reminiscing: why i’m an architect

About this time five years ago, I was sitting in the courtyard of Goldsmith Hall on the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas. It is there that I sat on a worn wooden bench taking photos of the petal-filled space. It was so quiet, I remember there being a slight chill in the air, and I was all alone. I loved that courtyard. I still love it. The space has an innate sense of calm that’s not shut off from the frenzy on the other side of the windows, but has the ability to recontextualize it and add some measure of beauty to the madness.

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Was I taking a break from a studio project? Ah no, that was my first semester without studio. Having finished the majority of my architecture degree requirements at that point, my schedule was filled with English and humanities classes. Perhaps that’s why I found myself back in the arms of good ol’ Goldsmith, visiting an old friend, a place I felt so comfortable in. This is a photo that has come to define me, and in many ways still does. It’s been my avatar on so many sites for so long, I don’t know if I’ll ever change it. Granted it’s not the best photo, not the best composed, and not the greatest quality, but I cherish it because it’s a moment from that time – that four years of time when I became an architect.

I was recently browsing one of my favorite blogs, Life of an Architect, and started thinking about that title. The life of an architect. The architect behind it, Bob Borson, is referring to his specific life as an architect, but moreso about the life of architects in general. He’s a University of Texas alum and practicing architect in Dallas, and I always find it interesting to read about and from architects, because it’s the life I could’ve had if I had stuck with practicing. But the truth is, I will always consider myself an architect. And my life will always be that of an architect. The truth is, I never wanted to be an architect and ended up in the major purely by accident (a result of some extreme procrastination that ended up being the best mistake ever). The truth is, as much as I am infatuated with art and as crap I am at architectural design, my perspective of the world will always be that of an architect. And the truth is that I will always consume way too much coffee, stay up all night all too often for no apparent reason, write with the black Precise V5s I buy in bulk because yes I have a favorite pen, obsess about details no one else cares about, and absolutely whole-heartedly love architecture.

I may not be able to legally call myself an architect, and practicing architects may frown on my choice to stay out of the field (trust me, I was crap at practicing), but that alone doesn’t make one an architect. So yeah, that’s why I’m an architect.

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new york foods i crave

I like to eat. But I’m by no means a gourmet. I like to try international foods, and I especially like foods that are quick and cheap. Therefore, New York was basically heaven. And New York has pretty stringent food safety standards, so I saw nothing sketchy about getting something from a truck. In China, however … I’m way more cautious and therefore less adventurous. It’s a shame. Maybe once I’m sure my stomach has turned to steel again I’ll venture out more.

Anyhow, here are four of the foods I really, really miss from good ol’ New York City. To me, these foods are quintessentially New York.

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1. Supermarket Sushi – The first time I had sushi was in New York. To be honest, I’ve never had real proper sushi, just the sushi that comes in a little plastic box and can be found in virtually every supermarket (at least every New York supermarket). The first few times I was a bit iffy, but after a while I fell in love. Especially because it’s so darn easy to eat. And one cannot live on deli sandwiches alone.

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2. Dirty Water Dogs – Err … yeah. Normally I don’t call them “dirty water dogs” (my friend A likes to call them that). I do admit they’re a bit disgusting, but I like them! I only partake sometimes though! Too often and I’d probably keel over before I turned 30. Those little hot dog carts are everywhere and a hot dog is usually only a buck (some places charge up to two, which is a ripoff). By no means am I saying that they’re good, but after a day of museum hopping or shopping, nothing hits the spot like a classic American hot dog. Ketchup only, please.

However, if you’re looking for a really good hot dog, you can’t go wrong with New York hot dog staples like Gray’s Papaya (classic, LOVE), Crif Dogs (good dogs with good flavor options – like bacon), or Asia Dog (artisan dogs with trippy Asian toppings … kimchi, anyone?).

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3. Falafel Sandwich – Otherwise known as falafel on pita, this is the classic food truck food. Again, these trucks can in no way compare to places like Mamoun’s Falafel in Greenwich Village, but is Mamoun’s on every street corner? Nope. You can’t beat the convenience of grabbing a four-dollar falafel sandwich on your way to school (at the truck a block from your apartment), or leaving work (a block from your office), or between classes (at either gate of your university), et cetera. In addition to the falafel sandwiches, these halal trucks all serve the standard fare of falafel, chicken, or lamb on rice.

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4. Bagels – Last but definitely not least, the bagels. I always thought people were overstating how great New York’s bagels were. I concede that I was wrong on that point. THE BAGELS ARE AMAZING. Once I discovered the amazing-ness of a real New York hand-rolled water-boiled bagel, I couldn’t turn back. How could I have been so naive as to buy those prepackaged supermarket bagels? Ugh. The only downside is that you gotta eat these fresh, so you can’t get these on the street (do not buy a bagel from a food cart – it’s soooo not the same) and it’s more of a morning food than an all-day everywhere thing.

I usually go with a plain bagel or sometimes asiago cheese if the place has it, no spread or toasting. Oh, and pair a bagel with a Greek frap (aka frappé) and I’m in heaven. Best place to go for the combo? New York City Bagel and Coffee House (NYCBCH) in Astoria, Queens. Absolute Bagels on the UWS is also great, but unfortunately no fraps there.

And most unfortunate of all? New York doesn’t have any of this. Well, they have poor imitations of these things and they probably have really good real sushi … but it just ain’t the same. Sigh.

goodbye, empire state of mind

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been in Texas, and I gotta say that even though I love Texas, my mind is still in New York. The landscape just seems so wrong … so flat and spread out and boring. Time moves at half the pace, like everything happens in slow-motion. Basically, I feel like I’m kinda trapped since I can’t really go anywhere without a long drive and there’s no walkability or anything interesting close by. Well, there is stuff to do downtown, but good gracious that’s a lot of effort and time!

My internship has started and so far it’s going well, but I haven’t really had a chance to explore what kind of interestingness this city has to offer. Everything’s so spread out that I really need to research things before going out. If I just started wandering like I used to in New York, I would probably end up lost and dehydrated, so … yeah. There are no views like from the Empire State Building, but I’m open. By the end of the summer I probably will’ve adjusted to the pace down here, just in time to be re-amazed by the wonders of New York.

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circles + circles + circles = overkill

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is being re-posted here for my own sake.]

Even though it’s technically still spring, it feels like summer. I’m down in Texas for the time being, and whew it’s humid! In the spirit of spring cleaning I went through some of my old architecture stuff … and I can’t believe I actually kept some of this stuff. After living in a fairly small Manhattan apartment, I’m beginning to see how useless this extra stuff is.

About three years ago I was in an experimental organic architecture studio, where what we ended up creating were less like buildings and more like art pieces. It was fairly complicated, but basically I extrapolated dimensions from Georgia O’Keefe’s “Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. V” painting and for part of the project, I laser cut A LOT OF CIRCLES based on the relationships between those measurements, with the largest circles about 3 inches in diameter. Yeah, it was weird. I used some of the circles, but ended up with a ton of extras. Most were laser cut from cheap 2-ply chipboard.

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There were also a ton of circles laser cut out of 1/16-inch basswood sheets. And even more cut out of 2-ply white matboard. Um … I think I got a little crazy with the laser cutter, but it’s an awesome piece of machinery! At my graduate school, students aren’t allowed to operate the laser cutter themselves, but back at my undergraduate school, it was free reign (after paying and scheduling the time, of course)! Sigh … I miss the smell of burnt chipboard/basswood/matboard.

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I didn’t use any of the matboard because the charring was too severe so the circles didn’t turn out as nice and white as I was hoping, but oh well. Good times. Good memories. One of these days I’ll have to post the completed projects, which I was pretty proud of. But after three years, I think I can let go of the 200+ circles. Off to the trash they go!

birthday gifts

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is being re-posted here for my own sake.]

My last three posts involved food. Kind of ironic considering that I’m mighty low on food right now. I still have a lot of bread, but not much substantial food. Anyway, it was my birthday a bit ago so I got some of the most fantastic gifts that I feel compelled to tell the world about (well, if the world read this blog, that is). People know me so well. For example, they know:

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I like pretty things. From the sister: necklace with metal leaf and beads. She sent it to me in the mail, so I got it before my birthday. When I told her I had already opened it, she yelled at me. True love. Anyway, I wore it on my birthday and it’s the perfect length!

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I like crafty things. From friend X: merino blend wool yarn and glass beads. She also included red ribbon and yellow flowers because she knows that I hate the colors red and yellow. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is true friendship.

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I like glass things.From friend A: blown glass container/orb/beautiful-thing-that’s-going-on-the-coffee-table. She said it’s made from recycled glass from some specific brand of soda that I forget. Anyway, it’s fabulous and she got it from Austin Art Glass, which has some really nice pieces. I need to visit that place sometime.

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I like nostalgic things. From roommate S: DVD of “The Breakfast Club”. Sweet. This is one of my favorite movies, but for some reason I never owned it. Now I can watch it again, and again, and again! Yes.

Fantastic. I had a great birthday and the gifts, while fabulous, could not compare to the dinner I had at Kerbey Lane with my friends. I love this town.