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Archiculture: a documentary film that explores the architectural studio (full 25 min film)

[Narrator] It captures people’s imagination I think. [Narrator] First and foremost architecture does affect people in ways that maybe architects understand only after a building is built. People perceive architecture by simply being an object or a vessel. Within which people are housed. And that’s clearly not what our sense of architecture is. What the hell is an architect What does an architect do, you know? What is the difference between an architect and a builder? We concretize the world. We take human activities and make manifest the physical structures that accommodate all manner of human activity.

The design studio is a place where individual action and individual creativity is measured very directly but the people around them. The students are doing their job with shifting the focus of how we’re talking and thinking. About architecture. [Student] Before you come to architecture school you sort of have this idea about objects and things like that. And then once you get here it becomes all about space. Now all that occupation, people sort of see architecture like children, sort of sculpturely. And there’s a point at which you stop dealing with objects. You know, sort of things to stare at and start dealing with occupation. [Student] I have a lot of friends who find it hard to understand my schedule here and how we function here and being here on strange hours of the day. And working environment. And what studio space is like. [Student] And a way of working, too. [Student] Yeah. [Student] That’s really important. [Student] Yeah. [Student] But also the idea of being critiqued. I know what critique is. [Student] A foreign concept to a business student. [Student] Yeah. [Tom] The design studio is a place where students have to perform on their own.

They have to create something from their own imagination. They have to create something in response to a set of problems that are either given to them or they have to even invent the problem. [Student] There’s not a place where you can get this kind of culture. And we’ve been together for 5 years. The whole group, right? So, we know everybody. Everybody knows everything. It’s like a second home. It’s like a second community of people who are all struggling with the same questions. [Student] Now when I worked at home, it was so much lacking in the projects. There’s nobody to bounce things off of. The inspiration is at a minimum when you’re on your own. [Shigeru] Architectural education in the U.S. is one of the best because of the studio system. All the students hanging around with their own studio. Talking and learning from others.

That is the most important space for the education of architecture. [Student] It’s like having it. They were hitting on Robert Moses. Because he’s so insensitive and he tore down neighborhoods. This, that, and the other. It’s, you know what? Get in the car, drive on the Westside Highway. Take the Triborough into Manhattan. [Student] Ok. [Student] And then you will understand what he was trying to do.

That visual perception in the automobile. Spectacular! [Student] No, no. [Student] It is spectacular [Student} You’re thinking about it now because of the atom. Now, we sit in traffic and look at it. But back then, the city had to make that transformation. [Tom] The great thing about architecture schools is it’s still takes place… in a kind of space where people discuss the work, together. In both a personal way and a on-on-one way. And in a very public way. Ultimately there’s a kind of arena. There’s a public arena where the work is discussed. Where students can present themselves to personally to other people. And show that they have a stake in the work, and what they really think about the work and that’s extremely important, I think, to the development of an architectural project because that’s ultimately how… architecture at certain points has really developed in the real world. And it’s both an important lesson But it’s also a way in which you know, through that kind of intensely personal and human contact that… That the work gets better.

[Student] I do a lot of the culture of studio trappings at the most random times. So, like the most random hours. [laughing] [Student] I have to go through this. [Student] Think the humor adds another level of energy. [Student] So, you got moments where we’re all joking around. We’re doing the work, and we’re joking and we’re vibing [Student] and whatever. Some guys can be like “Well, that’s why you guys never get any work done” [Student] “because you’re always doing this shit.” [Student] [Beep] you! [Student] Go do your project. Live in your little world [Student] by yourself because the human brings the interaction. [Student] And then the interaction brings the energy and the energy [Student] creates an output between everybody. [Student] that we can all feed off of. [Student] Tomorrow morning. Don’t forget, please? [Students laughing and joking] [Student] Now bounce. [Student] Everyone’s hanging out. Smoking cigarettes and [Student] drinking a lot of coffee and not really necessarily [Student] at your desk drawing, or whatever.

[Student] Our teacher school is a really strange, specific [Student] environment. [Student] work into something. Like hours and hours on [Student] you know, 1 drawing, whatever and make it productive. [Student] You know, you could tell an architect that it’s [Student] due tomorrow and they’ll put in the 12 hours [Student] It might actually look the same, as if they spent [Student] a whole week on it. You know? [Student] I should have gone home earlier than I did. [Student] because I just like, every 5 minutes I’d take a [Student] bit of glue and put it somewhere. [Student] Becoming un-stopped. And figuring out what [Student] the hell it is that I just did. [Student] And start clear thinking. [Student] I have this terrible thing that happens to me. [Student] What I call the Design High. [Student] Where I can’t fall asleep because I can’t stop [Student] thinking about my project. [Student] But it’s like, I get home… [Student] the whole time I’m exhausted. [Student] This ease I like, brush my teeth, wash my face.

[Student] I’m gonna do bad. I need to get back to Studio. [Student] Your health is kind of put on hold [Student] to make room for your ideas. [Matthew] Architects are masochists in some ways. [Matthew] You’re in there ’till all hours of the night., [Matthew] You’re cutting yourself at 3 o’clock in the morning. [Matthew] Rush you to the hospital and get stitches [Matthew] Putting these models together that you’re tearing apart and then [Matthew] putting them together again. And you’re [Matthew] going for this iterative process of evaluation [Matthew] that is incredibly personal [Matthew] but yet also very public. And you’re constantly [Matthew] putting yourself on display. Opening yourself [Matthew] to attack and criticism. It’s intense. [Matthew] Why would you subject yourself to that and [Matthew] put yourself in that position if you didn’t love it. [Student] [BEEP] Ahh!!! God [Beep] [Instructor] That’s the conceptual mistake. The structured system [Instructor] does not simply fit with each unit. [Instructor] Usually the style of structure encompasses [Instructor] 3 or 4 units. [talking at the same time] [Student] I understand but I don’t see what that has to [Student] necessarily be the case.

[Instructor] It doesn’t. [talking at the same time] [Student] I understand that I don’t have to but I think [Student] it’s important for the resolution. [Instructor] It’s wrong, that’s why. [Student] Why is it wrong? [Student] Tell us why it’s wrong. [Instructor] Economically. [Student] Not the wrong way. [Instructor] Systems. [Student] You can take his whole project in terms of [Student] the economy of it. [Instructor] But you do it? [Student] Basically there’s [Student] these walls, like this. In terms of his diagram. [Instructor] Yeah, it’s supposed to have the other third [Instructor] with wall structure. [Student] They’re not completely [Student] ruined, so that the area’s in between…

[Instructor] It does not make anything. [Student] It wasn’t necessary to have that conversation. [Student] The point was made. And then that’s it. [Student] I understood the point. They understood my… [Student] I thought he understood my point. [Student] I thought that should be the end of it [Student] and there were more important things to talk [Student] about and other people that had to talk to him. [Student] You know? And still talking about it for 20 minutes [Student] Well, one thing that I always have an issue with [Student] is like, students get so frustrated if they don’t [Student] have a good critique. I think they misinterpret [Student] what a good critique is. I mean, by definition [Student] it’s a critique. It’s a criticism. [Student] So, if you go into a critique and all the critics, [Student] all they can do is blow hot air up your ass and tell [Student] you how great the project looks.

[Student] To me, that’s not a good critique. [Student] They didn’t criticize anything. [Student] To me a good criticism is if you can inspire [Student] enough thought based on what they see [Student] and what they hear. If it inspires enough thought [Student] then they will criticize. Not criticize [Student] in the sense of attacking. Criticize because [Student] whatever you showed them inspired [Student] enough thought that they had their own opinion [Student] about the thing now. That’s a criticism. [Instructor] I’m not gonna argue with you because I have a [Instructor] feeling it wouldn’t be productive. [Instructor] We can go on all night. [Student] We could. I know that’s [Student] not the point. [talking at the same time] [Instructor] We dare to find some resting spot, here. [Student] Where we’re not talking about the same thing. [Instructor] Allow us to help you. [Instructor] The other thing I think is sometimes negative [Kenneth] is the idea that the student should be trained [Kenneth] to do a sales pitch in this jury presence. [Kenneth] I think that first the student should be silent.

[Kenneth] And the jurors should start asking questions about [Kenneth] the drawings and try to understand the [Kenneth] project in a more Socratic way, you know? [Kenneth] Other than this sales pitch followed by criticism. [Instructor] If you’re a smart architecture student, you’re [Instructor] listening very closely because you’re not only [Instructor] interested in how that work is coming out of you [Instructor] but also how other people are seeing it. [Phil] The best architects, in my view, are the ones [Phil] who bring a coherent view of the world [Phil] to design. Those are the folks that become [Phil] the best architects in the sense that they’re the [Phil] ones that progress the profession, innovate, [Phil] create new ideas.

The most important thing about [Phil] being an architect is learning how to think clearly. [Phil] You have to be able to think clearly to [Phil] practice architecture. [Thom] You can, kind of see the same people as singular. [Thom] If your artistic, you’re not practical. You’re practical [Thom] and not artistic that’s totally preposterous. Architecture [Thom] is embedded in both worlds and if anything [Thom] architecture is the connect-a-tissue between [Thom] these two kind of spheres.

And it would be [Thom] impossible without one or the other. [Phil] One, we’d be practical and never produce a piece of [Phil] work of any interest. Yeah, you’d be producing [Phil] work that has no meaning. And no connectivity. [Joe] I think design require a certain kind of smartness. [Joe] It holds those schizophrenic views simultaneously. [Joe] In one’s thinking, even as a young person [Joe] you know whether you can do that. [Joe] and as you mature it’s quite rewarding to have [Joe] those imposing views in your mind at all times. [Terry] There’s not just one role for an architect. There’s [Terry] different kinds of contributions an architect [Terry] can make in the culture. The question of what’s a [Terry] good architect, I think that there are many different [Terry] perspectives that come at the project, [Terry] as it’s developing. And what’s important for the [Terry] architect is to be able to listen to people outside of [Terry] themselves.

And take that, and [Terry] then give something of yourself to a project and [Terry] make something incredibly unique and wonderful. [Terry] It has to be a person who’s really willing to learn in a way [Terry] that architects need to learn, which is they need to [Terry] learn something every day for the rest of their lives. [Terry] You’ve got to be, in a sense, kind of driven by [Terry] that inner force. But I think you always… [Terry] You also have to have the ability to work through [Terry] something and to be able to look at particular [Terry] and be able to listen and learn and examine with [Terry] great patience, some of those questions.

So again, [Terry] it’s kind of left brain, right brain kind of dichotomy that is constantly… Those demands are constantly placed [Terry] on you as an architect. [Maurice] The other disciplines bring other things to the table. [Maurice] But I think our ability to envision, or imagine [Maurice] something that is not there. [Maurice] It’s almost spooky to people. This notion that you can [Maurice] look at a site or look at a parking lot and see [Maurice] and see a building? It’s an extraordinary skill.

[Maurice] And we are one of the few disciplines that can [Maurice] do that. I would not trade for anything [Maurice] the skill-set that I learned in school. [Maurice] Because it’s very, very, very unique to our discipline. [Maurice] And that’s what we bring to the table. [Mary] I don’t believe schools of architecture, either historically [Mary] or today, have particularly prepared young architects [Mary] for the realities of architectural practice. [Mary] Referring to this notion of safe space, where one can [Mary] fail. Where one can push the envelope, in a sense. [Mary] I think the academy always needs to be that.

[Mary] In a certain sense, you’ll get freer of the constraints of the [Mary] real world. We need to understand that those constraints [Mary] also have to be brought into the academy, so that [Mary] students can begin dealing with it and dealing with it in [Mary] an inventive and creative way. [Mary] I think the academy should be a, kind of, idealized space. [Mary] But it also has to be a kind of laboratory, a testing [Mary] ground for the real world. And I don’t think we’re so good [Mary] with the ladder.

We are still that ivory tower. [Student] Sometimes I think we lose a little bit of the reality [Student] of what are job is. And what our profession is really about. [Student] I think people really forget the reality of what it’s [Student] gonna be like to be working as professionals. [Student] Architecture school is really… You need to because [Student] it’s probably the only time that many architecture [Student] students get to work on their own projects. [Student] After that, architecture is basically a service industry. [Student] I think that the profession is a lot different than the [Student] education, in that you never work alone. [Student] It’s hard to design an entire building by yourself. [Student] There’s other people that you have to network with. [Student] Or design with. Or consult. Collaboration is not usually present [Student] in school. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. [Student] Because during school you’re trying to develop your [Student] own sort of way of working. [Instructor] Very fast. And you only go, listen to what I say. [Dan] Education is not preparing them to be [Dan] some kind of architects in the full sense of [Dan] the word, architect.

Being both poets and practitioners. [Dan] They don’t want to be fooled. They’re talented, they’re smart. [Dan] The tragedy is that the students are not sufficiently [Dan] prepared to be independent thinkers. [Dan] If they have the function at the poetic level [Dan] or they function at the pragmatic level. [Dan] The two shall never meet. So we have to, kind of, [Dan] help them put those two together. [Student] Like a series of overlays where you’d start to see if [Student] there’s [inaudible] [Instructor] So the walls are retaining walls. [Inaudible conversation] [Instructor] If you give me a word right now, we can only [Instructor] respond to it. Let me ask you this. [Instructor] Why are they working just to put these things… [Student] They’re making things. Yeah. [Instructor] And they’re making things because they want to [Instructor] create something of value, right? [Student] Yes.

[Instructor] Why do the just want to [Instructor] put it in storage. [Student] Do I think I might not be an architect? Sure. [Student] The likelihood that I work in an office after I graduate [Student] is pretty high though. I don’t think people have to [Student] be stuck there for like 3 years and then [Student] get their license and then they do their own stuff. [Student] I’m gonna start doing my own stuff [Student] and work in an office. [Student] I look forward to… [Student] It’s hard to say what’s gonna happen. [Student] I’m excited to see what my signature ends up being. [Student] I wanna teach and I wanna write, and I wanna work [Student] for a friend that will let me do all these things.

[Student] I wanna get some experience in a larger firm. [Student] to see how they work and see how they operate. [Student] Do that and then hopefully the long term goal is to [Student] you know, start my own practice. [Mary] The remarkable thing to me is how optimistic [Mary] students of architecture are. [Mary] How they sustain that optimism. [Mary] Again, it’s almost a bit like an actor or actress [Mary] truths that they still cherish that belief that they’re [Mary] gonna break out of the chorus line in some way. [Mary] Even though the reality as it is on Broadway [Mary] is very, very different. In part it could be [Mary] how they very quickly imbibe this notion of the [Mary] store architect, and this belief that against all odds [Mary] that they might be able to make it.

[David] Fortunately a lot of people when they think of architecture [David] think of what storeitects. They think of where the [David] handful of brand name architects that they might have [David] heard of. Which to me is rather limiting. [Student] You only know Frank Gehry, you know? [Student] I mean there’s other architects out there that [Student] that are doing better work or work more important [Student] than getting… [Instructor] The problem is that the way we teach architecture [Instructor] right now is we sort of train everybody to do [Instructor] that exact same thing.

The whole sort of pedagogical [Instructor] model right now is around creating [Instructor] the next generation of star architects. [Instructor] That’s actually a flawed model. [Ted] For many years, everyone wanted to be [Ted] like Frank Gehry. They wanted to create [Ted] great sculptures in the landscape. [Ted] Whether those sculptures worked or not [Ted] is largely irrelevant. The ability to use [Ted] aerospace engineering to come up with forms that [Ted] hadn’t been built before. Was considered [Ted] to be a primary task of someone coming out of school. [Ted] That’s over. That’s over. [Evan] I would argue that this current generation of [Evan] beginning students of architecture [Evan] have the capacity to reshape the world [Evan] like we’ve never seen before. And they need to have access [Evan] to as much technology and as much discourse [Evan] meaningful discourse surrounding these techniques [Evan] and these tools. So that they’re fully prepared [Evan] to go out into the world in the future [Evan] to do something positive and productive. [Instructor] Students are coming out. They’re working with [Instructor] individuals around the world who need [Instructor] shelter and who need ways of living that are [Instructor] affordable and supportable and sustainable.

[Instructor] The students themselves have been pushing to force [Instructor] faculty to think differently. About the way faculty [Instructor] see the environment use the environment [Instructor] and create objects that serve, not just the [Instructor] esthetic interests of the architect. [Instructor] It’s fundamental an optimistic profession. [Maurice] You don’t go into architecture if your a pessimist. [Maurice] If you don’t actually believe that [Maurice] the world can get better. [Maurice] So, I think you got a bunch of optimists [Maurice] that go into this designer profession, they actually [Maurice] believe that their buildings are gonna make a difference [Maurice] in somebody’s life. [Student] I think that the best [Student] environment is something that people [Student] have appreciation for. [Student] If you don’t care about this, like what do you care about? [Student] It’s about understanding human behaviour.

[Student] Being a designer of human want. [Student] All the extra is what you experience in your daily life. [Student] On the street, the space of the street, [Student] how you navigate the street, how you relate [Student] to the buildings around you. [Instructor] People tend to think architecture is done [Instructor] for and by other people. [Instructor] But, it’s also done by you if you decide to [Instructor] put a new window in your house or [Instructor] change the traffic flow in your house or your office. [Student] At architecture school you got the freedom to… [Student] You don’t like something? Do something about it. [Student] That’s what they told you for 5 years. [Student] Do something about it. Doesn’t matter what. [Student] Just do something about it. [Instructor] This school is, kind of about a way of thinking [Instructor] And what you’re gonna do in architecture school is [Instructor] not what you think it’s gonna be, you know? [Instructor] They aren’t gonna go in there and [Instructor] you know, be designing [Instructor] a colonial home and things like that. [Student] We don’t just need shelter, we need atmosphere [Student] We live to be inspired. [Student] I think one of the most important things you can [Student] take from this school is not to lose your ambition.

[Student] It’s not just, you know, 4 walls and a roof. [Student] There’s more into it. There’s a life to it that… [Student] I think we get here and we should really take with us [Student] every way to go. [Student] If you’re gonna come to architecture school [Student] I hope you understand the creative process. [Student] I hope you understand the transformation that your [Student] mind and body an psyche is gonna go through. [Student] Because there is nothing absolute about this. [Student laughing] [both laughing] [Student] What do you think about that, Mr.

Zacoy? [Student] Yeah, making a movie, huh? [Student] Trying. [Student] Sure you are..

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