Today was definitely a very interesting yet relaxing day for me. I successfully proved to myself that I can travel alone in a different country and do quite well. I have traveled alone before but only to meet up with someone on the otherwise of the gate. This time however an unfortunate series of events led to a great day. Despite being completely sleep deprived from our project backed by 2 midterms, I got myself (by way of public transportation I might add) to Charles de Gaul which is infamous for being difficult. I flew by myself wandered Prague by myself ( got lost by myself) and had a wonderful day. This post might sound like I was lonely but for the past month and a half I have been with someone at all times which for me is unheard of. Today definitely put into perspective the beauty of just being, and I think there is something very valuable in that. Well now I have to go enjoy my AMAZING view before my 11 friends come and the quiet turns into another type of magic. (The view post will come soon, but its too dark to see anything)
When visiting Lille, we stumbled across this Babel exhibit that focused on the overproduction and destruction of civilization. It was by far the most thought provoking exhibit I have been to. Each piece really spoke in a new voice about our rapidly modernizing world. Individually each work was so haunting and poetic that when curated it was pure magic. HERE you can find out more information about the exhibit. If you find yourself in the area, go.
Last night we finished a 4 week design project that was a collaboration with the students in the ENSAV school. Needless to say it is definitely one of those experiences that I will not be able to fully appreciate until I am working in the real world with people from different background and cultures. We definitely had some major hurdles to overcome, from complex design concepts (or sometimes lack there of) to something as simple as language and cultural differences. It was challenging. Very challenging, but what is worth doing if it comes easy?
This challenge has really made me reflect on how architecture is taught; there is a rigid idea of what architecture is here. This perplexed me especially from the land of avant-garde where boundaries blur all the time. I understand that this project was just a short snippet of the design development, but i feel that there is a strong backlash to ensure that young minds know that there is a concrete separation between what is architecture, what is art, what is engineering, and that as an architect it is bad form to incorporate the ladder subjects into your spaces.
Conversely, at the University of Illinois, from day 1 I was taught that architecture is near impossible to define, that it must be justified and rigorous but limitless. And most importantly, meaning must be ingrained in every design decision ever made. Personally I think this philosophy is freeing. Does architecture really have to be strictly a congregation of walls and joists to create space, or can it be more? American architects like Jeanne Gang (Reverse Effect) are delving into projects that greatly fall out of our jurisdiction as architects. Should this be a guide for a new future for architects? Or is it just architects finding work in other fields and claiming it as architecture?
This diagram best represents what I have been instilled with. Yes we should learn from precedents and from professors, but shouldn’t we also question what we believe to be possible? and if we can question our constitution of what is real and surreal, then why is it too much of a stretch to question our boundaries as architects?
What do you think? Were my professors too radical for depicting a term for architecture that encompasses more than the typical? Or should architects start to look at themselves as problem solvers and start to look outside of convention to take us to the next level of community impact?
Sorry for the extreme lack of updates lately. You will be seeing everything that I have been up to probably in a long line of posts. Today is crazy because it marks the day that I have officially been here for a month. It feels like both the longest and shortest month in my life. On one hand I feel like it should be about Christmas time already, but i still feel like a baby giraffe any time anyone spews french to me at an unbelievable rate. I’ve started to get some of my bearings and have had a few successful (and short) conversations where people did not automatically flip into English (If you’ve ever been to France, you will realize how big of a success that it), but just like a very nice British man pointed out to me in the market today, the “yeah”‘s, “huh”s and “wha?”s never really leave your vocabulary, which I am okay with.
Today was rainy and cold, and I was silly and thought that I would have time to buy boots when I got here. False. But we ventured through Paris around Hotel de Ville. Went to BHV which is honestly like a little (quite large actually) slice of heaven. Imagine if you took Nordstrom’s, and put a Home Depot under it. Considering that these are my two favorite stores, I was quite the happy camper. I was missing a hardware store like that, and as silly as it sounds, when I saw the Milwaukee tool section I felt like I was back in Kenosha with my family.
Thats enough of the sappy stuff. What is unique about our program contrary to many study abroad programs, is that we actually have school. Yes we go on trips and you will see a lot of awesome travel pictures, but we have school everyday from 9-5. Pretty much we fit what we would normally do in a full year into a few months so that we can travel and see all of these things. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Also what is unique about our program is that we actually interact with the students at the school. I know in many programs, and in years past, the study abroad students essentially rent space in the school, but the integration stops there. This year, we have a month long project with the French students where we are all mixed up and in groups. Now because we are just a group of 30 and their class is around 180, it means its 5 french students for every american. This makes designing super interesting. That said, my group is amazing and I am so thankful to have them, because they are both excited to learn more English, and to teach me french. The whole situation though is quite chaotic.
Now for what I was actually intending on posting, my day. After Hotel de Ville, we went to Centre Pompidou which was twenty times cooler than I ever expected. While it looks completely chaotic from the exterior, Renzo Piano (the architect) placed all of the guts of the building there in order to give absolute freedom for the interior. The product of this just massive amounts of space. I wish I took a picture of the interior, but the details are just as amazing as the space itself. The structure becomes the ornament, so much so that it ceases to be structure, which is interesting because often times it looks so cheesy. However, it just looks cool. There is no other way to describe it. In addition, there was an architectural exhibit in the basement that I am for sure revisiting.
After we got back, we thawed out just enough to go to the exhibit at our school. It is open only one night of the year, and houses what some say are original statues waiting for repairs from the Louvre, while others say they are plaster models from students the old Beaux Arts. Personally I just find it amazing. Not only do I get to see amazing sculptures (real or plaster) but it is in the stables of Versailles grounds, and consequently it is our school. Those three aspects just makes the whole thing just surreal. Its funny actually, my grandpa made fun of me endlessly about going to school in a barn. I think anyone would want to learn in this barn.