5007 Steps

It takes 5007 steps from the stoop of my apartment to reach the farthest point of Prospect Park and to return home. I can usually make the journey in forty-five minutes.

It’s great to have a rhythm and a routine. Even the familiar sites of a favorite path through the city make life that much more enjoyable.

I only have two weeks left in New York. How quickly this time has gone! There’s lots left to do here, but I am beginning to realize that one person can’t do everything.

I shaved all my facial hair last week and it feels strange to have long hair now that I actually have to comb. I don’t think I’ll keep it long when I get back to school. Maybe I will.

I finished Catcher in the Rye. It only took one day. I loved the setting since I could recognize all the New York locations, but I think the book is pretty empty. Maybe I’ll blog about it later. I’m not sure if the book is even worth blogging about.

One last note: lots of love to Weezer. As a Lost fan I was overjoyed to see the show get 12 Emmy nominations and even more overjoyed to see that my second-favorite band will be releasing it’s latest album Hurley with Jorge Garcia’s face on the cover. Listen to the song here.

You stay classy planet earth.



Pier 54

six hours pass and yet the men need more
time to climb bridges to Manhattan's shore.
i have begun to lose count of the score
of bugs and mice and mats upon the floor.

the sound of morning clock and slamming door
are heralds to my architecture chore.
my dear siblings i certainly adore
i see and know that "we will watch them soar."

what now becomes of men who fought in war
and writers who do write of love and gore
when their old hearts, young spirits, shall long for
the days they embraced old pier fifty-four?


Transparent New York

I've been walking through New York for the past two months and sometimes I stop and wonder what the city must have been like twenty, fifty, or even one hundred years ago.  Am I walking the same sidewalks that so many famous New Yorkers have tread over theyears?

Here's an image I fond on historypin.com, a fascinating site that allows users to "Google Street-view" urban scenes the past via historical photographs.  This picture shows my office in 1935. How amazing!  It doesn't look much different now from how it looked then (other than the addition of a few Starbucks Cafes), and there are still plenty of people walking around the neighborhood sporting black fedoras just like in this picture - I guess styles really do come back around!

My office, October 7th, 1935

And while I'm on the object of time travel, here's a nifty website I found that maps the development of Manhattan through time.

An overlay map of New York showing topography, trains, ferries, zoning, and subway routes

Transparent New York

It's amazing to think that the whole island used to be just one big set of farms! Who would have guessed!


The Drawer of Dreams

Imagine this: you’re dodging bullets, running upside down through a hotel corridor while the fate of your friends and a multi-billion dollar corporation hangs in the balance. No, you’re not dreaming – oh wait, or maybe you are! This the essential plot of Inception, Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, which debuted mid-July as an action-packed blockbuster that messes with your mind (and if you see it in New York, considerably lightens your wallet!)

Yes, Inception came out almost a month ago, and yes I did have to pay $16 to watch it, but, all inconsequential facts aside, I had a conversation with a friend today that challenged me to rethink Ellen Page’s character, the architecture student Ariadne, who plays a pivotal part in the film. Ariadne originally enters the plot when Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) loses his favorite “architect” and needs to find someone who can create dream worlds in which he can stage his elaborate mind-heist and recover his sense of sanity.

Although Ariadne knows nothing about the dream-world other than what she learns from Cobb, she eventually discovers that her powers of design and creation are amplified and that the new world of dreams has a “physics engine” that allows her to snap streets, bend buildings, and eventually warp entire worlds. 

The plot thickens when Cobb’s late wife Mal begins to appear unexpectedly in the dream world and sabotage the plans of the main characters. The only character who seems to be able to understand what is going on is Ariadne, who acts as a sort of psychologist for Cobb as he struggles to understand and confess his feelings for his deceased wife.

An architect is the drawer of dreams.” ~ Grace McGarvie

The role that Page so expertly portrays in the film is more than just a novice architecture student. Her innocence to the political nature of the team’s venture allows her to focus on the social aspects of their quest. She coaxed Cobb through the loss of his wife and travels with him to the brink of “Purgatory” to help him understand that he must give up his wife and return to the real world.

This underscores the role of an architect (or even an architecture student) in today’s society. Not only must one be able to understand the constraints of the constructed environment, but they must also be able to play the part of mediator and counselor for the client of a project. This will not likely involve travelling through four layers of dreams to an uncertain world of infinite subconscious, but it certainly forecasts the need for architects and other design professionals to develop meaningful relationships with their clients in order to produce the best products and experiences possible.

This entire idea comes back to Social Analyst Grace McGarvie’s quote: “An architect is the drawer of dreams.” Yes, she in this case she certainly is, and she may be even more.

BONUS FEATURE: For anyone who really wants to have their mind messed with, consider that the entire movie is a dream and that Ariadne is, in fact, a counselor (or maybe even Cobb’s daughter) who has been with him in a long dream and who travels with him to meet his wife so that she can commit inception (the placement of an idea) with Cobb and have him return to the “real world”). Yes, it’s a crazy idea, but it is definitely worthy of some thought.


BBBC Malcolm Reading Haiti Design Competition

From what I’ve seen and heard, it’s not easy to get architecture commissions in the current economy without being a sell-out or an over-competitor. The company I am working for has entered, and been denied, at least five architecture competitions RFPs since I have started working with them. This is pretty dejecting for me as an intern because I have been working primarily on architectural competition submissions and dejecting for the firm as wells since we are heavily reliant on competition entries for commissions.

The most recent competition we entered, a project intended as disaster-relief earthquake recovery housing for citizens of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, involves the design of a series of low-cost housing units. My boss was so eager to win this competition that he asked me to design a website to promote awareness and provide publicity for our design.

Check these two websites for a better idea of what our design will feature –


When it comes to being selective about design proposals and competitions, I think of this quote by Philip Johnson, who offers a humorous view of the architectural profession:

“Architects are pretty much high-class whores. We can turn down projects the way they can turn down some clients, but we've both got to say yes to someone if we want to stay in business.”


9 Miles in Manhattan

The subway is fantastic but it never lets its riders experience the magic of the city above!

This is a set of photos I took when I was still trying to get acquainted with the city. I walked from Queens to the Guggenheim, then west through Central Park and south down Broadway to meet up with some friends for a night out on Houston Street. (It's the red line in my latest blog).

9 miles. 5 hours. Definitely worth it. Check out the Picasa album below.

And yes, there will be many more photos to come...


Who's Homeless?

Wordle: Life in New York

I made a word cloud from this blog. The results aren't very surprising. New York, People, and Photography are each things that I have been thinking a lot about while in the city.

The one big surprise from my word cloud is the word "Homeless." I have discussed the idea in passing in many of my blog posts, but I've never really dedicated an entire entry to the topic of homelessness. Stay tuned for that post in the near future.

I wonder if my overabundant use of the word "Homeless" is subconscious. I am, after all, living away from my family and still settling into New York. Besides the fact that I will be sleeping on an air mattress all summer, I still don't feel like I'm completely at home in New York.

In fact, my working schedule isn't very different from my school schedule. At school, I usually arrive before 9 am to prepare for classes and, and I attend lectures and work in studio until at least 5 pm. My schedule here is a 9:30-6:30 routine, but I have consistently stayed at the office later in order to finish work and spend time with co-workers.

I thought that a summer internship would mean more free time and more opportunities to relax at home. Due to my full workday schedule I feel just as removed from my Brooklyn apartment as I do from my school apartment when I have to spend late and long hours in studio.

Does this mean that I'm mildly homeless? Or does my participation in my company's studio culture and my explorations around the city of New York make me appreciate the city I am in even more? Perhaps I feel homeless in the sense that I don't spend much time in my apartment, but I certainly feel comfortable out on the streets and at my office.


Information is Beautiful

One of my good friends is considering transferring from being an architecture major to being in a program with a greater social impact. I would argue that Architecture has one of the greatest social impacts or any profession. Nevertheless, he is interested in the idea of "neuroaesthetics" and the of the human mind's ability to process complex ideas and information with a preference for what is "beautiful".

I think this website is perfect for anyone who sees the beauty of information. http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/



There's a hip new trend that has been sweeping the world of photography for the past few years, and it involves a special technique known as "Tilt Shift" photography.

Essentially, it involves taking photographs from an elevated perspective and altering them so as to make the image appear selectively in focus, much as the "macro" setting of a regular digital camera allows for up-close photography of smaller subjects. The resulting images make everyday settings appear miniaturized, as if a typical street scene was nothing more than a model or smaller version of the real thing.

So, since this blog is all about PERSPECTIVE I figured that Tilt/Shift would be well worth analyzing! However, after doing a bit of research I found that my current digital camera was dreadfully inept for such photography. Thankfully, the wonders of Photoshop allow an accurate replication of Tilt/Shift photography to be achieved! Here are some of the pictures I have applied my home-made Tilt/Shift photography towards...

Downtown Cincinnati

Airplane graveyard

Brother on water

44,000 and Moles

I recently found out that there are 44,000 homeless people in New York's five boroughs. Of those 44,000, over 6,000 spend their nights on the street. How is this possible?

Isn't there a housing crisis that has lowered the price of home and apartment ownership drastically? Aren't there government sanctions, such as Section VIII, that have allowed for reduced cost rent? Aren't there homeless shelters and all sorts of accommodations for underprivileged citizens to make use of? How is it possible for a city to be so desperate? A large portion of New York lives life above and beyond the limits of luxury while a vast population exists far below the poverty line.
How can I come to understand what it means to be homeless and live on the streets? I even hear that there are a kind of mole people - New York citizens that live in the abandoned subway stops and rail lines. I couldn't imagine living that kind of life, but for some reason the destitute nature of their existence makes me want to experience it all the more. At what other point in my life will I have the opportunity to see what it's like to live like a homeless person?

For all the atrocities that homeless living brings to the city, in all honesty the entire built environment of New York caters perfectly to the lifestyle of a homeless person. There are always people out on the streets, making it easy for homeless people to blend it. There is SO much trash and garbage overflowing from most of the garbage bins here that any homeless person would certainly never go hungry. Moreover, the maze of streets in most of the boroughs and the dark corners and parks cater perfectly to the late-night denizens not wishing to be caught or noticed, and in a city with so many flashy lights I couldn't imagine a better place for a homeless person to slip out of view than a side street or subway stop in New York city.

These are definitely questions worth pondering. Above ground, for now.


Who is John Galt?

I'm reading Atlas Shrugged and I think it's especially pertinent that I'm in New York as I'm reading it. Even though the book doesn't specify a time or era in which its events take place, it's fun to imagine that all of the events occur in the present day. I like to imagine that some of the people I ride the subway with might be modern Dagny Taggarts (or Howard Roarks if you've read the Fountainhead).
Besides this yearning for a brush with greatness and a continual apprehension that I might meet someone famous on the streets of New York, I also wonder at how many superheroes are from New York. Spiderman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Hellboy for certain (plus Batman of Gotham and Superman of Metropolis). Am I leaving any superheroes out? And what is this obsession with Superheroes from New York?It's a pretty big contrast from The Last Airbender, the latest M. Night Shyamalan film, which, all its negative reviews and flashy 3D graphics aside, does a great job of casting the main hero as a bucolic, nomadic hero. Is it New Age? Is it just simple settings to contrast with a monumental story? I can't say for sure. What I do find fascinating however is The Last Airbender's ability to cast its hero in a stoic and spartan light (similar to Samurai Jack for those who remember that old TV show). Just as many other superheroes struggle with their power and responsibility, Aang of The Last Airbender proves no exception to the rule other than his existence in a pastoral, unadulterated landscape.This makes me wonder why New York, which, I would argue, is the major metropolitan hub for culture and economy in the Western World, is the place where so many super heroes choose to call home. Each of the heroes who live in New York certainly are a representation of the beliefs of the American way of life - compare any of them to The 99, a group of Islamic super heroes inspired by the 99 godly traits of Allah. Surely "American" heroes like those from New York take on a nationalistic, cultural, and arguably patriotic slant?
The characters from Atlas Shrugged seem no different from the classic New York-based superheroes, except that their abilities are closer to those of Batman, the classic "Superhero without super powers." Each of the characters exhibits a vast array of skills that are either mental, social, or economic in ability, and which make the character stand in brilliantly stark contrast to the petty New York citizens that surround them. I hope I'm not one of those petty citizens.
Who is the Howard Roark of our day? Who are the heroes that we idolize? Who is John Galt?


The LEEDers and the Followers

This morning I put myself through something no normal person willingly endures - two strenuous hours of Saturday morning standardized-testing. Grueling, to be sure, but the results were worth the stress. I'm now officially a LEED-accredited Green Associate!

So what does this mean, anyway? Besides the official privilege of using "LEED GA" after my name, I am now in a better position to work on sustainability-oriented projects and market myself as an architecture student and pre-professional who is knowledgeable about the standardized procedures of the government's USGBC programs.

But what does this REALLY mean. This whole sustainability "green-washing" and sudden rush for environmental concern? Sustainability is a very popular topic today, and it seems like every person and every corporation is trying to get their own edge or corner of the sustainability craze that's sweeping the United States. Businesses from Walmart to Herman-Miller are re-branding and re-marketing their practices as "Environmentally Friendly" and politicians are even beginning to talk about "Green Collar" jobs to jump start the white- and blue-collar slumps of the construction and financial economies.

So am I just playing right into the system? Does earning my LEED Green Associate accreditation make me anything more than a pawn in the larger schemes of the architecture industry, the latest economic trends, and the current political systems of the United States?

Thirty years from now, all architects who want to get any sort of government or corporate-sector job will HAVE to be LEED accredited. Period. It's the only way to survive. But is it any way to thrive, and is it even the best option to begin with?

Is it in the best interest of an architecture student to go with the flow and pursue LEED AP accreditation? Or is it better to go against the grain and be a rebel, traditional designer who doesn't need any sort of accreditation in order to practice?

These and many more questions are especially pertinent to architecture students and recent graduates/interns who are in desperate need of a job and will do almost anything to differentiate themselves from the pack. Does LEED accreditation act as a sort of measuring point giving employers preference in hiring procedures? Do students who have accreditation gain the upper hand in head-to-head employment competition?

I could talk about this for hours but I don't want to bore you. I hope to blog more about sustainability and the whole LEED system for later, but for now I'll just leave you with two these two questions -

What more is LEED than just a business-enhancing shiny object applied to a building? What does LEED do other than reward architects, designers, and clients for doing what they should already be doing in the first place?

Sustainably yours,
Nate Hammitt, LEED GA


Looking Back Pt. I

Here's part continued from Monday's list. I can't stress enough how important it is for architecture students to become knowledgeable about a wide range of things; from people to buildings to software programs, it matters WHO you know just as much as WHAT you know. And the list goes like this:

1. Architects: we should know who is out there changing the world of design

Norman Foster
Frank Gehry
Glen Mercutt
Daniel Liebskind
Peter Zumthor
Zaha Hadid
I. M. Pei
Renzo Piano
Santiago Calatrava
Thom Mayne

2. Terms: to expand vocabulary and be able to "talk the talk" (just make sure to learn how to "walk the walk" too!)

Design (know how it's different from "art" and "decoration")

3. Buildings: a short list of buildings that are at the forefront of contemporary design

Burj Kalifa (SOM)
Fallingwater (FLW)
Shanghai Expo 2010 buildings (various)
Aquatic Center for London 2012 Olympics (ZHA)
The Orbit (AK)
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (FG)
Freedom Tower (SOM)
McCormick Tribune Campus Center (OMA)
Baths of Vals (PZ)
London Shard (RP)

4. Architecture Firms: Same as Architects, but this time for firms.

MAD Architects
DLR Group

There's so much more worth knowing but most of it is specific to each person's interest. Hopefully this short list of general topics will give some perspective and preparation for students wanting to know more about the profession.


Looking Back pt. II

So, what actually helped me in the my first two years of architecture school? Here's a quick retrospective list of things that I was influenced by and that helped me survive a crazy life at DAAP...

5. Movies: for perspective, entertainment, and inspiration

Run Lola Run
8 1/2
Sketches of Frank Gehry
12 Angry Men
Babette's Feast
Cremaster (seriously, it's the craziest movie I've ever seen)

6. Architecture websites: places for inspiration and news!
Daily Dose of Architecture
Death by Architecture
Green Design
Not Cot
Bldg Blog

7. Student groups and organizations: for community, networking, professionalism, and friendship
Cincy Navs and CRU
Alpha Rho Chi
Students for Ecological Design
American Institute of Architecture Students
Engineers Without Borders
Student Sustainability Coalition
USGBC's Emerging Green Builders/Professionals
Architecture for Humanity
Serve Beyond Cincinnati
JAC, Turner hall government

8. Software: good tools for getting digital work accomplished

Revit (seriously, learn it!)
3DS Max

I certainly don't know enough about every single one of these topics, but that's probably what the next two years of school are for, eh? I'll post a second list of Memorable things on Wednesday



I usually don’t tell people that I cut my own hair. I’ve been doing it since last summer, and it’s been a real journey of self-discovery. I like the feel of having short hair and of being able to run my fingers through it. Feeling the breeze on my head when I walk or ride my bike is very liberating.

At the same time, long hair is very stylish. Having a long head of groomed hair seems so majestic and free. Having short, buzzed hair seems to imply a militaristic or Spartan reserve. A buzz cut is the sign of a man who is regulated, either by his own will or someone else’s.

With all this in mind I found it very strange when my roommate, after watching me cut my own hair, asked me to cut his as well. Now, to set the record straight, my roommate has a lot of hair. I could never imagine having so much hair in a this hot New York summer, but he manages to pull it off pretty well and so I was shocked when he asked me to cut most of it off (firstly because I think longer hair is stylish, and secondly because I’ve never cut anyone’s hair but my own!)

Nevertheless, I took on the challenge and gave him a haircut. It was a really strange experience – I was altering the way he looked in a very permanent way and he trusted me to do what I thought looked fashionable and feasible. I don’t often have that kind of responsibility. Or do I?


I see all sorts of parallels between cutting hair and architecture. A haircut is like the design of a building – the client puts his livelihood in an architect’s hands and expects the architect and his (or her) team to create a space that is both beautiful and pragmatic. Essentially, architecture is like a very permanent, very expensive haircut.

How does this play out in the built environment? Just like hairstyles change over time, so do building types. Some buildings can be very clean-cut (compare Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House to a buzz haircut) while others can be very formed and sculpted compare Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall to the “Big Hair” styles of the 70’s).


As an architecture student, I am essentially learning how to “cut hair” and develop a style at a slightly larger and more permanent scale. I think New York is a great place for seeing a whole range of “styles”, but every place has its own vernacular design and its own culture to convey. I need to learn how to take what I see from nature and the built environment and craft it into buildings that are responsive to the physical and ecological themes of the place. I need to learn how to create something that exemplifies utility, commodity, and beauty. And maybe I need to give a few more haircuts too.



For the past week my boss's keyboard has been broken. He always writes his emails giving me recommendations and advice for what to do on the projects at hand, and I find his messages very helpful. However, his computer is very old and his keyboard is currently broken so that the caps lock cannot be turned off.

Normally if I receive an email in all-caps I delete it as spam, but I have been living with my boss's emails flying at me in all caps for the past week. It's a really weird phenomenon, but for some reason, CAPS LOCK IS GENERALLY PERCEIVED AS ANGER AND AGGRESSION. Plus it's just poor typographical form. Anyways, I've been a bit on edge at work when I receive his "angry" emails, (but just to set the record straight my boss is a great guy).

This brings me to my main point. New York is a city with its caps-lock key stuck on. Almost everywhere I've been and almost everything I've seen is either superlative, excessive, over-sized, or overwhelming. The buildings are bigger, the people are more forward, the culture is more diverse, and the lifestyle is WAY more fast paced. I enjoy it, but just like my boss's emails, it certainly has been keeping me on edge.
Times Square is a perfect example of this kind of "Caps lock" lifestyle. I commute through the square every day and recently I made the mistake of walking above ground during peak operating hours. Here's a photo of what it looks like.



A Different Perspective

A panoramic view from my office window

This place is nuts! It is impossible to get bored in New York - everywhere I've been there has always been something going on that is new and unexpected.

Yesterday I was riding the subway and it was very full. Every now and then a homeless person comes onboard and begs subway riders for money for one reason or another - some because they have a family to look after, others because they need to get food for the night - but yesterday instead of a lone beggar coming onto the subway, two older men stepped aboard and, although they were both homeless, they began singing to entertain the passengers. Where else in the world could this possibly happen?!

It was so neat. I think the urban built environment caters perfectly to these kinds of encounters, and I look forward to many more such adventures while I'm here.

This brings me to think that although I originally intended for this blog to be about a design student's perspective of architecture removed from specific personal places or experiences, perhaps more can be learned and disseminated by sharing the specific events of one person in one particular place. The events and situations that I will experience while I'm in New York are some of the most exposed that anyone could have to the world of architecture and design, and so I shouldn't limit my posts to generic musings, but should instead describe my personal adventures in the city and then link them back to the larger themes.

Just as I started this post off with a panorama of the view from my office window, let me close it with another wide-angle perspective. Even though the world is big and daunting, sometimes zooming in and focusing on our own particular encounters and strengths is the best way to make the most of our situations and opportunities. Let me finish with this quote,

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Wild at Heart by John Eldredge."


Big Apple

So this is what New York is like?

It’s been a whirlwind trip going from a school schedule at the University of Cincinnati to a busy city schedule in the Big Apple. I’m spending my summer working for an architecture firm in downtown Manhattan and it’s definitely going to be an adventure! Exams in a lecture hall one day and dim sum in a busy Chinatown restaurant the next? I can’t believe I’m actually here.

I have always heard that an internship is crucial for students so that they can gain practical exposure in real-world situations. I’ve also heard that the application of skills learned at school helps to put all the work we do into better perspective. So far all that advice has been right! But what nobody has ever told me is how an internship builds life skills (street smarts?). I’m definitely experiencing that now, and I hope that by working at an architecture firm I will be exposed to the reality of the working world and that I will be able to make contacts, experiences, and memories here that I can bring back to Cincinnati for school in the Fall.

I was anticipating that work would be very tiresome and intensive (and it has been so far) but traveling to New York and finding a place to live was an adventure in itself! After sleeping on an air mattress for two nights with some friends and visiting a plethora of apartments throughout the ensuing days, I finally found a place in Queens and I can safely say that New York is beginning to feel a bit more like home.

So far the craziest thing about New York is the Subway. I love it! It’s very similar to the London Underground, except it’s dirtier and there aren’t any posh British voices condescendingly reminding me to “mind the gap.” My commute to work is one hour long – I need to find a book or a puzzle to do on the train – but I have to transfer through Times Square every morning during rush hour, which is certainly an adventure!

I look forward to updating this blog to tell more about my adventures – I still consider it the “perspective of an architecture student,” although right now some of the most exciting things about living in the city have little to do with architecture. Cheers for now!



A city
a change of pace.

What makes a man feel like a gear?
What makes a gear move the machine?

The colors of a flag?
The rays of the city sun?

As a rainbow missing red
cannot fill the sky
a life without a reason
must ask why

Why are things big? Why are they small?
Why do buildings grounded low choose to stand tall?

Where does work end? How does it begin?
How can a losing man decide to win?

Time crawls
or goes too soon

We have full days to live
Under the sun
and city moon.


International Employment

“The world has been flattened… Global collaboration and competition… has been made cheaper, easier, more friction-free, and more productive for more people from more corners of the earth than at any time in the history of the world.”
Thomas Friedman

In the national economy it is no secret that jobs are hard to come by. The United States faces the harsh reality of job outsourcing and as a country we must rely on our solid base of office and service commercial industries, as well as several stalwart production industries, in order to compete in the global economy. More and more American jobs are being assumed by foreign workers who are able to do the same jobs that Americans do, but at far lower prices.

So what is the solution to this national economic issue? We can either embrace the coming change and accept our role as a “creativity economy” or we can take a stand, much as the National Romantics and Arts & Crafts designers of Europe and America did in the late 1800s and early 1900s following the industrial revolution, and we can demand higher quality local services from ourselves instead of cheaper outsourced goods and products. This means we will have to give up such “necessities” as Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon.com, and turn to local producers who produce at a generally higher quality and retail price.

But truthfully, are Americans ready to make this shift? I think not. The typical American is too afraid to life a life without commercial securities. As a nation, we have become attached to large corporations and we would flounder hopelessly in a nation of mom-and-pop retail stores. There must be some happy medium.

What does this mean to design students? Any American design student that wishes to find a place in the global economy must recognize this trend towards domestic reliance on international supply and the role of a designer to take products that would otherwise be viewed as foreign and we must make them appear (or even be) local, relatable, and vernacular.

In the end, a job overseas may not be out of the question for design students wishing to take advantage of architectural development in other countries. Only time will tell, but as Thomas Friedman emphasizes, “There is no substitute for face-to-face reporting and research.” Outsourced design and fabrication can only go so far. Where that limit lies is anyone’s guess, but as the world flattens the possibilities for international trade, manufacturing, and yes, even design, expand into new frontiers every day.


"Death to starchitecture."
-Lance Hosey, 2010

Published last week by Lance Hosey of architecturemagazine.com, “10 for ‘20” is a list that sets out to predict what could (or should) happen next in over the coming decade in a “greening” building industry.

The article focuses on the technical, systemic, and operations management side of architecture, with an emphasis on the potential of integrative design, community development, and ecological inspiration. Hosey centers on how automated process is one of the credos architects should swear by, and the article champions the possibilities of LEED, a system whose impact has grown far beyond its initial expectations and is likely to expand even more in the coming years.

For students, the author writes that an increased valuation of “ecological literary could reform education at every level and transform design schools around a more aggressively interdisciplinary curricula.” This focus, according to Hosey, forecasts how “the glamorization of the individual architect could become less and less appealing as design becomes valued more for how it serves the communities.”

Among its many predictions for the coming decade, the article champions how architects should subscribe to new forms and applications of technology to meet energy needs and community requirements. Students should also embrace this aspect of architecture – being knowledgeable of design potentials and professional practices will lead to a more holistic and genuine form of long-lasting and well-conceived design.


2010 Shanghai Expo

"Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world's advancement. They stimulate the energy, enterprise, and intellect of the people; and quicken human genius… They broaden and brighten the daily life of the people. They open mighty storehouses of information to the student. Every exposition, great or small, has helped to some onward step… These buildings will disappear; this creation of art and beauty and industry will perish from sight, but their influence will remain.”
William McKinley, 1901

With the entire world watching the recently opened Shanghai Expo 2010, students need to be aware of the impact that such a monumental event will have on national and international design and relations. It is estimated that over 100 million people will attend the Expo over the next six months, 95 million of whom will be Chinese. Incredibly, 189 countries will be represented on the small 5.3 km-square-kilometer site at which the exposition will take place, and whereas the 2008 Beijing Olympics was an opportunity for China to impress the world, the 2010 expo is now an opportunity for the world to impress China. It is no secret that China’s 1.3 billion citizens constitute the largest mass market in the world, and it is no surprise that approximately $59-billion has been spent from countries around the world to ensure that their name will be seen by millions of avid Chinese consumers.

It’s important to consider how the United States has showcased itself at this event. Just take one glance at the homepage of our country’s pavilion and you’ll see that there are more advertisements and links to social networking pages than there are states in the union. This seems like a fairly accurate representation of the United State’s interest in the fair – large corporations and power players want to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present themselves to the largest consumer base in the world with the hopes of expanding their international market and developing new trans-pacific customers.

But how does this affect the role of a designer, or a student interested in the design profession? Take a look at any of the successful advertising from US corporations and you’ll see Mandarin script right alongside English text. Asian and American models stand shoulder to shoulder with smiles on their faces, each trying in earnest to reinforce a sensation of Sino-American acceptance and camaraderie. Designers need to accept the fact that “Chimerica” (an intensive international relationship at political and economic levels between China and America) is definitely a reality. Learning Mandarin might be one of the best ways to succeed in the imminent economic future, and taking the time to understand Chinese culture will surely help any designer better understand the wants, needs, and expectations of Oriental clients.

I leave you with this question: how can America match the economic superiority of China’s industrial production? Will our powers of creativity (from new engineering patents to graphic and architectural design) be able to secure us a foothold in the coming technological and sociological developments that are sure to occur over the next ten years? What will the role of an American designer be as Sino-American relationships become more intertwined? Will we be intermediaries between clients and their projects in matters of design and language as well? Only time will tell, but until then “hòu huì yǒu ,” as they say, and I wish you all the best in your design endeavors.



"Any architectural project we do takes at least four or five years, so increasingly there is a discrepancy between the acceleration of culture and the continuing slowness of architecture. "
-Rem Koolhaas

Communication and collaboration in the field of architecture is becoming increasingly globalized, digitized, and standardized. Architects must be prepared to work at an international scope through increasingly complex media and in increasingly more dynamic and integrated design processes. If we are to be proponents of architectural design, we must look to past architectural precedents for guidance, intrepid new technologies for potential, and time-tested biological processes for inspiration.

Collectively and individually, national and international culture is evolving faster than ever before. If architecture and design is to keep pace, new methods of idea proliferation and dissemination must be embraced. This blog will endeavor to present new ideas, conceptions, projects, and theories from the perspective of an architectural design student immersed in an ever-changing world.

I welcome all comments and I hope that the designs and concepts presented in this blog will spark new commentary and developments regarding contemporary design ideas and potentials, and in doing so I hope that global culture will respond in due course, influencing the way we shape and perceive the world around us. It is reasonable to attempt to compensate for the slowness of all design processes, especially in the field of architecture, and ideally to merge the development of culture and design on one collinear, focused path to the development and betterment of society as a whole.