A Month in Review: Thoughts from New York

Night view of Manhattan from The House at Cornell Tech.

One month into the AAP NYC program and there are two things I know for sure: there are very few qualities as essential to a New Yorker as anonymous optimism, and that time really does move faster in New York City.

While I’m willing to bet optimism is not what instantly comes to mind when envisioning a real New Yorker, its atypical presence is deeply rooted. It has taken four weeks of casual observation to pick up this underlying perspective, hovering within the unceasingly chaotic architecture, avenues, and underground stations. As someone who believes she’s picked up enough local language, both body and lingo, I can attest that this type of optimism is anonymous and incurable.

Anonymous in this sense doesn’t mean secret; it means incognito. Beyond anything else – except maybe being unbothered by absolutely everything – New Yorkers are resilient. When faced with a challenge or trauma of any degree, they react by looking at it objectively and realistically. While someone might make the assessment that something is wildly problematic, and outwardly react with an attitude of stress or tendency to overthink, a New Yorker reacts with this sort of muted confidence – that they have the attitude that they’ll prevail regardless of the situation. That’s the optimism that relates to resilience.

Resilience is crucial in a city like New York. As the world’s capital of finance, the arts, media, and more, moving in and trying to figure out everything is like decoding the world most complex Rubik’s Cube. Each side a different borough, each square a different neighborhood, each color a different aspect of the city, mixing and locking together as you repeatedly attempt to find your way. I’ve come to believe that residents of New York belong to a cohort of individuals who succeed, even excel, in these types of complex circumstances. In this way, the resilience they conserve isn’t anything special, it’s just life. It is probably – definitely – audacious to assume that I’ve cracked the code of New York and its residents. Regardless, me and my new New Yorker friends can pretend to know what we’re talking about. And even though we’ve only been here for a month, we all agree that the time has flown by.

So why does it seem like time moves faster in New York City? This subconscious feeling may be better understood when considering the popular time warp paradox proposed by physicist Garble Headweak back in the thirties. Headweak predicted that the flow of chronons – a quantum unit of time – were significantly slowed in areas where the density of New Yorkers was higher.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to the New Yorkers while they’re in New York. For instance, a Boston sportscaster once stated that when the New York Yankees played the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, it seemed like the games simply “go faster.” Perhaps it is bold to assume the chronons of the human body are partial to those who live within a certain geographical vicinity, however, whether you disregard the chemical physics of time or not, it is undeniably evident that in New York City, there is a very real presence and perception that time is constantly on high speed.

My first month at AAP NYC has flown by. Right when I finally feel like I am fully settled and can stop to take a breath, I find myself running to catch up with something I didn’t even know was going on. Here is a swift recap of the first four weeks!

Week 1: Moving in

Moving into The House at Cornell Tech was a great experience. The staff were extremely welcoming and helpful, and it didn’t take long after unpacking to feel like I was really at home. (Blog post about life at The House coming soon!) Orientation was a fantastic way to meet my professors, get to know the area around 26 Broadway, and become closer with my new classmates. We’re a small group this semester (only 6 B.F.A. students – four sophomores and two juniors), but we quickly realized how beneficial this size would be. Following AAP NYC icon and atlas of knowledge, executive director Bob Balder, we toured the Financial District, popping inside the Skyscraper Museum, the Oculus, Brookfield Place, and admiring the natural beauty of Battery Park, Bowling Green, and the river that borders the southern point of Manhattan. We had the rest of the week to get settled, taking time to explore other parts of the city, individually and as a group.

Abhika Pahwa B.F.A. ’21 and Lauren Park B.F.A. ’20 settle into our new studio!
Bob Balder leads us around the Financial District during orientation.








View of the Statue of Liberty from 26 Broadway.
Lauren Park B.F.A. ’20 and Lauren Peters B.F.A. ’21 explore the Financial District.









Week 2: Getting settled

By week two, we all felt like we were ready for whatever the city could throw at us. It was our first full week of classes, and we were eager to get our academic semester started. On Monday, we met with Visiting Lecturer Masha Panteleyeva at 26 Broadway for our history course, titled Media Space: Art and the City in the Age of Modernity. Although it was an introductory class, we were able to get into a deep discussion about the city as an imagined environment, and how New York can be a physical/political body. After a group lunch at our favorite dining place (Dig Inn on the corner of Broad Street and Stone Street), we began our studio class with Visiting Critic Beverly Semmes. After some social introductions, we got started working on a still life drawing. It had been a long winter break and drawing the still life was a nice way to warm back up into the basics. Tuesday and Wednesday are free days without classes to accommodate students with internships. We are all working in progress to confirm ours, so we used these days to explore a bit more of the city and visit some New York staples, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thursday morning we had another studio class with Beverly, where a model joined our class and we had the opportunity to do some live figure drawings. That afternoon we met with Linda Norden for our Professional Practice class. We visited three galleries in one class – an overwhelming amount of material for the first day! While we were blown away by Linda’s knowledge alone, she took it to the next level by getting us invites to the threeasFOUR fashion show at the Guggenheim Museum that evening. After class we stopped for a dumpling dinner together in Morningside Heights and then proceeded to the show at 7pm. It was an incredible experience and we all left the show feeling both amazed and thankful. On Friday we met with Visiting Lecturer Jane Benson at the Hudson River Park Pier 66 for our New York City Seminar class. We got to explore on the Fireboat John. J Harvey, which had been transformed by artist Tauba Auerbach in an abstract, red-and-white marbleized pattern. It was a whirlwind week and we couldn’t believe how much we’d experienced after only one week.

Dinner with Linda before the NYFW fashion show.
Aboard the Tauba Auerbach Fireboat.







Week 3: I’m settled

Week three was like the part in a movie where the hero thinks they’ve cracked the case and its smooth sailing from there. We really believed we’d figured everything out – we knew the subway, knew when to leave to make it to class in time, could confidently zone out while walking about. The expectations we had built of our classes the first week were surpassed, with a week of enriching experiences built upon a more solid relationship with our professors. Highlights include the visit of Juan Iribarren in Beverly’s studio class, where he assisted teaching our figure drawing session, adding in unique challenges and collaborative drawings. We found great success in the collaborative sessions, sometimes having all six of us working on one drawing, sharing our own strengths and creating a multi-dimensional piece. It was a grand success and we were excited to invite Juan back for another class down the line. Another highlight was the opportunity to volunteer one evening at a fancy benefit at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise for an organization that serves as the art and music program for a number of under-served NYC public schools. Inside the beautiful Harlem gallery spaces, we assisted with providing whatever the opera singers needed, as well as supervising the silent auction, while casually networking with the guests of the benefit. After our volunteer duties were complete, we were able to listen to the speakers and singers, which was a real delight. Beyond the additional excitement that came from out-of-class experiences, we all believed that we were finally settled into the fast-paced New York City life. We complained about train delays, walked at a slightly faster pace, and called our families at home to brag about how we were “basically locals.”

Juan Iribarren critiques our collaborative drawings.
Speakers at the Gavin Brown Enterprise benefit.







Week 4: Ok, now I’m actually settled

Week four was a wake-up call – okay, now we’re actually settled. There was no longer a lingering feeling of hyper awareness everywhere we went; we felt like we could exhale and properly blend in with the constant chaos. Falling into routine was an amazing thing, as we could stress less about the small things and focus on our education and time in New York more broadly. Highlights since week four include February Break, which we all used as an opportunity to unwind and check out some of our own interests at our own pace, as well as hosting friends from Ithaca, going to the Whitney Museum of American Art to see the new and iconic Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again exhibit, and an incredibly moving and transformative workshop experience with artist Shaun Leonardo at the Pratt Institute, organized by Jane Benson and attended by surprise guest Professor Renate Ferro.

Lauren Park B.F.A.’20 and Ji Weon B.F.A. ’21 at the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Whitney Museum.
Over Feb Break, Sam Glass B.F.A. ’21 visited New York from Ithaca!







Tackling the grand move to New York, has been, fairly stereotypical. Marching in with the strongest sense of determination, pride, and excitement, is quickly morphed into something of a survival mode – from small things (how do early do I have to leave to make the train in order to make it to class, what does it mean when the cashier asks me if I want to “carry out” groceries, remember to stand to the right on the escalator) to bigger things (what happens if my wallet gets stolen, how do I safely navigate this city if my phone dies at night)? Grand, sweeping statements and plans and goals are churned into realistic objectives once the facts of city life are realized.

I’m not about to proclaim I’ve solved the Rubik’s Cube that is New York, not even close. But there’s something so exquisitely exciting about sliding each row each day and gradually discovering more and more about this grand place, and in part, about myself.

Pop Quiz with Olivier Ducharme M.Arch ’21

Olivier Ducharme has completed his B.Sc. in Architecture at McGill University in Montreal and has interned in the past for Perkins Eastman in NYC. Photo / Linsen Chai

Every second Monday we will be featuring a current student/staff at Cornell AAP NYC to get a bit of insight into the people that make the program. These are meant to be fun and casual and by no means are they supposed to be “too” serious.

LC: Give us a bit of background on you. If you were to have to write your Tinder profile right now what would it say?

OD: Coffee addict and Croc wearer. OG Canadian, apologetic by nature with an irrational love for snow, currently not understanding why it’s summer here in NYC. [Sightings of Olivier usually comes with whiffs of hazelnut coffee, a grin, and an ensuing dad joke.] {claps}

LC: Architecture or Architorture; How do you balance your life-work here in NYC?

OD: As a wise friend once told me… Healthy self, healthy work. Understanding where to stop and let go has become a key part in navigating through architecture graduate school, especially here in New York City. Cooking became my happy spot where I make time for myself.

LC: Best NYC moment (i.e. a subway rat stole my lunch…)?

OD: That moment you end up designing a New York penitentiary as your first job assignment here… Haha, there is such a contrast from where I grew up [Hometown: Kingsey Falls, Quebec; look it up they probably made your paper, but unlikely to be the ones you use on the loo.]. Studying/working and living in New York has been nothing but great, always discovering new food with new and old friends. I probably don’t have a particular moment but the whole experience is really out of this world. Showing my parents around when they visited was one of those highlights.

LC: Finally, if you were to write a script of the next three to five years of your life what would that look like?

Settling in New York while getting licensed and adopting a Siamese cat named Devine. [Not pronounced divine, means guess in French. “What’s the name of your cat? Guess…” get it?]


Hello, New York.

AAP NYC M.Arch. ’21 students at the Skyscraper Museum Clockwise: Storm Armstrong, Ruben Posada, Olivier Ducharme, Linsen Chai, Chae Park, and Rondell Almodovar. photo / Linsen Chai.

It’s that time of year again where school starts after a long well-deserved holiday break. However, the familiar faces of Milstein were transplanted from the cozy winter settings of Ithaca to the bustling streets of the Big Apple! Adjusting to the new reality of city living, mind you, of New York living, we find ourselves trying to navigate the streets and subways searching for a sense of place while developing new routines. From scoping a local grocery store, to the new coffee break location around the studio, this first week has been high in colour and experiences as we touched ground at 26 Broadway.
The warm welcome given by Bob during orientation contrasted with the frigid weather that awaited us outside as we toured the historical neighbourhood around the studio. From Bowling Green and the Charging Bull, we made our way to the Skyscraper Museum to be greeted by its Founder, Caroll Willis, and a wonderful exhibition which introduced us to the past, present, and future of the New York skyline. Moving from the scaled models of the museum, the sheer size of the real buildings baffled us as we entered the new World Trade Centre complex and the spectacular Occulus.
Over the next few days, we would start to stretch and get back again in the routine of studio only this time the site of the focus would be in Gowanus, Brooklyn. One studio lead by OMA’s Jason Long and Yussef Dennis will be designing a Bath House and Microliving community while the other lead by SHoP Architects’ Dana Getman and Steven Garcia will be conceiving a brewery and office complex.

Architecture students at Perkins Eastman’s offices for the Professional Practice course led by Brad Perkins and Jim Greenberg. photo / Linsen Chai.

After the various site visits and rounds of introductions, we concluded this first week’s line of events at RAMSA’s offices on Park Avenue for a full matinee of portfolio reviews. Pro-tips were given by many Cornell Alumni working at RAMSA as well as other grads from leading firms in the city. After a general presentation of do’s and don’ts we then parted in small groups allowing for two to three rounds of individualized portfolio critiques. Hopefully, this will jump-start the first round of interviews for everyone!
As the sun set above the Hudson, with Ellis Island and Lady Liberty silhouetted over the vermilion skies, emerged this great sense of calm thinking about what lies ahead and the opportunities offered. It suddenly felt real; this would be our home for the next few months, I let out a sigh and thought, “Hello, New York.”

Open House New York at AAP NYC!

On Saturday, October 13, AAP NYC opened its doors to the world as part of Open House New York (OHNY) Weekend. The weekend coordinates free access to hundreds of architecturally and culturally significant sites around New York City that are usually closed to the public. The event is an opportunity to marvel at prime examples of New York architecture as well as to increase civic engagement in conversations about the built environment and the future of urban life.

Person looking at three panels depicting architectural drawings.
An AAP NYC visitor investigates work produced over the summer by M.S.A.A.D. students // photo: A. Rayner

Open House began in 1992 in London as a way to bring people outside the field of architecture and into conversations about the present and future of the built environment. The idea was that by opening access to locations that are clear examples of the incredible potential of architecture and urban design, as well as the studios where this work to form the city continues to happen, the event would spark public interest and lead to increased civic engagement year-round. New York City became the second city to host an Open House Weekend in the early 2000’s. Since then the concept has spread to forty cities worldwide.

Individuals walking between panels showing architectural drawings.
Work displayed at the studio included current student works-in-progress and projects from previous semesters in the Art, Architecture, and Planning programs // photo: A. Rayner

Walking through the lobby of 26 Broadway I saw visitors marveling at the high ceilings, vintage metal work, and other left-over adornments from this building’s luxurious past. Upstairs, prospective students, intrigued city residents, and alumni now implementing these ideas in practice inter-mingled among models, diagrams, and floor-length visions of approaches to today’s major urban problems.

Man smiling and pointing to map on wall.
AAP alumnus, Raphael Laude (BS URS ’18) explaining how his current work at WXY Studios connects with the studio projects in Red Hook // photo: A. Rayner

Beyond OHNY Weekend, Open House New York has been putting additional effort into organizing year-round programming to direct attention towards more specific aspects of urban change. These include Projects in Planning, presentations investigating the details of major new projects still in early development; Making Place, highlighting sites of architectural and cultural significance in neighborhoods facing major changes; and the Urban Systems Series, a year-long series focusing in-depth on an important issue in New York City’s built environment. These programs draw more specific links between form and impact, for example this year’s Urban Systems Series an investigation of the architecture and infrastructure of New York City’s criminal justice system.

Open House New York, the non-profit that organizes and operates Open House New York Weekend, was founded in 2001. Following 9/11, the organization was a major advocate for maintaining transparency and access in a landscape full of new barriers justified by increased security measures. OHNY has worked to establish a vision of architectural conversations based in trust of the public to appreciate and learn from these opportunities, insisting that openness is vital to an informed and engaged civic life. The need to break down barriers and expand conversations to include those who are experts in city life from living it is as important today as ever.

Orientation is Over, Long Live Disorientation

As we move into the second full week of classes and internships, I am glad to finally feel oriented enough to begin to embrace the chaos of New York City. I know which sink in the bathroom never works, not to take the J train on a Saturday if I’m in a hurry, and that I am never going back to the disappointing ramen place on 28th Street again. I know that the number of times I can get away with claiming I’m late because the train was delayed are dwindling, and my poor time management will soon be exposed for good. I know my studiomates well enough to no longer avoid eye contact in the hallway, making friendly chitchat out of growing connections not just obligation of proximity. And as I think about what is to come and what it will feel like, I am excited to realize that I don’t really know, something I haven’t been able to claim in a while.

Bob Balder (URS ’89) and Shiyu Kong (MRP ’19) at a Saturday visit to the Museum of the City of New York. (Photo/Shaun Wu URS’19)

Last Monday, both the urban design and architecture studios visited Red Hook, Brooklyn. This semester all students at AAP NYC will be focusing our studio projects on this neighborhood for the entire semester. Today, desks are littered with sketches of street sections, photos of building density, and annotated diagrams of block typology. Maps, collages of architectural detail, and demographic charts are pinned on the wall. It’s hard to believe that less than two weeks ago we visited this place for the first time.

Urban Design students taking a ferry for the site visit. How young and carefree we were back then. (Photo/Shaun Wu URS ’19)

The weather was gloomy, but it seemed very appropriate for a visit to a community so connected to the water. Although the ferry was highly modern (even boasting a members-only Margarita Mondays out of the full-service snack and drinks bar) being in such close proximity to the Hudson on such a foggy day felt rustically nautical.

Adriana Hidalgo (MLA ’19) photographs site conditions. Lady Liberty quietly encourages. (Photo/Leyi Zhang MRP ’19)

The planners and landscape architects were guided by Eugenia Di Girolamo, one of the instructors of the Urban Design Studio and an urban designer at the NYC Department of City Planning. Learning about a place while walking through it was fascinating, our first foray into the “city as classroom.” We learned about gentrification pressures while commenting on the building materials of luxury housing development and the creative programming of repurposed warehouse spaces. We discussed the neighborhood’s spatial isolation while attempting to traverse the horrific pedestrian experience underneath the Gowanus Expressway and passing by infrequent bus stops for the singular line servicing the neighborhood. We witnessed immense variability, from brick townhomes to active warehouses to one of the largest NYCHA public housing complexes in the city. It was incredible to witness so much packed into a community only one mile across, and so exciting to think about all the other neighborhoods yet to explore on my own time.

A Rayner (URS ’19) and Shaun Wu (URS ’19) listen to Eugenia’s infinite wisdom. (Photo/Leyi Zhang MRP ’19)

It is an undeniable cliché that time passes differently in New York City. Being at Cornell in Ithaca can feel like treading water or swimming against a current. You try to focus on your individual movements in the hope you’ll make slight progress toward an endpoint that is probably still there but is most of the time out of sight. New York City feels more like being pulled by a mild undertow. I was prepared for the time to fly by, but not this sense of constant forward motion. Perhaps it’s the monumental development projects all around us, the spatial chronicle of hundreds of years of history, or maybe it’s just the momentum of the millions of lives constantly moving beside, above, and below us. This semester is clearly going to be one of exploration and discovery. Onward!