Posts Tagged ‘gsd’

Due to train traffic ahead of us. . .

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Some of my more dedicated readers may have noticed that it’s been a while since my last blog post, and wondered as to the cause of such delay. Well, the lack of blog posting directly coincided with the start of a new job; I started at Diller Scofidio + Renfro several months ago, and my time has been scarce since.

In actuality, though, it may not be an issue of time–I wrote more than I ever had before (or have since) during graduate school, when I was busier than I am now (though it’s close. . . ). No, I think the issue may be that DS+R is a firm that is capable of, and welcoming towards, those ideas that usually have no place in an “architectural practice.” You might imagine how they would be amenable towards offhand inquiries into media/tech and its relationship to architecture, and so far they’ve proven to be just that. So the idle thoughts and expressions that usually have to wait until the after hours get due attention in the office. The partners at DS+R so far have shown a remarkable willingness to entertain crazy enough ideas, and so far I’ve felt little need to explore things outside of work.

Open the flat files at DS+R and you're liable to find stuff like this. . .

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, however. At my last position, working for Richard Meier and his progeny, the work was much slower, and the ideas were. . . shall we say, less up for discussion. Those who worked for Meier were confident and secure in what they thought was good, and didn’t really bide any differing ideas. Or were incapable of discussing them. Or both. They reminded me of Germans in their arrogance and lack of tolerance for difference. Or people who went to the GSD. And a lot of them were one or the other. Or sometimes they were both. Though in all truthfulness, I met the most competent, capable, and knowledgeable architects at Meier’s, and if I’m ever in a position to hire, I will look extremely favorably towards people from that office. I also think Germany has a great chance to win the World Cup this year. Like they always do. Scary bastards. No offense. Love their cars.

Bastian Schweinsteiger says "GSD rules."

But what this means is that the mental space that wasn’t being occupied by work was searching for challenges outside of work, and I appreciated the space it gave me to apply towards other things, this blog being one of them. Now that I’m at a work environment that seems capable and willing to entertain my other ideas, less of it gets channeled outside of work. It’s also a bit sad because though I’ve been involved in so many great projects already, I’m not at liberty to discuss much of what I’ve been working on. It’s stuff I would have written about otherwise, so it’s funny not to able to now that I’m so close. So my thoughts mainly have to stay in the office. In short, all of my energy is going into work, and I’m not sure yet if that’s a good thing. It’s a direction I’m going and I guess I’ll have to go far enough down that road to know if I want to stay on it. Remains to be seen. Just like the World Cup (go Spain or Argentina!).

Lionel Messi would go to Yale.

Argentina vs Germany, July 3rd, 10:00 am EST, on ABC!

In the Mood for Love

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010


In the Mood for Love
2000, 98 minutes
directed by:  Wong Kar-wai

Well, this was the last film I  screened at Yale before I graduated with my M.Arch, and I suppose it was fitting that I showed the film that got me interested about the exploration between film and architecture in the first place. Several years ago, a good friend of mine who was working on a PhD on “atmosphere” at the GSD showed this film to me, and seeing it was a small revelation. First of all, the film is a profoundly beautiful film (it remains one of my favorite films of all time from one of my favorite directors). Secondly, I had no idea that there was scholarship on something as seemingly disparate as cinema and architecture. In the Mood for Love is a beautiful document of love, urbanism, and cultural identity. It’s about space, atmosphere, and time; the beautiful actors Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are the players. For more on Wong Kar-Wai, read my post about his other movie, Chungking Express.


When I first started the film society at Yale, it was mainly as a means for creating a debate about the relationship between architecture and media within the school. Specifically, the focus would be films, but broadly, about all of technology in general. Film is technology, and both architecture and technology share the same etymological root (tech: from Gk. tekhne-, “art, skill, craft, method, system”). The moving picture, invented at the beginning of the 20th century, contemporaneously accompanied a sequence and succession of technological changes that have fundamentally altered the world around us and architecture to no lesser degree. Le Corbusier changed the way we put buildings together at the same time, but he changed it in part because he was inspired by the technology of film. To understand these changes is to understand why our built environment is the way it is. In short, architecture is, like film, an expression of humanity.


On this topic of cultural technologies, humanities, and digital media, there is nobody more eloquent and erudite as Mario Carpo. Having initially come across him in the first semester while writing a paper for Alan Plattus’ urbanism class, it was incredible to have him come and teach a graduate seminar in my final year. Much of what had only begun to approximate in thinking I found had already been expounded upon at length by the world’s most prominent architectural media theorist. In terms of thinking about media and architecture, Mario Carpo is, so far, the last word. His lecture at Yale in the spring of ’08 was an exciting reminder of how contentious the fields of history, historiography, philosophy, media and technology are when they come together in the study of architecture. Earlier in that same day, Steven Holl, Peter Eisenman, Mario Carpo, and Bob Stern sat and debated the changing paradigms of architecture, urbanism, and landscape, and reminisced about their shared background as young architects in New York. They were seated next to about twenty students. In one room. Such is the power of the place of Yale and its community of individuals. I miss it dearly.


The format of the Yale Architecture Film Society wasn’t really well thought out; it was simply a matter of cobbling together something that I thought was sufficiently time manageable—screen a movie once a week or so and argue a position about the movie and its relation to architecture in a distributable format for the Yale community. However, at the time, I was simply printing out sheets of paper and posting them around the school. Looking back, it was a laughably low-tech way of going about it. I should have created a website or blog, posted links, film clips, and the written portions as well. This blog is an attempt to redistribute that information and reanimate those discussions. All the struggling I did each week over the years with how much to write, what images to include, or different ways to advertise the screenings and communicate with those who were interested would have been elegantly solved by the Web 2.0. It would have been an exploration of a modern medium using the new forms of media that are starting to influence architecture irreversibly. This blog is a continuation of that goal.

in-the-mood-for-loveThis marks the end of the series of films I began discussing under the theme of “The Future is Asian.” The next theme I will blog about will be “American Landscapes.”

-    quang truong

Beautiful Confusion

Sunday, December 28th, 2008


8 ½ (1963) 138 minutes
1963 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign-Language Film

“One of the most written about, talked about, and imitated movies of all time.” –Criterion Collection

“Boy, it’s probably one the most important movies of my life.” –Roberto Rossi, M.Arch I, 2nd year

Why is it that the Italians seem more in touch with sensuality than just about anybody else? One dandy on a Vespa saying, “Ciao,” is enough to make other men seem like eunuchs, and what woman today can compare with self-possessed beauties like Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Monica Belluci? Really, self-possession is the sexiest thing of all, and the Italians have it in spades.


Take this design study, for example. This is the Italian firm Guigiaro’s study for the Ford Mustang. Guigiaro is a design studio that is responsible, along with Pininfarina, for the majority of the supercars past or present, including Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, along with others cars for various companies (the Lexus GS400 of ’98-’05, for example). The problem of how to update the previous incarnation of the Mustang, an insipid little Po-mo smirk and riff, was how do you improve what is essentially the design equivalent of a smirk? Smirk harder? The car came from the design school of J Mays, also known as the man who designed the new VW Beetle, and who was the fourth recipient of the GSD’s Annual Design Award, after Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons and Phillip Starck. In his acceptance speech (which I attended in Piper Hall in 2000), J Mays said that he does not differentiate between design and marketing. But what the Italians did here is make the Mustang, a perennially brute, dismissive, incompetent and uncomprehending, a thoroughly American car, into an Italian car. Problem solved.

8 ½ is a film about a filmmaker, Guido, played by Marcello Mastroianni, who is struggling to find inspiration and motivation to complete his latest studio project, I mean, film. He is “a man exhausted by his evasions, lies and sensual appetites.” It sounds thoroughly Italian, and the rest of the film deals with his process of artistic struggle, which weaves through his dreams, his sexual life, and his relation to his friends and clients. It is a film that has been the subject of many dissertations.

This is, then, a film about writer’s block. Or, as may be more generally termed to relate to filmmakers and architects, artist’s block. The thing is: I’m less and less tolerant of the idea of artist’s block. I used to think that manifesting struggle, i.e., throwing fits of despair and tantrums of tiredness, were the necessary by-products of any artist engaged with the creative struggle. But inherent in any creative act is the idea of struggle, and to cease production is essentially an outward expression of self-indulgence. This is not to say that inspiration should come at all times, nor is it to say that inspiration is meaningless. It simply is to say that you cannot bank on it, whether it comes or not is beyond control, and to stop working benefits neither self nor others.

(originally written 11/30/2006)


Thursday, December 25th, 2008

This blog should have been started years ago as a repository for ideas and sketches, but for whatever many reasons, I’m just getting to it now. I recently graduated from the Yale School of Architecture, and while there, I founded and ran an Architecture and Film Society.


The idea of doing such came from my experience at the GSD’s Career Discovery, when my instructor Philipp, an M.Des with a thesis in “Architectural Atmosphere” did the same. I still remember the first movie he screened, Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, and the case he made for the way certain directors can control and emphasize space and time in an architectural way, with urban implications.

sketchbookfromcareerdiscoAt Yale, I screened a movie every week or so, and distributed a page of film notes to accompany each one. That exercise, as much as anything else during school, was a place where I could quickly sketch down some ideas and explore some relationships, mostly between the intersection between media and architecture. In the high-pressure, high-stress, academically strenuous environment of grad school, it was a place where I could develop some thoughts outside of the proscribed curriculum.


At the wonderful Paul Rudolph designed A&A building, now called Rudolph Hall, I simply posted the film notes in the elevators (which served as the school’s bulletin board, social condenser, and transporter all rolled into one), showed the dvds in Hastings (our large lecture hall), and called it a week. But in my third year, our school spent moved to a temporary location, a depressingly underthought-out building by Kieran Timberlake, while the A&A underwent renovations. There, it became clear that the medium for a discussion about the intersection between media and architecture was ironically underserved by the old-school method of posting up pieces of paper around the school. Instead, it should have been disseminated electronically.

So I hope you forgive me while I back-track a bit, and for my first blog posts, post my old Film Society notes from the previous three years.