that i really like using power tools and don't mind getting steel grease on my hands or being caked in sawdust (except when it makes me sneeze). i guess doing masonry camp a couple summers ago and working on a construction site in el salvador prepared me for this project and gave me some basis for hands-on work. there's just something really satisfying about sparks flying from cutting steel and, at the end of the day, making progress and creating something tangible.

ann using the router to carve plywood - diesel!

power tools i've gotten to use in the last month or so:
- chop saw
- jigsaw
- wood chisel + planer
- metal hand grinder
- power drill
- welder (although i'm particularly horrible at it)
- power sander

fun times!

general mood: relaxed! 3 day weekend!
currently listening to: "beat of my heart" - jon mclaughlin

06 February 2009

from across the pond

post-it mosaic map of boston at the book release party.
designed by charles (fellow columbian @ mit), photo by e.howeler

it's the first friday night of the semester, and a good opportunity to unwind a bit. after a fun dinner at four burgers, one of my comfort places in central square (albeit $$), a few of us went to the pink comma in the south end for meejin's book release party. this place is the only gallery in boston devoted to architectural work, which is cool but also sort of sad in its singularity. eventually boston will catch up in the cultural department. the gathering was hopping, but after checking out the book, saying hi to friends and professors, and meeting some guys from the fabrication end of the design process, i was ready to turn in.

so here i am, in my pjs, shuffling through the paper detritus that always follows the first week of school. i checked out one of my favorite blogs, belonging to my brother and sil*, and remembered good times over new year's when i got to visit them in their new home. i haven't photoshopped anything yet, but here's a glimpse of a great visit in january:

fine afternoon tea w/ jeanie and jenny @ fortnum and mason. we concluded afterwards that pale green must be the theme color of bourgeois london.

this is our slightly creepy but fun lo-yuh family photo, as we huddled to stay warm pre-fireworks.

happy (belated) new year!

lunchtime in windsor and mom's already tired...(or is she?)

this photo deserves to be big. my mom recently has FINALLY started using digital cameras and took this one at windsor castle. i'm very proud of her!

i don't exactly remember why i took this photo...probably because i thought my dad looked funny wearing my brother's hat. in any rate, a classic dad/son moment.

what architecture student can go to london w/o seeing modern architectural highlights? i dragged my family through the empty streets of the financial area to see foster's swiss re tower. after seeing that and rogers' lloyd building nearby, i was satisfied.

on a visit to bulstrode, where jenny's missions organization is headquartered, this display caught my eye. oh how parsnips and carrots can be cute.

not simply tissues. man tissues. (they are huge.) but still strong enough for women, too.

such good times :] and after looking through these photos, it made me thank God yet again to have such awesome siblings and parents, standing by each other through thick and thin. i miss them...both the los in philly and in the uk.

general mood: sort of tired but okay

04 February 2009

all in the same boat...almost

time to put aside the flip flops and put on the running shoes again...

so the first day came and went, and although we didn't get the mountains of work i had anticipated, we still got our fair share of hills and minor peaks. this semester we have 4 required classes instead of the 5 from the fall:

1. building technology (structures)
2. a history/theory class on contemporary architecture
3. design studio
4. design skills II (3d modeling, etc.)

and in those 4 classes, i have the same 23 other classmates, +/-10 for those classes shared w/ the undergrad seniors or the 1st year level 2 students (aka w/ advanced standing). but because level 1's all typically have the same schedule, that's why everyone thought it was so odd when i couldn't go to dinner because of another class. elective!

the surprise on people's faces was pretty comical, but hey - i'm attempting to take something that isn't required, but that is generally interesting to me. and i look like a weirdo. or an overachiever. or both. (i'm hopefully not either.) oh well. it's just half a semester, so hopefully it won't be too taxing. i also have a follow up class for el salvador - also low key.

in studio realm, meejin told us that this semester would be "a series of really fast sprints, and then a long run." looks like we'll be getting plenty of exercise...

general mood: starting to get sleepy, but still somewhat enthused for the semester

02 February 2009

an overview + recap

for the past few months, people have been asking me one or more of the following questions:

1. how's school?
2. do you like it?
3. so...what do you guys even do there?
4. how come you don't sleep?
5. can i see your projects?
6. do you ever have free time...ever?

the answers, in brief, are:

1. intense, challenging, but generally good - in retrospect
2. usually, when i'm not so sleep deprived
3. take classes and work in studio
4. because of #3
5. yes, if you keep reading this blog
6. erm....sometimes...on occasion...maybe?

but to be honest, i'm tired of my one sentence responses and the looks of deep sympathy i often get when telling people how things really have been. yes, arch school and mit are a recipe for challenges and sleepless nights galore, but it's also been much more than just those hardships. hopefully a new start at shooting words into cyberspace will help clear that up (or, maybe reinforce them...who knows).

in between, hopefully i'll get around to inserting some thoughts on cool design things, piquant articles, places traveled, and photos taken.

and, as a recap for last semester:

1st project: the bridge
create a bridge by designing a single unit to be aggregated (aka stacked together) together. and did i mention it had to be made of paper? by slicing the strip of paper, i was able to stack and nest the units in a fan-like way.

2nd project: the student center
given a "campus" (more architectural of a site, but still placeless and vague) with 3 buildings of all different floor height levels, design a student center to connect them together. the center had to incorporate stairs, ramps, and an elevator. my project blurs together the boundaries of the existing buildings, creating a new "living room" or "mixing chamber" of sorts.

3rd project: the system
design a system also through the use of a unit, which would be able to turn corners to create walls, ceiling, and floor. it also needed to be able to allow for openings. mine was a set of interlocking pieces that could slide to modify the size of aperture and attaching leg.

4th project: the annex theater
this time we had a site - in south boston - and a program, aka defined purpose for our building. here, the task was to design an annex theater for the ica (institute of contemporary art) w/ 4 different theaters. here, i designed the theaters entirely out of steps so that the program and circulation through the building were integrated.

my summaries are really sparse and don't really explain it fully...but ask me later for more detail if you're actually interested. it takes too long to flesh out sometimes.

so...onward we go. 2nd semester starts tomorrow - joys!