Architecture Student Project

  • Fall 1996
  • B.Arch. Year 4 Semester 1
  • Design Project
  • Studio Critics: Prof. Don Wall, Prof. John Nastasi

Fast forwarding to 4th year design studio in late 1996. This was… a wild project, and a wild semester.

THE SITE

The Hirshhorn Museum, a 60,000sf Smithsonian modern art museum located on the Mall in Washington DC, designed by Gordon Bunshaft in the late 1960s. The museum is a brutalist donut of a building, an elevated concrete ring sitting on four massive pylons above a fountained courtyard plaza.

THE PROJECT

Design an addition to the museum to house a permanent collection of Pablo Picasso’s work (any subset…


Architecture Student Project

  • Summer 1994
  • B.Arch. Year 1, Semester 2
  • Historical Architecture Documentation
  • Studio Critic: Prof. Craig Konyk

Since there was a group of 8 of us who had started architecture in the middle of the academic year (we had all transferred in from other places), they created a bespoke summer design studio just for us so that we could catch up with the rest of the first year students. It was was pretty special to have such a small studio (usually sections were 15–18), although we didn’t realise it at the time, but we took full advantage of it.

First day of…


Architecture Student Project

  • Spring 1994
  • B.Arch. Year 1 Semester 1
  • Design Project
  • Studio Critic: Prof. Joy Seigel

My very first semester in architecture school in 1994. This was the final project for B.Arch. Year 1, Semester 1 (Design Critic: Joy Seigel). The project was titled “A Wall with Two Faces” and the idea was to design a conceptual wall between the city and the garden, representing the link/divide between man/technology and nature/monumentality.

In order to inject transparency (i.e., give the observer a hint of what the “other side” represented), I flipped the two faces of the wall so that the facade representing technology…


Tips for design students to stay mentally engaged, active, and creative during summer vacation

[Note: This is an essay I wrote and have been sending to my students every year. Obviously this year, things are a bit different. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns are going to limit some of the activities I’ve listed here. But on the other hand, they will give you ample time to do some of the other activities. So adjust accordingly.]

A lot of my students complain about being bored during the summer holidays. On the one hand, it’s surprising how quickly you start being bored. On the other hand, I can understand how a full year of design school…


Adapting to new academic realities during a global pandemic and how it changes not just HOW we teach but WHAT we teach

Over the last few years, in many conversations with students, parents, designers, and educators, I’ve been using the word uncertainty quite a lot. Colleagues of mine have used the acronym VUCA over and over, which stands for “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity”. For many of us, this has been a guiding parameter for framing the way we teach. Seen in a larger perspective, it frames how we prepare young people for a future professional life.

The biggest problem I’ve experienced with many existing academic curricula is that they work from a fixed set of knowledge and skills that the professional…


Design as a vehicle for social justice

[A version of this article was recently published in “What’s Next: The Creative Spark”, a book of essays chronicling an event of the same name held in Mumbai in February 2019 organised by Pearl Academy. Click here for more info on Pearl’s well-received “What’s Next” series of confluences .]

The Lack of Ethos

In the 1996 Hollywood film Jerry Maguire, directed by Cameron Crowe, the titular character played by Tom Cruise infamously writes a mission statement for his sports agency firm, the result of a late-night epiphany about the direction in which he felt that his company should be heading. The statement (the full…


The need for rethinking urbanisation in the post-boom economy

[A version of this article was recently published in “What’s Next: The Creative Spark”, a book of essays chronicling an event of the same name held in Mumbai in February 2019 organised by Pearl Academy. Click here for more info on Pearl’s well-received “What’s Next” series of confluences .]

Raising the Alarm: India’s Housing Crisis

“Cities that adopt a strategy of inclusive prosperity now still have the power to transform their communities and neighbourhoods into more open, equitable, and profitable places to live.

- Amitabh Kant, CEO Neeti Aayog

An internet search of “indian housing crisis” will uncover a disturbing array of cautionary tales and doomsday…


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TV chairs at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, c.1980 (credit: Anne Cusack, Chicago Tribune, on reddit.com)

Air travel in the new millennium has changed in a huge number of ways, but the single biggest difference to me was the experience of being in an airport when you weren’t actually traveling. The TV chairs pictured above most clearly represent what is lost from that earlier era. But first, some background…

I lived most of my childhood growing up in Queens, New York, as did millions of other immigrant families. As it was for so many others, Queens was the first stop for new families arriving in the United States, and destined to spread out across the country…


Preparing Today’s Student Designer for the Technology of Tomorrow — An Educator’s Dilemma

[A version of this article was previously published in the March 2018 issue of Silicon India magazine.]

When I was studying architecture in the mid-1990s, the design profession (and design education, by extension) was in the middle of a massive paradigm shift. CAD (Computer Aided Design) was becoming the norm in architecture firms everywhere, and colleges were struggling to figure out how to strike the right balance between ensuring that students learned vital manual drawing skills — passed down through centuries of architectural teaching — and preparing them for the digital skills needed by the professional marketplace upon graduation. Before…


A case to reconsider the graduate profile of young designers in 21st century India

[A version of this article was originally published in July 2019 in the blog for Pearl Academy, where I was until recently the Dean of the School of Design.]

Introduction

A large number of articles and research published globally in the last few years have spoken about the looming threat of automation having a major impact on employability in the near future. Automation — or industrialisation as it was known back in the early twentieth century — is, in fact, no new threat. Countless historians, both contemporary and latter-day, have talked about how the Industrial Revolution changed the way people work…

Nidhip Mehta

Designer, educator, and sci-fi/fantasy geek

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