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March 24, 2011 - Image 9

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2011-03-24

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TRASENDING
.THE BLU EPRI NT

UNIVERSITY'S ELUSIVE
ARCHITECTURE PROGRAM

fter you ride the bus to North Campus, find Bonisteel Boulevard,
enter the Art and Architecture Building and climb three sets of
stairs, an exclusive world unfolds in the form of an expanse of desk
areas. Bodies spot the space that flows with natural light pouring
from the grand windows, paper cutouts hanging, colored Christmas lights
wrapping around the floor-to-ceiling beams, Aunt Jemima bottles, wooden
paddles, glue, Vitamin Waters, coffee, chargers and beanies cluttering the
area with trendiness - this is their living space.
"The relatively insular nature of architecture schools is reinforced by (our
school's) location on North Campus at (the) University of Michigan," said
Prof. John McMorrough, the chair of the department. "What's unique in the
institutional setting... is a lot of work happens in the building.
"This is where they do their homework, this is where they're doing the
designs of the building, they're drawing- and soit treates alivingsituation,
almost," he added. "Sometimes they sleep up there, but they're not supposed
to. So it just creates a kind of intensity."
The architecture school, a part of the Taubman College of Architecture and
Urban Planning, is not just ahidden and intriguing aesthetic place, but a place
for a kind ofthinkingthat teeters toward philosophy. McMorrough began his
position at the University in September 2010 and wants the program to not
only be about realizing buildings, but also about realizing that "architecture
is a form of thinking more than just a form of thinking about a thing."
Entering the studio
The Architecture program's acceptance rate from 2010 to 2011 is surpris-
ingly high at 94 percent, but there is an explanation for this. The students
can apply as incoming freshmen or in the winter term of their sophomore
year after getting a letter of recommendation, writing a 500-word statement
of purpose and creating an impressive portfolio of their work, predominant-
ly derived from the pre-Architecture studio courses ARCH 201, 202 and 218
- not the easiest of tasks.
Once they get in, Architecture students are quickly submerged into the
studio culture. Junior Hannah Hunt Moeller gave the low-down.
"I feel like the word 'studio' gets thrown around a lot and not always in
the same way," she said. "Studio is like, 'Are you going to studio?' - like the
place where you're actually working in your desk. But it's also like the studio
that is broken up within your class or your cohort."
The teachers of each particular studio quickly establish personal relation-
ships with their students because of the small but fierce work environment.
Moeller explained that there are three levels of evaluation in the program:
the desk crits, the pin-ups and the review. These are Michigan Architec-
ture's forms of feedback.
The least serious of the three is the desk crits, in which students bene-
fit from casual discussions with faculty about their current project. In the
less-frequent pin-ups, students literally pin their drawings on the wall with
pins and discuss them. The semester reviews, also referred to as critics, are
essentially final exams to the rest of the academic world. In them, the stu-
dents read an extensive essay about their semester-long project to other stu-
dents and professors. These reviewers are able to subsequently challenge the
presenter and foster back-and-forth discussion.
"The reviews do have a performative quality," McMorrough said. "You
get up, it's kind of a rhetorical thing ... probably our most public sort of mani-
festation of something that's really pretty private a lot of the time."
There is a comprehensive progression up to the students' final term - for
the Masters students this means a big "thesis;" for the undergraduates this
means a final project called a Wallenberg Studio. These studios are funded,
dealing with socially relevant topics. McMorrough said those are the pro-
gram's capstones.
Finding (or not finding) the balance
Second-year graduate student Kyle Sturgeon went as far as to call the
physical studio in the third-floor space "the arena, the Coliseum," architec-
ture humor fully intact. According to Sturgeon, the students want to be at
the studio instead of working in their homes because the space allows help-
ful conversation between peers and provides for surrounding motivation.
"The studio culture sort of fuses your personal life and your work," Stur-
geon said.
However, Sturgeon admitted that the studio can be like an addiction.
"It's kind of like nicotine in a way, it's a smoke break," he added. "You're
there,you're working, it's really intense, its really hard ... you're pushingyour-
self and you're uncomfortable where you're going, but you have lots of people
doing the same thing and you know how to blow off steam, you know?"
And most Architecture students appreciate the dualistic culture of the
studio as Sturgeon does.
But there is another struggle that comes with the intense nature of the
* architecture program, particularlyin the process ofgettinga Masters degree.
Sturgeon verbalized specific examples of what he gives up in the program.
"I used to work out every day and I used to love to cook and photograph
food," he said. "Always going hard, but I'm in graduate school mode so just
bangit out. I know I'm all there still. Like all of me is still there, but right now
it's like working on a part of it."
Even if his life is a bit more unbalanced, at least all of his personality is
still there. Yet Sturgeon does believe that architecture studies aren't quite as
difficult as one might imagine.
See TAUBMAN, Page 4B

ON STAGE
Tired of all the teenage
angst and Gwyneth
Paltrow on "Glee?"
This Saturday, the
University's own
Women's Glee Club
will present an evening
of song at Hill Audito-
rium - free of any TV
melodrama. Conduc-
tor and Prof. of Choral
Music Education Julie
Skadsem will lead the
ensemble in works by
Bach and Stravinsky,
among others. Tickets
from $5, at 8 p.m.
CONCERT
Need to let off some
steam before finals?
Then leave your
troubles on the dance
floor when My Dear
Disco, a.k.a. Ella Riot,
brings its patented
"DanceThink" style
to the Blind Pig on
Sunday. Come watch
the Ann Arbor locals
showcase the musi-
cal skills they picked
up as undergraduates
and their signature
techno pop-rock fusion.
Tickets from $12.

"I think we're in a place
where everything's on the
I table. We could be talking
about fruit flies and it's
architecture."
I Kyle Sturgeon, second-year
graduate student

FILM
Daft Punk makes some
of the catchiest techno
ever produced, but
the guys also star in
films as their robot
alter egos. In "Elec-
troma," which debuted
at Cannes, they play
two robots traveling
across America on
a quest to become
human. It's screening
at midnight tomorrow
at the State Theater, in
conjunction with the
Ann Arbor Film Fes-
tival. Tickets are $6.
AT THE MIC
Tomorrow night, Michi-
gan Sahana: Indian
Classical Music &
Dance presents "TBS:
That Brown Show." This
collaboration will show-
case the University's
premier groups that
perform Indian music
and dance, Maize
Mirchi, the Michigan
Bhangra and Raas
teams, Maya, Wolver-
ine Bhangra, Taal and
Michigan Sahana itself.
Student tickets are $6.

THE ARCHITECTURE B-SIDE
When we look at a building, emotions, feelings and histories are instantly
condensed into its fortified structure, amplifying an entire landscape through
a single man-made design. In this two-part series, The B-Side will investigate
the University's architecture - where whitewashed, neo-classical pillars mesh
seamlessly with snaking, ivy-swathed walls from Victorian England, mastering the
temporal and geographic spheres for a shadowy moment. This week, we enter
a program exquisitely isolated on the far reaches of North Campus, explore the
mysticism of a time-honored quadrangle and gauge student perspectives on the
University's architectural landscape.
PHOTO SBY SALAM RIDA
DESIGN BY ANNA LEIN-ZIELINSKI

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