Reflections on the Semester

It’s been quite the roller coaster here in AAP NYC this month! As the holidays approach, our lives have felt a little bit like this:

12 Days of Christmas for a Student

12 Days of Christmas (Student Version)

In commemoration, here’s a summation of our output this semester:

5 Client Workshops
We were divided in groups of 2-5 to work on a professional planning project with New York City based clients, such as the Staten Island Arts Council, Long Island City Partnership, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Department of City Planning, and Gensler. After final presentations and reports churned out this week, most of us are ready to hit the hay.

4 Different Classes
Urban Design Studio, Workshop, Professional Planning Colloquium, & Green Infrastructure

3 Professional Development Products
Many of us spent the semester revamping our resumes, portfolios, and writing samples

2 Days of Internships
No sleeping in: Every Tuesdays and Wednesday – time to suit up and get to work.

& a month of studio bonding!
As stressful as this semester has been, it’s safe to say we all learned a lot about group dynamics, about each other, and about project management, not to mention how the real estate and planning development process begins to unfold in New York. Hopefully, these lessons will carry with us in our future careers no matter where we land up, because if you can plan in the country’s biggest and most complex metropolis, well…hopefully you can figure out planning anywhere ;)

Check out some Postcards from AAP NYC below, highlighted in every issue of the Cornell Planner this past fall.

The Grand Finale

Everything good has to come to an end, and so does studio! With such an open ended and theoretical foundation for thought, our chapel studio had landed in very interesting and varied places. Each student’s idea of spirituality opened up new avenues of perceiving a chapel or a sanctuary. Some dealt with light, some dealt with self-perception, some with sound, and others with psyche. Our panel of seven critics had a lot to say. They were Mark Cruvellier, Chair of Cornell AAP, Bob Balder, our very own executive director of Cornell AAP NYC, Lawrence Blough, NYC-based architect and associate professor at Pratt Institute, Andrew Reyniak, NYC-based architect, Nick Marshall, architect and partner at Chase Marshall Architects NOLA, and last but not least Jim Williamson, director the of B.Arch. Program at Cornell AAP and spiritual guru! After weeks of prep and poetry writing, model making at enormous scales, and divine explorations, we sought to answer the questions of how to elevate the ordinary and everyday to deific proportions. Because NYC is the center of grit, business, and pleasure, we often tacked on to the little things, such as evanescense, preemptive nostalgia, veiling, vestiges, permeability, introspection, and innocence. The results were each very different, but a commonality between all of the projects was a folly-like space which accomodated just a few people, where light and city fabric, even refuse, could become one with the inhabitant. That even the detritis of the city would become something beautiful. Most exciting was the fact that we got to learn a bit more about what living in a city means to each of us, and to really steep in a particular environment. The site became the true soul of each one of our projects. Our rigorous analysis and numerous site visits really paid off and were clear. There was much multimedia used in student presentations, and there was a solution appealing to every sense in the human body.

If you are interested in perusing our work, it can be found at this website.

Many thanks to our professors at the illustrious and pensive firm, Tom Phifer and Partners. Gabe and Tom, thank you for teaching us to see and exercise the beauty in the mundane.

Strictly Business

At the apex of our professional practice class we have business presentations. Led by two geniuses of the corporate world of architecture, our class was aimed all semester at learning good business. We learned the ropes of how to start a firm, what the ethics of good business look, sound, and feel like, how to write out a fee proposal – you name it! Now, Brad Perkins and James Greenberg have put us to the test: we were to draft up a business plan AND presentation to start our own companies. I being a theater and film buff naturally went the production company route. Others, with their endless cleverness, engineered laundry-bar facility combos, designers to superheroes, and Instagram-friendly gyms. After hours and hours of researching income pro formas, cost estimates, related markets, and statistics, we assembled manuscripts for a business plan. The real proof in the pudding was our presentation. In front of a shark tank – like audience we were asked to present an eight minute pitch for our respective startups. We had been schooled in how to give presentations before. The strictest rules being, 1. Simplify and entice—this is the trailer to the movie, 2.  Don’t convey more than five points on a slide, 3. Compelling graphics make a huge difference, 4.  Use props, 5. Engage with the audience.

After giving a riveting presentation filled with gimmicks, images, and easily-readable-info galore, all in 8 minutes or less, the panel was asked to behave like a bank, miserly uncle, or organization who could be coerced into funding our projects. They got to ask us questions and delve deeper into the supposed structure of our projects.

Overall, I think the exercise was a success—most people’s projects seemed to receive the ‘monopoly money’ they requested, and an enormous amount of business sense was imbued into our brains. This was one of the rare moments of pragmatism in our highly theoretical architecture careers, and the snap to reality was most definitely rewarding. It’s the kind of life lesson that can only carry us to more successful, more fruitful endeavors.

Tips for a Successful Finals Season

Tips for a successful finals season:


Well, folks, it’s that time of the semester again. Yes, the gut wrenching, caffeine addiction relapsing, nail biting, lead-holder busting finals week! Over the four years that I’ve spent at Cornell University, I’m certainly less stressed than I was during my first finals. Now that I know what to expect, and I’m a seasoned finals veteran, I can share with you my tips and tricks for a successful finals season.


Tip 1:

Strategize your time! There’s only so little time and so much to do! Sometimes it’s harder to get out of your own head, so try writing down the kinds of things you have to do on a piece of paper. I always list the drawings I have to get done for my final presentation so I can visualize my goals. And as a primarily visual and creative person, it helps a TON.

Tip 2:

Make goals. Working towards something small each day is a lot easier to stay focused doing than working towards some grand ultimatum.

Tip 3.

Take regular breaks. No one got through finals season by spending all day and night at their desk. While we may be guilty of cramming every now and then, it’s best to keep your head above the noise by pulling out every once and a while. It gives you the perspective to gauge your progress and think level headedly.

Tip 4:

SLEEP. Please sleep. Please. So many finals tragedies arise when people don’t sleep for a day…or two…or five. Its scientifically proven to help you concentrate better and increase brain function if you sleep! So catch your Z’s.

Tip 5:

Keep your desk neat. Document your work early and clear out the mess. It makes things a whole lot easier to see, find, and remember.


Remember all these tips, keep focused on your goals, and you’ll be okay. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Of, On and About the Metropolis

Cornell AAP NYC’s pure gold lies in the electives. This is where you get a taste of the delectable offerings outside of the Ithacan tundra. One of which, I am glad to be enrolled in, is James Lowder’s critical investigation of NYC and the metropolis. Lowder is just one of many fantastic imports from the surrounding metropolitan area. His stomping ground? Cooper Union.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Each week the class files in, fifteen independent thinkers whose minds are overflowing with the unraveled texts of masterminds in art criticism and architecture, film and theory galore. Lowder, spitting gall and gab, throws out questions from the digital archive of emails he received at the toll of yesterday’s midnight. And the matches begin. Students clamor with questions of frustration–some coming from a place of misunderstanding–others coming from a fundamental difference in principle. Here, problematization of academia is a good thing. Each week has a spotlight thinker or theme, which a lone student or tag team of design-savvy sages work to present in a clear and analytic format.

Image from Exodus, or The Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture, a recent reading from the Koolhaas series.

 For our final project, we are posed to propose a class–a full syllabus which is meant to open up the wound of theory to understand its anatomy in more colors and more detail. Luckily, we have hundred upon hundreds of names to base our studies off of. Its ramping up to be an exciting and generative finals season at Cornell AAP NYC!