Saturday, December 11, 2004

Celebration...

more celebration for the the end of another semester...2/3 of the way on completeing my graduate degree... Posted by Hello


After spending most of thursday resting and recuperating from the sleep deprivation I had gone through for the past week during finals, I woke up on a Friday rainy afternoon...by the time I had coffee, it was already dark outside, and I just didn't feel like going anywhere, so I decided to continue celebrating my end of semester at home, in my apartment. I had more coffee and realized that I had ran out of Baileys Irish cream...something that I always put in my coffee. Somehow, coffee just tasted very different without Bailey's...So I put on my jacket and grabbed my wallet and headed down to the winery at Trump Place to stock up on some Baileys and a bottle of red wine for celebration...strangely enough, that afternoon, my taste buds were craving for the sour and bitter-sweet taste of red wine. I say it's strange that I would have such strong craving for the taste of wine, because I rarely drink.
When I arrived at the store just right next to the Trump Marketplace, I immediately went to the back of the store to pick up a bottle of Baileys and then proceeded to shop around for the red wine...after much debate, I decided to pick up Les Eres. It's a vintage wine. The label on the back claims that the 2000 vintage collection only produced 4500 bottles of Les Eres and that the wine was a "blend" of 55% Grenache which are 85 year old vines, 30% Carignan, which are 95 year old vines and of course 15% of Cabernet Sauvignon...For some reason this was the only bottle had appealed to me, so after much debate, I decided to go for it.
I was beaming with happiness to taste the the wine when I got home, only to find out that I had no corkscrew at my disposal...I called mom and she told me to ask the people at the winery to open the bottle for me, which I thought was embarassing, but nevertheless, I am amazed at mom's imagination in telling me to lie about how I had just lent my corkscrew to a friend who never returned it and so that is why I need their help to open this bottle of wine...so, I immediately grabbed my wallet and headed to Gracious home in search of a bottle opener and then as I came came out of the store with my shopping bag, I thought to myself, what is wine tasting without a decent wine goblet, I continued my journey in the rain to Pottery Barn for the perfect wine goblet...I never anticipated that going out to stock up on some staples would turn out to be a mini shopping spree...did I mention that after finding the perfect wine goblet, I dropped by Starbucks for a cup of venti mocha?
That evening I lounged in my apartment with a glass of wine, some movies and magazines, it was great...somehow I could see my life coming together and realizing that in the future I should be more confident with my ideas and what I have to offer, in whatever I do...deep down, I think I am still that same Lilly Dee in high school who had such passion for design and the arts, the Lilly Dee who was inspired by everything she saw around her, the Lilly Dee that dreamed of making it big one day with multiple careers...only this dream stopped as I began having a more cynical outlook on life...all my dreams became clouded with images of myself sitting at an office, working under a boss and doing autocad drawings for the rest of my life...and my life would just waste my life away like that...Therefore, I am grateful to have realized that, deep down, I never fully let go of that dream of making it in the world, no matter how realistic I try to be, that dream has always been lurking in the back of my mind and I just can't get it out of my head...nevertheless, a dream is still a dream...we are all entitled to indulge in our dreams once in a while...espescially in celebration of the end of another semeter and a step closer to a graduate degree...
After movie and wine, I went online to blog, but I was too tired, so instead I chatted briefly with Alice and Jimmy on msn. Jimmy told me that it was Eric's birthday, a guy who claims that architecture is his life and passion...yes, it's such a coincidence that his bithday would be on the same day of his final review and it was good to know that his review went well...and I realized he just turned 30, which makes it a big birthday too...So I guess this makes it a day of celebration for all...and so...cheers to everyone!

Where is Ana-jo...hiding behind the bookstacks, of course... Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 09, 2004

What Now; Where do I go From Here?

My favorite...plain white rice with nothing, packed nicely into a take out container...it saw me through my painful all-nighters in search of my Utopia... Posted by Hello


Record on Yahoo indicates that Lilly Dee has not blogged in three whole days! Sorry fellow readers...but during those three days, I was practically gonna shit in my pants while gathering my thoughts for my final project...so just a warning, this will be a very long blog! because Lilly Dee is BACK! hahaha...ok I know I am immature...but who cares because I just survived another semester at Columbia...

It has always been a pattern for me, where after a grueling semester of work and pressure to prepare for the final review of the semester, pulling many all-nighters...and I must say those would be the most painful days because when I know that the whole world is sleeping, I cannot afford any time for sleep or else...then on the day of my presentation, I would have to sit there for hours on end, worrying how I might be criticized by the jury in public, as I finish presenting my work...but then, the moment when everything ends, I am suddenly overcome by a feeling of "What now? Where do I go from here??"...well first things first...I can go home and sleep, then think about the rest later...

My second semester at Columbia, began with what I considered as a sign of bad luck and I was right about that...for some odd reason, this semester I did not even manage get the topic studio of my choice, but rather I got in to the topic studio that I seriously wanted to avoid...but life is strange, at the moment when I was praying hard not to be confronted with that certain topic, I go to the 4th floor of Avery to check the results of the studio lottery, and there, I find my social security number under the name of the professor heading my most dreaded topic studio...and that sealed the fate that I would be forced to deal with the topic of UTOPIA NOW...and there is no way out and suddenly Jean-Paul Sartre 's "NO EXIT" became relevant to my situation, I felt like I was being suffocated in a small room, where there is no way out but to confront the other three strangers in a small room...even audiences of "NO EXIT" were left with a feeling of suffocation because the entire plot took place in a single setting...a room where there was no way out...

On the first day of class, I forced myself to go to studio early, to wait for our professor, Thomas Leeser...it seems that he is a well-known, charismatic and good looking architect in his fourties...that's about as much as I knew about this professor that was going to lead a studio called "utopia now"...I thought to myself that this professor must be crazy, because to me, Utopianism is sooo over... That afternoon, our professor walked into studio with his charismatic self and proceeded to ask us to intoduce ourselves and tell him why we chose to be in this topic studio...at that moment I was literally gonna "shit in my pants" because all I kept thinking was how much I didn't want to be part of that studio...I was the last amongst the twelve in the studio to introduce myself, and when confronted with the question as to why I chose to be in this studio, I froze and then asked my professor "do you want to know the honest answer to this question?", then everybody turned their heads, and all eyes were on me. My professor jokingly said "no" and then said "yes of course". So I told him that I didn't want to be in his sudio at all because I have been avoiding the topic of utopia for most of my life, and I think that this topic is too open ended, because anything is possible and I think that this topic requires more responsibility than I can handle. He responded by saying "well, I think that it's a good thing, that you are now confronted with Utopia, and you are right it will be a big responsibility, but you can always design a bus station or a building if you like."...and so that was that...and I didn't go to studio for an entire week...

When I finally showed up in studio it was my turn to present my research on utopia...not only that, but that day we were presenting in the school auditorium with a powerpoint presentation and a microphone. Such a big room, made me shit in my pants...most people's presentation helped generate conversation about utopia except for mine...when I finished presenting my thoughts on Utopia, there was complete silence in the room...but then again, how could one respond to such a cynical presenttion on utopia...I began the presentation with definitions of utopia that I found in the dictionary, then proceeded by arguing that maybe there is no need to look further, but that utopia is what already what "is"...and that it was an imposed ideal with a picture of a man pointing a finger(gun) to his head...blah blah blah...that thinking about utopia is a luxury that not many can afford...that thinking about utopia is completey selfish...and that maybe uopia is not thinking about utopia...being an existentialist at heart, it was very difficult for me to imagine my utopia, because my mind just doesn't allow me to indulge in thinking that way...

It was the pressure of time, that forced me to throw in a couple of potential topics that I might like to pursue...my professor liked my "drive-thru city" proposal and told me to go ahead with that scheme...the more I thought about drive-thru city, the more it made me uncomfortable. A city with neverending infrastructure, and a world of constant driving...I thought, what kind of nightmare have I just proposed; I had just proposed a dystopia...and my insomnia started from that day on...the next time when I saw my professor I told him that maybe I should change my topic, but he insisted that I stick with "drive-thru city"...

Throughout the design process, for the most part, I was having a battle with myself, as to whether or not I should tone down this idea and make it semi-feasible or do I take it to the extreme...by the first midterm, I still hadn't figured out what I wanted for the project, but the review went quite well and the jury liked my proposal...by the second midterm, I was still struggling and the jury suggested that I have to figure out whether it's going to be "drive-thru city" or "drive-in city"...they were right, I can't go back and forth, I needed to figure out which direction I should take this project...part of me just wanted to be conventional, and suggested that buildings still exist, but only sandwiched between the residual spaces of the infrastructure and that made it become "drive-in city", however I preferred the sound of "drive-thru" city...and so for a while I was going nowhere with this project and instead I was going in circles...it was pretty agonizing...

I was so desperate, and sitting at starbucks on a rainy day over a venti mocha, I decided to call Richard, my spiritualist. I asked him whether or not I was going to make it through this semester or better yet will I even be able to graduate from this school...and Richard said "how many times do I have to tell you, of course you will make it, so just calm down, go home and burn some candles..."...and so I went home to burn some candles and wrote letters to the spirits...I know I sound crazy...but I was going nowhere with anything anyways...

Just a few days before final, I became so upset that I decided to take everything to the extreme and force constant mobility onto all the inhabitants of drive-thru city and all buildings thus eliminated...only infrastructure and and vehicles...and nothing else!...I must have been really mad under "the pressure of time" to decide to take such extremes...I thought, why not take reality to the extreme, I mean that's one of the luxuries of being in school, is that one doesn't have to be responsible for one's design decisions...there is no boss to face but only oneself...so why not?...and so I proceeded to work on this project and just wished that this semester could end as fast as possible, so I can put this nightmare behind me, as my brain cells were depreciating in numbers...from all the endless thinking, even in my sleep!...but as I worked on the project, I became confused as to what I should design, the infrastructure or the vehicle? But re-designing either didn't sound right to my instincts...because I wanted to deal with reality and not re-inventing an unfamiliar futuristic looking city...I was more interested in the reality of the everyday...to me, the banal is interesting, if one looked deeper into it and didn't disregard it, one would discover that even the banal of everydayness has its interesting "absurdities".

Yesterday, at my final review where I was about to shit in my pants, and the fact that I was the last to present and that there were six jurors including my professor, made it even worse. The following are fragments of my speech beginning with the follwing quote:

"At any streetcorner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face. As it is, in its distressing nudity, in its light without effulgence, it is elusive. But that very difficulty deserves reflection." Albert Camus

"I am approaching this uotpia project from an existentialist point of view, in bringing together the everyday environmental conditions and examining it's components through the recombination and emphasis of a certain existing condition in our world...in this case, examining the "absurdity" of mobility...something that is so familiar and yet not so familiar upon closer examination...
In the event of globalization, certain elements of our built environment become familiar to us as we travel around the world...such as the mobile phone, the laptop the universal physical language of the infrastructure that shape our cities, and along with that, automobiles...
Therefore with the same diversity that can be seen around the world, perhaps the future of the world is a web of neverending infrastructure without limit or boundary...where "mobility" is no longer a choice but becomes a condition that is forced upon us...
blah blah blah...
therefore in a city where buildings become obsolete, the existing vehicular types are re-programmed...the bus becomes the office...the school bus becomes the school itself...the truck becomes the retail spaces and the car transporter becomes the parking lot...the car transpoter linked with the truck becomes the shopping mall...and blah blah blah..."

One juror, asked "have you thought about retrofitting the vehicle types, to figure out how you can really adapt them to new uses?" then my professor jumped in, and said "that is a good idea" and suggested that would be the next step to take...and I said "yes, it was only towards the very end that I figured out that I wanted to take this project to the extreme, and realized that what I should be designing is not the infrastructure but rather the new adaptive re-use of the vehicle...then my professor said "I know how difficult it is to realize this, nevertheless, I think you chose the right direction in bringing this condition to the extreme...it is not about looking at the magazine or books for styles of utopia, but re-examining the current condition, which I think makes this a very strong project..." then another juror asked "have you thought about what the cemetary would look like in your utopia?...I ask this because interestingly you begin with a quote by Albert Camus and he died in a car accident...did you know that?...being a fan of Camus, I said "yes I know"...then another juror said that it is a strong move to take something to the extreme and then going back and re-examining those extreme conditions...children spend up to an hour on the school bus and therefore the school bus has become an extension of the school experience, which makes this project very relevant to the title of this studio utopia now, maybe utopia is what already exists around us"...and the conversation ended with all of them agreeing that "it was great"...

I won't assess whether my project was good or not, because nothing can be classified in that way, but only that I speculate that I was last to present because my peers all made proposals of utopia, while I proposed a dystopia...while they provided a world of immense possibilities and choices to the inhabitants of their utopias, I on the other hand, left mine without any choice but a forced condition of constant mobility upon the inhabitants of my distopia and I was glad that the jurors understood what I was trying to do with my project...and so my project was the odd one out...I guess...this experience, strangely left me with some thoughts of the day...and so I leave you all with my "questions of the day":

What is more important, design or concept?
What is good design without a strong concept to back it up?
Is design without a solid concept, a form of mimmickery?
Or does it simply become a beautiful object?
And so is a beautiful object meaningful? or is it just a beautiful object?
Is a less beautiful design derived from a strong concept more important or meaningful than a beautiful object?
Is the beautiful object and end in itself?
Is the conceptual design a means to the end?
Is it good when architecture becomes a beautiful object?
In the face of an open-ended topic, like utopia, does constraint become obsolete?
And could we truely have complete freedom in contemplating on the idea of utopia, without setting up any constraints?
If so, then is it still a contemplation on utopia or is it just allowing our imaginations to take-off?
Is there a difference between the two?
Or is it precisely something that is so open-ended that truely needs specific constraints to drive a valid proposal for utopia?
Is it right for the architect to assume the role of critiquing the existing environment?
Is it the role of the architect to propose a utopia?
So then, what is utopia now?
Is "utopia" still relevant to our time?
What now?
Where do we go from here?














After a day of grueling final review...we all relax and head out for dinner in celebration of the end of another semester... Posted by Hello