Featured Article, Paprika I, Fall 2016

  • Play Faster But Slower

    There are no semesters and there are no jobs. Instead, we have a continually evolving body of work shaped by a process that requires us to look ahead and to look back at things we have drawn, made, read, and seen. Over the course of my time in school, I have become more willing and more accepting of the not yet known: drawing and writing my way around curiosities and musings.

    Last spring in the post-FAT studio run by Sean Griffiths, Sam Jacob, and Jennifer Leung, I witnessed a beautiful moment in the arc of my colleagues’ projects as well as my own. What emerged was the desire to explore. Our unique and sometimes polarizing sensibilities were drawn out by eleven distinct projects. The discord was, in part, due to the boggling array of open-ended briefs that made space for interests and authorship to emerge (even if found in a misprint or a ruptured mold). The opportunity was not absorbed lightly. Briefs that appeared simple grew more complex when we were asked how and with what one begins to design. It was a studio of unknown beginnings and articulate conclusions.

    This peculiar practice of recognizing serendipitous moments helped me to recognize the latent capacity of my own work. The post-FAT studio was as much about self-indulgent creative exploration as it was about finding meaningful ways to communicate and contribute to a community, all the while challenging normative design. It was the daily practice, sometimes out of frustration, to turn something upside down or to ask, “what if it was hairy?” This practice was not limited to scale or site. It was limited only by our abilities to test ideas via images and material things.

    It is the mission of the YSoA’s lecture series to expose students to a variety of architectural practices. A glance at the upcoming series catapults ‘social’ and ‘urban’ discourses to the helm. Yet, the invited lecturers who I have heard speak at our school rarely revealed their own meditative design processes, nor how they translate design into thoughtful objects. What  past lecturers have presented, in my opinion, are attempts to reduce design to little more than neo-liberal problem-solving. A valiant [if transparent] effort no doubt, but one representing an attitude that does not reflect my aspirations, nor those that I have observed among my peers. The lectures serve as one of our few opportunities for exposure to practice, as well as to public speaking. To this end, like many of my colleagues, I question how to situate ourselves outside of these walls.

    My best work comes from entertaining spills, dreams, and glitches that are exhaustively explored and brought into a discourse that shapes my understanding of architecture and what I am able to contribute. I recognize the happenstance of this process and indulge in it. A cornerstone of my work and education, akin to fine arts, is this conviction to make without paralyzing fear of what may come of a chance beginning. It is a great lesson that keeps the Post-FAT ecstasy afloat.

    Reflecting on my own development, I spent a long time searching for professional models of practice that reflect my own desires. I found a few, but not enough to bolster the practice I believe in. I still feared the lessons that I may miss. In such formative years, I sought to learn under the immense weight of the discipline but to never be caught beneath it. The freedom of my colleagues in other practices (printmaking, graphic arts, and chemistry) is what continually bolsters my fledgling motivations. All the while upholding desires that cannot fit cleanly into architecture. It is only with these cursory activities that I keep energetically on the move.

    At Yale, spaces for experimentation and authorship may best be improved by enlisting visitors to use lectures and studios to test methods rather than expound ideas (against the old master-pupil model). Indeed, in Post-FAT we were “sometimes happy and sometimes sad” but we were committed to following through with ideas that emerged in the things we made because our paper trail was the foundation for unforeseen theses. By way of Sean Griffiths and Sam Jacob, I’ll share Factory Record’s producer Martin Hannett’s instruction: “play faster but slower.” And if you haven’t found your groove yet, try adding string lights to your desk.

    This article originally appeared in Paprika I, September 8, 2016