30 January, 2010

Interview with OMA

I gave a tour of Princeton University to a group of 50 students from Beijing, China. They asked me what I would do after Princeton, and I told them about my OMA interview: “it's the firm that designed the CCTV building.” The crowd gasped.

Apparently, getting an interview is a big deal. There are discussion forums about this on Archinect.com. They will grill you, these forums say. They'll tell you your work sucks. And they will be distracted, haphazard, rude. None of this was true.

I got an email the day before my interview was scheduled, informing me that I had not responded to their invitation, and asking me if I was still interested. I was shocked. The Skype interview was scheduled for the next day. Later I found the original email in my spam folder.

Yes, yes, yes, I'd love to interview with OMA. I would be speaking with Adrianne Fisher and Chris van Duijn, architects involved in projects such as the Prada stores, Casa da Musica, and the Maison à Bordeaux, my favorite OMA project.

I was nervous. I made a list of six excellent reasons why OMA should hire me. I was sleepless the night before and slept through the alarm in the morning. I barely had time to shower but I thought I should, just in case they wanted a video conference. They did.

And then I was talking to Adrianne and Chris like I knew them. We were very direct about everything. I told them I thought OMA's work was relevant, thought-provoking, and historic. But that I knew that as an intern I would probably be a cog in the machine. They were interested in the work I did at Kilo. I told them I wanted to go to grad school. They told me they liked my work but did not have a summer position available. They said they might offer me a longer-term position as an intern starting in August. Chris jokingly said that all the rumors and horror stories were true. But I think he was being honest.

"Anything else?" they asked (I had only covered 3 out of the 6 reasons). No. We smiled cordially and said goodbye. That was it.

I like two things about OMA. The first is their comprehensive approach to architecture, one that allows diverse intellectual disciplines to mediate architecture as much as architecture mediates them. "OMA is as much about ideas," says Koolhaas, "as it is about buildings." The second is the social aspect. There is an underlying sense of hope, audacity, and optimism in a lot of their projects. Koolhaas says that it is naïve to think that you can create subversive Architecture. Architecture is about teamwork and involves a lot of people, both in its making and use. The field as a whole is dependent on clients. But architects can exercise agency by subjectively interpreting demands.

21 January, 2010

The Last Day of 2009

It was the last day of 2009 that I would spend in Princeton. School had ended and most people had left. And then it snowed a lot.

Late at night that day, I finally finished all my grad school applications and stepped out of the Architecture building. The world had transformed. A thick blanket of snow covered everything. The steps of Frist were no longer visible at all.











20 January, 2010

The Process

Somewhere along the way, all other thingsgrades, deadlines, food, sleepcease to matter. You live inside the project. Dimensions, circulation, lighting, composition, materialitythese things run through your head as you walk down McCosh walk. Even several days after my final review, I woke up in Paris from a dream in which I was putting the finishing touches to my senior studio project. Here, I am putting up only the process images of the model. It is completely out of context, but here's what happened:

The day before final review, after having worked on this for many hours, I had to leave for lunch. Previously I had been working on the computer model as well, saving it constantly. Before heading out, I actually tried to find the "Save" option on this thing. I was afraid it wouldn't be the same when I got back.

17 January, 2010

A Country Without Architecture

On Tuesday, January 12th 2010, the architecture of Port-au-Prince crumbled to the ground, crushing many thousands under its weight. In New Orleans, buildings had stood defiantly even as people had been swept away. Here, there is an apocalyptic landscape. My heart sank when I saw the image of the Presidential Palace because it symbolized the complete and utter helplessness of a people. Architecture is no longer synonymous with shelter, security, order, beauty.

The caretaker of an orphanage explains in a CNN report why all the children are being kept outdoors permanently: "[The house is] buckling and we can hear it, it makes noises like it's falling, rocks just fall off of the side of it, kind of constantly, so we're certainly never gonna go back in it."

I can't even begin to describe how I feel about the whole situation. Sometimes I am numb with horror, even callous. But I had a nightmare in which I was carrying a small baby out of the wreckage. It was my little sister.

Photos from the United Nations Development Program,
used under the Creative Commons License.

06 January, 2010

Bonne Année 2010!

Just got back to Princeton, one last time.