Category: First Year

First Year Studio in Review

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.”


Time Management + First Years!

Hello! This post is made with some irony, as I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. However, I feel like now that the first year workshop has started, this might be the best time to post it.

Physics is nearly over, and cultures is also coming to an end. So I finally have time to write again! In cultures we are studying the beautiful and dark Gothic architecture, leading into the Renaissance that we pick up again in Cultures II in a year or so.

Also, the first years are here! The workshops began this week, and they can be seen walking around the N building with their sketchbooks and clipboards in tow. I will be posting a visual review soon (I promise!) of the entire first year so that any curious first year people can have a good idea of what to expect. I also hope that this post will help any that come across it in the next few weeks as they go through the workshop. Time management is an issue for a lot of architecture students; we have demanding schedules while juggling work, free time and studying/designing. I’ve learned a lot about how to better manage my time during first year and will share this little bit with you. Please add any other suggestions you might have. 🙂

Schedule the little things. I schedule in the big things like final reviews, work hours, due dates, big events and my fish’s birthday. If I get to noticing that a particular day is loaded with a critique scheduled, an exam, a paper draft due and a night out on the town, I figure in my downtime plus commute (and yes, I have gone as far to schedule in a shower) and the other smaller things that need to be done during the day so that they do not fall behind. Those tiny chores or assignments can often later add up to time-consuming tasks if not managed properly. Its all about knowing your priorities and what you can handle in a given time.

Countdowns. My agenda is full of “T minus X days!” to be a reminder for the big events that might sneak up on me like reviews or a paper, and more notably my birthday.

Breakdown workloads. Don’t attempt to do everything at once. Tackle big projects slowly, by making little checkpoints for breaks–after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Taking a break doesn’t mean a 6-hour nap (schedule that separately), but getting up for lunch or just a walk around studio will do. I tend to stroll about, looking at what others might be doing. It’s good to take a breather and maybe get some fresh ideas when you set back to work. If you have multiple projects, don’t work on one at a time. Help to keep concepts interesting by reengaging ideas at different points. Several people have different ways of handling multiple projects, and my method might not work for people with slight to severe ADD.

Be wise with your free time. This is not to say you have to be constantly thinking about architecture as you rest. In fact, it’s best not to. Keep a sketchbook close by to store any spontaneous ideas you have while away from the studio. That way the idea will still be there when you have the time.

How do you manage your time between studio hours, other arch classes, working and social life?

Hello all.

There are a lot of myths about studio and architecture students’ long hours, poor hygiene and the energy drink and coffee diet. There is a group on Facebook, that enumerates the many one-liners about all nighters and caffeine addictions called “You know you’re an architecture student when….”

There is a faulty notion about studio because of these myths–some of which might not exist if it weren’t for the reputation. There is this question about students and whether they can be divided into two groups: students who love architecture and students who love studio. I say this, because those who love studio more than design, are those that tend to stress the mythical part of studio. I am between my first and second year, and as the workload picks up, perhaps more of these habits fall into necessity.

I’ve picked out my personal favorites from the You Know You’re an Architecture Student When…:

…you carry a toothbrush in your backpack. This one is true for me, but only because I have an hour commute home and if we go out for Taco Bell, I want to be able to wash that greasy processed taste out of my mouth before settling back into studio. There are several people in studio who probably should keep a toothbrush with them…

…all of the Christmas gifts you give are wrapped in trace. Instead of trace, I reused scrap newsprint that I had sketched on. A free alternative to pricey paper that’s just thrown away anyhow. When money is tight, you learn to live by waste-not want-not. Besides, those who got gifts from me actually thought it was kinda neat to see my random sketches and the little touches I added to make each gift special to the recipient. Plus, they get to throw my trash away for me.

…you spend more time in studio than in your own bed Isn’t this a given? I really hope everyone spends more time doing what they love than they do in their own beds. Sleep isn’t a waste of time, but in excess it really is unproductive (even just a little). There a lot of iterations about lack of sleep on this list, and yes, sleep is rare and special–but we do sleep. As students, we have to sleep. This is where burn-out happened among some of the first year students. Those that didn’t sleep were more interested in living up to the fake expectations that they created that are spurred by rumors and the reputation of studio life. Even on the easiest of projects, they find themselves stretching out certain parts of the assignments while not being particularly productive. At a certain point, the time spent on a project starts to negatively affect the design and just as much is true if not enough time is spent on the project. When projects are poorly produced, this can end in a lot of animosity in the studio, which slows down progress considerably.

…your parents are complaining that you’re not having enough fun. Not true. I love studio and I love designing, and I’m pretty sure that most of those in architecture would agree. Besides, we do have fun. We just have to moderate ourselves and learn to enjoy the little trips to Sam Flax or Taco Bell.

…you haven’t taken a shower in a week. Nasty. Yes…there are those people, but I think there are those people in every major. You know who I’m talking about….

…you only leave studio to buy supplies. False. Site visits and food!

…you’ve ever dreamt about your models. Several times. Mostly nightmares about them catching fire, falling apart during review or being run over by a semi.

…you consider using broccoli for your models. Not really. But I do look at the scraps on my plate and start building mash potato forts with broccoli groves and a corn creek near by.

…your friends get more sleep in one night than you do in one week. This is true. But she’s an art major.

…you strangle your roommate because she said she stayed up late studying. Logging onto Facebook at 4am after working very long hours over a model and drawings and about to go back to studio only to see friends’ status updates that consist of “omg i had sooooo much homework! woe is me! only 5 hours of sleep!” and yes…you do want to strangle a few people. Something about the predawn hours incites violent tendencies.

…you tell time by when other people leave studio. Also true. I almost always leave studio before midnight to go home and shower and catch a quick snooze. I learned when some people’s classes were, so I knew whenever such and such left with their backpack on, I knew it was 3 pm. Unless it was a test day for them, when they returned it would be around 4:30 pm. I personally made those my benchmarks for parts of my projects. “Must finish this drawing by the time so and so comes back….”

…you start using words your instructor uses. “This guy.” “…and beyond.”

…X-acto knives can be dangerous… as we all know or will find out. Funny story. Possibly one of the most ridiculous injuries thus far for the entire studio. I broke my tooth on an X-acto blade. I kid you not.

…And if you have been drunk while in the studio working on a project, join the club. This is one I have no intention of following through with. I go to studio to either sleep between classes if my car is too far away, or to work. Not drink. There are those that do, and I suppose what they do with their time is their business…however they create a loud and sometimes hostile environment which really doesn’t help with productivity. I don’t tell them what to do, but I’d rather they didn’t bother me. (Coincidentally, those that drink are often the ones who don’t shower or sleep…just something I’ve noted.)

…when people tell you that they like walking around with you because you see things know one else does. This is my favorite one. My art major friend tells me this regularly, but now even little things that aren’t necessarily shiny distract me–like shadows and creative expansion joints!


Tomorrow is a busy day. Hopefully going to catch a talk by BIG’s (Bjarke Ingels’s Group) Kai-Uwe Bergmann on Yes Is More at The High, followed by the film Visual Acoustics, about Julius Shulman, an architectural photographer.

Other news: cultures and physics are moving along swimmingly. That is all.

Remember to shower,


Hello all.

I am currently working on a really neat visual summary of my first year in its entirety, from Fall 2009 through Summer 2010. I hope to use a lot of my graphic skills I picked up in dCom, studio and just playing around in different programs for the past few years. I could potentially use this as something to include in my design portfolio (separate from my studio portfolio).

The break between the Spring and Summer was too brief, but it was interesting to see just how the insanity of studio had altered my behavior. I wake up promptly around 7 every morning, regardless of my alarm or getting to sleep in. I can now stay up late and wake up early in the same day, and not feel affected by either–Circadian rhythm is out of sync. I haven’t wanted to even look at fast food. (Though I still crave cheap pizza and energy drinks…)

I took the opportunity of the break to really enjoy myself and see friends I hadn’t seen through much of the semester, but I found myself still observing different types of designs and looking at buildings and spaces analytically. I realized I’d learned a skill that I can’t turn off now. Its exciting to feel so aware.

Last Monday, the Summer semester began. I am currently enrolled in trig-based physics and Cultures I. Cultures I, I think I am really going to enjoy. Probably learn more about history in this course than in my American and World history courses. We have two texts; a very massive book that will carry us through four seminars (Cultures 1,2,3 and 4), and The Ten Books on Architecture by Vitruvius. So far we have gone on a whirlwind tour of ancient architecture from Stonehenge up to Mesopotamian and into Egyptian architecture. My new favorite piece of ancient art/architecture has to be the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, which was constructed around 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. Its absolutely beautiful.

I am less excited about physics.

I also have a model to rebuild this semester. Seeing as this is how my final project looked two days after the competition:

Final Competition Model. Sorta.

There is some repair work to be done before I can finally document it for portfolio purposes. There was a near-accident in a parking lot, which resulted in my T-Square sliding and smashing the poor model in half–I never felt so sick. As far as my portfolio is concerned, the rest of my work from both first year studios and dCom I is actually well documented and organized nicely. I’m pretty happy that I thought to do so after every final review; its helped me to not be rushed for the end of the semester CD’s that are due, and if I lose materials and drawings, I’ve got my back up. I think this will make my portfolio easier to develop.

Any rate, I’m pretty excited about getting through this summer semester, and beginning Second Year. Moving to a different building! Everyone has told me that this is one of the most difficult years, but I think I’m going to be ok. Its mainly the drop rate, that is intimidating.

Till next week,

Hello! Sorry about the delay in posting, its been insane lately.

First things first, my project was selected for first year competition! Secondly, I did not place! I had a strong project and concept, but the five that were selected were impressive works.

Review and Competition
The review went well, overall. Professor Peter Pittman was a reviewer, and offered good criticism. The most important thing I learned, was about sacrificing one element for another and weighing the effects, which is an issue in every design evolution. “Never stop at the first ideas,” I was advised, which I apparently did. Though my first idea was a good one, it could have been a much stronger conceptual argument, and better program and contextual relationship. That was my concept critique, and for the technical aspect of my project, I was advised to work on my drafting, and never let Francis DK Ching leave my side.

Into the competition! The proposed building, by the way, was a “Trans-boundary Migration Wildlife Research Center” in Kennesaw Mountain State Park, 1200 square-feet, built to code. Three were selected from each of the nine studios to enter into the competition, so the 27 best concepts were hauled up to the N building for one last silent review from five judges who developed a point system, and collaborated on which projects they thought best represented the proposal. The five students that were selected had a strong design concept from the very beginning, with a clear idea and narrative, though not necessarily a completed building or program (which confused several entries…). Congratulations to the winners!

I plan to scan the remaining four sketch books, as well as project 4 (competition work) and the final project (still underway) for dCom. The end of the semester is so close! For the summer semester, the architecture program is offering Cultures I ahead of the time, which is normally offered during the Spring. I’ve signed up for it, as well as Physics.

Never stop at your first ideas.



Busy, busy, busy. Firstly, a quick rundown of what’s been going on in first year architecture the past week or so.
Design Communications has been very busy, with homework and class work. We just finished a quick introduction to Photoshop (most of us use CS3), in which I knew more about the program than the professor did. Lovely. I was running small tutorial sessions before studio for other people about how to delete backgrounds and insert fills or textures. Now we are moving onto perspective drawing, which I think is going to lead into our final project which uses Photoshop.
Studio….oh studio. Our buildings are coming along quite nicely. So far, we have grounded a building concept, a site analysis to determine building orientation, and building form. Last, we worked towards an interior program (how the interior space is used). In my interior, there is a private research space, a gallery, informative space/lobby and men/women restroom. Next, we are approaching finalized plans, sections and elevations, along with a model and axonometric detail.
Skin and Bones is going swimmingly. I’m currently working on a presentation about SHoP Architects , and getting ready to make a site model for Auburn’s Rural Studio outhouses. Exciting? I think so.

Before I forget, I saw this video from TED Talks by Bjarke Ingels of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) some time ago, and someone showed it during their presentation about Ingels yesterday. I got excited about his architecture all over again! Even if you’re not necessarily interested in architecture, its still an interesting watch. (By the way, he’s Danish– not Austrian, though he sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

The last review, which was an interim, went very well. Our reviewers were a local architect from a firm in Atlanta, and Judy Gordon, to give an idea of what kind of people are invited to reviews. They were quite complimentary, but offered excellent insight into my concept, and helped me to find my weak points. I felt my project was much stronger afterward.

These are sketches relevant to my concept, and I will post a finalized rendering of my building soon.
I’m really excited about seeing what my structure is going to look like; I’ve nurtured this notion of contours extracted from the site into a form and design, and it is coming along beautifully. The other projects from my studio mates are also coming along nicely (some nicer than others), but I’m anxious to see what kind of buildings they produce. There are some concepts that are quite exciting, like invisibility.

Until next time,


Hello all:
Past few days have been intense in studio: the concept of site plans were introduced, and blew a lot of people’s minds. Now it feels that we’re being thrown into the deep end after what has been a successful first half of the project.

This is our competition piece, which I introduced here, in my last blog. So far, we have completed a precedent study reviewing The High Line in NY by Diller+Scofidio, a collage (sounds pretty elementary, doesn’t it?) of our site and a site map. Due for Monday is a site analysis, which is exactly what it sounds like. Using our site map as a foundation for documenting the site, the analysis shows things like: wind direction, solar paths, contours, nearby amenities, existing paths/roads, noise level, etc. Also due are a longitudinal and latitudinal section of our site, a “program” for our conceptualized building, and supporting drafted models. Pretty excited. *sarcasm*

Actually, I am. I feel like we’re learning the essence of what architects do. We are like explorers, learning new places and documenting them exhaustively. I feel like Lewis and Clark–picking up leaves and identifying plants, figuring out wind patterns and where north is. That is the natural explorer. Then we are also conceptual explorers, conceiving ideas and tearing them apart, and building them up again, manipulating forms and materials to create what we would hope to be a built, inhabited structure. People using our ideas…this excites me.

Enough of that. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, handling all of that work on top of a report about the Vitus Bering Innovation Park for my Skin and Bones class, and some drafting work for dCom. I can handle it. 🙂

Other news:
The 2010 Pritzer Prize will be announced tomorrow! I’m personally crossing my fingers for the talented Steven Holl. (Also, there is talk of Diller+Scofidio standing a good chance…). Winner will be announced tomorrow at 11am, here.

Ciao for now,


Hello all!
I had a really busy weekend/beginning of the week. Had a site visit, a field trip, an all-nighter among other more personal stuff to deal with. Hence the quietness around here.

Friday 3/19: Site Visit
Kennesaw Mountain State Park
Our first legitimate site! We are designing a research center for the park, only 1200 sqf structure, with outdoor seating for at least 50. We went to the park to investigate the potential of our chosen spaces, taking photos, making notes, and doing sketches of the surroundings. Its a really nice space, maybe a quarter to a half mile away from a small road on the south end of the park. It sits back off of a small field, with what looks to be an improvised walking trail that cuts to another trail. As my group started to leave, we saw 3 deer, who weren’t very impressed with us and carried on ignoring our cameras as they chowed down on the abundant green grasses of the field.
Deer at the site
It was cool. Our site really is perfect for what I am picturing to be an observation lab, more than anything. A space to identify birds and other wildlife, as well as plants. More on design and purpose when we get there. 😉

Saturday 3/20: Clayton County Library Tour
Scogin + Elam Architects
A professor of mine hosted a tour of three Clayton County public libraries designed by Scogin, Elam and Bray (at the time). I’ll spare the details, and let the photos of the buildings speak for themselves. While down there, we had awesome bbq. 🙂
Check out the album!

Elam Clayton Library Jonesboro

Elam Clayton Library Jonesboro

Side notes:
Nature By Numbers is a very beautifully done, short, digital video about the Fibonacci Sequence. It is relevant to my interests, and even if it doesn’t sound relevant to yours, I suggest watching it anyways.

So, I was thinking this was going to be a long blog today, but I reckon not! Its about to really pick up though, in studio and skin/bones. We begin Photoshop in dCom next week! /giddy

Sayonara until next time!

Precedent Study 03.18.10

Hey there.

(I’m trying out a new background….thoughts?)

We’re beginning our next project in studio, which happens to be a building! Its a proposal for a natural research center in a park. 1200 square feet of interior space, with a seating capacity of at least 50 outside. Its exciting!

The precedent study given is The High Line, a park space in NY, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro From their site:

“The High Line, in collaboration with Field Operations, is a new 1.5-mile long public park built on an abandoned elevated railroad stretching from the Meatpacking District to the Hudson Rail Yards in Manhattan. Inspired by the melancholic, unruly beauty of this postindustrial ruin, where nature has reclaimed a once vital piece of urban infrastructure, the new park interprets its inheritance. It translates the biodiversity that took root after it fell into ruin in a string of site-specific urban microclimates along the stretch of railway that include sunny, shady, wet, dry, windy, and sheltered spaces.  Through a strategy of agri-tecture—part agriculture, part architecture—the High Line surface is digitized into discrete units of paving and planting which are assembled along the 1.5 miles into a variety of gradients from 100% paving to 100% soft, richly vegetated biotopes. The paving system consists of individual pre-cast concrete planks with open joints to encourage emergent growth like wild grass through cracks in the sidewalk. The long paving units have tapered ends that comb into planting beds creating a textured, “pathless” landscape where the public can meander in unscripted ways. The park accommodates the wild, the cultivated, the intimate, and the social. Access points are durational experiences designed to prolong the transition from the frenetic pace of city streets to the slow otherworldly landscape above. “

Click here for information about The High Line park itself.

For those who are new to the idea of a precedent study…its research into a pre-existing structure, or concept, that will assist you in your design. You can often see in modern architecture, where a precedent study’s influence affected the outcome of the architect’s design. They are helpful in determining a possible outcome, or to decide what techniques didn’t work for another architect.

So, tomorrow, a site visit! Pretty excited about finally getting to go and design a structure that is intended to be inhabited (not like it’d get built, but still…the idea is there!) Also, Saturday, is a tour of local libraries hosted by a professor at SPSU. I will be making a model with a group of one of the libraries. I hope to include photos to share. 🙂


Hello everyone, happy St. Patty’s Day! I didn’t even think to don green today…

Recently I finished reading John Maeda’s book, Laws of Simplicity. Anyone interested in any sort of creative, re-evaluative, constructive/deconstructive, illustrative, instructional or qualitative/quantitative process should read this book. I felt that it directly applied to almost every outlet of my life; from designing a space to using the remote control. Its an easy read, but full of insight into how we perceive simplicity and complexity, and how their relationships are inextricably applied to how we use things.

His website goes into great detail about the book, here.

Today, we start our first legitimate building (there is excitement all over studio, since we’ve been waiting for this challenge for what feels like forever), and I intend to apply what I’ve learned about making something simple, to creating what I hope to be a very elegant design that is neither so simple it is minimalistic and without emotion, but not so complex it is distracting. I’m really hoping I can update the process of making the building here, so that I can later come back and reflect on just how much I’ve progressed in skill, patience, and understanding.

Have a good day!