There is No “I” in CoLab

My semester long studio project was not done all by myself. I took the collaborative studio (also known as CoLab) where I worked with a team of seven to design a campus for the sustainability institute at Penn State. On our team was an architect, 4 architectural engineers (each specializing in a different discipline: Mechanical, structural, lighting and electrical, and construction management), and two landscape architects. I was lucky, because I got a pretty awesome team. We called ourselves 4SIGHT. Don’t ask why. Each team had a “pod” – a special area designated mostly for our use. Our pod was in the Immersive Environments Lab (or something) which is basically a very dark, windowless, black room. Here we are chilling in our pod, late in the semester. We made quite a mess of the space.

 

It’s been a long and tiring semester. Working on a team is cool but also kind of difficult. I got called “landscaper” a bunch in the beginning. It was difficult to coordinate times to meet outside of class. There were also things that are typical of most studios like unclear objectives and general confusion during desk crits. The site we had is a short bus ride from campus where the existing MorningStar solar home is located. It’s in pretty bad shape though. Logan and I took a walk around it and found a lot of trash, invasive species, and ticks. I’ve looked the solar home up so many times that it’s the first thing that appears when I type “m.”

Here is the existing site from google maps. Our site boundary is outlined in red.

Our final design focuses on connecting people to food through design. We used the idea of a “farm-to-table” dining experience for a large part of our programming. We also have an education building and more passively-programmed areas like a pollinator garden, event lawn, green houses, and an outdoor amphitheater. Here is our final plan (courtesy of me 🙂

Late Nights

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know that I am not an all-nighter studio work kind of person. I get my stuff done and leave. But not this time. The last week before presentations was a rough one. I was in studio until at least 11 every night and when it was really coming down to the wire, we had some 2:00 AM nights. I know it’s not as bad as some people have it (there is a crew who routinely stays in studio until 1 or 2 AM) but I was still tired. After finishing our presentation on the night before the big day, we had to run through it a couple times and that doesn’t really go over well when we are all tired and hungry. We ordered pizza and that helped. But eventually, we all were tapped out and it was time to rest.

Final Presentation Day

Our group was dead last. Each group had 40 minutes to present in front of a panel of critiquers and 20 minutes for questions and comments. After everyone presented, the panel picked the “best” presentation from made up criteria that they decided on. The winner got a small piece of paper (Some call it a certificate) and they had to present again for 20 minutes. So you can imagine that this wasn’t much of an incentive to win. And, we didn’t even know about the piece of paper. We wanted a good grade but we didn’t really want to win. I thought it was going to be a long and terribly drawn-out day of presentations but it wasn’t too bad. It helped that they provided us lunch. We practiced one last time after lunch but everyone still seemed pretty nervous.

The good new is, our presentation went pretty well! Surprisingly well! I’m very proud to have such a great group for my last final presentation ever! Also, we didn’t win! We lost out on a certificate but it was worth not presenting again. Here is the whole gang, relieved to be done with presentations.

The Only Day the Earth Matters

Final Presentations in Baltimore, Maryland

My final presentation for my Baltimore project happened a few weeks ago. We got up 6:00 AM and drove down in a university-owned creeper van. I slept. We all slept. Because 6 AM is very early for the average college student.

Around 10:00 AM we arrived at the Parks and People Foundation campus and set up our projects in an old, stone house that the foundation refurbished. Our boards were massive and we had to get pretty creative to fit all nine of our projects in the room. Mine wasn’t even in the room but put over some bay windows in a side area. They gave us some sticky dots to use for our posters but we were skeptical they would stay up. In the background, The Big Labowski was playing on the mini projector one of our professors was trying to set up. We finished hanging our stuff and sat around for a bit and talked about nothing. Then we left for lunch at this place called R House which is an “adult food court”. Its pretty good. I recommend it. On the drive over, we bet on how many poster would be down by the time we got back.

2018-04-20 11.20.23Lunch passed and we drove back to the stone house. Our presentations started at 2:00. At 2:30, people started trickling in and we were well on our way by 3:00. Instead of doing a live presentation, we played our recorded power points and stood up at the front awkwardly. I had recorded my power point at my apartment and my chirping birds were pretty noticeable in the background. Oh well. After our presentation ended the audience asked us questions. There were some people from Johnston Square, some Penn State alumni, and a few who work at firms in Baltimore. I am very happy to say that my design was quite well received. The community members seemed very excited about my ideas and my concept which made me very happy. 🙂

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After presentations, we went to an Oriels baseball game. We all wanted to go home, but our professor was so excited about it (and he already bought tickets for us. Don’t worry we paid him back.). Anyway, I had never been in a major league stadium and I gotta say it was pretty cool. It’s like a little town. Our seats looked over right field so it was hard to see what was happening. I don’t think any of us were invested in the game but we had a good time. At one point, I came back from the bathroom and some of my friends were watching something very intently. They said a couple a few rows down had been fighting. The girl stormed off at one point but had now returned, looking irritated and huffy. In the end they made up, and the guy’s arm returned around the girl’s shoulders. It wasn’t super warm but it got colder as the sun set. I shivered a lot because I didn’t dress warm enough. The Oriels won and we went home.

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Earth Day at the Residence

On Monday, I got to talk about my rain gardens for the Earth Day celebration at the Governor’s Residence. It was fun to see the Residence staff and my old supervisor. I got to do it because DCNR was invited to set up different stations around the grounds to talk about plants and other earth day things. There were some local area schools in attendance. Including my old elementary school, Londonderry! I got to see some of my old teachers and a few of the current students. They told me I was “like a million years old”. Thanks guys.

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Final Review, Finally Home

I DID IT

No all-nighters necessary but still some pretty late nights required to pull everything together for my final project. Oh man, it was rough. But done! and you get to see all the cool stuff I made that took hours to make and were only glanced at for two minutes. It is so nice to be home!
Anyway, ap (according to my mother) there are some adoptee people interested in seeing my final design, as it would take lots of explaining, but will post pictures and do some explaining in this post!

The Inbetween: International Adoptee Memorial Park

First off, if  you haven’t seen it yet, check out my mid-review project which is in an older post.I didn’t explain much in it but you can look at it if you want to. Also, watch the video animation -CLICK THIS LINK- cause it took forever and I’m very proud of it and it also shows some of the aspects of adoption I considered in my design.

Did you see everything? Ok good.

Some notes about the “rules” for my studio’s projects:

  1. It is technically “siteless.” Mine is located in an urban setting and is, in theory, going to be located in every major city in the world. You’ll see why eventually.
  2. Practicality of building materials, scale, cost, technology are non-existent, so no need to scrutinize over pavement joint spacing or funding from private donors and local municipalities.
  3. Hmm

So, here goes. This is the plan view of my design. There’s no scale, but the block is 600 feet by 650 feet, which is absolutely huge for a design like this.

Also here is my site from a birdseye view:

Below is a diagram from my project board that identifies the different parts of the design:

The ground plane pattern was made using the idea of cracked earth as a representation of a not fully whole identity. It also could be thought of as a road map to a city, so there’s is a duality of scale where you can imagine yourself simultaneously as an ant walking across the ground and a giant bounding across a streetscape. I liked this because it creates a sense of placelessness in feeling small in a big world, feeling like the distance between yourself and your birth life is impossibly large. But at the same time, your very existence stretches across continents and oceans. In the center is a slightly raised platform of tiles. It’s shaped like an abstraction of all the continents crammed together. This tiled grid will light up where ever you step. And, if you imagine this same memorial site located in every city in the world, the glowing path of every person walking on the grid will also show up in every other city. Here is another animation I made to demonstrate this point:

Also in the animation, you see holographic paper airplanes that can be thrown into the sky by making a throwing motion. These airplanes explode into a ‘hello’ that is translated across countries. I thought it was interesting to imagine being able to throw a paper airplane half way around the world.
All of this emphasizes the idea of dualities. With the glowing tiles, it is a reminder that there are people out there that you may be connected to, but that feel/are inaccessible to you.

In the plan, you can also see there are areas of water with paths crossing them. There are acoustic mirrors that concentrate sound from a far distance so you can talk to someone across the water. The idea here being communication across oceans (represented by water). The section cutting through one of these paths shows what it looks like:

Now in my mid-review design, I used the mounds to signify all the unattainable knowledge about an adoptee’s origins. I decided to break the mounds up and turn them into active places. These include climbing areas, chalkboard areas, and slide areas.

Here is my model on the milling table

Final model

In addition to redenerings, we also had to make 3D models. I milled mine out of MDF in the wood shop. The CNC miller is like a giant drill bit on moving arms that carves out landform from a block of foam or wood.

My model included some 3D printed objects that were designed in a 3D modeling program called Rhino. Below are images of my final model and close ups of the 3D printed parts.            

Final Review Day (dun dun duuunn)

So it’s review day, and ya know who’s invited??? KEN SMITH. He’s a landscape architect who owns a firm named after himself in New York City! Anyway, he’s famous and important but for some reason came to out little presentation day in surrounded by mountains and deer Pennsylvania. That’s crazy! Ken and five other supremely intelligent people came to our critique as well and they are all important and they all wore black. Everyone wore black. That’s the thing apparently. Although I made a mental note to find some more colorful pants. All in all, our critique (we had 17 students) lasted about seven and a half hours. I was standing for a good majority of that because I hate sitting. My presentation was about half way through, so most people were still awake and attentive. I felt like I was all over the place, probably because I’d forgotten to actually write what I wanted to say. Ugh. It’s ok though because they didn’t hate it. One critique I got was that there was too much going on and the activity needed to be distilled into a more purposeful experience in regards to how one moves through the site and how different people with different life experiences feel in the site. But the best thing was, Ken Smith told me, “you are very good.” I thought I was going to fall over. I didn’t. And I know that no design is perfect but I couldn’t believe he said that to me. I took a super creepy stalker picture of him:

I could’ve taken my picture with him but I was too nervous haha.

Here are my presentation boards (they were GIGANTIC!):

And after all of that, I am home! (actually I’ve been home since Friday)

The Week Before Finals: My Laptop Died Edition

This year’s installment of “the week before finals is absolute the worst” is brought to you by: my laptop’s operating system gets corrupted in the middle of final project panic. Yes. In the week when I have the least amount of time to deal with things due to final projects, I have to go to best buy and sit and wait and cry a little on the inside while they tell me that my laptop (which I just bought a two or three months ago) has to be factory reset. Sigh. I do have my final project boards though if you want to see them:

Roane-Hopkins_Z_Activity_3_Gowanus_Canal

Our assignment, which I mentioned in the post You Can’t Spell “Gowanus” without “Us”, deals with a redevelopment concept around the Gowanus canal. I did a large community plaza space thing. I’m not gonna lie, I got a lot of negative feedback on this design but I’m still happy with what I did.

I also presented my final project for photography. My concept was taking pictures from the perspective of a shoe. Here is my final project:

PSUkulele has also been doing some fun things! We had our end-of-year showcase at Webster’s Bookstore downtown:

 

And we played for an event at the Elks Country Club!

 

Now, I am home and enjoying not doing anything at all! I bought a new camera (A Nikon D5300 if you were curious) and am taking up close pictures of my parents and pets with an expensive camera instead of phone so, yeah, I’m moving up in the world. Next week I start my internship with the landscape architect working for DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources). Very exciting!