brilliant projects heretofore unpublished: new spaces

Long, long ago when I was a scrappy, crazy and hopeful student of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I took a class called "New Spaces" offered by Reinhold Martin, then professor of architecture, now noted author and associate professor at the Columbia GSD. The class took a deep look at how installations and art can alter and create new spaces. I'm not surprised I can't remember much of the program, the reading was abstruse and ethereal. And to be honest, back then I put 95% of my energy into my studio work, very little into anything else (thank goodness they came up with "Math For Architects", a geometry-based mathematics course, providing us with math credits we could finish with our eyes closed at our primarily engineering school). I should dig out the readings. Like many things in architecture school, they will probably serve me well in terms of thinking outside the box.

I do remember who took the class, and that it was talky and fun. I remember a twenty minute long conversation regarding the word "jejune". The final for the class was a competition, to design an installation or intervention anywhere within the School of Architecture building that would create "new space". There was a small budget to work with. After presenting our designs to the class, we voted on which one we would build and install as a group.

Mike, Erika and yours truly. Probably taken at 3:00 a.m. This is old school architecture, people!

The installation I designed with my dear, DEAR friends Mike Stesney and Erika Zekos won. Actually, it got second place to our brilliant friend Nancy's design, which was something like a giant fish tank hovering at the end of a hallway in the building over the staff mailbox area. But who knows how to build a fish tank, and what if it leaked? So, ours "won".

Thirty steel studs, two 2 x 10s, a fluorescent tube light, two eye-hooks and some other nuts and bolts were put together to create our installation. The canted wall of steel studs altered the space by light, by a little bit of imposition, and even by making associations with the materials. Steel studs as finished surface, and side by side. Not common. The stamped cutouts in the faces of the studs, which let light through, looked to me like little skulls, which lent a bit of humor to it.

I believe the installation stayed up for several years inside our architecture school but is gone now. I've always loved looking at these photos and remembering this project. Also, remembering that no matter how much I hated redrawing this by hand over and over until we had the angle off the wall that we desired, I'm glad that we did it by hand. We just missed the age of computer aided design and drafting in the classroom and studio when we graduated, and I'll always be grateful for that. Old school architecture, people.

You've also got to see this. Shedding Light. This is an incredible project/installation that Erika went on to do a few years ago, lighting the inside of an old tobacco barn in the winter of 2010. It is in no way derived from our New Spaces installation all those years ago, but there is a small aesthetic similarity in the light and the gaps. As I told Erika recently, if I had pulled off a project like this, I would consider it the pinnacle of my design and art career and would feel free to hang up my pencil. The project is incredible on so many levels, and so is Erika. Please check it out!


  1. Love seeing the old pic! Your school projects are ten times more interesting than mine, trust me on that :-) Now I know why you are so handy in other ways too, I never thought about it before but in architecture studies, you probably need to good at the hands on too.

    1. I wish I had loads more photos from those days. There was a lot of model making back then, and actually a few years before I got married I had side work as a model builder and built some incredible ones. I'll have to share them here sometime! Thanks, Tania!


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