All posts by Paige Rebecca Geldrich

Split: A Peer Review of Andrew Chesakis’ Design Development Presentation

For Design Development, I reviewed Andrew Chesakis’ project, entitled Split. I have organized this post into the following categories: brief project description, board presentation, models, verbal presentation, critique (Orders of Worth), and overall thoughts on the project.

Project Description: Split is a project that has very deep roots in the site. Extending three popular and high use streets touching the site creates three axis that divide and organize the site. The axis cut the site, creating forms for three buildings and an interior courtyard. Each building has a specific programmatic purpose: Educational center, living, and working. The courtyard is intended to be the heart of the project, meant to be a public space used by the community.

Board Presentation:
Chesakis’ boards were wonderfully communicative and clear. His diagrams are very easy to read and help illustrate exactly how his building moved from conceptual sketch to model form to the refined building and site that now exists. In fact, the entire layout of the board assisted in this endeavor. The board reads very as well as one presentation, aided by the black theme that ties all the pieces together, bringing a beautiful uniformity to the board. However, the renders that Andrew chooses, while well done, may not be the best views of the building to feature. The courtyard render is great because it showcases the ‘cuts’ the axis create AND the structure of the different sections. However, the ‘apparatus bay’ view makes the building look dull and ordinary. Thankfully, Split is anything but that! Choosing a new view that will show the dynamic cuts will bring excitement to the board. Regardless, the Split boards were some of the most successful seen that day, in my opinion.

It was clear to see the attention given to the models. They were all beautifully crafted and super communicative. The concept models really bring Chesakis’ ideas to life. It was almost as if Chesakis was sketching with wood and string. Displaying the model pictures on the board helped insure the critics would not miss the models, an important part of the presentation. The building and site models were also made with extreme care and detail, especially the 1/16th building model. These models were not just some pieces of chipboard thrown together in a last minute frenzy to fufill a requirement, but instead were small pieces of art within themselves, showing Chesakis’ commitment to his project deeply. I hope to someday achieve this level of craftsmanship with my own models.

Verbal Presentation:
Andrew’s presentation was on point. He spoke clearly and was very easy to understand. He did not appear nervous or apprehensive in anyway (A feat I wish I could accomplish). His pace was good and volume was well heard to the back of the room. The presentation did seem a little long, but was by no means outrageous. The fluid presentation set a good environment for the critics to begin a dialogue about Split.

Both Andrew and I shared the same jury the day of our presentations, and I can say they were not an easy crowd (My personal favorite comment of Andrew’s critique being “why even have walls?”). Many of the comments presented to Chesakis were of the Industrial nature on the order of worth, for example:

Why is the structure not parallel to the walls?
The structure should be more efficient.
Why are there different program and structure grids?
Rooms and structure should align.
How much light is entering through the exterior?
All water will drain to center… How do you combat that?

These critiques are essential and important to all projects. However, I find these sort of critiques better suited for desk critiques or the typical day to day conversation between student and professor. While I will take all constructive criticism people are willing to share, I think I speak for the majority of my classmates when I say I prefer critique on the concept of our buildings. What I would think Chesakis would have benefitted more from would be commentary that discussed and explored his concept – the ‘project’ column on the Order of Worth. Chesakis did receive a few of these observations:

Clarify the 3rd axis or only have 2.
Is the courtyard actually as welcoming and open as you envision it?
Emphasize the center.

At the end of the day, the critiques I agreed with most revolved around the courtyard at the heart of the project. This is obviously a special place and is meant to be inviting to the community around the site. However, the tall exterior walls, few entrances, and narrow pathways to access the courtyard may discourage the public from actually using the space. The suggestion by the critic to program the space to entice public interaction will definitely strengthen the project.

Overall Thoughts:
I think Chesakis’ project is very well done. His representation methods, both physical models and board drawings, are very refined. The concept is so simple, yet creates a beautiful product that is extremely satisfying in plan. I think the key to figuring out Split will be bringing this satisfaction to the experience a user will have. I also think resolving the courtyard space is crucial.

Here are a few questions I hope Andrew can answer for the final deadline:

 – What can be added/altered on the exterior to help create a building that is not only enticing in plan, but from street view as well?
-How can the site plan strengthen your concept, or even the courtyard?
-Does a small forest obscuring the beautiful view of New York City benefit the site?
-Is the Moniter Museum benefiting from being an exact clone of the fire station?

I am looking forward to see how Andrew is able to continue improving Split for the final review. The concept of the project is great and the representation methods are already extremely successful. Now, it is only a matter of ironing on the little details to take Split to the next level.


The People’s Firehouse used to stand as a beacon to the people Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. Given the opportunity to breathe life back into this once beloved organization, I designed a project that acknowledges the fateful and charged past, with the new and exciting future. Using materials as the main tool to illustrate this concept, one wing of the firehouse is built in the historic, red brick style genre, popular in Brooklyn, New York. The other wing resembles the shiny new apartment buildings making their homes on the banks of the rivers. Where the two wings meet, a tall tower of eighty feet rises, illustrating how the past and presents styles can collide and knit cohesively into one entity. Within the tower, the space is sculptural and unique only to this particular firehouse. Within each wing, there is a specific organizing grid to define the spaces within. The tower benefits from the meeting of both organizing grids, furthering the message of collision and the two wings working together as one. The red brick wing contains most living spaces, while the glass wing is reserved for fire company activities. The organization of the buildings on the site form a frame that naturally encourages both firemen and other building users to migrate to the water. Along the water is a boardwalk like path, sprinkled with several terraces, used for both relaxation or social events if necessary.

Photo Credit: Caroline Wilson 

Radius, Circulation, Expansion: A Review of Suheng Li’s Schematic Design

Designer: Suheng Li
Critic: Paige Geldrich

For the Peer Review, I had the pleasure of reviewing Suheng Li. Li’s project is a beautiful collaboration of circular geometries working together in both building form and site.  Li tackles the inefficiency of the circle in an elegant way that not many have done. I have organized this post into the following categories: board presentation, models, verbal presentation, critique, and overall thoughts on the project.

Li’s board was beautiful as per usual. She has always had a knack for both creating clear and precise drawings, both by hand and computer. The plans and sections were easy to read and communicated the feel of the space quickly. However, I wish that her diagrams and sections were much larger. While we are all bound to scale, I sometimes find that breaking the scale in order to better show drawings benefits both the project and the critics who are viewing them. I appreciated the layout of the board, it was a very easy to follow her train of thought through the project. From concept diagrams to sketches to preliminary plans and program layouts, her advancement through the project was so clear it didn’t even need to be spoken about. Somehow, the board layout managed to emphasize Li’s circular geometries. The color of the board also played into the success of its overall scheme. The scheme helped communicate what was important in the drawings without being distracting, and overall helped bring a uniformity to the board.

I wish Li would have displayed her models on a stand, rather than let them sit on the ground. They deserved to be seen! They, like her boards, clearly demonstrated the advance from conceptual ideas to schematic design. Her first model was a small model, made from scraps of paper used for sketching and paperclips. While being incredible simple, it communicated the parti of the project instantly. Not to mention, I loved the almost ‘quick and dirty’ nature of it. The next model in the sequence was another simple yet powerful idea. Five simple circles, created from MDF, arranged to display the form of her building. The last model was a well crafted site and building model. It was obvious there was a lot of care and attention put into the model. There was texturing added according to the site, alterations in material to help communicate detail of the building, and it established the building in the site. My only critique would be that the models were so small, but that is understandable at this point in the design process.

Li’s verbal presentation was pretty typical. Unfortunately, her voice level was very low and I had to strain to listen in to what she was saying. However, her pace was good, and she used simple yet precise language. Another positive point was that Li talked about her program without walking critics through the building, an important skill to have. However, I will admit there were times were I found my mind wandering off during Li’s presentation. This could be due to the lack of volume or excitement, perhaps the length of the presentation, or maybe it was just a critic-error. I think the biggest error in the presentation is that Li failed to explain exactly why she was using circles, and to give a strong, logical reason for letting them be the center of her project. Li’s project is very strong, but I unfortunately felt like she let the critics bully her! The majority of the critiques from the juror’s were based on why she had to use circles. Confusingly, I felt as if Li actually inhabited and programmed the circular geometries VERY well, avoiding awkward spaces. ­­ I believe that Li could’ve defended herself and her design very easily.

Over all, I really do admire Li’s design and work. You can tell she put a lot of time and effort into her project because of the quality of the work. I think she tackles the puzzle of the circle extremely well for a third year student, I do not think I would be able to achieve the level of efficiency she does with the use of her spaces. One of the things that makes this project SO great is the beautiful integration of site and mass. Both reflect the intent of not only the circular geometry that formed the building, but the radial geometry that helped to divide and program it. There are three critiques that worry me about this project. First, I don’t know how feasible this space would be as an actual fire house. Second, while the spaces seem to be programmed and used well on the computer, what would they be like it real life? I do not know enough about construction to say for sure, but I think it would be difficult to construct and fit out for interior details and furniture as well. Darla made a very good point, asking how the kitchen would work in a rounded plan as this. Would everything need to be custom made just for this building? Third and possibly most importantly, what is the reasoning behind the circular geometry? How does your concept support the circular geometry?

I have listed a few other questions Li has left me with and I am looking forward to seeing them answered in her next critique:

  • What is the structure like?
  • How does ADA and other code come into play?
  • How do people move around the building? How does the public interact with it versus the fire fighters? How do people move around the site?
  • Does custom furniture and appliances need to be made specifically for this building? Is there any other options?

Comprehensively, I think Li had a great presentation. Her work spoke for itself. The critics were hard, but I’ve found that jurors are typically hardest on the best projects! Li’s biggest challenge will be answering exactly why her building is circular, and how that supports her concept.  It was an honor to take a closer look at Suheng Li’s schematic design.



Past and Future: A Collision

The People’s Firehouse used to stand as a beacon to the people Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. Given the opportunity to breathe life back into this once beloved organization, I designed a project that acknowledges the fateful and charged past, with the new and exciting future. Using materials as the main tool to illustrate this concept, one wing of the firehouse is built in the historic, red brick style. The other wing resembles the shiny new apartment buildings making their home on the bank of the East river. Where the two wings meet, a tall tower rises, illustrating how the past and present styles can collide and knit cohesively into one entity.

Killing Their Offspring: An Investigation into the Dark Side of Architectural Education


   Thesis: The style of the typical architecture education encourages high stress environments and unhealthy lifestyles, and needs to change for the sake of the students. A lighter workload, healthier relationships between students and professors, and an emphasis on the well rounded student will create happier, healthier, and better architects in future generations.


     While this abstract could be posted in many architectural periodicals, I chose to post it in Archdaily. Posting at this location guarantees a large audience that has experienced architecture education and has the ability to support my thesis in several ways as practicing professionals, students, and related design professionals.  In addition, there is already a large base of discussion on the topic on their website.


      Architecture School. After describing the endless time commitments, the harsh reality of critiques, the professors that push students beyond limits, the sleep lost, the poor health choices due to stress, and the sacrifices students make for their passion, non “archies” scratch their heads in confusion, “sounds like a lifestyle”, they mumble. But does it have to be? Looking to other models of education for different professions shows vividly different experiences. Other professions and educational systems develop successful graduates, without forcing weekly all-nighters. Why is architecture education the way it is?

srudio pic2

     Architecture education encourages lack of sleep, an absence of daily exercise, and poor eating habits. Students sacrifice involvement in extracurriculars and time with family and friends to make deadlines. In 2000, several architecture student deaths were reportedly caused by exhaustion or accidents related to exhaustion (Giermann, Holy). Aside from the physical drain, architecture school has adverse affects on a student’s mental health as well. Students entrust (and pay) professors to educate, nurture, and empower students, yet their interactions with students prove the exact opposite.  In more than one report, it has been shown that over half of the students surveyed have seriously considered quitting architecture school (Mitchell, Leon, Linova, Squires, Daros).  Words such as anxiety, depression, stress, hopelessness, and fear are found repeatedly in studies on architecture students mental health. However, society depends on architects to envision the world. How can society depend on a group of mentally unhealthy people to successfully construct the future world?

     Several studies have been published on this topic, inclduing Danielle Mitchell’s Studio Culture: Reviewed to University, Toronto’s GALDSU Mental Health Report, and the American Institute of Architecture Students’ Toward an Evolution of Studio Culture. These publications show alarming trends relating to studio culture internationally. Even more alarming, many of the studies have been published between 2000’s and 2015, yet there are no records of any of the reports yielding results or creating change in the architecture education in question. Why is there a lack of action on behalf of faculty, staff, and students alike? What can be done to begin movement on all fronts of this fight? The architecture profession is a constantly evolving and growing field, and its time the educational model does too.

However, several architects see no need to change the current state of architectural education. Since these aged architects have endured the exact same experience (and survived), they insist the only problem is over sensitive students. For example, ArchDaily hosted a discussion regarding 24-hour studio culture and if it should exist. Many architects from around the world weighed in. One in particular had an interesting comment, saying, “I just graduated from a 3.5 year Master of Architecture program. While it was an immense amount of work with long and very stressful days, I got through the program without pulling a single all-nighter, and often finished a day ahead of major deadlines…While architecture school is definitely grueling, studio culture is perpetuated by the students, not by the program,” (Rory Scott). Another student, Ann, featured in Boyer and Mitang’s Building Community: A New Future For Architectural Education and Practice comments on the positive outcomes of studio culture saying, “A value of it (studio culture) being so rigorous and taking so much commitment is that you leave with a commitment to the field.” Unfortunately, the reality of the problem is that students/architects like Rory and Ann are the exception, not the rule. All architects can agree that the architectural education has many positives. However, they can also agree that architectural education is not perfect and striving to make architectural education as beneficial, enjoyable, and healthy as possible will benefit both the educational field and profession alike.

Architecture education can be changed for the better. Following is a set of adjustments that will help create a more rounded educational experience for students, faculty, and staff. They include a change in critique day, a re-evaluation of language in the student/professor relationship, and a change in attitude about the education system and profession. These changes are meant to respect the accepted architectural education system as it exists, but with long needed refinements. They are meant to better student-professor relationships, increase mental, physical, and emotional health of the student, and promote a healthier studio culture in general.

The first change to improve the effectiveness of architectural education comes in a change in critique day. Critiques are a huge part of studio culture and architecture education. When done correctly, they can be informative and extremely helpful. However, many students find critique day to be more about public humiliation than education value. Boyer and Mitgang suggest alternate forms of student evaluation. For example, the “round robin” format applied at the Miami University of Ohio. In these critiques, four critics talk with students individually about their projects, while students not being reviewed at that time may join the small circle. This format seemed to foster more open dialogue and more participation by students themselves. Not only does this reduce public embarrassment extremely, but increases the effectiveness in the review with more student involvement.

The next adjustment is meant to better relationships between students and professors. One of the most harmful interactions between students and professors come when professors speak extremely critically or harshly of a student’s work. Professors hope to demonstrate their point by using offensive language or attacking students, which only backfires most of the time. These hurtful words are often discouraging to students, ruining a student’s self confidence and willingness to work. In one example, a student at Pennsylvania State University was told that she “shouldn’t sleep for the two days before next deadline.” However, a lack of sleep has been proven to undermine student productivity, rather than enhance it (Durmer and Dinges). Lack of sleep can also result in increased anxiety and depression (Durmer and Dinges). Ironically, this shows that the professor’s offensive comment will result in the exact opposite of improved performance. Another illustration of harmful comments comes from an anonymous student group surveyed in Boyer and Mitang’s numerous studies. “Do you want a family, or do you want a career?” was asked to a group of frustrated students. Compared to the twelve to sixteen credit hours the average undergraduate takes per semester, architecture students carry eighteen, twenty, or more (Boyer and Mitgang). Students are already sacrificing so much to create quality work for their professors. When they are told that they have to make even further sacrifices, it is truly discouraging to students. Talented students may leave the field, adopt unhealthy habits, a poor mental state, or question why even try so hard in the first place when faced with such negative surroundings.

The final proposal will be the hardest to undertake, but it is arguably the most important of the three. It is crucial that there is a change in attitude towards architecture education. “Architects need to get out of the centuries-old philosophy that one must earn a ‘red-eye’ badge of courage by surviving school in order to be a ‘real’ architect,” says a Connecticut architect surveyed by Boyer and Mitgang. Another anonymous architect weighs in the on the topic, saying, “I think it’s the result of the male dominated profession- a competitive, prove your manhood, I’m tough and I can take it sort of thing”. Finally, Aaron Koch, of the AIAS taskforce to redesign studio culture, states, “architecture schools should be places for growth and prosperity, not environments where students ‘put in their time,’ learn ‘how to survive,’ or complete an experience that could be compared to ritualized hazing.” This thought process is only becoming more and more detrimental to our profession. In fact, Boyer and Mitgang cite that architecture deans are not seeing the untalented and unmotivated students leave the profession, but rather, those with a gift for architecture and incomparable work ethic. We are literally killing our own offspring with the idea that architecture school hardships are just part of the process. It does not need to be this way!

 studio10Architecture school gives so much. It creates determined, strong-willed, and knowledgeable students. It gives endless skills and experiences to its students. It introduces amazing, thoughtful people that will be remembered for life. Mitchell’s study strikes a chord with every architecture student, saying, “It has been a great experience that I never want to repeat again”. It is time to begin implementing changes that will help maintain the beauty and effectiveness of architecture school, without draining students mentally, physically, and emotionally.

1      Boyer, Ernest L., and Lee D. Mitgang. “Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice: A Special Report.” Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1996. Print.

2      Ockman, Joan, and Rebecca Williamson. “Architecture School: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America.” Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2012. Print.

3      Nazidizaji, Sajjad, Ana Tome, Francisco Regateiro, and Ahmadreza Keshtkar Ghalati. “Narrative Ways of Architecture Education: A Case Study.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 197 (2015): 1640-646. Web.

4      Ulusoya, Mine, and Emine Kuyrukcu. “The Meaning and Importance of the Traditional Architecture in Architecture Education; Gönen Winter School Model.” The Meaning and Importance of the Traditional Architecture in Architecture Education; Gönen Winter School Model. N.p., 18 Aug. 2012. Web. 05 Sept. 2015. <>.

5      Salama, Ashraf, and William O’Reilly. “Architecture Education Today.” N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

6       Ellis, William R. “Re-Designing Architects: Education, Research and Practice.” Journal         of Architectural Education 25.4 (1971): 85-92. Web.

7       Holly Giermann. “AIAS Launches Survey to Promote Healthier Studio Culture” 15 May        2015. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 Sep 2015. <>

8      Leon, Joel, Roxana Linova, Jocelyn Squires, and Alex Daros. Mental Health Report.  Rep. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

9     Mitchell, Danielle. Studio Culture: Reviewed. N.p. N.d. Web.

10  Rory Scott. “Is a 24-Hour Studio Culture a Good Thing in Universities?” 19 Mar 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed 13 Dec 2015. <>

11 Durmer, Jeffrey S., M.D., Ph.D., and David F. Dinges, Ph.D. “Health Consequences of Sleep Deprivation: Neurocognitive and Psychiatric Disorders.” Sleep & Safety (2011): 33-51. Perelman School of Medicine. University of Pennsylvania, 2005. Web. 13 Dec. 2015. <>.

12  Koch, Aaron, Katherine Schwennsen, FAIA, Thomas A. Dutton, and Deanna Smith. “American Institute of Architectue Students Redesign of Studio Culture…” American Institute of Architectue Students Redesign of Studio Culture… AIAS, Dec. 2002. Web. 13 Dec. 2015. <>.

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