Practice Beginning

Practice and rehearsal go hand in hand, yet formats to rehearse means and methods of architectural practice are often lacking in architectural education. Design Consultancy, Concept Design, Full-Service, Design-Build, Design-Fabrication—students know that different practice models offer different opportunities, but are never necessarily confronted with the task to imagine viable, specific practices that operate within or alternative to these inherited models.

“Practice Beginning” is a workshop devised and organized by the “Practice Platform” at the GSD to encourage architecture and landscape architecture students to think freely and flexibly about forming a practice.  This workshop challenged students to invent design opportunities through a fictional practice, beholden to a set of constraints. Students were assigned to four person groups, and given a bag of five objects from which to construct an imaginative yet plausible agenda for practice. One object was given for each of five categories: a shape, a tool, a material, a location, and a wild card. Unlike the extended duration of studio, or focused criticism of design settings, the workshop format invited students to investigate pragmatic material by playful means.

There were three exercises in the workshop: practice formation (45 min.), peer review (60 min.), and final presentation (45 min.).  In the first exercise, students had to form a practice agenda based on their objects, craft this into a name and mission statement, and choose a representative to present the practice to others.  In the second exercise, the groups gathered into five cohorts paired with two faculty consultants to present and refine their mission statements.

At the conclusion, each cohort elected one practice to present to the group at large.  The selected practices represented the diverse, creative, spontaneous, and jocular output of participants.  These included a practice specializing in senior living (Sen-york-a-tects), a rent-an-architect business (Design Ambulance), a reality-TV and media company (Crack), a design-build practice focused on underserved communities (NAKKI), and a firm focusing on building out of pre-cycled materials (Re-Turner).

Mission statements of other practices included:


Members: Cari Alcombright, Evan Farley, Han Xu, Wendy Wang

“As sea level is rising, many cities around the globe will fall underwater. This catastrophe will lead to the architectural artifact falling victim to the sea. Contours is a nonprofit whose goal is to archive these at risk cities through mapping, 3d modeling, virtual experience, and human narrative. Our team of experts in field studies, material science, and computer science, and design work together to create this wholesome archive for the current and future generations.”

Objects: Rectangular Chipboard, cleaning brush, fabric, Postcard (Venice), blank DVD

Groundless Visionaries

Members: Johanna faust, Jia Gu, Blair Storie-Johnson, Sean Chia

“We are a design/build for-profit organization. We build custom homes for those who seek to get higher.

What began with some balloons, a toy house and the desire to travel the world has evolved into a full scale alternative to the traditional mobile home. We’ve redefined what the balloon frame can do for you. Light frames for ease of flying, off the grid low energy demands and absolutely no building footprint, with our aerial mobile home, all boundaries become but conventions. Our upward thinking collaborators consist of reliable insurance companies, and air traffic controllers trained to maintain your smooth lifestyle. We have no competitors. We are groundless visionaries.”

Objects: foam circle, string, rubber balloon, Postcard (clouds), toy house

As chair of the platform, Grace La hosted the event, with additional support from platform members Florian Idenburg, Chris Reed, Alex Krieger, Paul Nakazawa, Jay Wickersham, and Duncan Scovil, RA.  Invited practitioners included Mason White, Lola Sheppard, Inaki Abalos, Carles Muro, Max Kuo, Bradley Cantrell, Renata Sentkiewicz, Eric Howeler, Sergio Lopez-Pineiro, Silvia Benedito, Mariana Ibanez, and David Mah.


All content in the video is either in the open domain, subject to fair-use, or owned by the GSD.

Opening music is “The Modal Drummer” by Kevin MacLeod, produced for use in the Open Domain. The opening Photograph is Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche in 1957, from Yale University Archives, and is subject to Fair-use for academic purposes. Event photography is by Grace La. Video was filmed by the Computer Resources Group at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].