Sunday, April 26, 2009

THE 30 SECOND PITCH (second attempt)

In traditional jargon this project is a MUSEUM. That is, this is the PROGRAM of the project. The first half of the project was spent researching as a group, and the second half has been individual projects. The studio has moved away from specific DRAG related ideas, choosing to focus on subset concepts.

Concepts discussed:
• Creativity
• Complexity and contradiction
• Scale
• Form vs. Function
• Program/Circulation
• Representation
• Narrative
• Heirarchy
• Materiality

Additionally, an attempt has been made to utilize existing internet infrastructures for RESEARCH/PROCESS/REPRESENTATION. It has been the intention that these infrastructures (flickr/youtube/blogger) create a SPACE that extends beyond the physical boundaries of the classroom walls and beyond the small slice of 3 hours, twice a week.

And while the concepts discussed in the context of this project are fairly straightforward, they have been confronted in radically different ways. Everything has been designed to get the students to behave as ACTIVE participants in the accumulation/assimilation of information. they have not been given the option between blue pill red pill.

A strategy of discomfort and chaos has been employed. “far from equilibrium” (link to download text) as Sanford Kwinter talks about, is where creativity occurs. So everything from teaching strategies to the overall concept, “museum in drag,” and even site (red hook, Brooklyn) is meant to get the students out of their element and alert.

As part of strategy of discomfort, students have been asked to engage SCALE in the extreme. “Yes” is hopefully the answer to the question “Is it too much?” By crossing lines, we can better understand their nature. Additionally it is the intention that an understanding of SCALE in terms of HIERARCHY be developed. Excess SCALE is a powerful thing if learned to used appropriately.

Finally, the studio has been focused on the GENERATION of IDEAS. The studio talks about the "representation of an idea through image" - and not "representation of a building through section." (hopefully that distinction is clear, because this it the logic behind the decision to hold the final review in the format of Pecha Kucha.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

THE 30 SECOND PITCH (first attempt)

This project is very ASPIRATIONAL. It aspires to be something different - not a studio. I would describe this project as a "machine for ideas."

It's focus is on CREATIVITY and PROCESS. First and foremost, an attempt to create a SPACE where learning/creativity occurs. Making SPACE isn't just about physical objects and materiality. We make space by what we FILL it with. Just because I have been given a classroom in/which to teach, doesn't mean I cannot "build my own "learning/creative environment."

A Cue has been taken from a text by Louis Khan, and his critique of the "system of education." additionally, ideas expressed by Sanford Kwinter, "Far from Equilibrium."

The resultant, environment/space for learning is one of learning through discourse, and an exchange of information. Additionally, definite strategies of keeping students in an "agitated state" or "far from equilibrium" have been employed. and the resultant in terms of students is the transformation from passive to active participants of information communication.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Initially we talked about this project as being exactly what that sounds - not a museum, the contents of relate to drag queens - but a museum that is "dressed in drag" - and not just "in drag" but of the "queen" variety. Addressing, no ATTACKING SCALE. The intent being to gain an understanding of what "too much" means through actual experience (the only path towards true knowledge). You might also think of it another way. Its a discussion of what is "appropriate" or "within SCALE" by examining its opposite. (a figure/ground of appropriateness of scale if you will).

The LARGER themes I have been focusing are as follows:

CREATIVITY & PROCESS: The studio is designed with the desire to gain a better understanding of these IDEAS/concepts. questions like "what is CREATIVITY," how does it come about? - all those deep philosophical questions that hit the very core of not just architecture, but life.

REPRESENTATION & THE NARRATIVE: I make a differentiation between BUILDING and ARCHITECTURE. You might say that all ARCHITECTURE is buildings, but not all buildings ARCHITECTURE. A building is transformed into architecture through NARRATIVE- the narrative of an idea/philosophy (what the architecture is about). It is the IDEA that makes the difference. Another way of looking at it is to say architecture IS the IDEA.

So if "architecture is the idea" we should be talking about representing the idea, and not the architecture. This is like talking about a facsimile when you should be talking about "the thing itself." Now this is an architecture class, so "architecture" is the "tool" or "medium" we are focused on, but I've begun to focus on other "tools" or "mediums" that deal with REPRESENTATION and the NARRATIVE.

SCALE (in excess):
This is one of the main themes that has been carried over from the "queen" - and this is discussed in the first paragraph - but the basic strategy is to get the students to look at EVERYTHING from a different perspective, and get them outside their comfort zone. The students are encourage to approach everything in terms of "whats too much?" - or "THINK BIG"

The studio itself has moved away from the specific subject of "drag queen," but is still hopefully investigating the sub-IDEAS of "drag queen" Some of these are as follows:

ideas of outcast
ideas similarity/difference
form vs function
public vs private
complexity & contradiction
Duck vs Decorated shed

...and so on.

Fertile ground has been created with the intention that the students follow their interests, and they should be able to find SOMETHING here of interest - the goal being they have an IDEA that they can personally relate to, but also relates to the themes of the project and the building/site/neighborhood as well.

Additionally the project is experimenting with "web tools" for both research and design. the "web tools" are as follows, and are not fully described here.

BLOGGER - The blogs have a multiplicity of purpose - a way to communicate within the studio, and a way to communicate outside the studio as well. there are 3 MAIN blogs being used.

(this one)
students (and myself) are posting "narratives" about ideas or relationships.
for outside comments and general studio wide issues.

Secondary Blogs are as follows:

group projects - completed and ongoing.
readings - and analysis
self-help for the students.

FLICKR - a Museum in Drag GROUP has been created - this is so that all site photo's can be pooled together. The intent is that the photo's be "tagged" so that the students can complete quick searches and filter out specific ideas through this process.

YOUTUBE - The use of playlists as an excersise in creating RELATIONSHIPS and a method of finding where the interest lies. Its my hope that actual videos are posted at some point (well there are a few, but those are mine.)

Monday, April 13, 2009


One of the central themes about this project is PROCESS. In fact, the project itself has been described as a moving target. A good way of describing the projects philosophical process is a quote from LA architect, Michael Rotundi – shoot the arrow, then move the target…bullsie every time.

The central premise of the studio is that there is a differentiation between BUILDING and ARCHITECTURE. The differentiation being that architecture is about the IDEA. It is the IDEA that transforms the practical everyday act of building into something else – something greater – architecture.

So lets stop talking about the architecture, and talk about the IDEA. This project as become a project about ideas. And because we are talking about the IDEA and creation of IDEAS which leads us to CREATITY – another central theme of the studio.

What is creativity, and where does come from? Another central premise of the project revolves around the understanding of creativity as merely relationships. Te create something, whether it is an IDEA or a physical object, is to establish a relationship of proximity and/or order; and through this relationship, two separate things become fused/transformed. Something NEW is created.

With this in mind, part of this project has been to focus on RELATIONSHIPS, and the creation of relationships. It is the NARRATIVE that is the tool/method the project is using to establish/understand relationships.

The ideas of the blog are many, and layered. But on a general level, they are exercises in CREATING relationships. The intent is to exercise the “creative muscle.” Additionally, the blog provides a method of bringing together text/image/movement in a very easy/fast way.

The intention is that these posts are SKETCHES. quick, sometimes sloppy – just getting ideas out there, not necessarily worrying about how the idea is REPRESENTED. Additionally, through the accumulation if IDEAS, and examining the RELATIONSHIPS between these IDEAS themselves (which are themselves relationships) – it is the aspiration that a higher level of understanding will occur.

Additionally, its the desire to "tap" the outside world as a resource. no point to wait until the end (final review) for outside feedback. so please have a look at some of the Students (and my) posts/narratives.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


The Building that the students have been assigned to TRANSFORM is the "Brooklyn Grain Terminal.

It too was chosen for its relevance to the themes of the project.

IDEAS OF OUTCAST: The existing building was rendered obsolete (once again, thank you robert moses) by increased emphasis on rail, leaving a facility that was sited using a logic of transportation access, out in the cold.

SCALE: The building is HUGE. I'm talking HUGE!!! The students have researched/analyzed existing museums and have determined all the museums taken together can fit within this building.

CONTRADICTION: Its been noticed by the students, the interesting contradiction between a building of such scale, the purpose of which was to store grain.

....and so on and so on.


This neighborhood was chosen for its relationship to the themes that fall under "drag queen."

IDEAS OF OUTCAST: Robert Moses, with a heavy hand, and an infatuation for the automobile, ripped Red Hook from the rest of Brooklyn. What was once indistinguishable from its long lost brother/sister Brooklyn heights and Carroll Gardens, eventually became the Crack capitol of America?

TRANSFORMATION/REBIRTH: What was once "the crack capitol of america" now has a high end grocery store, ikea, and most illustrative, the REAL WORLD BROOKLYN. You know it must be safe if "the real world" is willing to move in.

COMPLEXITY/CONTRADICTION: New/Old - Huge scale shifts withing the neighborhood - Community garden across the street from the ikea. an vibrant artist community lives just a few blocks from the projects - there is a recently refurbished pool (thank you once again, robert moses.)

....and so on and so on.

Friday, April 3, 2009

project description (outdated)


For now, this “Channel” is serving as the syllabus of an architecture studio at NYIT. The subject of the studio is "MUSEUM IN DRAG." At its core, the studio is an investigation of two very basic themes - the fundamental nature of creativity, and scale.

The focus on creativity looks at subversive themes (drag queens as its main) with the assumption being that creativity itself is inherently subversive - any new idea seeks to supplant the existing. By examining subversion and subversive ideas, perhaps a better understanding of creativity can be found.

Additionally the studio takes its cue from Sanford Kwinter ideas of far from equilibrium. “instability it turns out, is the precondition to creativity.” One of the design intents of the studio is to keep the students as uncomfortable and off balance as possible. “Make no small plans.” - Mies has instructed us. This statement is as much about scale, as it is about operating outside your comfort zone.

On the subject of scale the subject matter revolves around the “queen” as ideas of excess. It engages the discussion of scale from the other end of the spectrum. It’s intention is similar to that of the drawing exercise where an image is drawn upside down – a way to trick the mind into drawing the upside-down chair rather than a preconceived notion of a chair. It is a discussion of appropriate scale through a discussion of what is inappropriate or in excess. Fuller asked the question, “how much does your building weigh.” Eisenman draws the worms-eye orthographic projection. (that was eisenmen, correct? please someone correct me if I am wrong.). All these things are attempts at gaining a new understanding by engaging in the act of analysis using a different perspective. And this is the exact intent of the Studio.

It is on the subject of scale - and excessive scale - that the Studio asserts particular relevance within the context of the current economic/cultural/environmental climates. The studio agrees with mumblings of this idea of “Super Modernism.” A critique of modernism revolves around the loss of connection to the humans body/scale - architecture began to operate on the scale of industry, which produced excess in both quantity and size. no longer did size relate back to the human scale, nor quantity relate back to a range of numbers that we experience in our daily lives. Once again we find ourselves struggling to understand the scale of what is around us – Contemporary architects design in the digital realm, then 3D print what has been designed – resulting in a loss of understanding of scale both in the context of design and production. Additionally, due to the rising field of nano-technology we are developing the ability to control material properties – removing our understanding of scale as it result to material.

What are the current figures for the US financial Bailout? – what is it worldwide? How can we evaluate the quantity and scale of these figures that are in the trillions. Just as with the modernist area, we find ourselves in a crisis of scale. So this question of scale and investigations into excess are of particular importance and relevance.

Sub-themes of the Studio are as follows: (and will be expounded upon soon)
+ complexity and contradiction
+ subversive nature of creativity
+ importance of narrative
+ ideas of outcast.
+ideas of excess
+ materiality and meaning

Additionally the Studio believes in the value of criticism and once again takes its cue from Kwinter.

“The field of design has two principle venues: the first is the public sphere of mostly promotional press, and the second, the much more insular sphere of academia... they have become allergic to controversy, at times embarrassed even by humor, mild mischief and anything more than the most ironic irreverence…A third venue of design, although in a dangerously atrophied state at present, is the field of criticism.”

It is the desire of the Studio to be humorous, to cause “mild mischief” - stir controversy and debate. Once again a discussion of relevance arises. Built form is very much the physical manifestation of the economic drivers that funding the work. This economic engine has suffered a fate similar to that of Humpty Dumpty – There should be an expectation of a radical shift in what and how we build – Should there be an equally radical shift in terms of how and we is taught within the sphere of academia? Is there currently such discourse?

It is the aspiration of the Studio that the students engage in an open dialog within not only the class, but with the larger public as well. Once again, in an argument for relevance, culturally we find ourselves brushing old modernist ideas of transparency as it pertains to critizism and oversight. It is in this spirit that the studio has opened itself up to public debate.

Once again, this is the class syllabus. It has been hastily put together, resulting in a mid-stream change in direction (the original project was supposed to be a “museum of tenement experience.”). it has not, nor will it be printed out – reflecting the mutability of content and direction of the Studio. For in the spirit of open ended design, the Studio itself is open ended and subject to debate. Once again, outside comment is suggested.

It is the goal of the Studio to produce a book that includes the aggregate of student research as well as the results of such research – the individual proposals. Furthermore, it is the aspiration that such results might be of sufficient quality as to warrant publication. But this is getting way ahead of ourselves. This is just a first year, second semester undergraduate Studio at NYIT, and evening class at the Old Westbury campus in Long Island. Of course, that’s should be no excuse.

The research of the Studio is engaged in, involves the neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn. The neighborhood has been chosen, in part, for its narrative. When Robert Moses put down the highway, he cut off/separated the neighborhood of Red Hook, relegating it to the role of outcast. Additionally, Red Hook is an ideal neighborhood to research ideas of complexity and contradiction as well – it is a neighborhood dealing urban/decay and renewal. The Ikea is across the street from a community garden. The Red Hook projects are right down the street from an artist community. It is a neighborhood in the process of transformation. Research and analysis of the neighborhood will be focused on ideas of narrative as they relate back the themes of the Studio. (scale, creativity and its subversive nature, complexity/contradiction, the outcast.

The building chosen for transformation into the “Museum in Drag” is The Port Authority of New York Grain Terminal. It has been chosen because it bears an obvious resemblance to the Grain Terminals that Corbusier discusses in “Towards a new Architecture.” Research and analysis of the building itself will involve its historic narrative as it relates to the Studio’s themes, research into the scale of the materials used, and an understanding of the proportion and scale of the building as a whole and how it relates to the scale of its surroundings.

These are all very dry, rigorous activities to be engaged in within the context of ideas of drag queens and ideas of subversive creativity – but the Studio draws the relation ship between these activities and that of the utilitarian aspects of the human body. Once the research and analysis (utility) has been completed, then hopefully the Studio’s inner queen will present itself. The unstated goal of this project is the search for PASSION. The students are encouraged to follow their interests, and incorporate them into the project.

It should also be obvious (and noted) that this youtube channel is itself an experiment in teaching and methods of group research –a flickr counterpart for images is in the process of being set up as well. A further explanation in terms of intent may be warrant – and will come later.

And to hit things home this Studio is fundamentally about understanding scale, As the author of this syllabus, I find I am struggling with an understanding of scale in today’s world and how my own actions/ideas relate to their surroundings. In this way this Studio has become intensely personal to me.