October 18, 2010
liberalarts building
Allegory of the Seven Liberal Arts, Marten de Vos, 1590 (source)


“Lagunita–Spanish for ‘little lake’–is named for the neighboring part-time lake and is one of Stanford’s most historic residences. This beautiful, Mediterranean-style complex, built in the nineteen-thirties and renovated in 1998, consists of three small, four-class houses, and two three-class houses, arranged around a picturesque central courtyard and dining commons.


Lag (affectionately known as ‘log’) is divided into two sides: East Lag and West Lag. East Lag is home to Naranja and Ujamaa. Eucalipto, Adelfa, and Granada make up West Lag. Residents enjoy their own lounge, common areas, an outdoor trail that strolls the perimeter of nearby Lake Lagunita, and a grassy field across the street. The house names are also unique: Three names are Spanish for different trees: Eucalipto (eucalyptus), Granada (pomegranate), and Naranja (orange); Adelfa is Spanish for oleander. Ujamaa is a Swahili name for ‘extended family’ or ‘familyhood’ and consists of two houses originally called Olivo (olive) and Magnolia (magnolia).


Throughout the larger residence, each individual house develops their own distinct community–in particular, Ujamaa is home of the African-American theme program, and Adelfa is a Focus House with an interactive and in-depth Writing program.”


Residence Halls Overview, Stanford University



In a lecture videocast on October 16, 2010 at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, an architect now holding the Norman R. Foster Professorship of Architectural Design at Yale University, spoke of the beloved liberal arts model of American education.


The liberal arts model, he said, is based fundamentally on the idea of the student as consumer. It is, in the end, a market model based on flexibility and a quick response to its environment; adaptable enough to attract willing customers. The emphasis on the selection of a wide variety of courses and topics serves, in this view, to parallel a world marketplace of choices and competition.


If the liberal arts are indeed, so corrupted in this way, ultimately based on choice and consumption rather than on the classical ideal of broad humanistic inquiry, then is the university’s stunning coursebook any less decadent than the resort-style campus which encloses its students? A casual survey of American universities reveals the most plush interpretations of the Neo-Gothic, California mission, and Georgian styles. Fancy schools have fanciful ornamentation and are designed around anachronism and appropriation. If there is a comfort and a luxury in what becomes, essentially, a menu of campus styles, then the diversity of disciplines and the elaborate syllabus may be transformed, cynically, into something meant to satisfy, not to challenge.


Rachel Engler


Building, Matteo Thun, 1983


We can’t help who we are attracted to, we have no control over which person draws our eye in the tube carriage, just as we are not always in control of our thoughts, they wander off without us to whatever takes their fancy, day dreaming precisely at the moments when we should probably be concentrating, working on something. It can be irritating being turned back into a lusty teenager through no desire of your own, or drifting off unprompted into puerile, fanciful worlds of escape in your head, but on the other hand it is those moments when something truly singular sparkles into life.


It is in those moments that our rational minds briefly lose control of our waking instincts, momentarily relinquishing authorship over our thoughts, letting our bodies and our intuition guide us. It is right then, if we pick up a pen or a pencil, and use all the skills at our disposal to take our flight of fancy seriously and frame it, capturing it, that we can extract from the ebb and flow of our daily lives–always so concerned with satisfying the judgments of others–a pure cross section of ourselves, a distilled fragment of subjective creation.


The sketch and the Capriccio, the former capturing the fleeting structure of an idea as it passes by, the latter being the flesh added to its bones, the full flight of fancy, the private and passionate love affair between the artist/architect and his imagination, drawn out and expanded into vignettes of autoerotic intensity, which if pursued with enough zeal begin to stand on their own as inspirational artifacts, intriguing specimens from the intimate obsessions of our fertile minds. It is in the caprice of our fancy–the beautiful face we cannot stop staring at, the ideal place we keep trying to imagine–drawn out and expanded, that we will find the coming together in one space, in one scene, compressed, of the very subjective ground of our anterior architectural instinct.


Adam Nathaniel Furman



Edited by Erandi de Silva




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