Friday, September 5, 2008

When I'm not slaving away on this %#&^@ book . . .

I'm loving Architecture School on the Sundance Channel. I'd been taping the episodes and finally got around to watching the first two during my thesis-writing marathon last weekend. I felt was legit to watch it since it was sort of related to my project. It turned out to be a great combination of watching Project Runway and reading Dwell magazine.

The set up of the show is that architecture students in Tulane University's Urban Build program first design and then build a prototype house in a low-income neighborhood in New Orleans. The first term is spent designing (under the tutelage of their incredibly smart and sexy professor Byron Mouton, he of the "bold gesture") a 1,200 square-foot, three bedroom house on a practically no budget. At the end of the term, all of the designs are reviewed by a ruthless panel of architects, contractors, design people, and folks from the program's nonprofit partner agency Neighborhood Housing Services. During the review, one student is asked to explain why his concepts and ego should trump the practical needs of a family who would live in his design. Awe-some. Then, in a surprisingly democratic turn for reality TV, the students vote for which design they want to build.

By the third episode, the students show up for the next term of school to build the house--in something like fifteen weeks. While all of this is happening, there's another drama unfolding with the previous year's Urban Build house, which sits vacant only blocks away. The neighbors interviewed seem to the run the gamut from those who like the house's modern design and think it'll help their troubled neighborhood and those who think it's ugly and want it torn down. Drama and architecture, plus hubris, class warfare, and king cakes? Can't. Look. Away.

Fortunately, there are only six half-hour episodes in the entire season, so it's a short, quick, not-too-distracting fix for me, unlike last month's debilitating obsession with Jane Austen: not only did I reread P&P, I also rewatched the 1995 and 2005 movies, as well as Clueless (always good for a laugh) and The Jane Austen Book Club (ugh). That's how I've been filling my insomniac nights. How about you?

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