სიდარიუმი – ფლორის გენეტიკური ინფორმაციის ბანკი გრანდ კანიონზე. გრძივი ჭრილი
Seedarium - Flora Genetic Information Conservation Bank in the Grand Canyon, AZ. Longitudinal Section
მის ვან დერ როეს გამოსახულება მაქკორმიკის სახელობის სტუდენტური ცენტრის შესასვლელზე. არქიტექტორი: OMA
Mies Van der Rohe's Portrait on the entrance of McCormick Tribune Campus Center. Architect: OMA
ქრაუნ ჰოლი ღია კარის გამოფენისას
Crown Hall during the Open House Exhibition
ქრაუნ ჰოლი, მაგისტრების სტუდიის ნაწილი
Crown Hall Master's students studio space
კოლუმბიის კოლეჯის პერფორმანსის ხელოვნების ცენტრი. კონცეფციის კოლაჟი
Columbia College Performing Arts Center. Concept collage
ზებრა მოლუსკის შემსწავლელი ცენტრი სკეიტპარკით. მაკეტი.
Zebra Mussel (dreissena polymorpha) Research Center and Skate Park. Model
ზებრა მოლუსკის შემსწავლელი ცენტრის წყლის გაფილტრვის სისტემა
Zebra Mussel Research Center Water filtration system
ზებრა მოლუსკის შემსწავლელი ცენტრი, ლაბორატორიის ინტერიერი
Zebra Mussel Research Center Lab interior
დიპლომების გადაცემის ცერემონია, არქიტექტურის კოლეჯის დეკანი ბატონი ვილ არეტსი და რუსუდანი.
College of Architecture dean Mr. Wiel Arets and Rusudan on Commencement ceremony
ბაკალავრის სადიპლომო პროექტის მზადების პროცესი
Bachelor's thesis preparation process
This interview is part of network’s series about the next generation of Georgian architects.
-Why did you choose architecture?
I grew up in a family of two generations of architects and I often think how independently I made my career decision. I guess the environment influenced me a lot. I remember I was very young when my grandfather took me to his studio “Saqsophlproekti” and showed gigantic urban models. That was when I decided that I wanted to do something similar someday.
The atmosphere at home was always creative. My parents did their best to develop different skills in us. When the time came for me to pick up a profession, I decided that architectural education was so universal, that it would allow me to work in almost any other field in case I changed my mind.
– You studied at three different architecture schools. Which one was the most important for you and why? Can you compare them?
All three schools played different roles. I spent two years at GTU and I think I took architecture history, drawing and architecture graphics from there the best. Even the things that I was skeptical about turned out to be very useful later (for instance, I would always laugh, wondering how in earth I would ever use technique of shading, but today I use its basic principals in Photoshop).
During the third year I transferred to Vilnius Gediminas Technical University and I found out that I had absolutely no knowledge for architecture design. My classmates were working independently, sharing their thoughts with studio instructors or having interesting discussions… the environment was pretty competitive. What was not “cool” for Georgian students, such as participating in classes, asking questions, talking about their project or asking for opinion, – was obligatory there. Because of that I learned a lot from my classmates. The competitive environment would force us to work non-stop, and a friendly attitude of our professors eased expressing ideas and being more open to criticism.
The biggest change for me happened in Lithuania: Together with keeping up with classes I had to learn different computer software in a semester, what was very hard in the beginning. However, I found out that I actually love competition since it motivates me, so during the diploma defense I had one of the strongest projects between the classmates.
Master’s program at Illinois Institute of Technology is built around the technical aspects of architecture; however, the conceptual and aesthetic sides are still very important. There I was taught that I should not separate buildings in architectural, structural and mechanical parts, but I was supposed to find an integrated solution for it. This made the design process much more exciting.
– Can one feel the spirit of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at IIT? What was your first impression?
Mies van der Rohe played a huge role in the development of the institute. After he was chosen as the head of the College of Architecture, he created the college program, most of what is still used today. Besides that, he developed a master plan of the campus and designed majority of the buildings on it. IIT has the first building Mies built in the States (‘Minerals and Metals’ which accommodates a workshop for architecture students, where they build models and furniture. There is everything one needs, from table saws to digital appliances and 3D printers), the only religious building he has ever designed (Students call it the God box; it’s a black cube chapel with minimalistic interior), several student housing, some department buildings, and of course Crown Hall, where the College of Architecture is located.
Mies’ influence is big even in the new buildings: SOM’s buildings are like an imitation of Crown Hall, Helmut Jahn’s dormitory keeps the minimal approach, and Rem Koolhaas’ student center has a gigantic portrait of Mies on the entrance… Main cafeteria says “Less is More” with double meaning, and small cafés offer Mies van der Roast coffee… I could see Mies everywhere, so it’s not easy to forget him. Even if I did forget him, large groups of tourists or visiting professors would definitely remind me how important my place of study is.
The first time I arrived on campus, it was raining cats and dogs and I was in a rush. Later during the first two weeks they would rush us to different happenings, so I still don’t know what my first reaction was.
I started to appreciate the environment later, especially Crown Hall. Every student has a place of his own in there, and we stayed there from early mornings till 2 AM (or often through the whole night). It’s the only building on campus which is always occupied. Interior constantly changes, the spaces transform from season to season and with different daylight. It’s very crowded and noisy at daytime, busy with students and tourists. And at night it’s quiet (mostly with stressful silence). There’s always someone sleeping in the lower core, especially in the end of semesters… a lot of students dislike working in Crown, since the whole upper core is open and students of different age spend time in the same space. I liked it there, because the openness made communication easier. You could walk to students from different studios, see their work and talk to strangers about projects, models and ideas.
By the end of semesters models erect into mounts on tables, some students build enormous structural installations… sculptures and photographs appear randomly… the environment is very creative.
– You have recently defended your master’s project and graduated. Who do you regard as your biggest teacher? What is the most important you learned from your teachers?
It is hard for me to point out individuals, but there are still some people who played the biggest role in my development: back in Tbilisi it would be Marina Ivanishvili, who taught me drawing, and later sculpting. Marina would teach me spatial thinking as she shared her philosophy about different aspects of life.
In Chicago, I would name Lukasz Kowalczyk, who was the instructor in the Sleep Institute project studio. He supervised me for a semester and even though I had really tough times because of his extremely demanding teaching method, he taught me a lot. We had huge restrictions because of the specific requirements of the project, but he would still manage to find poetic sides and highlight the importance of concept, starting from the very beginning of the process, when he asked to give material expressions to our abstract dreams, till the end, when we had to draw building assembly details. I started thinking about the integration of different fields in his studio.
And finally, my parents were the best teachers (no matter how banal this sounds). They were the most objective and critical, what made me work very hard on myself. There are some things they taught what helps me a lot: first – I need to find joy in working on something that is my responsibility to develop anyway. Second – criticizing others is easy but nonproductive; I should rather demonstrate what might be a better solution. Third: no matter how good an idea is, it’s nothing unless packed well. And finally – always have a “Plan B”
– These are some really good principles! What kind of a relationship you think a student and a teacher should have?
Definitely friendly! Students, especially juniors, have problems expressing and sharing their thoughts to strangers, because they are not sure whether or not their ideas are valuable. All the buildings by great masters were inspired by their personal experience and small stories – what did you see, how did you feel yourself when you saw it, what was the feeling you received, what would you change… all these thoughts are important.
Teachers who look at you from above and make you thank for their existence won’t get you to a progressive result. Teachers who took me as just a less experienced colleague were the ones who taught me the most. It’s crucial to feel free in order to open up and express your ideas. The ideas that I thought were the funniest and the most absurd (such as designing the whole building according to sleepwalkers’ sleep habits), often turned into the final concepts of my design, because the instructors who are more experienced and have a better developed vision, made me say everything I had in mind.
– Your studio projects are interesting not only as architectural solutions, but also from the graphical point of view. Did your drawing style differ you from other students in Chicago?
During the first semester computer renderings were the most popular, of course, and hardly anyone did hand renderings. I was lucky to have ended up in John DeSalvo’s studio. Apparently John was teaching freehand rendering and illustrated architectural guides of cities. As the mid-term approached, I showed my sketches embarrassed and took his permission to render my building with that technique. He was very happy and pushed me, saying it was even better than computer renderings. I guess I should be thanking John that I experimented so much in graphic expressions later.
My sketches attracted a lot of attention. Even strangers were coming over, taking a permission to photograph them. Some asked me to teach them my technique and later a lot of students started freehand rendering.
Besides the people from college, the invited critics also gave very positive feedback; everyone was complementing, especially for finding such a creative way of self expression in a technology-oriented school.
I would like to use this chance and tell you about the attitude of the school about architecture graphics: every single professor of the college thought that photo realistic renderings, which are very popular between Georgians, take away the spirit from buildings. They say that we (architects) are not real estate agents to care about every single yarn of a carpet; we should have other priorities and should not be wasting so much time on realistic renderings.
– I agree, especially when I see renderings which don’t even show the context of the proposal. Now please tell us about the project awarded by “Chicago Women in Architecture” last year.
It was my first project at IIT. The whole studio was working on the same topic – the design of Columbia College Performing Art Center, which was supposed to be the college center too. The dean of the college was the actual client; he showed us the existing inventories, introduced to dancers and told about his requests.
The work process was very interesting: at first we met dancers, then different specialists; some were explaining about the acoustic needs of a performance hall, others – lighting, structures, building skin, or other specific needs.
The biggest complain of the dean was that students from different departments had no common space to interact. Therefore, my proposal which contained two buildings, were connected by a glass tube. One building accommodated rehearsal rooms, the other was for the dance theater, and the tube had student functions in it, which allowed students to mix and meet each other. The building layout and open air performance space involved the neighborhood into college activities.
The project received a very positive feedback and Chicago Women in Architecture Foundation awarded me for it. After the award ceremony some members of the foundation came to me one after another and thanked for using the dying art of hand rendering.
– A while ago Washington Post published Phyllis Richman’s answer on a question asked by Harvard 52 years ago, about how how she would balance a career in city planning with her “responsibilities” to her husband and possible future family. Back then she didn’t reply to this offensive letter. Today this letter shows what the attitude used to be towards young women who were dreaming to work in this “manly profession). Have you ever felt the same position form a professor during your studies either in Georgia, Lithuania or USA, only because you are a woman?
I haven’t felt anything different in Lithuania or the States. However, unfortunately there were several professors in GTU, who didn’t take girls seriously, saying there will be no architects from us, we will just get married and stay at home. I am hoping this attitude will gradually change there, too
– Going through your portfolio is like reading an illustrated book. Every project demonstrates how seriously you thought about them and how much you enjoyed the work process. It seems to me that you sketched every page with ease and never had problems in the process. Have you had days of frustration and desperation, when you thought: “I should have picked another profession”?
The entire process of study was filled with frustrations: first of all, it is physically very hard – you always have to make a choice between sleeping and eating. I’ve had a semester, when I slept four hours in every two days during three months and I nearly ended my career there. Eventually I got better at time management and now I defended my thesis with no all-nighter at all.
Secondly, the creative process itself is pretty stressful: there is always a new challenge and after millions of unsuccessful tries you must find the right key for it. It might sound a bit masochistic to admit that that’s the process I love the most: the thought process might take weeks before you find the concept for the spine of the entire project. During this time I get annoyed very often and become introverted until I find what I like; usually those thoughts come in the most unexpected times (mostly during the shower). But reaching “eureka” makes me run around and hug everyone around me.
I try to sketch during the whole time. I keep my sketchbook near and I illustrate any idea I have. I like thinking of stories; even the characters in the entourage have their own stories, what helps me creating the general atmosphere.
– What could you tell us about your Master’s Project? Who was your studio instructor? How was the work process?
I worked under the supervision of Martin Felsen. Martin has one of the most successful firms in Chicago (UrbanLab), where they concentrate mostly on ecology-oriented projects.
I worked with him during two semesters. Before the thesis I was involved in the design of “Filter Island” with the landscape architecture students. The island was located on the east side of Chicago Loop and was filtering Chicago River through wetlands before it connected to the Lake Michigan. It included research centers researching invasive species of Illinois (my research center was researching one of the fresh water mussels, which apparently came from the Black Sea).
During the same semester we were supposed to come up with the master’s project topic and start a research for it. Right when I was having another moment of desperation, I stumbled upon a beautiful illustration of Noah’s Ark online and I realized I wanted to dedicate my project to eco problems and preservation of genetic information. I talked to Martin and he asked what I thought about seed banks.
Seed banks are special institutions in charge of global flora conservation. Because of the extension of urban areas, change of land functions, global warming, and the introduction of invasive species, flora faces a huge threat of extinction; species of plants disappear with such a speed that they cannot even catalogue them. Because of that huge groups of volunteers gathered to collect seeds, dry them and ship them to different seed banks, where researchers study them and place them for specially designed freezers. This way metabolism stops and species are saved for future.
There are several seed banks in the world today, but the speed of eco problems is so high that they are unable to conserve every species. Therefore, the first part of my project was to develop a global network. This network consisted of seed banks of different scale and together acted as a giant back-up collection.
The second half of the project was creating a prototype of an international seed bank. From September to December I was working on an independent research, during which I was supposed to determine technical details and find precedents; from January till the end of March I worked on the design, and April was dedicated to presentation and models.
The project was awarded by Masters Project Award of Excellence by IIT College of Architecture, and was a finalist for a very prestigious student fellowship by the Art Institute of Chicago.
– The real studies start now. How do you imagine your life after the student years?
I am very excited for the future. A transitional period is starting now for me – I am changing my student status to a work status and I am currently waiting for an employment authorization. During this time I had some very successful interviews and in three days I plan to move to NYC.
I would like to spend some years here to get more experience. I believe, that I still have a lot to learn and that I can bring and share more to Georgians if I get more work experience, too.
– I enjoyed your blog named “Zebra with Kaleidoscope Eyes” a lot, especially because a zebra is my favorite animal, and a kaleidoscope – the favorite toy. That’s why I decided to ask you some question. I wish you success and I look forward to hear about your new victories! I hope you can continue to cooperate with us from New York. Thank you for the interview.
Thank you very much! I am also wishing you good luck in such a wonderful initiation of online magazine.