Always another thing to worry about

Early in school on a Saturday, trying to work, failing to work, as my mind is lodged in its own instability. I wonder ... why am I not the one I want myself to be? Why does the body always have other plans for the future than what I demand of it? I wonder ... will I ever be able to work like a normal person? Arriving early, leaving early. Work when work is due. Perhaps it is because I don't take breaks. I eat quickly. I read. I write. When my mind speeds up, it is the task of the body (and of the medicines) to bring me back to a pace I can manage.

Currently reading Sanford Kwinter, and liking it. He has that rare combination of being a prodigious writer, and a delicate thinker. There are actually ideas in there, ideas presented with all the urgency and drama of serious entertainment. He also has that quality of being able to force you to put down the book, go to the computer and type in your own response to his answers, always with Jean Michel Jarre bringing the beats to these keyboard dances.

The Timeout-building next to the school has almost been wholly demolished. Carefully, I should say. They don't want pieces of concrete and rusty steel flying everywhere. This is London, so this delightfully a-programmatic patch of non-urban culture will not remain, but most likely replaced by something even bigger. The city planners argue for concentration - of work, of space, of social activity - as the solution to all things urban. Less than a hundred years ago, the answer was the very opposite. Back then, it was houses in gardens, big houses, big gardens. Now everyone should live in a Tokyo of their own.

It's not that I don't like Tokyo, of course I do. Tokyo is the only city in the world I could see myself finding perfect peace in. But Tokyo is not appropriate for Farsta, as is Farsta not appropriate for Tokyo. Because both would cease to be, and the world would be a poorer place.


A very happy bus driver

Pushing myself back to London again, to finish what I've started. It is not without a certain measure of anxiety, I should say. Like I wrote somewhere else, I'm not doubting the idea or the intellectual whereabouts of the project, I doubt my ability to execute it in an "adequate" manner. Sometimes, I think I'm barely able to take care of myself.

Brightest of spring days outside; I take photos, some people like it, some don't. Lamborghinis revving through Orchardson Street, London's first ice-cream of the year (a Solero Exotic), and more buns for breakfast. A mere list of topics originating in the world is not enough, just as a mere confession of the soul is not enough. But it is still true that what has come from the world, is what makes the mind. A mind born into darkness will know nothing but darkness, his world would be one without shadows, as there is no light to cast them.

Tomorrow school opens. I cannot say I'm delighted to go there.
Just two more months, I say. Just two more months.

I wonder really if there ever was a difference
between London and Lund, the AA and LTH.


On the Other Side

After two weeks of gradual descent into pre-psychotic madness, I had no choice but to begin taking the meds again. Back to 20 mg. Sigh. The story repeats itself, doesn't it? In any case, it was necessary. I was about to close myself off in an imaginary world of torment and anguish, and it was not the relief and the freedom I had hoped it to be. Like my doctor said, when people stop taking their doses, the first things to go are the side-effects. No wonder then that this was the reason I felt so energised last month, but, then, again, like my doctor said, later the positive effects would disappear as well. Usually it would take between 1 and 3 months. In my case, it was the earlier.

It is not interesting what kind of diagnosis I have. It is only a label. It buys you no advantages, and alleviates no pain. What is crucial is to find that which allows us to function, and not only that, to enjoy. It seems like I will need to eat these things for a long, long time. And, if we ever decrease the dose, we dose so at max 25% at a time (not 50%), and wait maybe four to six months (not 2 months). And maybe I will never be free from this. Maybe it is chronic.

Speaking of chronic things, I finally learned the facts behind my eye malfunctioning. The result was not what I wanted to hear. I have a chronic infection in my eyelids, which causes blurring of eyesight as well as the reddening and dilation of blood vessels in the sclera. Chronic. I don't like that word, and I was pretty damn depressed when I went home from the eye clinic. Or, perhaps "bitter" was a more fitting word for the occasion. However, with the help of the antipsychotics, I think I will be able to defeat even this.

The first architectural drawing I remember being thoroughly fascinated by, I learned, was a section of the Barbican in London, presumably by another draughtman in the office. You can see the drawing here. However, the image I saw was slightly different, due to the vicissitudes of the photo-copier that made the manuscript for the book I was reading. I was around six-seven, can't remember, and everything about that image enthralled me. I did not know what kind of building it was. I didn't bother to find out. I'm always like that, seeing things and developing them on my own, without the facts. Sometimes to my advantage, sometimes ... well, you know. I saw fireworks, cave interiors and skyscraper-high windows in this image. I saw an event, a spectacle, a space that had no functional equivalent in my world.

When I finally went to the Barbican, I wasn't as enthralled. Not that there is anything wrong with it, I think it's fantastic. But it wasn't what I had demanded of it to be. And that is perhaps the greatest disappointment as well as undying challenge that I find in architecture: that it has to be better than the reality it is built within.


Life is pretty damn hard

At home in Sweden again, to celebrate Easter and receive treatment for my eyes. Yes, that's it, it's happened again, only this time, it is - of course - altogether different. It's been going on for a week now, beginning with me rubbing my eyes too hard and losing vision in the left eye. Not entirely, but significantly. Everything is blurry. As I woke up the next morning, the blurriness had spread to the right eye. Tired and angry, I called the eye hospital, went there for a check - almost got suspected for taking cocaine - and then going home again with an ointment as a treatment against bacterial infection. That would've been the end of it, wouldn't it?

No. The ointment didn't work, and my eyes progressively got more red and more irritated. I'm suspecting some sort of virus, and tomorrow, I will elbow my way into the hospital again to see an eye doctor. Well, if it is a virus, there's nothing to do but wait ... but if it's something else, it should be checked. Blargh. There's always something, isn't it? If I just got rid of the regular irritation caused by the medicines, of course it was time for something else to happen. Blargh. I suspect the importance here is to turn detrimental events perhaps not into something positive, but at least into something productive. If you can't be happy, at least you can be angry, and anger can be productive, as opposed to lying in your bed the entire afternoon just staring at the ceiling.

Finally. My girl booked her flight. She will be there for the graduation, and that will be the start of our new life together. The end of architecture school. Presumably. After nine years. 2006-2015. The end of architecture? Not a chance. But the end of architecture as I thought it was necessary to be? Perhaps. I'm ploughing through a thick book on architectural theory (despite the blurriness giving me a headache), backwards, of course, because it is more interesting to know where we are and then realise where we came from, rather than the opposite. If I have to be something, I'd still be a Modernist. The New York Five are a formalist joke. Semiotics is just an extension of this delusion into architecture as merely a question of aesthetics. But in the 1920s! Things were different. People actually had faith, and ambition. Naive faith, of course, but they wanted to DO something, not PROVE something. Today we pay lip service by making little recyclable toilets for the slums. Which everyone in the (Western) world of art and architecture love, despite that fact that they do not work, will not work, are purely an egocentric trip of ignorance to the systems created to facilitate the organisation of proper help. Maybe you should wait to dezeen it until it has actually achieved something, not just a working prototype for the Design of the Year awards ...

Then again, perhaps you need to cut idealism some slack.


Crazy Shit

Yesterday was officially the last day of the winter term. I had my previews presentation on Thursday, and I'm happy with it - for once. I didn't compromise, neither with my material, nor with myself. Even though it took me nearly 8 hours to memorise the presentation, I cared about it enough to warrant this kind of attention. My teacher mused over my ability to turn into an angry prick when I present, but this time, the anger worked, because it was not directed towards the teachers or to architects in general, but to the architectural offices, the site of my project. What can I say. I'd rather be a confrontational, controversial prick, than just merely good.

Since I've entered rather strange territory lately, I honestly didn't have a clue what they would think of my project. But it's excellent to test your ideas to people from all across the school, to gauge whether your agenda has a wider importance. I wasn't particularly surprised by the fact that the things they had concerns about were those which had enjoyed the least when I made them (from my "good boy" TS days ...). The drawings and the film were wholly embraced, less so the road and the renders. But it's okay, now I will remix that part of the project just like I remixed the recon (see above).

I'm taking a couple of days off, before continuing on my work, and before going home to Sweden for Easter. My teacher was willing to come in for an extra tutorial on Tuesday next week, and I leave on Wednesday afternoon. Until then, I will enjoy myself with the books I still have to read, listen to music (picking up my derailed DJ-career where I left it), and eating strange food. It seems like the worst medicine withdrawal-hell has passed as well, now it's mostly just lack of sleep, and a slight inability to eat, that haunts me. My head is returning to normal. Which means that it's just as crazy as always.


There's a long road ahead of us

It seems like my stubbornness is paying off. Today was the first night in some time that I managed to sleep in one go from 1:30 to 7:30 AM. No strange wakeups, no disruptions. I know, it's still only six hours, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn't tired when I rose from bed. But it's a good feeling of tiredness, I feel like I can take advantage of the day, and not sleep it away, like I've done most of the time since I fell ill. My stomach still doesn't feel alright in the morning, but that's getting better as well. Hopefully, sometime soon, I will be able to actually eat breakfast. That strange feeling in the head is also slowly fading away. For a person who went from the highest dose recommended to zero in three months, perhaps I should've be grateful that the reaction haven't been worse. Or maybe it is just as bad as expected, and it is only my determination that has changed.

I'm doing crazy things, and I like it. When a friend asked me about a month ago why I came to the AA if I didn't want to "solve things" (TS-wise), I answered: "Well, I wanted to do crazy shit." Maybe it is only now that I've summoned the courage to actually do it. Enough with the polite and beautiful renders, in with strobbing neon-pink, 7-second weddings and an army of Patrik Schumachers. (Don't worry, I will share it with you when it's done.)

Yesterday, I was feeling nostalgic, so I read a lot of old emails exchanged between me and my girlfriend since we began dating in 2010. From the very beginning, I knew that I had found somebody special. I'm glad she has put up with me all this time, despite my erratic behaviour. I don't know how to repay her loyalty, though. Perhaps by being equally loyal in return.

We're getting old. 28 and 31 years. (I'm actually the younger one). I know a lot of people go to the AA in order to lay the foundations for their future career, get a good and exciting job, and so on. For me, this was never that important. I'm more interested in finding a nice house and a family to come home to in the evening. Imagine that. To have children, to watch them grow, to teach them, and to encourage them to find their own path. Who knows? Maybe my children wants to move to Sweden when they're my age? After all, the only thing that matters is that we live the lives we want to live.


Building Up the Self

Oh, medicines, these wonderful medicines ...

For those of you who have followed this blog since its inception, my darkest period lasted for about a year between winter 2010 and 2011. During that time, I tried to committ suicide twice, and almost succeeded the last time. What saved me at that time was my little brother, and ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, which I received about a dozen times (or more, can't remember; ECT does that to you, screws up your memory). But that is not the whole story. Since I first had to resign from my job in London in autumn 2010, I was immediately put on medicines. I felt like shit emotionally and listened gracefully to all those well-meaning words of "there's help out there", "you don't have to feel this way", and "don't reject the medicines."

So I went to a GP, from Iceland, in my hometown. Tough guy. He put me on Prozac. I felt like being dragged through a concentration camp for two weeks, dizzy, angry, had trouble thinking, suffered from adrenaline rushes and severe anxiety. After those two weeks of hell, he said: "these pills are not supposed to work like this. On most people, they work, but on a few, they don't. You are obviously one of them." So he prescribed exercise, eating healthy, setting lower goals, and so on. Perfectly reasonable tactics. However, I kept thinking, as the depression didn't disappear, that he must be wrong. There must be some magic pill out there that can take all this crap away ...

I signed in at the psychiatric hospital about a week later. What would then begin was more than a year of absolute hell. I tried so many medicines, and all of them gave me all kinds of horrible side-effects, without changing my actual mood, the reason for taking them in the first place. All they did was fucking up my brain. I've written earlier here about hallucinations, voices and "word salad" recitations when I'm tired. Now I realise that these were *caused* by the medicines, these very medicines that were supposed to take such things away.

I think you can all see by now why I'm writing this, yes, I'm trying to quit zyprexa and citalopram, once again, one final time before it's too late. This time I tried to do it sensibly: tapering down for three months, starting in the end of December. As long as I was on it, no matter the dose, things were fine, not much trouble, but not much relief either. I knew that the real challenge would be to finally come off them completely, but I wasn't prepared for this that I'm going through right now. Let me summarise:

The positives:
- I am my real self again! The one I was before I got sick in the first place: confident, daring, provocative, and determined. I am not scared any longer, of everything everywhere.
- I don't have any anxiety. This is absolutely amazing, actually.
- I don't have any hallucinations or delusions.

The negatives:
- I begin every morning by vomiting once or twice in the toilet. I can't eat anything until 2 PM, as I would simply not be able to keep it in my system.
- I sleep about half as much as I did on the pills, between 3 and 6 hours each night. This is actually quite good. Some people coming off zyprexa simply don't get any sleep at all.
- My stomach hurst constantly, my muscles hurt constantly. My head feels like it's either 30 cm thick, or not part of my body.
- I just generally feel like an abused bag of meat, rather than a human being.

I really, really, really, really regret ever being fooled to start taking these medicines. I felt like shit on them, and I feel like shit off them. I can't help thinking that the only one I should've listened to was that harsh doctor from Iceland. Exercise, good food, and sleep.

If pills made you feel better, good for you. They didn't for me. All they did was screwing up my personality, my brain and my body. Now I sit here by the computer at a Sunday evening, going through all kinds of withdrawal hell, sweating and freezing, absolutely blocked in my head, not able to think (even less so to work, despite having only a week left to previews), and so tired I just want to sleep for 18 hours.

The only flip side of all of this is that I'm tougher now. I'm taking the fight. God knows it is hard, especially in an environment like this. But I've learnt, the hard way, that taking the fight is the only thing we can do to make things better - for others, and for ourselves.


Pinata Afternoon

So, it has come to an end. Probably the most difficult and demanding term I've had since I began at the AA. Today, we handed in the Technical Studies books, and were assessed. I wasn't happy with mine, at least not as a whole, as I felt like I only hit my stride in the past two weeks, certainly coinciding with the realisations I've written off recently on this blog. I did have a serious fear of being forced to complete to pass, which would have been much worse than the instant pass I received in third year, since I have - regardless of my lack of focus and inability to manage a larger project - worked much, much harder on this. I know that hard work itself is not enough. I know that page count doesn't matter. You have to be daring. You have to be challenging. The things I didn't have the guts to do eventually were the drawbacks of my TS.

In the light of this, I am accepting the pass. I am disappointed of course, because I would've loved to show what I really could do given the focus I found recently, but, at the same time, I think the assessment from the TS tutors, as a whole, was fair. The two strongest TS:s in the unit received a nomination for high pass. Me and another girl received pass, both of us struggling, despite working hard as always. They don't reward promise, they reward what's on the table. And you can't ask for more.

In sum: a complete to pass would have been cruel, a pass is valid, and a nomination for high pass would have been an opportunity. The AA has once again responded as I thought it would. Be sure: I haven't lost faith in the ethos of the school. What I've lost faith in is the cowardice of not pursuing your own convictions, doing so in order to do what you suspect others "think is right", which was my mistake. Too many opinions, too little courage.

Now comes the challenge of working with what I have, not reinventing or abandoning it, as I did in fourth year, but making it my project, my agenda, my responsibility. The other day, I read a quote from Asif Khan, recent graduate of the AA and quickly carving out a career in London: "if you believe in what you’re doing, then your tutors and examiners will too." I wish I had realised this earlier, but at least I haven't graduated yet. Still one term left to fuck it all and go out with a bang, and then I have the rest of my career to fuck up the profession.


A Surprise

Yesterday, I printed what I had for the TS book for binding today. It will be the bulk of the submission, and whatever I make from today to Friday will be, in the words of a friend, "the icing on the cake." Had a better tutorial with my teacher today, and I tried to balance my new insights with the genuine desire for guidance, hence I was honest about the things I wasn't happy with, that weren't clear enough, and we found solutions together. It was much more giving than last week. I felt like we actually had a conversation, cooperating on the project, balancing our ideas, rather than being submissive or assertive to one another. There will be conflict, for sure, but it will be for the best.

Another good thing that happened yesterday was that I finally got my final essay assessment; I submitted it mid-December, about 15 pages (longer than I expected, but I felt I needed to state my case). It was a strange essay. I chose Mark Cousins (head of history and theory studies at the AA) as my course tutor, but I never went to any tutorials with him. Perhaps I was too stubborn. Perhaps I was just lazy. But anyway, I wrote that essay exactly as I wanted to, exactly the way I could at this point of my skills. I took many risks, but at least they were *my* risks. Basically, I did exactly what I suggested in the previous post: trusted myself, and argued for my way of thinking. I would have been disappointed if I only got a pass. After all, I suspected either a high pass or a low pass, depending on what Mark's attitude would be.

I got high pass with distinction.
I had a peach ice tea to celebrate.


The Architectural Association: A Fifth Year, Second Term Report

The past week has been a week of great realisations, perhaps coming naturally now that I'm completely off the medicines, after having lived on half-dose for two months. In both instances, the cause was the same: two bad tutorials. The first one was with a technical studies tutor who I hadn't seen since the interim. In summary, he told me that my project was banal and not really a project at all. He said: I didn't propose anything, I wasn't constructing anything. My reaction to his comments were the same as they've been previously this year: listen, make notes, try to accept, smother your pride. But inside, I was angry. I had worked hard, taken many decisions, followed the path I thought was right - and which had, indeed, been certified "right" by several other teachers, including my own.

However, it made me reconsider what I thought was a "good project"; he simply didn't accept my way of thinking and designing. In that way, I listened, I assimilated, and learned. The following day, I sent an email to him thanking him for his honest opinion, even though, as I said, I would not change my project according to it. That is still true.

Slightly shaken in my conviction, I continued to do what I usually do: work. Two days later, I was up for a tutorial with my regular unit teacher. I showed her the renders. I showed her the drawings. Naturally, like I wrote before, I've been working 12-13 hour shifts every day, seven days a week, on them. And despite having tried my best to incorporate what she said, what other teachers said, and what I wanted to do myself, she didn't like it. Of course. Out with the red marker pen, and wrong-wrong-wrong everywhere. Change, this is not good. Don't hang, student x is hanging, and student x is not doing well - do you want to be like him? My reaction was the same: stoic. But, similarly, the feeling inside was of anger.

As the day grew longer, that anger didn't subside. In fact, it got worse. I didn't know why, what it was, what was wrong. This wasn't just personal pride, it was something deeper. I was tired of being controlled. I wasn't taught anymore, I was directed. I didn't learn anything, I was instructed.

I came to the AA because I wanted to learn how to be the best architect I could possibly be, not the best architect the profession, the critics or the teachers considered. I came to the AA because I felt like a misfit, and that misfits were encouraged here, developed, nurtured, not detoxified and churned out to do white boxes after graduation. That's the reason I chose Inter 2 in third year, and they treated me well. I was allowed to be myself. It was the same in Dip 9 in 4th year. Sure, my project was erratic and unfocused, but I was allowed and encouraged to do it.

In fifth year, things are different.

Not only did I impose on myself the demand to finally become a "good student", but I also accepted the far more increased demands of control, both over detail and the whole, that was exerted by the teachers around me. Suddenly, things got serious, but serious in all the wrong ways.

You'll do a shitty project. Why? Because if you don't stand up for what you think, develop the skills to argue for them, and trust in the fact that when you've made a decision, it is the best for your project, for no-one else knows the project as well as you do - you will be treated like an idiot. This is exactly the problem with the AA at the present. You will be given idiotic advice. You will be asked to present in an idiotic way, treating those around you as idiots, as well. There is only one good project, and if you don't make it, you are an idiot.

This is what teaching here is today: the good students are left on their own, and the bad students are taught to behave like the good students. The problem is: they are not really *taught*, they are *instructed*; they become imitators. And, of course, the good student is inimitable, since he is imitating no-one, and as such the bad student will always fail, and never become a good student on his own terms. They will be fish trying to climb trees for the rest of their lives. And no-one will respect them.

I have a very clear principle in architecture: I don't judge others for their creative efforts. I do not believe in judgement of that sort. I do not believe in learning as practiced today, at the AA or at my old school in Lund (the two I'm experienced with, although I've had more guest teachers from other schools than I can count). But this rule comes with a twist: if someone judges *me*, I will fight against such judgement. If someone treats me like an idiot, I am going to treat them like idiots as well. This is fair, because it has a purpose: to destroy judgement itself. This is not contradictory, and if you need proof for it, look around. Great architecture is not made by criticsm, it is made by conviction.

I'm not going to say that my project is perfect. I am not going to say I cannot develop. However, this is made by you, yourself, realising that you're making something that you, yourself, consider a mistake, not because you were told by your teacher that you were making a mistake, and that you should rectify as soon as possible. Mistaken on what grounds, by the way? On grounds of convention, to be honest, they very concept that the AA has been set up to fight, and prides itself in doing so. But the fight seems to be awfully internal, inter-unit wise. Students are treated like soldiers employed to do the best work that represents the unit, not the individual student himself - unless, of course, you're actually a good student, by which consequence you will just do what you believe in, and do it well. These are the people getting - or at least should be getting - the honours.

All of these thoughts altered my day today and yesterday. I went to a tutorial with the head of Technical Studies as said these things - albeit in a less elaborated form - and he agreed with them. Very few students here actually realise this, he said. I'm not saying this to seem smart; if anything, my reason is to prove my thesis, that people will inevitably either agre or don't agree, like or don't like what you say, but nonetheless, all of them will *respect you* if you stand up for yourself, if you defend yourself, if you pursue what you believe is right. These are not just empty words, they have become empty because the majority have become cynical in the light of not being able to live up to it in action.

Case in point: I had another tutorial today, with my unit teacher (yes, I'm having lots of tutorials these days). I did not expect it to go well, and I did not hope for it in an attempt to scope some sorts of satisfaction from outwards sympathy. From the very first moment, the red pen was out and the wrong-wrong-wrong again about to be scribbled across the pages. I could've reacted the same way i did at the two previous tutorials, but I didn't. I was tired of being directed rather than enlightened. So I disagreed. Which produced more disagreement. Which lead to more disagreement. After 20 minutes of back-and-forth quarrelling, she called those minutes wasted, wasted because I hadn't just accepted what she said and agreed to change the drawing - like a good student.

Nota bene: I wasn't being an asshole for the sake of it. When I hadn't thought about a thing, I admitted so, and said I would consider her advice. But in the cases where I had actually *thought* of the problem, and thought hard, I told her why she was wrong and I was right, why what I did was the most sensible solution to my project and my thesis, and why I would hold on to it. She admitted: she was okay with disagreement. And I admit: I want to see how far that will remain true. Again, I'm not doing it to be an asshole. I'm doing it because my project - I know - will demand it. I came to this unit to do what I believed in, not what she believed in, what previous students had believed in, or even what my fellow unit friends believe in. The only alternative is self-mockery, cliché and caricature.

These 20 minutes were not wasted. They had purpose for the project itself, which is nothing but a fight both internally and externally. There has to be conflict, even over petty things (at least in the cases when the critcisms are petty, as they often are at this point of the year). And, in all of the cases, the only one emerging victorious should be you - as a better thinker, as a better architect, as a better you. You are the product of the architecture school, not the teacher, not the unit, not even the project itself. The products of an architecture school is not buildings - it is architects. We tend to forget this.

After my rather "bad" tutorial, I had to rush to see another technical studies teacher in just a few minutes, one that I hadn't seen in some time due to overlooked emails. This was exactly the same project, the same drawings, the same spaces, as I had presented just moments earlier. At the moment I brought out the 3D model (from the laptop I brought), the same model that had hardly raised an eyebrow earlier, if anything, just questions, I was met by a long "wow", after which followed 45 minutes of exciting discussion and elaboration precisely on the merits of the project itself. Yes, fundamentally the same project that another teacher had called "banal and not really a project at all" was now called a "very strong gesture", "a clear concept", "a rich technical challenge" and "something I will think of when I take the train home from school today."

I'm only saying this to illustrate the absurdity of a good project as an instruction, and not as a personal conviction. Why should we not be allowed to do what we want? Why should we not argue for it? Why the need for all this doubt, if the doubt is only there because we listen to everyone but ourselves? If you agree with all of this, good. You've realised something long before I had. Perhaps you will also be able to make something good out of it. That's even better. But I'm writing this for those like myself - and, by judging those around me, their frustration and their personal trade-offs - they aren't few.

In this small essay I've been trying as much as possible to criticise not others for their personal convictions, and how they carry them out creatively, but for their criticism of others. The critic's role is easy, the designer's is hard. To be a teacher at the AA is simple - note that I'm not saying "teacher" by definition - to actually create a project you can be respected for is hard.

The year is not over. My teacher is still my teacher. I respect her: she has experience, she is smart. But she only sees my project two times a week, and for 30 minutes each. Do the math: who actually knows the most about the project, and what should be done about it? You or your teacher? And who is it that invest the most effort, the most thought, the most conviction into the project? You or your teacher?

Let me end with a lateral, but nonetheless related opinion: I find it incredibly inaccurate to say that the AA "awards" honours upon graduation, as if the school has "given" something to the student that the student did not have. In reality, it is the *student* who has given the schools something: a project of such quality that it merits, deserves, is required, to be called an "honours project." AA would be absolutely nothing without its students, because they are the ones who makes the projects. The students give the AA honours. But, in reality, it is no different with any project, any student. That alone gives me a bit of strength and conviction to carry on.



There's a difference in considering what one may intellectually prefer, and what one prefers if one could put all intellectual matters to the side. I am not an intellectual, despite what some may believe. I value stupidity, because without it, there's no need to learn. But more than the antithesis to intellectualism - which is still to view the world from an intellectual point of view, that is, one of thought, as I do presently in this text - I'm moving towards considering the intuitive, the emotional, the sublime. Perhaps Kant killed it perfectly at his first strike, but nonetheless, sometimes I just want to *think less.*

What is interesting perhaps, is the act of not trying too hard. To be intellectual, without aiming consciously to be pretentious. To be ruthless, without assuming it as a role necessary for the promotion of a project's principles. To be natural, without being stuck in the most unnatural thing there is: to constantly observe and scold oneself for not being natural enough. The great redeeming thing about thought is that the more we think, the less certain are we of the conclusions we reach. That is, to paraphrase Alan Watts, a great discovery.

On the contrary, the more we allow a feeling to consume us, the more certain we are of the existence of that particular feeling. We may not know what to do about it, only that something is either wrong or right, and that it demands attention. Why shouldn't I do the things I like? Why should I not be absorbed by sadness, if it is sadness that has been chosen for me by my id? Why not drink if you're thirsty?

Late nights of thunderstorms and burglar alarms.
Early mornings as the sun crawls through the flats across the street.
Soon graduation. The preference of clarity, decision and event
rather than the ambiguous and self-contradictory.
I want to go to Sapporo.


12 hour TS shifts

Everything that we perceive as normal, is normal only because we've seen it so many things before. In effect, it has become normal, and is only labelled as such in retrospect. I'm trying to hog my seat in the unit space at first time in the morning, and not let go of it until the evening. A Twix from the bar keeps me going after 8, and then, when the spreads are done and posted, just as the last bus prepares to make its leave from Tottenham Court Road, I shut down my computer and put on my hat. My TS tutorial today went better than I expected, although we primarily spoke of the project as such and not so much the technical solutions. But TS is - honestly - not very technical. It is more descriptive than it is investigative.

There are many books I'd like to read. The arch-theory book on my table, for instance. Thick but sweet. But when do I have time? After school maybe, or, after graduation, at least. A professor has the convenience of being forced to learn as much as to teach. One cannot know in advance, although intelligence itself has nothing to do with knowledge. That's the question we must ask: do we want professors of knowledge, or professors of intelligence. It's a tricky one.

Yesterday's grand insight: a formally complex project does not have to be intellectually complex, and an intellectually complex project does not have to be formally complex. In each situation - each forum, one may say - there calls for priority. The Helsinki Guggenheim entry on suckerpunch which frankly stated that we are not into bullshit and therefore admit that we only did this because we liked it, is perhaps the most bullshit there is. All form, all sculpture, all Patrik Schumacher, and nothing that changes architecture itself. It's like those stupid Coop Himmelb(l)au plans where a funky envelope covers a boring auditorium. Sit there, listen, shut up and save your notebooks for the foyer. This is bullshit at its highest perimeter. And still, if we take it as bullshit *as such*, and do not expect anything else, it might satisfy us. For a moment.

My own theoretical developments are dying away, mainly because my brain is fried in the evening (and that the evening-ly bus ride of retrospection and recollection hasn't happened in a week).




Technical Studies interim jury tomorrow (or, shall we say, today, but later?), and I'm prepared to pull my first all-nighter since I came to London. It's not that I need to, but I tend to feel better if I stay awake the whole time and then sleep when the day in question is fully over. I'm still young, I tell myself. I can still do this, with orange juice, chocolate and ambient techno in my headphones.

And, in a way, it's quite fun to do this. I see things progress, faster than they've never done before. Ideas pop into one's mind, and are immediately tested. No surprise that the best ideas one can get are those that shine brightly like stars in the sky of the night. (Or perhaps I'm just starting to hallucinate.)

My room is not the best for these kinds of exercises. Just one lamp in the ceiling, and my back turned to the window, which ought to provide me with some confirmation that there are more people than me going about their business. The sea never rests, the waves always flow in and out, always going somewhere, even if it means back to where they came from. What is the world on the third floor at 2 AM? It could be terrible, but it could also be quite beautiful.

See you when the sun rises.



It's been a while, hasn't it? More than a year! Truth be told, I haven't had neither the time nor the inspiration to scavenge the net for new songs. (After all, what is architecture school if not a big time-crusher?) BUT. The past weeks that interest has resurfaced again, and now, with a copy of Ableton Live 9 spreading that fresh install smell over my desktop, I can get back to compiling these little treasures in eclectic sonic territory. I will be using a new SoundCloud account to distribute them, but they won't last forever - or, to be more precise, only until the next mix is done, which doesn't say much, as we now know ... anyway, if there is any past mix of me you're looking for, I have them all on my HD. In the meantime, download, listen, wear it and tear it as much as you like. Happy Valentine's Day.

Track List: (Artist - Album - Song - Year)

1. Ryoji Ikeda - Test Pattern - Test Pattern #0101 (Edit) (2008)
2. Rabit - Sun Dragon - Atacama Skeleton (2014)
3. Pantha du Prince - Black Noise - Bohemian Forest (2010)
4. Ontario Hospital - Future Ready - Consumer Report (2015)
5. Kontext - Dispersal - Moon Whispers (2014)
6. Seazo - A Tribute To Cosmos - Binarium (2014)
7. Whitehouse - Birthdeath Experience - On Top (1980)
8. Until The Ribbon Breaks - A Lesson Unlearnt - The Other Ones (Intro) (2015)
9. Trampique - The Voice of Colour - Indigo (2014)
10. Lin Jia Qing - Journey to Gusu - Birds Play in Water (1997)
11. Aphex Twin - Computer Controlled ... - hat5c 0001 rec-4 (2015)
12. Capsule - CAPS LOCK - DELETE (2013)
13. Alessandro Alessandroni - Industrial - Comitato aziendale (2015)
14. Kazumasa Hashimoto - Epitaph - echomoo (2004)
15. Efdemin - Chicago - Oh My God (Reprise) (Edit) (2010)
16. Anders Ilar - Sworn - Icarus & Pegasus (2008)
17. Bad Sector - Absolute - Absolute 05 (2015)
18. Surgeon - Balance - Set Two (1998)
19. Adventure Time - Of Beyond - Set On Satellites (2014)
20. Broken Bone - Willowbrook - Coercion (2014)
21. The Phoeron - Universal Equation - A Widened Perspective (2008)
22. Takahiro Kido - Fairy Tale - Roads (2011)

All is equal.


Shigeru Ban in Oita

Time to say goodnight, as usual. My days at school are getting longer, but, on the other hand, I get more sunshine, sprinkling rays over unfinished models and leftovers from last Friday's tutorial on the table. My life is busy, not because I am forced, like so many others, to fill this time with obligations, necessities, responsibilities ... but because I have promised myself to finish what I've started, even if it means assuming a bit of a new habit, one that needs a few more hours of dedication every week.

A project can easily not only throw you into the deep end, but also submerge you by the very weight you heap on it. So many ambitions, so many ideals, but, in the end, you have to edit. Edit, edit, edit. And redo. Over and over again, until it SHINES. Thought I had enough content already in my project, so I spent the weekend modelling my main drawing in Maya. Not so wise. My teacher sent me an email by lunchtime, spurring me to do that which is harder, harder because it is necessary. So. I quit Maya, went back to pen and paper, but quickly discovered I worked even faster in Illustrator. Every moment has its movement, and every movement has its tool.

Technical Studies interim jury in two weeks. Will have to churn out as much as I can for that purpose, squeeze in every experiment, every application, and every stray idea. "TS is refreshing", one of my friends who graduated said, "you can spend your time doing ugly diagrams and then get a high pass from it." I remember reading something similar about the AA honours. A project of that calibre isn't necessarily "perfect", on the contrary, it can be rough and unpolished, but what matters is that it contains something fantastic, something that has you thinking: so this is what architecture can be. We cannot demand of students to be perfect, but we can demand of them to risk it all for uncovering something that can be perfected - for a lifetime.


What do we do tomorrow? Precisely what we did yesterday.

But this is only true of what we do, of course, not *what* we do. My teacher laughed at me when I told her, a few months ago, which other units I had considered before going back to Dip 9: "Dip 6 and Dip 14." Now, what are they? For a brief introduction, look here and here. Quite different? Quite different. Especially considering the things I do right now, which sit in between black holes, corporate organisations, and wooden space frames.

I think this warrants a quote, again from Lefebvre, my new favourite philosopher: "Why choose? Why should I be forced to choose? In Stendhal's vision - and this is what gives it its value - choice is absurd and monstrous; it results in mutilation and one-sidedness. To choose, to want art as service and not as beauty - that is, if beauty and art still mean anything - is to prefer the part to the whole. It is like defining love as reproduction. Why renounce pleasure? Why turn into a moraliser, a puritan, an ascetic, on the pretext of being of service?"

Is it true? It is as true as you wish it to be. If you, like me and Stendhal, do not want to define what precisely is truth and what isn't, and prefer rather to linger on in an indefinite, neutral (but passionately grey) limbo of which all things are possible, but none are real, then it makes sense why we continue to do things even despite losing faith in them, perhaps, in fact, in never having faith ...

Bartlett is stuck in the 80s.
AA is stuck in the 60s.
SCI-Arc is stuck in itself.
Lund was never stuck in anything.
We all need to be stuck in something.


Yufuin's Golden Lake

White walls to stare into, white light in your back, switching to electric light in the evening. I stayed at home, and found it relaxing. No-one to talk to, just me, and a computer to wrestle with, content to be produced, today, not tomorrow. I'm making a book. No, not just a TS-book, but an actual book. It will be my testament, my legacy to myself. I'm thinking of having six printed exes of that book on the final table-table, when they decide whether you pass or fail, just barely pass, or fail gloriously. Not many months left now, and then, I will - hopefully - be an architect. At least with my first steps taken.

When I walked to the grocery store to top up on milk and salad, I found myself thinking, once again: yes, this is how I want to live. This pleases me. I am lucky. I can do many things, but most importantly: I can enjoy what I do. The struggle is worth it. The stubbornness pays off. And with nearly all the sweets from Japan gone and eaten (the Yufuin crackers being the exception), I can look forward new horizons, new rallying points, and new places to vanish into. Life goes on, life begins and ends, but, in the end, I'm glad I'm here.

Tutorial tomorrow. Another stamp of approval?
Otherwise: I will fight, I promise to fight
if for nothing but my own pleasure.


Osaka Pigeon

Jury in the rear second presentation space - a classic example of carrot-and-stick. At first, when I presented, the critics seemed to steer the discussion in the direction of my own uniqueness, my "Oliver-ness", but my teacher quickly interrupted and declared: "It is too much Oliver! I don't know how to talk about it!" And I suppose she is right. Crits are surprising, a bit disconcerting, but ultimately we wouldn't want to live without them. Finally my birthday present for my girl arrived in Japan, two teddy-bears stuck in an embrace for almost two weeks (and a letter, of course).

Swedish meatballs in the fridge, with Greek salad, potential Greek defaults in the news, and Greek PhD-graduates slowly immersed in the Bartlett. The day is almost over, and with it, the harshness of the throat can be laid to rest, the chilly winds attempting to catch my hat on my way to Sainsbury's surrendering to the brick wall of my Edgware Road domicile. Now I have read Baudrillard as well, so what remains? A lot. A lot. Althusser, Adorno, Zisek, Foucault, Wittgenstein (again), Guattari, Popper ... all men, I notice. Maybe a bit of Simone de Beauvoir, if I can find her in the AA library.

From instrumental hip-hop to Zorba, from a selection of Chopin's finest to pseudo-psychedelic chamber music. There is no such joy as hitting "random" on a selection you've already made. Perhaps this is what Lefebvre meant when he discussed the aleatory?


You win again, SANAA

I wonder why I am doing this. Why I am attempting to be someone. Sometimes, I feel that it is easier to disappear, than to fail, for disappearance had with it a hint of mystery, a thought left unresolved. But somehow, I keep pushing on, for that moment when architecture means something more than just a passing glance and a knowing smile ... is there more we can do, or is that all? Is the impotence of architecture a reality, like the passengers on the bus choosing rather two empty seats back in the bus than sitting close to a stranger on a seat further up front ... ? I don't know. I wish I knew. Sometimes architecture matters, sometimes it is devoid of all feeling.

Perhaps I'm just timid. I make drawings, and photos. I'm slow, but, then again, everyone is, when they do something they care about. My demands got me where I am today, but they still can't bring me up early from the bed. And some things age with time, some routines just become impossible to break (unless, of course, you're forced to break them). Some things are problematic, and they seem not to be solved by thought. But, if I went down the route of feelings alone, I would have no choice but to end with the small house with a green door. Perhaps I'll end there anyway.

I wonder how much you can learn. Aren't we only learning to be more of ourselves? Like becoming caricatures of our own mirror image.


Gravity (is weird)

Finished another drawing, after a series of four brave 8 hour sessions the past days. I'm wondering what it would look like coloured, but, I don't think I want to go all Illustrator about it. Perhaps printing a version on nice paper and then going nuts with my set of colour pencils? We'll see. Tomorrow is my weekly Skype session, and after that ... more work ... of course ...

I think my strength, and my weakness, is that I do not make a difference between school and life. School is life to me. Architecture is that life. It is what I read, it is what I think of first thing in the morning, and often the last thing before going to sleep. It should be evident that I like it. However, there's a sharp difference, as I've pointed out before, between architecture and building. I don't think you need buildings in order to speak of architecture. In the same manner, I don't think my drawings, even though they're mostly concerned with the inhabitation of buildings, are not relevant to the AA. Some may like it, some may not. Nacho (of the TS crew) thought it didn't matter. One could easily upscale or downscale the items in my drawings to an "architectural" scale. Do I sound naive? Isn't that the certificate of youth?

Serenity is an undervalued feeling. It does not equal inactivity, rather it is the complete merge of intention and action, when there is nothing to look for, nothing to grapple, nothing with a dangerous twist. One can feel serene in Shibuya as much as in Siberia. Funny how you can cross both in a day ...


Schinkel in the house ...

Slowly beginning to rise slowly from a slow bus rider to a quick school, that's what I'm living at the moment. In a bid for advanced self-deception, I'm pushing ahead one TS-spread at a time. More information! More stuff! More everything! (Preferably compressed into a shot of acid you can take without going all schizo about it.) Things alter our course, and then, there's the lectures, which I still haven't attended. Sometimes I wonder of the reason why I'm paying all this money, in any case. What I use is the unit space, what I exploit is my teacher, what I enjoy is the evening when I shut down the computer and go home with a clear conscience. And, in the future, I will be paid for being somewhere, doing something, not always of my own choice.

By slowly recovering my conversational skills in English, I think I'm approaching the point where I can be of help to others. I've always thought it would be nice to be a teacher, but it is only very recently that I'm starting to build up the confidence in order to guide other people towards a goal that is the best for them (and which they, of course, do not understand). As a teacher, you want to be surprised, but not by the wrong kind of surprises (a student showing up at a tutorial after a mid-week of being hammered with zero to discuss, or, the dreaded phrase: "I don't know what to do so I've come here to ask you what I should do"). You want the student to have the ideas themselves, and *then* it is the teacher's role to prune them.

Tomorrow I will send my gift to my girl in Japan. Funny how quickly birthdays follow one another. And we should be happy for them. Another year of more experiences, another tome of knowledge we can add to our memories. Who wants to get old? Nobody. Who wants to get wiser? Everybody. What people only reluctantly accept is that the two go hand in hand.


Albanian Presidents vs. Holl

The cookies from Usuki found a home in the unit space, with my teacher remaining skeptical until the first bite. At the end of day, a cold sun set over the rooftops, busy with refurbishments, and the opening of the first exhibition for the term. Will take a closer look next week, but for now, it remains to push the project as far as possible. Tomorrow, I will go to school, as I do all Saturdays. My plan is getting loftier with every new spread added to the storyboard, and I try to ignore the fact that I still don't have a project (a building, a site, a program, whatever). Remains to see what comes out of it, after all, as I've said before, a project is not a neat pile of research, but neither is it a flurry of statements confused for manifestos that no-one but you wants to hear. Javier (the Technical Studies head) told me to stand down from the TS for a while to develop the project. But what project?

I'm not scared though. It will happen. It will be. I have an argument, I just haven't got a building. I'm fine with that. I left architecture school in Sweden because I was always told to do a building. For my 3rd year thesis, I set up a wacky narrative of immigrants invading the site of the competition we were told to partake in. It was weird, and, in the end, I was forced to present a building. Neat plans. Neat renders. How suffocating! If there is one place in the world of architecture where you can get away doing factories for black holes and graviton detectors of the size of Jupiter, it's here. Sorry if it sounds like I'm glorifying my school, as if I have been converted to its cult. It's not so. I am changing the school, and demanding of it to change, or, at least, that's what I'm trying to do. And so far so good.



(Oh, no, a grey building! Curse you SANAA for giving the Europeans an identity crisis!) London is windy and rainy, perhaps more windy than rainy, if one has the need to be exact. Tomorrow Technical Studies tutorial, with the option of an additional meeting on Friday. We'll see how that goes. Gravity is my theme - no, not the film; what Newton did - along with rallying points, and it will make my project curiously TS-driven, not just a detail or a facet to the project, no, the TS *is* the project. It's fun. I can go into strange territories of factories for black holes, factories for smashing together protons and creating antimatter, almost forming the plot for a Dan Brown novel. We are high-brow today!

When I was in Japan, my girlfriend and I walked by a store which sold Snoopy accessories, virtually everything Snoopy, including a giant dog (more of a bear, a panda bear) in front of the entrance, which we hugged. Tomorrow I will go to Hamleys on Regent Street, in search of a present for her birthday. I want to buy something big, but, then again, that would be difficult (and ridiculously expensive) to send by post halfway across the world. Am I being to sensible? Either way, birthdays are fun (as long as it is not your own that you're celebrating ...)

Now with Lefebvre finished (the anti-philosopher who is accused of being a philosopher, and who artfully dodges the subject by claiming to merely use "philosophical tools"), I'm thinking of moving on to Baudrillard, who I've only read essays of, but who I, already last year, bought at Waterstones near Piccadilly for some evening thoughtfulness. Will report on it soon here on the blog. In the meantime, I thoroughly recommend Lefebvre to you all, who makes philosophy more fun than nonsensical. As Baudrillard states, be wary of those who speak seriously and attempt to look serious. "They are insignificant."


If we leave the world, what will we do?

Reading some physics books, as well as the last twenty-or-so pages of "Preludes to Modernity." Said hi to some friends in the corridors, registered for the new term, inspected the temporary door to the library, said hi again (to the security staff), ate sushi (which I dip, as always, with the wrong side down), ate sandwiches, left my hat at home (it was too windy), printed pages for tomorrow's tutorial, tried (and try) to remember to bring the sweets to tomorrow's tutorial, and, finally, just enjoyed the rain. London, you are the same! Some of us may live like carp on the bottom of the pond, but what the scientist perhaps forgets, is that this pond is quite nice to be in, and should be preserved. That is our responsibility, or, like my first book on architecture stated: man does not yet know the world, and yet already searches for a way away from it ...

Having trouble sleeping, which is partly due to jetlag (which makes me more alert than tired), partly due to the many thoughts which pass through my mind each evening. Is my project relevant? Or am I crazy? Wouldn't life be much more easier if I just sat down and drew a building? Yes. Much more. But that's no fun, as we know. The AA is staging the comeback of the most hideous of po-mo: Bofill! Perhaps fitting since Quinlan Terry got the New Year Honours this 2015 as well. I'm still waiting for an award for Morris Lapidus, though. In other news, the return of the grandmaster Koolhaas again. Don't think I'll attend that one. Perhaps it's just the format that doesn't fit me.

J Soul Brothers in my headphones, of course. New shirt, new trousers. My new favourite wristwatch quickly becoming as indispensable as the triple-oscillated sawtooth waveform. I hope this year will be good. Many things will happen. It will be the year of changes, of conclusions, and of great sacrifices.


Some ends produce themselves

Sitting in Helsinki, awaiting the final journey that will bring me back home. What home? you may ask. Is it the place where I grew up, the place where I matured, or the place where I envisioned my slowing-down, the dedication to something, not just the whim of the self, of childishness? I don't know. Lefebvre might provide me some guidance, I've almost finished his preludes now and he has a conversational sharpness that few can match. If I choose Heidegger for the ontology, Lefebvre is there for the politics, even though I'm beginning to disavow myself from all things political, in a world that has become so political that it seems like the only option to express such a thing as an independent opinion. Strange, isn't it?

School starts. London returns in my life. For how long? I don't know. I think ... London is *convenient*, like Stockholm. But is it convenience I wanted? Didn't I come to London to seek something beyond the convenient? Am I not here to wager with my ideas, my illusions, my very own sturm und drang, as my father calls it? It is so, and it is why I continue. I cannot find any answers by waiting for the answers to come to me, or, as a psychologist said it, perhaps to find directions, we need to learn to listen better. Such delusions! Such truths. It is just like writing. You learn it by doing two things: writing itself, and reading. (I've said that before, haven't I?)

The Paris terrorist attacks happened while I was in Japan, so I had a bit of guilty conscience that I spend such a good time with my girl instead of paying attention to what was going around in the world, the discussions, the statements, the mass rallying against all forms of oppression. The world does that to you. Makes you feel indebted to it, from all its resources, myths, and, perhaps in a bit of a jargon, manifestations. But I'm going back now. I will pay attention. We cannot always dream.



Maybe not so much colour, but definitely nice

Cloudy-rainy skies give way to blue sunshine, and we went to the Stone Buddha's national heritage in Usuki, of which you will see photographic evidence later. Sometime. Maybe. After a visit back to the hotel for a clean shave via a ramen lunch eaten properly (with the spoon), we went to the bakery where my girlfriend works, to say hello to more of her staff colleagues. Of course, such a visit cannot go without the purchase of something fika, so two ice-cream cones were promptly bought and savoured on the parking lot. Later, we went home to her parents, to a curry and snow storm news from Hokkaido. Her mother commended me for my Japanese, and for the colour of the sweater which we bought two days ago.

So far so good. Tomorrow will bring more food, more shopping, and hopefully a visit to the cinema. It will be my last full day in Oita, before I take the Shinkansen back to Osaka on the 9th, to prepare for the flight back to Copenhagen, and, with only half-a-day to further recover at home from that flight, it's back to London with likely an insane amount of work an commitment to this strange profession I've chosen. My teacher has so far not commented on my ideas on the blog, which I take as a silent approval (and perhaps a nod of let's-see-where-this-goes, and if it goes totally strange and irrelevant, I trust her to steer me back to the right course).

Steven Holl drawings in the exhibition space, cold Januaries with or without snow, in my newly acquired colour-excursions of scarves and shirts. Who knows where all this will end? I just know that I don't have to reinvent myself in order to do it, just to forget why I need to reinvent something in the first place ...


Oliver Sauce

Currently in Oita, my girlfriend's hometown, in Japan, to celebrate the New Year and to indulge in many free hugs and stolen kisses. I tend to adjust quickly to new time zones, although I accidentally went back to sleep after the alarm bell went off (and missed the breakfast buffet as a consequence). Today, we will exchange New Year's gifts (I brought sweets and jam from London, Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly to be precise), go to piano lessons, and practice more Japanese. Since I learnt English mainly by reading and writing, I'm practicing the same in Japan, although probably a four-year-old could read faster than me. But the more you do, the better you get! Don't give up, I tell myself, listen and speak, and ganbatte ne!

I wish I could stay longer, but one has to be content with what one gets. I can't say I *miss* London (Japan is much more fun!), but I miss the school, the discussions, the late night ideas, and the frenzied attacks upon TS to make it happen. The school officially opened today, one week in advance of the new term, and it's time to crash through the walls (hopefully intact on the other side) ...