Beauty Walks a Razor’s Edge

26 January 2007

Don’t Search for a Site

Filed under: Uncategorized — evansaskin @ 5:55 am

This morning was the first weekly meeting with my thesis advisor – Mason White. (I’ve not yet settled on whether I’m writing to myself yet or to some reader).

My thesis is on water.

I’m not entirely certain how the idea sprouted – todd’s mention that architects should design more water fountains, a soft spot for the Noah’s Ark story (which I need to revisit),  a resonance with the vivekacudamani tale (from the upanishads) of each ego being a raindrop absorbed into the ocean…These are all way more touchy-feely than what I can comfortably call my architectural sensibilities.  The first truly impressive piece of architecture I saw may well have been the New England Aquarium.  I’m drowning in an ocean of literary allusions, cinematic devices, architectural precedents and hydrological phenomena.

So from today’s meeting then: The insight that it would be foolish to get commited to the first exciting programme I brainstorm (how cool would a water filtration plant/aquarium be? What fantastic drawings I could produce for a distributed field of drinking fountains around the city which comment on homelessness and norms of cleanliness) .  This term can instead be a survey which will gain focus as it progresses.  What are all the kinds of architectural theses which would engage water? describe them, organize them, draw them, appraise them critically.  It will be fun.
What aquatic phenomena are there and at what scales?

Globally – there are oceans and icebergs.  Rivers: the amazon, the nile, the ganges, the pearl, the indus….the st lawrence seaway.

Regionally – there are a slew of manufactured environments in addition to the natural//geographical ones.  Canals and lochs, hot springs and drainage basins.

Urbanistically – there are filtration plants and sewage treatment, pipes and aqueducts.

Domestically – there are taps and showers – places to clean and cook are half of a home.

Then there are the myriad of water-based programmes – bathhouses, swimming pools, saunas, aquariums, spas, seaside resorts, boats, ice hotels, fisheries, desalination plants, wells, car washes, drinking fountains, splash pads, pier-side carnivals, gardens, theme parks with water slides…

Mostly relevant to either cleanliness or entertainment, from my early brainstorms

So how to organize these all?   Research and brainstorm and repeat.  Draw lots of maps and annotate them.  I want this to end in an atlas.   Mason is pulling for a large vellum map with essays on the back.  I’m excited by the prospect of working consistently on something for a few months, a regular piece on the back burner.   At the same time a little intimidated – I’m generally a ‘seat-of-the-pants’ kind of worker. I can’t even fathom what a drawing would be like that took 40 days.  I have an inkling that it would be worth finding out before going into thesis production.

I’m now reading Dominique LaPorte’s History of Shit trans. Nadia Benabid and Rodolphe El-Khour.  Written in 1978, my more recent edition from the MIT press is beautiful with a very soft velvety cover, mrs. eaves styled fonts, notes in the margins and a commendation from zizek. Next entry: a response to the content.

(now playing: vladislav delay – entain.  it’s a pretty subtle lp of ambient washes building into dubby echoes.  vlad builds intensity by layering and by the ten minute mark dissonances and stacattos emerge and recede back into the pulsing washes.  It’s got some edgy attitude for ambient music, but I could still take a nap to it in a sunny windowsill)


24 January 2007

First Post

Filed under: Uncategorized — evansaskin @ 4:01 am


_So this is how it begins.

I’m committing to keeping a blog for the next twelve months.

In twelve months I will (if all goes to plan) complete my thesis and graduate with a master’s degree in Architecture from the University of Toronto.

As a prelude to thesis, the entire class takes a course in preparation for thesis.  I’m not one for wanton cynicism and unrestrained bitterness so I hesitate to begin on such a note, but it bears mentioning that thesis-prep is beyond a shadow of doubt the most useless course in my degree.  It panders to the most clueless and inarticulate of students by spoonfeeding them methodologies for self-directed research.  The whole question of whether or not self-directed research (id est THE THESIS) even ought to be a part of an architectural education is called into question.  Why should these people (and I reserve the right to count myself amongst them at some later date) be subjected to a year long fiction of running their own project.  The argument goes that many would learn more from taking another professor-directed studio rather than directing their own.  At the end of the day though, this strikes me as fundamentally misguided.  If the overwhelming majority of thesis projects are normative, uninspired and underdeveloped then this is an indictment of the faculty and pedagogy more than the student body.  There’s something much more necessary – intuitively – about taking on a thesis though and (worryingly) I can’t articulate that just yet.  Suffice to say, I’ll need to dig into this topic again in the coming weeks.

(and lest I paint too bleak a picture, there are a few transcendant, inspirational and simply impressive projects every year)

(and lest I seem overly harsh, there were a number of abysmally thoughtless, ugly, ill-conceived and simply embarassing projects presented this year as is the case every year)
Part and parcel with this pre-thesis pap is the requirement to present a project of mine to the class.  I’m off to settle out a few images to represent my love for data curation, modular assemblies, things that move and fit together, and the relentless questioning of domesticity.  Where’s home in the post-hearth era? Is there architecture without diagrams anymore?

[listening to the looping acoustic guitars and baritone humming of David Thomas Broughton on the ever-reliable dublab podcast.  I curse the ‘x meets y’ school of music journalism for it’s facile oversimplifications, but this does sound something like Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks filtered through Robert Fripp’s collaborations with Brian Eno.]

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