Project 1: Narrative Strategies for Objects, instructed by Rob Walker
Rob Walker will lecture on how to develop narratives around objects. Students 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.
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: Andy Bernheimer Architecture, BIG, Flavor Paper, Met Media Lab, Abbott Miller at Pentagram, MOS, Rockwell Group Lab, Michael Sorkin Studio, Gael Towey, Viñoly Architects.
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 500-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
Project 4: Writing About Digital Artifacts, instructed by Virginia Heffernan
Virginia Heffernan will lecture on how to write about digital artifacts, including Instagram filters, tweets, Google Maps, Pinterest boards, Spotify playlists, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and just about anything else made of bytes and pixels.
Students will learn a theoretical groundwork for writing about the Internet; how to summon extra-linguistic artifacts in language; techniques for close but detached readings of individual artifacts; the role of a critic’s existing online avatar in developing her authentic and authoritative critical voice; and the challenge, in turbulent times, of handling digital objects, some of which are culturally radioactive.
Typical assignment: Students identify an artifact of their choosing and write a 300 word essay essay that puts that artifact into context of (1) the network it rides (2) the cultural and digital ecosystem it lives in and (3) the Internet itself. For those less digitally inclined, these artifacts can even illuminate the non-digital world. What is it like to be non-digital, undigitizable? The augmented-reality figures in Pokemon Go illuminate the natural and built world on which they are juxtaposed. The corrosion of a wet phone ties the virtual dance on its screen to materials that can rust and decay.
Project 5: Speaking of the Streets, instructed by Craig Taylor
The Speaking of the Streets Project is a two‐week‐long assignment that culminates in the production of a play built from the scenes and scraps of dialogue collected by students. The project will focus on both monologues and duologues. The study of dialogue will be both a training exercise to sharpen skills of observation and will become a work of collaborative art. The project will allow us to express, in a kaleidoscopic view, the array of New York voices. It will combine fiction and non‐fiction. We will look at neighborhoods in transition—specifically how issues such as gentrification are played out in small ways and how they leave their mark on our conversations, interactions and language.
Typical assignment: Go visit Fort Greene in Brooklyn. Listen to people in different settings. Note what conversations are happening and also the conversation that might be happening. Research the past voices of the neighborhood. What was it? What is it becoming? Use primary documents. Create a collection of voices drawn from quotes in news stories, community meeting minutes, books on the neighborhoods. How do people speak about these streets? How have those voices changed over time? Is there an official voice describing the neighborhood— a political voice, a voice from a community board? Is there an unofficial voice? An artist, a dissident, a poet?
Project 6: Complexity and Contradiction in Times Square, instructed by Karrie Jacobs
While design criticism is often directed at museum exhibitions, or pre-selected examples of significant design, and architecture critics tend to focus their efforts on showcase examples of buildings by well-known architects, the true range of the design critic is the entire manmade world. Any object, whether or not it has a designer pedigree, can be a worthy subject of criticism. We will take a trip to the Times Square Area looking at the layers of architectural and urban planning history, and from the bleachers of the TKTS booth, we will discuss complexity and contradiction in architecture in relation to Times Square and other aspects of contemporary NYC.
Typical assignment: Visit Times Square and meet as a group on the Red Steps. Break into teams and choose one building or structure in Times Square and analyze it as Robert Venturi might.