Project 1: Narrative Strategies for Objects, instructed by Rob Walker and Adam Harrison Levy
Rob Walker will lecture on how to develop narratives around objects. Participants will engage in close observation, archive research, and other means of data gathering, and then experiment with strategies to illuminate an object’s significance through storytelling.
Typical assignments: Bring in an object that has some kind of personal significance to you, and is transportable. Write a 300–500 word story about the object. Next find an object that you consider to be overlooked or undervalued and write a 500-word story about it, based on research, which brings it to life.
Adam Harrison Levy will lecture on research methods, with a focus on photographic images. Students will engage in close observation, archive research, and other means of data gathering, and then experiment with strategies to illuminate an image’s significance through storytelling.
Typical assignment: Write a 500-word essay about a photograph by Weegee using material drawn from the Picture Collection at the New York Public Library and the main branch of the New York Public Library, including The Milstein Division for Genealogy and Local History, The Map Division, The General Research Division and the Art+Architecture Divisions.
Project 2: Studio Profiles, instructed by Adam Harrison Levy and Jennifer Kabat
This project launches with lectures on Interviewing Skills and Profile Writing. Participants will then perform exercises to develop their interviewing techniques, prepare questions, and do background research, before dividing into groups to visit several well-known New York design studios. Each student will interview the principal designer of their designated studio and write a studio profile for critique in a review session.
Typical design studio visits: Eight and a Half, Carla Diana Design, NYC Department of Design and Construction, Project No. 8, Randy Hunt/Etsy, Antenna Design, frog, karlssonwilker, Maharam, Pentagram, Mary Ping, Sagmeister & Walsh, Snarkitecture, Streng, David Weeks.
Typical assignment: Read up on the designer you will be visiting for a studio visit and prepare a list of questions for your interview based on an assigned aspect of your profile (i.e. biography, studio philosophy, or working practice). These questions will be workshopped with course instructors. After the interview is completed and transcribed, write a 600-word profile of your subject.
Project 3: Exhibition Reviews
Participants will be introduced to the principles of reviewing across genres and across media, with a focus on the exhibition review as a type. After some initial exercises to hone writing skills, the development of a point of view and argument, and some reading exercises to examine exemplars of the form, participants will write their own reviews and present them for critique.
Typical assignment: Write a 500-word review of a design- or architecture-related exhibition currently on view in NYC.
Typical guests: Roberta Smith, art critic, The New York Times, Michael Kimmelman, senior critic, The New York Times.
Project 4: Platform Project, instructed by Mimi Zeiger
The Platform Project is a two-week long assignment that culminates in the making of a collaborative publication built from tweets. In the first session, the lecture will focus on alternative design writing platforms—including Twitter, Tumblr, and downloadable PDFs—that offer opportunities for design narratives and criticism. By bridging between print and digital, Platform Project embraces the technologies of the social web without abandoning the potential of the physical object. This class considers a “platform” both a means of production and a place to take a stand.
Typical assignments: Visit your assigned contested site in NYC area. Use Twitter to document the conditions on the ground. What do you see? Write as many tweets as you need, minimum ten. Follow the tweets of your fellow group members and respond. Research the articles that represent the debate, document the history, and spell out the issues at state in your assigned site of architectural controversy. Use Twitter to share this research via links, quotes, and commentary, and see if you can make a dialogue happen.
Typical guests: Stephen Zachs, architecture and urbanism reporter, theorist, and cultural producer; Jean Cooney, Project Manager, Creative Time, Damon Rich, Planning Director and Chief Urban Designer for the City of Newark, New Jersey.