In Praise of Multidisciplinary Thinking: The Product Studio at Cornell Tech

This semester is the first semester in which we AAP students are able to take the Product Development Studio at Cornell Tech. It is an exciting opportunity for us to be working in multidisciplinary teams with students from different backgrounds and with vastly different experiences. Leading companies, start-ups and non-for-profit organizations pose challenges in the form of an “How might we…” question. In response, teams develop and present new products, services and strategies.

The most exciting part of the challenge is to be collaborating with students from the Cornell Tech Campus – engineers, lawyers, computer scientists, as well as students from the Parsons New School of Design – to maximize cross-disciplinary learning. The main tool that we are using to create an amazing product or service are the big ideas from multiple academic disciplines. The moment we put the different tools together and with the knowledge of how to wield them properly we can begin to think creatively about a problem and its solution.

My team and I were presented a challenge from NYC GISMO, “How might we better understand the condition and the environment surrounding underground infrastructure (water and gas pipes, fiber, electric lines, etc.) to help with construction, maintenance, and disaster preparedness?” For which, we are currently brainstorming on different technologies and services that can improve the data accuracy and inter-operability of underground infrastructure. We recently had the exciting opportunity to meet our company advisors at the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to brainstorm different ideas! We even saw an exhibit that showed the old wood pipes used to supply water across the city.

Exhibit at DDC showing old wooden pipes used in NYC for channeling water.

Some of the other projects that my fellow AAP students are working on the different ways in which we may empower citizens to affect urban change, optimizing spatial design and mobile technology to optimize workplace productivity as well as integrating transit facilities for urban air mobility vehicles into local communities among others. Throughout the semester will have several design marathons and critiques to realize our vision!

The class has opened many doors and is a great step outside of our comfort zone!

Place-Making in Brownsville, Brooklyn

The semester begins as we embark on a set of exciting new design projects that challenge and expand our thinking. This semester’s studio titled Made in Brownsville, taught by AAP B.Arch. alumni Peter Robinson and Ifoema Ebo, is focused on community–centric design aimed at establishing an immersive relationship between the design studio and the Brownsville community.

The site is in Brownsville, Brooklyn an historically African American residential neighborhood in eastern Brooklyn, NYC. Although Brownsville’s history has been plagued with high rates of crime and poverty, in recent years the community has enjoyed a rich heritage of entrepreneurship, creativity and dynamism. This is illustrated by the community motto, “Brownsville Moving Forward,” that demonstrates community resilience.

Students touring the Brownsville Neighborhood. Photo/ Ifeoma Ebo

As we toured around the neighborhood during our site visit, we begin to think about the different types of spaces and how the neighborhood changes as we move from one block to another. We also begin to think about the different relationships and what kind of culture it cultivates. We brainstormed on how we may create active and safe public spaces for people to grow as well as improve connections throughout the neighborhood.

Daisy Dai (B.Arch ’21) presenting her group’s vision. Photo/ Ifeoma Ebo

As part of our site visit, we also visited Made in Brownsville a nonprofit on “a mission to reduce the number of disconnected youths in Brownsville by lowering their barriers to entry to the STEAM professions and increasing their relevant experience in the innovation economy.” There, we participated in a workshop where we got the opportunity to interact with students from Made in Brownsville. During the workshop, we were split into two groups and tasked to come up with ideas on what we envision our ideal community to look like. It was incredible to see the visions we had for community building, which centered around providing knowledge and education, improving economic and social connectivity, providing resources to support healthy living as well as cultivating inclusivity and togetherness.

The second part of the workshop involved establishing a language of shared values within the Studio and Brownsville Community. We shared our personal experiences in different spaces in relation to ideas of scale, space and the Black-Space Manifesto. The manifesto served to guide our growth as a group and our interactions with one another. As we shared our experiences, we began to empathize and understand each other. We each had something to give and that brought us closer as a community.

As we move forward this semester, I look forward to seeing our visions for the community be realized as well as continue to foster close relationships with the Brownsville community.

What We Wish We Had Known

The Cornell semester abroad in New York City is often a college highlight for AAP students fortunate enough to attend. While it is traditionally unconventional to study ‘abroad’ as a sophomore (or even junior), the formal and informal lessons derived from such an experience is far beyond well worth it. After conducting a series of discussions with fellow B.F.A. students of AAP NYC Spring 2019 (otherwise known as Studio 6), here are a few things we wish we knew before making the big move to the big city.

  1. The Unpredictability Epidemic of New York City.

It’s true what they say – the only thing predictable about New York is its unpredictability. One of the preeminent things to quickly learn about living in the city is the importance of always being prepared: for your day, for the weather, and for all that is un-predicted. Adaptability and optimism are significant virtues to uphold while living here, but they can only take you so far in change of plans; physically being prepared for whatever the city might throw at you is the best way to tackle New York’s unpredictability epidemic. Lauren Park ‘21, emphasizes the importance of planning ahead. “Plan enough ahead of time when going absolutely anywhere in New York,” she says. “Trust me, having spent most of my time growing up in the city, there will always be traffic, or a subway incident, or a missed train, or just some random unexpected circumstance that can cause a delay from five minutes to an hour. I suggest planning by adding on double the time you’ll need to get somewhere.” This also means to plan ahead in terms of packing; it doesn’t hurt to carry around a phone charger, a portable charger, headphones, a reusable water bottle, and your MetroCard.

  1. To MetroCard and Beyond.

As a student in New York, your primary mode of transportation will be through the infamous five-borough MTA subway system. Running 24 hours a day, the trains are the most efficient way of maneuvering through the city. Before arriving to New York, Ji Weon Chung, class of 2021, had not expected public transportation to be his main source of movement. Taxis, Ubers, Lyfts, and other ride hail services are occasionally helpful, but can be expensive and slow. Combining your commute to classes, galleries, internships, and other miscellaneous trips, the most effective and efficient move is to purchase an unlimited monthly MetroCard. You will surpass a card paid for solely with individual rides if you ride the subway (or bus) more than 46 times per month. While it is financially wise, you also can relax not having to worry about refilling your card’s value and be able to take advantage of unpredictable adventures you may find yourself in while exploring the city during your free time.

  1. Internships Are A Lot of Work.

A huge drawing point to the semester in New York City is the real-life experience you can gain outside of your classes while working at an internship. The typical weekday schedule for a B.F.A. in New York looks like this: Monday, two classes; Tuesday, free; Wednesday, free; Thursday, two classes; Friday, one class. The two free days a week in the class schedule are designated for students to participate in an internship. The seemingly-daunting process of finding a suitable internship for your own personal strengths and interests begins in Ithaca the semester before arriving in New York, meeting with NYC Professional Practice professor/New York City art-world icon Linda Norden, who assists you in applications and finding a perfect placement. While internships are an incredible opportunity to have my first steps of my professional career be at some of the most significant museums/galleries/establishments, in one of the most connected cities in the world. New York is fantastic because of the diverse range of opportunities it offers and an internship can assist a B.F.A. student in broadening their network, getting “real-life” practice, utilizing access to professionals to observe/learn from, as well as both growing and developing a personal palette of skills and interests through experience. However, typical internships run the average 8-hour workday and can be a tiring addition to your workload. By enrolling in an internship, you must be confident in your ability to balance the requirements of your classes as well as this additional responsibility. A full week of work, classes, and homework can be tiring; however, the additional effort is well worth it for the experience, knowledge, connections, and memories made.

  1. Embrace the AAP NYC Lifestyle, but Don’t Let it Get to You.

For B.F.A.’s coming from Ithaca, having just completed all six 2000-level studios, it will be a fairly large adjustment to the lifestyle that AAP NYC exudes. The Fine Arts major in Ithaca is notably intense, particularly the first year and a half as B.F.A.s complete the compulsory Introductory courses, which tend to have more strict requirements and assignments. The AAP NYC Studio, led by Professor and distinguished artist Beverly Semmes, introduces student to a new approach related to personal process, project inspiration, and assignment grading, guided by the notion that each student has the experience and skills to liberally decide what they desire their final work to embody. Professor Semmes’ tremendously creative, wildly generous assignment prompts can be interpreted and finalized in a million different ways, all acceptable to be tailored to each student’s personal conceptual and material interests. While this freedom is a physical exhale from the more rigid assignment structures of Ithaca, don’t let it overwhelm you; Sarah Zhang, class of 2020, says “It’s nice to have so much freedom, but it can be intimidating coming from the 2000-level studios. Make sure you focus on what you truly want to explore while you’re in New York and you’ll be happier with the outcome of your work.”

  1. The Stereotypes are True but don’t be Intimidated – You Will Love It All.

It’s true what they say – New Yorkers can be unfriendly. Ariel Noh, class of 2021, was expecting a degree of the stereotypes to be true but was taken aback by the “realness” of it all. “I’m from California, a big city, where everybody is laid-back and friendly, so the group personality of New York – it’s unexpected.  The group collectively agreed that while the big move to New York City after living in Ithaca can be intimidating, it is easily one of the best decisions you can make as a B.F.A. in AAP. “You’ll grow to love the city, and its rich history,” says Lauren Park ’20. “You’ll think it is overwhelming but as you explore, it’s not as bad as you think.” The AAP NYC B.F.A.’s of Spring 2019, known as Studio 6, communally established that confidence is key. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,” says Abhika Pawha ’21, “New York City is really a home for everybody.”

Quiz: Which BFA Professor from AAP NYC Are You?

There is no doubt that the professors that teach the courses at Cornell University’s AAP’s New York City program are what make the semester so fantastic. The way their distinct personalities perfectly reflect their class curriculum cultivates an ideal learning environment in the greatest art city in the world. To find out more about each professor, and to determine which BFA professor from AAP NYC you identify most with, take the quiz below!

Click here to take the quiz!

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A Thursday at AAP NYC: Inside Mid Term Crit & Mana Contemporary

Thursday before Spring Break is a critical day for the B.F.A.’s studying at AAP NYC. Thursdays in general are the most intensive day of the week, with our NYC Studio in the morning (9-1), followed by our NYC Professional Practice class in the afternoon (2-6). On this particular Thursday, our morning studio class, which is typically independent work time, was transformed into our significant mid-term critique, with guest critics Jane Benson and Linda Norden.

Ji Weon Chung ’21 inside the Mana Contemporary studio of the late Walter de Maria.
Lauren Park ’20 and Lauren Peters ’21 at Mana Contemporary.











Critiques, or “crits,” are an essential and substantial part of AAP’s curriculum. They provide honest and valuable opinions on how an audience views and interprets an artist’s work. A mid-term crit like this one is structured quite simply; each artist receives an equal amount of critique time, and within that time, the first minutes the student presenting must be silent as the audience presents their first impression, unbiased to any information regarding the conceptual or material process. The artist is then brought into the dialogue, offering guiding statements to the group, and occasionally facilitating the conversation to points of particular interest. Valuable information is provided by both the visiting professors and the student’s peers, through effective questioning, evidence-based observations, and personal connotations. While crits can be daunting, they are very beneficial in search for new meaning, purpose, and future ideas; any lingering sense of contest is replaced by supportive mutual discovery.

Crit begins in the Art Studio.
Jane Benson, Linda Norden and Ji Weon Chung ’21 critique Lauren Peters ’21 mid-term assignment.









Post-crit, we headed to the Oculus to jump on the PATH train, on our way to Mana Contemporary, a cultural center in Jersey City, New Jersey. Mana houses various services, spaces, and programming for artists, collectors, performers, dancers, curators, designers, and more. Founded by the moving company mogul Moishe Mana, its 1920’s-era one-million square foot building structure is home to one of the largest all-inclusive contemporary creative communities in the world. Under the guidance of Visiting Critic Linda Norden, we were fortunate enough to receive a private tour of Mana Contemporary; with no other tourists or guests in the building, world-class exhibits were empty enough for us to explore independently at our own pace, and we were frequently welcomed into arbitrary studios we wandered by. We toured Dan Flavin: cornered fluorescent light; Fred Sandback: Sculpture; Arnulf Rainer: Crosses and Angels; and Andy Warhol: The Original Silkscreens. We peered inside many studios, most notably ThreeAsFour (who we had seen in New York Fashion Week at the Guggenheim) and the studio of the late Walter De Maria.

BFA’s walk beneath the Oculus
Ji Weon Chung ’21, Lauren Park ’20, and Ariel Noh ’21 in Jersey City, New Jersey










BFA’s inside Dan Flavin: cornered fluorescent light
Lauren Park ’20 and Ji Weon Chung ’21 in Andy Warhol: The Original Silkscreens







At Cornell, and in AAP in particular, we tend to always be working; we see what some may consider their busiest weeks as our typical. The endless hours of internal conceptual problem solving, to physical time spent in studio working to prepare for crits add up. We in what is the busiest day of our week, it is often the most exciting, fulfilling, and fun.