Going to the AIA/LA Design Awards is a totally different experience when you’ve been on the jury, as I was this year. For one, you get to see the entire spectrum of the awards program, the behind-the-scenes production and the staging of what seemed like a thousand projects flashing before you in a darkened room. Not only do you have the heavy responsibility of judging all of these, but also you then have to champion and defend the ones that really speak to you. There was a lot of debate and discussion—and even some yelling and throwing of chairs involved. And probably way too much caffeine. The best part about being on the jury was to finally see and meet the people behind all the winning entries, whether unbuilt Next LA projects, where propositions about cities and buildings moved the bar a few notches higher, or the built projects that make people think twice about what architecture is and can be, was gratifying beyond simple description. Of course, in the back of my mind, were all those projects that didn’t make the cut, some of my personal favorites. Overall, what I came away with was an excitement about the state of architecture right now. While it might seem obvious, the awards remind you that there are so many different ways of thinking about and doing this, so many ways of shaping environments that impact people on multiple levels. From the awards ceremony at the Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo, the crowd shuttled and walked—I think Alissa Walker, winner of the Design Advocate Award, did in fact walk—to the dinner reception at the A+D Museum’s new digs in the adjacent Arts District. If I had to measure the awards in decibels, the loudest cheers and applause definitely went to Sarah Lorenzen, Chair at Cal Poly Pomona, who won the Educator Award. “I guess it’s good to be a teacher,” joked AIA/LA president Ted Hyman of ZGF Architects, who presented the Presidential Awards. One of the best moments of the night had to have been Steven Ehrlich’s heartfelt and genuine speech after he was presented with the Gold Medal. He spoke to the core of the discipline and profession. “At every step in my practice I’ve been blessed with the most talented and congenial collaborators and courageous clients that anyone could wish for,” said Ehrlich. His speech was all about “we.” And truly, that’s what design is all about.
Posts tagged with "Sarah Lorenzen":
Q+A> AIA Los Angeles Educator Award Recipient Sarah Lorenzen on the future of architectural education
On October 29, Angelenos will gather for the 2015 AIA|LA Design Awards and Next LA Awards to toast the city’s best contributions to architecture and design. Every year the AIA|LA Board of Directors chooses outstanding and passionate individuals as winners of the Presidential Honoree program. AN spoke to Educator Award recipient Sarah Lorenzen. An architect, professor, and chair of Cal Poly Pomona's Department of Architecture, she reflected on the honor and shared her thoughts on the direction architectural education. The Architect's Newspaper: What does it mean to you to receive this recognition from your peers? Sarah Lorenzen: I was incredibly surprised and pleased to receive this award, especially given all the terrific architecture programs and talented faculty that reside here in Los Angeles. Even though the award is given to an individual, I see it as validation for the work being produced by the students and faculty at Cal Poly Pomona. Over the last few years we have revamped the program and made a concerted effort to showcase what we do well at our school. What have you taken from your experience and own architecture education and applied to your role as chair at Cal Poly Pomona? I had a varied education. My undergraduate degree focused on liberal studies and studio arts and I attended two different graduate programs: Georgia Tech in the mid 90s and SCI-Arc in 2003. The two programs had very different pedagogies and design interests based in part on their locations and in part on the times. My education at Georgia Tech was heavily influenced by poststructuralism, while at SCI-Arc it was all about the Information Age. During one of my final presentation Georgia Tech I remember clutching a copy of Roland Barthes’ Image, Music, Text… while at SCI-Arc Michael Speaks proclaimed, “Theory is dead. Long live architecture.” As someone that now heads an architecture program I embrace many points of view, but I try to steer clear of dogma and certainty in approach. I love a good argument and lean towards a Socratic method of teaching, but I am also keenly aware that as architects we need to take a position and be able to express that position in visual form. I would say that I am most interested in giving students a “professional” knowledge base while having them understand that this knowledge is culturally constructed and shaped by social and aesthetic biases. How do you see design education changing in the next 5, 10 years? It’s really hard to tell where we will be in 5–10 years. From the work being produced today at most architecture programs, at least here in Southern California, there seems to be a backlash against the all-digital, doom-and-gloom project. Students are digging up books that I haven’t looked at since my days at Georgia Tech. I have no objection to this renewed interest in postmodernism, as long as it is utilized as lens to investigate contemporary situations and not simply as a style to be appropriated. I am pleased to see a renewed interest in drawing in our program, especially when students take advantage of new digital tools to reimagine and reinterpret pre-digital drawing techniques. I imagine that it 5–10 years the realities of a world in crisis will hit our profession very hard. The situation to me looks pretty dire. I don’t expect that the primitive forms and My Little Pony–palette will be too long-lived. Which is too bad, the cynical side of me likes their ignorance is bliss attitude. How might design pedagogies adapt to or even lead technological advances in the field and respond to a changing urban landscape? In 1987 the Statistician George E. P. Box wrote that, "Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful." This statement certainly rings true when we see how data mining and Google Analytics now shape our understanding of the world. Technological advances of this sort are as significant to architecture as was Greg Lynn and Maya, or Frank Gehry and CATIA. Since the 1990s the use of computer-driven heuristic models has gained currency in a number of architectural schools and design firms, particularly as a means to address the changing urban landscape. Technological advances, such as those employed by data and analytics companies, offer the potential for architects to understand previously unimaginable relationships between social, environmental, and physical factors acting on a site. I well understand that there are no perfect models. For one thing the world is mutable, it will never reach a perfect balance. The models we use to represent the urban environment are, and always will be, approximations. Still, models can be helpful if we accept the fallacy of their construction. The heuristically derived models of the petabyte age can help us become aware of the problem of complexity, they can be highly creative endeavors that help us see the world in a new way, and they can help us find gaps in our knowledge about the urban environments we live and work in.