Author Archive for Pablo Garcia



Tuesday, 12 Jan 2010, 630pm, @ The New Hazlett Theater. Admission free.

Pop Culture and the the city of Pittsburgh – what we are watching, reading and listening to – both good and bad. We will discuss television, movies, printed material, the internet and music, and how it goes from a niche phenomenon to a full-on pop-cultural extravaganza. How have these influences changed Pittsburgh and the region, our population and our perception of ourselves in the larger world – both positive and negative, and is any of it within our control?

Our panel includes Pablo Garcia, from the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon; Emmai Alaquiva, of Ya Momz House; and Kathy Savitt, of Lockerz … we will be moderated by Rob Rogers, editorial cartoonist and president of the ToonSeum.

Cocktails and conversation to follow. Show your love!



Architecture does not live by clients alone, nor does it spring from the mind of an unemployed architect. Architecture competitions are sometimes organized to solicit ideas, to see a range of options, or to generate publicity for a particular issue. Competitions are usually split between two paradigms: competitions that seek to select an architect for a real project (institutions like universities and museums tend to d do this), and “ideas” competitions, looking for (sometimes unbuildable) proposals that are not intended to be built. The prize for the former is the commission; the latter a prize, like money or merely glory. Sometimes competitions are OPEN, allowing anyone to enter. Others are INVITED, meaning a list of architects is first determined and then the competition is launched for those on the list.

Examples? P.S.1, contemporary art museum affiliated with MoMA, holds an annual summer competition supporting “young architects”




The Highline, a newly-opened elevated park in New York, held two competitions, an initial ideas competition open to all, then a formal competition to select an architect, won by Diller Scofidio+Renfro/Field Operations.

So why do I mention this? Two reasons: Competitions are a good, focused way to get involved in projects long before you are able to build buildings on your own (about 10 years from now for you 2nd year students). How to find them? Websites like Death by Architecture, Bustler and Archinect post competitions with deadline info and links to official sites.

The other reason? Selfish. I recently entered two competitions, and I am plugging them here for votes. The first competition is called Common of Houses, an ideas competition to re-imagine the UK parliamentary residences in the wake of financial abuses. My entry is BICAMERA HOUSE. Vote for me on the sidebar here.

I didn’t quite make the cut for ReBurbia, an ideas competition rethinking suburbia. There are twenty finalists, and you can vote here for the winners. But since I didn’t make the finals, I post some of my entry here for the free publicity (shameless abuse of power) and as a demonstration of what a competition entry might look like, complete with descriptive text. This was made by me and two others in just under a week of work. It is called “Keeping Up Appearances”:






“The Jones family, like many, owns an oversized suburban home rapidly depreciating in value. They are long-time suburbanites with multiple cars, long commutes, and suburban ideals of neighborhood conformity. As nationwide tensions grow in the face of financial unease, the entire neighborhood steps up their usual glances at fellow suburbanites’ lifestyles to find local indicators of suburbia’s future.

More than 50% of America lives in suburbia. It remains popular, especially to populations new to the suburban lifestyle. Meanwhile, alternative employment models have made suburbia increasingly viable, as new generations telecommute and make friends online. Social networks are no longer limited to physical proximity, as employment and online communities collapse spatial barriers.

The Smiths, city dwellers since graduating from college, move to the suburbs for more space. They move into the Jones’ house that has been subdivided to comfortably accommodate two families. They share entry and circulation, but have private quarters. The Joneses, keeping their consumption conspicuous, divide their house into zones visible to neighbors through windows, and “blind spots”—places in their house invisible to prying eyes. The Smiths live in the Jones’ blind spots, satisfying neighborhood expectations, telecommuting and living a sustainable lifestyle. The Joneses, meanwhile, live in the Smith blind spots, just outside their webcam cameras, giving the Smiths a suburban equivalent online.”


Architecture Books

I will post my own recommendations as a comment to Kai’s post about summer reading, but I thought it useful to make a post not just about architecture books, but how to think about architecture books. 

First, different strategies if you’re looking READ or looking to BUY books on architecture. We have a library on campus with a decent collection of art and architecture books, and we have bookstores that don’t stop you from sitting in a chair and perusing books all day long. In that vein, almost nothing is off limits for reading. Monographs, histories, manifestos, “themed” or “curated” books, techniques and technology–all is in play. Go for it. 

As for owning: you guys, for the most part, are on tight budgets, so shelling out $50 for a book is a special event, maybe Christmas, birthdays, etc. Try to think carefully about what you buy, looking to INVEST in a book that will be a book you can come back to again and again for years to come. What does that mean? Well, there are basic categories of books to consider:

A. Monographs. These are books dedicated to a single architect or artist, often a showcase of their best or most famous work. This can range from “coffee table” books, like “Richard Meier Architect”, or conceptual showcases, like “S,M,L,XL” (OMA/Rem Koolhaas). Pros: In-depth look at an architect’s work, usually lots of drawings and models and process. Cons: Usually expensive, and it’s only about that architect, without criticism.

B. Manifestos. These are books written by architects. These have been around a long time, and often tell people what architecture should be. From Vitruvius (De Architectura, aka The Ten Books of Architecture) to Le Corbusier (Vers Une Architecture) these are part monograph, part theory, part essay. Pros: Sometimes historically significant, usually provocative, things to think about. Cons: Singular in scope, and sometimes anachronistic (Venturi’s “Learning from Las Vegas”), not too many drawings or process. 

C. Histories. Books usually written by historians compiling important projects and theories in some context, usually chronologically or regionally, or culturally, or thematically. Lots of words, fewer images. These range from deep focus on a narrow field, such as Modernism, 1900-1945, or broad strokes, like Spiro Kostof’s “A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals”, covering the history of the built environment (My first architecture book from Arch. History 101 and still sits on my bookshelf). Pros: History (duh). Cons: The writer matters to make the subject come to life, some assume knowledge you may not have. 

D. Compilations. These are similar to Histories, but usually more images than words, showcasing themed projects. Recent examples of this are the popular “Architecture Now” series. Pros: Great survey, like a curated exhibit. Cons: Fluffy, usually only photographs, few drawings. 

E. Exhibition Catalogs. Books printed on the occasion of an exhibit, documenting the work exhibited, usually in some detail and reproducing the show works. Lots of images, usually accompanied by select essays by curators and outside guests. Pros: themed and good documentation. Cons: Finding good exhibits, usually thin books that leave you wanting more.

F. Essay Compilations. Lots of words, few images, and possibly by multiple authors, edited together to be themed. Pros: Like many manifestos in one place, good bang for your buck. Cons: Not many drawings or images, some essays will be duds.

G. Reference. Books that teach and detail how to do something, or how others have done things. This can be a “textbook” for structures or other technology, or guides on how to use equipment like woodworking or digital rendering. There are also excellent books on architecture technology like those by Francis Ching, or a series of books called “Details of Modern Architecture”, making new technical drawings of famous historical buildings. Pros: Will last a long time and be useful. Cons: Not to read, but usually to pull off the shelf on demand. 

H. Periodicals. Not technically books, but can be a wonderful reference for contemporary work. International editions (Abitare, A+U, Domus) are beautifully published, tons of images, many pages per issue, and as a result are expensive for subscriptions ($100s per year). You can, from time to time, find back issues sold cheap or even tossed out and available for free. Pros: New info every month. Cons: Heavy, take up lots of space, and expensive. Not always in english. 

So what to do with all this? My recommendations:

Know your limits. Not into reading? Don’t spend money on a book that you won’t be into or won’t get around to reading. Spend that money on a book of drawings or images that will inspire. Into reading? Find a book by a writer who really speaks to you. Not every writer can write well. 

Format. Softcover books are cheaper than hardcover editions. They are also lighter, which will matter as you acquire books and will be packing and unpacking books for the next four years (at least). Also, glossy image-heavy books are heavier than word books with black and white images. But softcover books will break their spine when you try to lay them on a flatbed scanner (not cool).

Content. I say look for books that have drawings, no matter the subject. You are young architects, and you will spend a lot of time drawing and figuring out how to draw what you see and what you imagine. So aim at books that contain drawings, process work, models, and even unbuilt projects. Find books that don’t just act as portfolios for architects, showing the pretty built work, but also the messy underbelly of what it takes to make architecture. 

Some specific recommendations to come…


Signing Off.

An old friend of mine attended West Point. When I asked him about weapons training, and what his favorite weapon was, he replied “a platoon”. Confused, I asked him what that meant. In the army, a platoon, a group of soldiers, is considered a single weapon. An officer points a platoon as he would a gun, and they act as one weapon attacking and executing orders unified and unflinching. This doesn’t mean that you have all been performing as machines, but that there is strength in mobilizing a group of like-minded individuals. Two people don’t do twice as much work as one, they do five times as much. There is safety and success in numbers. 

In 1906, Francis Galton, British scientist, went to a fair and saw locals trying to guess the weight of an ox to win a prize. When he examined the guesses, he found that in over 800 guesses, no one guessed correctly. But what surprised him was that the arithmetic mean of all the guesses came within one pound. The group was more accurate than any individual. This experiment has been repeated time and time again, proving that the group, the collective effort, the potential of many easily supersedes the work of the individual. 

Many lament the individual nature of architectural education, especially in a world that is increasingly collaborative and a profession that relies on constant interaction with consultants, clients, and contractors. But those who want to make more group work for students forget the informal education and extra-curricular time you all spend in a highly collaborative and social environment called studio, and, frankly, college. Your greatest potential is in the work you do outside of studio while talking to each other about architecture and process. The questions you ask each other and attempt to answer are a necessary complement to the formal education you receive. Those who want to make “time management” a priority and restrict studio work to studio class time underestimate the education you give yourselves in studio and as an architecture collective.

This blog is such an important part of that. This informal conversation, kept safe for posterity, is a unique advantage you have over those who merely attend classes and do homework. That is why this blog must continue with the incredible energy sustained this semester. It is a reflection of your drive to learn more, but also reciprocally the vehicle through which that drive continually expands. 

I will occasionally post to your blog as you progress through the years, but this is my last post as coordinator. As you can see, the blog is now called “2nd year blog” and Kai has already begun making plans for the Fall. Rest well this summer.

Signing off. 



Final Review Guests

This is the lineup of stellar jurors we have assembled for the Final Review:

Mack Scogin, of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam, Atlanta. (Architect of the New CMU Gates Center, currently under construction)

Jennifer Maigret, Washington University, St. Louis

Mick Kennedy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Jeana Ripple, Studio Gang, Chicago

Emily Sullivan, Matthew Baird Architects, New York

Hal Hayes, H3 Architecture, New York (CMU Alumnus)

Phil Goodfellow, Montgomery Sissam Architects, Toronto

Matt Galvin, Montgomery Sissam Architects, Toronto

Tom Morbitzer, TUG Studio, New York

Plus a group of familiar CMU faculty faces.

Don’t embarrass me…


Assignment SUN: Final

Below is the final assignment for the sun/shadow project. Before you all freak out and groan bloody murder, note that this is not an elaborate assignment. Make the drawing composite using your existing data, and make it a graphically competent drawing: consider lineweights, legibility, and information communication. This should not take too long; you have already done the hard work of collecting the data every week all semester. Put it all in one drawing. 





Click on the above image for Final Assignment 


Click on the above image for Final Assignment

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