17 June 2011

What's your secret life?

One of our very own in the architecture (and EECS) department, Emily Whiting, was recently featured in NOVA's "Secret Life of Scientists" series:


Although I personally don't know her, I feel somewhat of a kinship because 1) we share the same great name, and 2) we've both done research with the same professor - her adviser and now my thesis committee reader, John Ochsendorf.  I guess we also both like bricks, stone, and masonry, so that might be the #3 commonality.

What is my secret life?  I'm not exactly sure.  Part of me thinks that architecture school attempts to squelch out any other life than studio, although I've resisted.  Would mine be loudspeaker?  Bible study leader?  Trash enthusiast?  Flutist (if I practiced more)?  Sustainability blogger?  Design-builder?  Stationary and sketchbook enthusiast?  Maybe the first question is, rather - can I be considered a scientist?

What's your secret life?

16 June 2011

[foodage] The most stereotyped vegetable

Poor brussel sprouts.

Did you know they grew like this?
Neither did I - but thanks to Eat and Live Green, we know.
Kids love to hate them.  People in general seem to love to hate them, even.  I think even as a child, the phrase "... not as bad as brussel sprouts!" must have passed through my lips at some point.  If you look at them closely, though, they're actually sort of cute, like the cabbage's impish nephews and nieces.  Although they can be quite bitter if not cooked properly, there are ways to enjoy them - which I only recently discovered.

My friend Betsy introduced me to buttered sprouts in college, and later Robin showed off his culinary skills by sauteing them with olive oil and cumin.  After buying some of these on a whim at Shaw's the other day, I decided to pair them with beets from the on-campus farmer's market and the flavors of cumin, salt, and pepper.

Usually in my cooking endeavors, I don't really follow recipes faithfully.  Actually, I typically stray, dip, mix, match, and come out with something that could either be great or a little dodgy (but I would eat it anyways).  I guess that's the nature of creative cooking experimentation.  I found 2 recipes that each used part of what I was interested in, but then fused them together for what I hoped would be a tasty result.  Since I only purchased a small amount of both vegetables and estimated all amounts, I won't include a strict recipe but only a guideline of what I did... improvements welcome!

The lighting makes the beets look scarily like red meat.
Thankfully, it did not taste as such.
In the end, the vegetables were a bit caramelized but could have benefited for a longer saute to make the sprouts more tender and a bit less bitter.  Adding more cumin and maybe even a sauteed onion as suggested by the NYTimes recipe might have also sweetened them a bit, but the beets at least were quite delicious and made up for their slightly bitter companions.

Ingredients //
  • red beets (I used 3)
  • a generous handful of brussel sprouts
  • cumin, salt, pepper
  • olive oil
Process //
  1. Boil the beets in a sauce pan for ~40 minutes while preheating the oven to 350 degrees F.  When the beets have started to soften (can be slightly marked with a wooden spoon), fish them out and place them on a foil lined baking sheet.  Roast for ~20-25 minutes (faster if you have a better oven than I do).  Cool for 5-10 minutes, then peel and cube.
    Note: Sadly, beets take a long time to cook, but maybe someone has a better - meaning faster - method.  I boiled first to speed up the process, but then finished off with roasting because roasted vegetables really just taste so much better with the flavor captured in the flesh rather than escaping into the water.
  2. Trim the stems off the brussel sprouts and boil for 7-10 minutes or until softened.  Add a dash of salt to the water to flavor them a bit.  Once done, slice them in half.

  3. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add beets, sprouts, and spices.  Be generous with the cumin!  Cover it up and stir on occasion to avoid excessive burning, until sprouts fully tender and vegetables have begun caramelizing.
    Note: I did this for 5 minutes re: the recipe, but as I said above, I would have done it longer.

  4. Serve!  I actually ate them alone since I had already eaten leftover pasta while I was awaiting the long process of beet cooking, but I could imagine combining this dish with couscous.

14 June 2011

The consequences of unsubscribing

Groupon is pretty clever.

Rather than allowing people to unsubscribe with an innocuous email submission and requisite "You are now unsubscribed from this list," they actually attach that action to violence.  You'll have to find it on Youtube or unsubscribe yourself to know what I'm talking about...  I didn't take a screen shot of the actual video, but it made me laugh - and then feel a twinge of guilt.  Maybe their tactic worked?

We'll see if I try to make it up to Derrick in the next couple days.

13 June 2011

On display : B+C | A Alumni Show

I missed the reception, but got to see my work and others on display for the 3rd annual Barnard + Columbia Architecture Alumni Show when I returned for my class reunion at the beginning of the month.  The title of the exhibition is "Progress | Process," essentially looking at the ways in which the design process has evolved.  (Brief below.)  The work is on display on the 4th floor of Barnard's new Diana Center, so check it out if you're in the City.

Instead of sharing studio designs, I decided instead to showcase two different ways of rethinking the building block from a very material standpoint.  No sleek renderings here, but instead I introduced a little dirt.  Yes, these are group projects (thanks to teams MRG and D-Lab Building Materials aka RHA), but I'm ok with not being the sole author in these innovations.  Sometimes better work  develops with more brains than one, and this is often the case anyways with most design and research.

I saw some other familiar names with work showcased, and in general there was a pretty wide variety of projects highlighting what alums all the way from the class of '98 to the class of '09 have been up to since leaving the alma mater.  The other participants include:
Benjamin Weinryb Grohsgal, CC ’08 // “Living on the Edge of a Megacity”
Edgar Papazian, CC ’95 // “One Competition”
Irmak Turan, SEAS ’07, CC ’08 // “RAMPed UP”
Jacob Moore, CC ‘06 // “Unknowing the Known”
Lizzie Hodges, BC ‘02 // “Redacted”
Marissa Grace Desmond, CC ‘05 // “Damn the City, Dam the Suburbs” [also a recent MIT alum]
Meg Kelly, BC ‘09 // “Tracing Shifts of Place”
Shan Shan Qi, BC ’06 //  “Production House”
Tom Stewart, CC ’08 // “Salsabol”
Wendy W Fok, BC ‘03 // “UP – Urban Tower Transformation”
The brief, crafted by the show committee (including Charles Curran, another fellow Columbian and MITer), refers to the work of a recent visiting faculty member here at MIT:
In her essay Theory After (After-Theory), Ashley Schafer identifies the emergence of the promiscuous architectural practice, one that works seamlessly through design, contextual study, building, and writing, as a new, agile modus operandi within and beyond the discipline. This conflation of material and theoretical practice (design and concept) fosters great diversity in ways of working, which can be calibrated to suit the constraints of a specific project and the designer’s unique conceptual biases. The Barnard + Columbia Architecture Department offers a similarly pluralistic and promiscuous pedagogy as evidenced by the diversity of its multi-disciplinary faculty and the resultant varied approaches to design instruction. It is hoped that exposure to and experimentation within this liberal environment challenges students to work dynamically, crafting and continuously refining their own program(s) of design research. This year’s Alumni Exhibition seeks to uncover how the design process continues to evolve after graduation.

12 June 2011

Graduation from the back door

on a recent Friday, dated June 3, 2011

It's a bit belated, but congrats to all our dear MIT grads from GCF, ArchPlan, MArch, and more.  Even from the back door, the view was pretty great.

The beginning of a new era, with open doors and open skies.

10 June 2011

Gratitude ... of sorts

 “Thank you, first sheet of a new toilet paper roll that won’t tear off evenly so I have to scratch and claw and shred three layers of the roll just to get the thing started. But that’s cool. I think I’ll have the last laugh, since I know where you’re ending up."

From "Thank You Notes" by Jimmy Fallon, recently published and quoted in the NYTimes

Maybe it IS easy to write a book after all ...

DoBV represents in Archiprix awards

This morning's news: 4 DoBV members won or were nominated for top prizes in the Archiprix thesis competition!  The announcement was made at the awards ceremony yesterday at the Guggenheim in New York, which I unfortunately couldn't go to but am glad to hear about.  It's quite the sweep - I'm not sure if any other workshop group had so many notables in their midst.  Out of over 300 projects, 8 were chosen as winners while 24 in total were nominated.

Congrats to our winner:

Craig Johnson : National Apiological Network: An Illustrated History (University of Strathclyde, Scotland)
On the first night of the workshop, when asked why he did his thesis about bees: "I dunno ... I just thought it would be interesting."  That goes to show that thesis projects don't have to have pomp and circumstance from the get go to become good projects in the end.

Plus, additional congrats to our nominees:

Thomas Cole : Hawkesbury Ponds Fairgrounds (University of New South Wales)

Sarosh Mulla : Interconnections of System Densities (University of Auckland, New Zealand)
Aezad Alam : Su_Per_form®  (American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)

09 June 2011

Once upon a time in NYC...

... there were mundane objects lying around the city we call the City, waiting to be noticed.  Items like the window air conditioner...

... the steam vent ...

... the ubiquitous hot dog vendor ...

... and more simply pined for attention.  Which they got.  When the Department of Benign Violations came along.

Suddenly the streets were filled with music.  People chilled (or heated) at bus stops and bicycle racks.  Facades were covered with inflatables, transformative louvers, and even erupted with balloons.  Trees moved to the song of hot dogs sizzling.  Rooftops blossomed.  Taxis buzzed with electrostatic energy and removed the lint off of the sweaters of passersby.  And the streets of NYC were forever changed.

02 June 2011


New wallpaper, produced in a day by the three DoBV groups: Census Bureau, Research Team, and Zoning Commission.

01 June 2011

NYC's new department

photo taken by Marina, Archiprix's dedicated webmistress and social media curator
Meet the Department of Benign Violations, formerly known as Group 6 of the Archiprix workshop competition.  Once a crowd of 11 and now a slim 8, these recent graduate architecture alums hail from both hemispheres and across the globe:
(That list might have been more impressive as a mapping, but for now, it remains in just words.)  Nick Gelpi and Filip Tejchman at the helm; with me to get coffee cups, scan precedents, and troubleshoot network issues in the side wings.

Being abroad - from the past

Way back when I could say that I was officially studying abroad in my college days and wanted to talk about how awesome it was to be abroad, I had come across a cool little project called Being Abroad.  Seemed perfect!  If you signed up and were selected, you would then become one of 100 people mailed one of 10 sketchbooks and add your own artistic entry about your own experiences in the wider world beyond.  It actually worked, in that one day a few years back, I got mailed a sketchbook by a complete stranger from England, and was then asked to ship it off to someone in another part of Europe.  (Not the most efficient path of travel, I suppose.)  The submissions would then be compiled in some sort of annotated book about personal stories abroad...

Then silence...

And then... a random email a couple weeks ago.  Ends up the book idea sort of fell through, but the guy behind it wanted to bring some closure to the project and is now making a website with all the entries.  I visited his own webpage and discovered that he now works for the slightly alternative literary publication McSweeney's - which makes him a cool person in my book.

In any rate, this inordinately long blog post is just to say that my submission will be published online on a URL yet to be revealed.  I'm excited in numerous ways, but mostly because... well frankly, I haven't the faintest memory of what I even drew/wrote, so it'll be like a mini blast from the past or a time capsule of sorts about my days in Paris or Beijing...or somewhere in between.

An update soon on our own international experience happening within the walls of MIT ...