Mary Yan Arch 101 Fall 2011 The Narrative: an account of self, place, space, and time related to our final project. The one and a half hour mark approaches. Brain capacity brimming, ready to spill over; overly focused to the point of frustration; or just really, really wanting a damn cigarette already. Our precious break is announced and, save a few of us, we all single file for the back door. There was no doubt of the destination: outdoors. Specifically out to the courtyard which encircles our studio classrooms, which as architecture students, we live in on various days of the week. We all love being outside of our studio. That most of the designs for our final were created to live outdoors is proof of our love for the outside of the building. I chose an outdoor site because my concentration was outside of buildings. As much as I love living inside, I love the outside more. Yet not all of the courtyard is loved equally. The smokers line up by the rail overlooking the soccer field. There may be nothing happening on the astroturf. Maybe they like that the wind carries away the smoke from their cigarettes, or the view of the row houses and the vast, cloudless sky. If there is Sun- and there is never enough of it here- some of us follow it and stand by the northern wall of the courtyard, sit on the steps that descend into it. Some even venture out of the invisible perimeter of this property and visit the shaded ground of pine needles beneath the canopy of trees. There are places we do not visit. We rarely linger in the breezeway which is shaded and cold and used for travel. Likewise most of the stairs, which lead to an area that no doubt has been claimed by a different department. Even in the courtyard, by the menacingly large and heavy slabs of faces which are weathering away, or by the overgrown and poorly pruned tree, and weed-filled planters with no seats around them. Lastly, perhaps as a habit of human nature, we do not visit corners- as we cannot congregate there- and there is one very lonely corner in the courtyard where the concrete wall meets the covered-up windows of the inside studio. No one is ever seen there. Being able to choose a site for a design installation is a luxury. That's the way I saw it. One could choose an area where optimal forces will or will not act upon their design. Perhaps it was my desire to avert from the seemingly endless and thus daunting experiments necessary to understand the forces of wind, sun and rain in one particular place. Perhaps more so because the image of our instructor squatting down in the corner by our presentation wall in order to illustrate a conveyance was etched into my vision. He looked suddenly so small, vulnerable, yet comfortable. Regardless, I was drawn to the lonely cobwebbed corner that no one visited. There are a few images that came and stayed with me as I imagined the creation of my mobile: Jerry squatting in the corner by the presentation wall, a bee that Blake and I found hiding in a hole in the concrete wall by my corner, torn spider webs and the fins of my Siamese Fighting Fish. Out of the first two, I want to capture the intimacy of those places. The corner is already a corner, but it needed to be more sheltered, cozy, and necessary for the person in it. Perhaps even private. The beauty and movement of the no-longer-perfect spider web and the paper-crepe-like fish fin will ultimately inform the finished look of the veil which completes the corner as a place. Since my adoption of the lonely corner, my determination to change it to a well-loved place
has changed me as well. I realized and accepted more about myself. As I became a friend to the lonely, dirty corner I discovered its positive traits. Like myself, the corner was usually never part of the group. It was different- its interesting characteristics unseen but by a few with astute senses and a fondness for the ignored. To everyone else it may have been just a corner, but to me it became a private place in which to stand and watch the world go by, a place that was not affected by the cold rain but not shut off from it, a place of refuge from everything else and a place of wonder because of its possibilities. We became similar, the corner and I. I had the same social relationships: private, intimate only on a one-to-one level, a person people went to when they needed an ear or shoulder. A few times I wished I had gone with a place with wind so I could create beautiful flowing pieces like the rest of my classmates, or in the sun which I loved so much. But I had grown to love my corner, just as I hope to bring others to feel. Just like bringing to life a child or becoming an owner of a pet, I learned that ownership and responsibility were the same. During research and discovery I allowed myself to indulge. Just a bit. I wanted others to play with my mobile. I realized- just now as I write- that I have to learn how to play in order to create something to be played with. I had known that I had underlying issues of self-denial because even as a child I stared at my box of crayons as a coveted item which I yearned to use, yet I dared not because somewhere in my mind I thought I would ruin them and never have another box again. Or perhaps it was the fear of creating something imperfect and having it exist, or wasting such precious supplies on something that would be unloved. Playing when you have not done so in so long, having denied yourself for so long, is terrifying. There were times when I sat with all my supplies and stared at them. Just stared, because I was either bottlenecked or afraid to try to conceive because the idea had not completely gone through troubleshooting in my head. Just like the way I hope I will bring the corner out of its bleak place which garnered no attention, I slowly began to pull myself out of my own dark place by coloring it with those crayons I was so afraid to use. My design brings to life the little dark corner by its first human interaction at the door. When one steps out of the door their back is to the corner, with no incentive to walk towards the looming western retaining wall and every reason to approach the railing with its soccer game, congregating smokers and vast open sky. Here the little corner sends an invitation. As one pushes the door open, gears and pulleys will activate the orbital motion of the mobile suspended from the curious indentation in the ceiling of the corner. The round metal washers strike its neighbors creating a chime. A curious contraption stuck to the door and windows may not be visible immediately, but the sound will draw the attention of the person. Oh look, there was a sound from that direction and perhaps this contraption will lead me there. If someone is already there enjoying the privacy of what is now their little space, they will be alerted that someone may soon join them or interrupt their moment. The gears and pulleys were an indulgence of mine, wanting to play and learn, but they are also interesting visual guides that function and lead the visitor to the corner. The main piece of the installation is the mobile inspired by so many of its predecessors. The first mobile we may think of is a piece of art. Alexander Calder's whimsical creations, colorful, beautifully flowing and in perfect balance. Mobiles are not only great creations, but are great for creativity. As mobiles became popular as crib adornments for infants, their advantages were discovered. They aided in the development of the infant's eyes- their shape recognition, color differentiation, depth perception, and finally hand-eye coordination. Mobiles for infants became sources of great curiosity and entertainment. One could even venture to say that it may be a wonderful source of imagination. Finally, an inspiration that is not quite kinetic, and perhaps more
decorative than art- in this private and contained little space- reminiscent of a grand source of light and luxury: a chandelier. In some homes a bright complicated light is hung over the dining table- a place of gathering and sharing. In others it is placed in the grand entrance to invite others in, to show off the home's magnificence. No matter where, a chandelier announces that this is a place. The veil was an idea that I fought since the beginning of this project. I came across linear kinetic sculptures more than once. Shapes strung in a straight line and hung from the ceiling. Kinetic? Yes. Interesting? No. But I came to the conclusion that this little space was not complete without a sense of privacy. Like the bee hiding in the hole for shelter or a spider with its webbed space declared its own, luring its food. The veil made the installation whole. Its pattern continued the striation of the retaining wall beside it with interesting things to look at. It has a relationship with the chandelier as they may interact and are made of the same materials. It made the corner a space to walk into, perhaps even stay, and it did not shun the rest of the world like a solid wall or even window would. One could stay in the corner and when done admiring the chandelier could peek through the veil and watch the world go by. Likewise the world could look inside and be curious about this little corner or admire the wonder the person inside exudes. As the wind that has been mostly cut off by the retaining wall reaches the corner from above or upon its return from the East it interacts with the veil's small pieces and the installation has a relationship with its surroundings. For me, this corner installation's existence is important. Our breaks from class is not unlike breaks everywhere else. The relief from mandated civilized focus is now universal. The California law for breaks for every two hours worked for the blue and white collared workers, the recesses that elementary school children sit at the edges of their seats waiting for, the prolonged saunters from one class to another in the halls of middle and high school, and perhaps the greatest American break of all: the hard-earned one-week vacation for a long year's worth of work. We all need breaks and the courtyard is our top choice of destinations. We are not all smokers, sometimes we are on an off day and not feeling social, or perhaps we are feeling stagnant and uninspired. The corner creates a space for all of the above. It is an alternative, and hopefully an enticing one. Enough that more than one person can appreciate it at once sometimes and have conversations through the veil. With the installation of this design, the corner has become more friendly and inviting- its positive qualities exposed. I see myself in the installation. As a quiet student in the class who never participated, whose heart palpated furiously and face grew red when feeling courageous enough to do so, from the beginning of this semester I made my voice exist. Just as the corner, which was always there, seems to now exist. I invited others to join me in exploring the world, creating group activities and made friends. As stagnant as the corner was, it now draws attention so that others may wonder with it, perhaps stay long enough to watch the world with it.
An account of self, place, space, and time related to our final project