Creativity @ EDSA & OLIN's Critical Regionalism.

Cal Poly SLO

Designers are creative. Over spring break I had the opportunity to travel to San Luis Obispo, CA for LABash2015. LABash is the student organized conference for students. During my time there I listen to speakers from all over the US and made a lot of good new friends. The one common thread throughout the entire conference that I found of value was ‘creativity’. These people were creative. All of the projects that they spoke about, the workshops that we participated in, and the dreams that each student and professional has is creative. It is just part of who they are at their core. This is how they express themselves and how they see the world. It comes out in their production and interests.  I felt very lucky to be amongst such creative people.

Each speaker’s presentation held fantastic examples of how they were able to creatively produce a design that answered the goals of the client and one which engaged the people it served. Kona Gray’s keynote session was certainly inspirational. He began his address by bringing us into his understanding of design and creativity. He showed many examples of how he receives design inspiration and how others accomplish things in a creative manner.

The second video which stood out to me was a video which discussed the collaborative efforts between an architect and a dance company. The collaboration was an experiential effort which employed the use of architectural design in a way that informed and inspired the dancing. The company wanted to explore the movement of ‘pinching’, or to pinch something. The artistic interpretation of this was done by using plastic balls about 6” in diameter. The balls were place in shaped plastic bags which then were vacuum shrunk. A variety of methods were in place to allow the designs bend the forms into various shapes. They could also control how rigid the objects were by letting air leak into the tightly formed bag.

These produced dynamic shapes were then obtained by the dancers. The choreography then created a dance which had the dancers interact with the objects on stage in ways which highlighted or reflected certain qualities found in the shape and rigidity of the shape. The object became a part of the dancers and the dancers a part of the object. I honestly don’t enjoy this type of development but certainly understand the transference and relevance of creative collaboration.

And this was Kona’s main point and portion of his presentation…collaboration. He presented a recent project where EDSA is collaborating with an architecture firm and landscape architecture firm. Here, as a group, as collaborators they are able to look at the museum design and grounds and see how they can employ techniques in order to produce a creative experience and environment for visitors.

The next key-notes speaker was Laurie Olin. Laurie has an interesting background. He grew up in Alaska and had some art training. Eventually he came to a point in his art career that he did not think that he would continue to develop in a way which would make him excellent. He though he had capped out. He left art and began pursuing landscape architecture.

Laurie spoke about the importance of place in design. To him, it is becoming a problem that designs are developing with little or no relationship to the contextual surroundings. Design, he believes, should access the genius loci. This is true for all design. From one region to another, he thinks, a designed landscape or building should reflect the characteristics of the culture and landscapes. The international style is often heavily critiqued for lacking a sense of place. One can be traveling though one city, say Hong Kong, and see and experience little to differentiate the experience from the experience in another city. The form and materials are simply not there. Kenneth Frampton wrote a very interesting piece on this in ‘Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance.’

I also had the opportunity to speak with two individuals. Our session was ‘Emerging Professionals: Transitioning from Academia to the Professional World. It was a great experience to be able to share the things that I have learned while in this profession and previous careers. The session was highlighted by the presence and participation of a few tenured professionals.

One Friday afternoon all of the attending student chapter presidents, I, and the attending ASLA staff met to discuss the past year and some of the things hoped for in the future. These collective meetings are always a great moment for the student bodies as the leaders actively participate and bring up issues that are important for them and their peers. Student chapter success stories and difficulties are discussed and ideas are shared amongst the group. It is, however, rather a short time and really only a jump start to conversations which need to be taking place throughout the entire year.

All-day charrette.

One of my favorite sessions was the all-day charrette session led by EDSA. In this session EDSA started us off with a brief introduction to some of the key actions which need to take place in a charrette in order to provide a design solution. We then received base maps and tools to complete a rough inventory and analysis of the site which was located on a Caribbean Island. The second half of the day was spent generating and illustrating a design.

Historic NPS Lighthouse

Overall, the trip was great. Meeting the people who I will be with as a professional was a great kickoff to the beginning of post-graduation professional life. It didn’t hurt that I spent my last day in CA driving the west coast visiting beeches, watching sea lions, and eating bar-b-q.