Graduation may have marked the official end of college life, but I’ve landed back on campus for one last dose of Cornell education.
This time, rather than taking classes, I am teaching them as a TA for the Department of Architecture’s six-week summer program. The studio course kicked off last week and we have already raced through our first exercise – the famed ‘Cornell Cube’ project.
Over a hundred students enrolled in the program this year, and they arrived to Ithaca from across the globe; Singapore, Turkey, Ecuador, Dubai, and Beijing are among the many places represented.
The program – which has been led for years by the same two professors – is conceived as a crash course in architecture. It introduces high school and college students to the intensity of a design studio and challenges them to think differently about the discipline.
I suspect that only a handful of students knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed up for this. The majority of exercises in an introductory architecture course are hardly recognizable as architecture, and students sometimes have trouble letting go of their preconceptions. Upon reviewing the first assignment, one girl turned to her TA and asked, “so, when do I get to design my dream house?”
It will be some time before any of these students design a dream house, but – whether they realize it or not – they are beginning to acquire the fundamental skills necessary to do so.
Although conducted slightly differently, the curriculum of the summer studio is similar to what I experienced as a freshman at Cornell. Students learn to think conceptually about space and form, and they learn to generate and convey their ideas through visual means.
As a recent graduate, I’m enjoying the opportunity to teach these fundamentals to a new generation of students. It’s a chance for me to reconsider my own architectural beliefs, and see how much wisdom I have accumulated over the past five years.
So far, we’re off to a goods start. I’m working with a talented group of students, and they swing at everything we pitch at them. Five more weeks at this rate and we will have covered all our bases.
When the teaching cap comes off, there’s plenty more to enjoy about summer in Ithaca. The locals are out in full force, the Farmer’s Market is booming, and the cool waters of Cayuga lake beckon from afar. I keep kicking myself for not having spent a summer here before.
Most Cornell students ventured off campus when classes end in May, leaving the rest of us to live like kings. My friend and I are the only two people living in an eight person house with a wrap-around porch. Our friends visit from their own neighboring mansions to cook food, drink beer, and plan out summertime adventures.
Life doesn’t get much better than this.