Everything that I have learned in my first year can be broken into two parts: the (1) technical and representational and (2) the perception and manipulation of space. I’ve refined my freehand drawing abilities, learned the basics of technical drawing, began to learn modeling, and took a small step towards understanding building design and program—these are the technical and representational skills that are needed before ideas about perception and design can be demonstrated effectively. In studio, we learned both concepts simultaneously moving from one level of technical demonstration to the next, tackling the issue of learning to see things differently and choosing the best possible mediums to show others how we see a particular moment. These lessons begin small with light studies about the phenomena of glass and its reaction to light and its manipulation, then determining the best possible way to exemplify a moment by medium choice. Fondly remembered, is the lesson of cardboard modeling—‘listening to the cardboard,’ manipulating it in ways to create joints and connections, textures and shape. Simple exercises of materials, before diving into modeling that mimics, catches, manipulates, isolates or expresses a particular moment in a space on multiple scales. This leads into constructing or altering an existing space and developing a model and technical drawings, based upon an extracted moment. From the phenomenal studies and initial understanding of technical skills, derives analysis. Being able to graphically represent a study (site analysis) is paramount and helps to determine the characteristics of a structure and program of a building which is the end result of the first two studios.

First semester, I felt like an explorer (slash stalker?) walking around with a camera and sketch book in tow. We sat in the middle of crowds, quickly sketching and documenting pedestrian movement through a space or my fellow studio mates making unusual poses for brief periods of time. Other times we put our faces to brick walls to document weathering and climbed to tops of buildings to investigate a collapsing gutter. We are now hyper aware of textures. We rubbed flowers and seeds against paper, and tried to mimic nature’s hues, or photo-documented light traveling across a floor for a day. We wrestled with massive paper installations—sometimes just to watch them blow away or get soaked. These exercises sometimes felt silly, but their application all seemed to become more apparent at the end. This semester was an entire lesson in viewing. How do we view a space? How do others view the same space? How can I change the way that they see the same space? It’s all about the experience a designer can create manipulating materials, scale, lighting, etc. Though I still don’t completely understand why I stained my fingers with a walnut for a pastel exercise.

Second semester was less random-feeling. We studied the concepts of event, precedence, scale, and site. Attending the Martin Luther King Jr. rally in Atlanta, GA we cataloged the entire route, then focused on one aspect of the event in great detail. Taking everything we learned in first semester, we applied our new graphic skills to demonstrate the importance of things such as boundaries, public v. private space, crowd movement, change in environment, etc during an event like the rally. The next exercise was to study an existing structure (a building by Frank Lloyd Wright, for example) and then apply their method to a chosen existing space that has been documented and studied on campus, then suggest how the precedent would change the space. Into scale, we were finally able to create our own structure, with our own dimensions and design—a wall. Here, I learned something that I now consider very important: question definitions. Consider what a wall is, then imagine a wall that isn’t a wall, and the potential that lies in that wall to create a delineated boundary or an internal space. It’s awesome. After the brief rendezvous with the walls, our first building was upon us. Taking everything we had learned since August, we designed a building that reacted to its site and manipulated into a suitable program. Thoroughly documented, modeled and studied, we each had created works for this exercise that was a broad scope of everything we had learned through our first year, and it was almost overwhelming when I realized this.

This is, of course, only a brief description of the first year design studio program and a broad personal understanding. Everyone who completed the studios took something different away, and we began to develop our own philosophies and methods. The variety in work created by the studios is fascinating and curious. As a group we were able to watch one another grow as designers from all different starting points, ranging from professional CAD users, artists, certified interior designers, to the drafting fledglings and artistically challenged. We see things differently than we did a year ago and are quickly becoming “über geeks.”