Wednesday, May 25, 2011
May Forward - Commencement
its funny how when looking toward the month of May it always appears significantly longer than any other month, but it isn't. May has been a time of transition. For me it usually means the end of one thing and the beginning of another. And the weather sees the greatest difference from start to finish.
The whole month I find myself saying "this summer, I plan to do this..." and with so much to juggle it feels like summer is an indefinite distance away. But in reality May is just as short as any other month then pretty soon its June, which to me is full summer mode.
Each week this May has had a specific task.
Week 1: Finish Studio (Degree Project/Thesis)
Week 2: Set up YES!
Week 3: Graduate!
Week 4: Pack! Move!
Photos will follow shortly. For now... I apologize for the delay (as noted May has been busy) but I was fortunate to have the honor of representing my colleagues/classmates as their student speaker at the Architecture Commencement ceremony. With minor editing here is how it went.
"Dean Collangelo, Dean Lindsey Dean MacKeith, I thank you for this incredible opportunity and experience to be here; and I also like to thank my colleagues, fellow graduates for giving me the opportunity to be up here.
I have to recognize my parents and family for a supportive upbringing and allowing me to get to this moment. And my friends, for helping me stay afloat through this enduring and now rewarding process. It has been a long ride, congratulations thinkers, designers, innovators, graduates! What a great day to be a WashU Gator.
A masters degree in architecture or urban design is an intense experience. Its like art camp meets boot camp... An incredibly insecure combination that you learn to accept. We grow thick skins but also patience considering we are forced to get along and see each-other in a dramatic range of states.
Throughout the curriculum you grow and change, and the school changes as well.
In fact.... there was a major identity crisis here when Obama took office. Replacing fear tactics with hope was not an easy mentality for architecture school to adopt.
But we learn from experiences and move on. And I am excited to see how all of us move forward.
As for me... well I figured it would be a great idea to stick around St Louis and start a fencing company, or maybe a sign company that makes signs which read “street not thru” and “trespassing, violators will be prosecuted”
But then I thought ditching architecture would be backing away from the challenge. so instead... I decided to take the advice of my first studio professor... I’m enrolling in community college to learn digital modeling. This isn’t a joke. At final review I told people I stole a rendering from the Alberti program for kids and they believed me when they saw it.
I’m hoping to get a lot out of this class.. and I really hope, in the not too distant future that someone develops a 3-d printer that can print skyscrapers. It would help my dream practice a lot.
Graduates, you are smart peoples. And I want you to make the right choice... I want you to become architects. Or I want you to walk over to participate in the art ceremony and receive your MFA with a concentration in Architecture. I cleared it with Carmen. He says its cool.
A Masters degree in architecture or urban design doesn't give you bartering power to justify your concept. It’s an accredited, objective, requirement to becoming an architect.
We can look back to Givens for support and inspiration but we cannot think of our experiences here as the most creative opportunities of our lives.
By definition practice and academia must be separate. They are dissimilar but one cannot exist without the other. But it becomes a problem when the real and ideal plot different trajectories.
And if we think problem solving in the built environment is too conservative to explore our talents.... then how comfortable and satisfying is it to say that our most innovative abilities and creative expression could be describe as hypothetical, or possible, or academic.
Architecture is not a possibility. Nor a metaphor. It is an applied discipline and we as a generation need to regain control of it.
As emerging professionals we should not isolate our creativity. Design should be defined as a broad, sophisticated way of thinking and it should be applied along the entire process from the beginning to end.
We must hone our abilities without losing creativity.
This isn’t an easy task that's why the world is lucky how smart we is. But there’s some bumps in the road that need to be addressed.
#1 Inflation: if you don’t what inflation is... its costing you 90$ to rent this funny cap and gown you are wearing, that’s inflation. The ratio of student debt to salaries is at an all time. So in a way, we are being forced to innovate. Frank Lloyd Wright said his most successful projects were on the tightest budgets! So lucky us, cause our budgets seem to be tight.
#2 Globalization: America is no longer a melting pot... its now more like a salad. And never before has an American education become such a commodity. Its a great resource having such a diverse student body, and we need to learn how to build these relationships effectively.
I don’t know, and don’t wish to know how each of us should go about exploring this. Naivety has a lot of suspense. Stephen Holl called it a Brutal Manifesto for us to undertake. and other great practitioners who visited during our time can help shape perspective.
Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne mentioned that his favorite part of architecture is “its unique and amazing ability to specifize.” Specificity should not be confused with possibility. In fact they are opposites but have a similar thought process.
After returning home, Cho, Minsuk, principal of Mass Studies said the greatest thing about Korea is the vast amount of opportunities you have to screw up at such a young age. Risk taking can have longer term payoffs.
Wiel Arets wishes he was as vulnerable as we are. Absorb as much as you can without letting yourself become categorized.
So there you go. I’m not exactly sure how to go about it but make sure you are vulnerable, specific and screw up a lot.
I was going to try and end this on some sort of epic Oasis-lyric, or Braveheart finale but all I could think about was Doritos and the ocean and loud music, which to me is pretty epic. So just do this... close your eyes and try and remember the stomach aches you got from anxiety, lack of sleep and hopelessness during a late studio night. Try and remember how much you love the dungeonous Whitaker lab and the plotters. Then replace that memory with whatever your version of loud music and Dorito’s is.
We worked incredibly hard to get here. The faculty has groomed us for this next step. Go forth, confident, stubborn, naive.
Just make sure you don’t lose touch with how architecture makes you tingle inside.
CONGRATULATIONS... You... are... done."