Final Year of Architorture School

Here it is, my final year in architecture school. It’s going to be a whirlwind of insanity and travel and having design studio all school year (last vertical studio this term, then my terminals for winter/spring terms!) All of this upcoming activity seemed like a great reason to start up the ol’ blog again and write about what’s going on. I’ve got two main processes rumbling along : groundwork for this term’s studio — visiting the site, etc., and the VERY preliminary discussion with our terminal professor over just what the focus will be.  Beyond that, I’m dealing with my last core architecture lecture, Enclosures (super excited to deal with detailing little parts of construction/figuring out how to make awesome enclosure assemblies), and finishing up my Queer Studies minor (Gender & Body seminar this term; trying to figure out how to make it relevant to my BArch major).

First off, this term’s studio, called OregonBILDS, is part of the the first large-scale design/build program at the university, with this being the first year that an actual house will be constructed (previous years only had design studios occur). The studio will be the first phase of a process that hopes to end in the construction and sale of an as-green-as-possible affordable single-family house in west Eugene at the end of the school year. And to this end, by the end of studio we are supposed to have secured permitting from the city for construction after submitting construction documents, which is much farther along than the conceptual design that most design studios reach. So here our group is, less than a week into studio, and we’ve already started having conversations with both city employees, and people at HACSA (a local affordable housing provider who’s our main partner) about just what we have to do.  Tomorrow we’re visiting the site out in west Eugene near the intersection of Roosevelt and Bertelsen (the empty lot along Hope Loop), doing basic site and contextual surveys, handing out flyers to neighbors letting them know what’s going on (thankfully not in that group!), and then by Monday we’re supposed to have pretty solid conceptual designs of what we want the house to be, and then we dive into cooperative design. Much faster process than I’ve dealt with before, that’s for sure!

And then the big news with terminal studio is: it looks like we’re going to Africa! Gabon to be exact. Our professor has posited the idea of switching our design problem from designing a ski resort somewhere on Mt. Bachelor in the Oregon Cascades to planning/designing a new primary university campus somewhere in Gabon, with a generous grant for all of our travel/stay including design consultation with the client sometime in January, and to pay the rest of our studio expenses! Suddenly, this terminal has gone from something I was very “meh” about to a crazy, wonderful chance at something big that I’m really excited about doing. And thankfully, it seems like everyone else in the studio is either really excited as well, or coming around to that viewpoint! It’ll be really nice to be able to wrestle with so many of the ideas that I have about universities/institutions of learning, and how to have a proper, restrained response to the social and climactic factors presented. Also just plain excited to be able to go abroad again, and this time for no extra cost over normal classes! (Have to admit I’ll take a bit of sadistic pleasure in watching how these Oregonian/Californians deal with the humidity and warmth of Sub-Saharan Africa when we visit.)

Enclosures is the biggest of the two remaining things so far term. Since one of the professors is Don Corner, who was one half of the couple that led us on my Vicenza study abroad trip, there’s been several situations where things from that trip I recognize. Plenty of things showed up in lecture slideshows, even the rainscreen detail he showed us today was from Peter Zumthor’s Shelter for Roman Ruins in Chur, which we had to draw for one of the classes in Vicenza.  An even bigger part so far is that the first of two main projects we have in the class on drawing out enclosure details, is based upon a slightly modified version of a net-zero studio building by Traverso-Vighy we visited when in Italy. Can’t wait to dive further into the project/into books, and to figure out/play around with the best possible kinds of enclosures detailing. It’s such an open puzzle to solve. Of course there’s also my finishing out of a Queer Studies minor, which this term includes a seminar on Body & Gender that’s shaping up to be pretty cool. Just still trying to figure out how that minor can inform my architecture.

Shaping up to be quite a year, as one can see from this not-even-comprehensive list. Most excited, I have to say, for the experience I’ll gain from the two studios, especially the valuable practical knowledge that a real design/build studio is going to bring. My portfolio, too, is going to see an awesome boost from these two projects, especially since it looks they’ll both be real things, ending in construction. Amazing; and when added to the studio I had abroad in Vicenza, designing a civic center along its main piazzae, and next to the Basillica Palladiana, even more so. Will be posting all  this year, keeping this space updated with what’s going in these two big projects. If Africa happens, expect lots of pictures from Gabon in January! Another post is likely tomorrow after studio and returning from the site visit!

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