Break in Philly
By Toa Rivera
These past weeks have been very busy, as always. School and work are my priorities, but sometimes I need to search for inspiration elsewhere. I believe a break from work should not be in isolation from ones desire to learn more about what one loves – in my case, architecture. Instead, it is an opportunity to be open to seeing something new, or to experience something that I have already seen and be able to critique it with other students.
When the AIAS BAC sent everyone an invitation for a trip to the AIAS Fall Quad Conference in Philadelphia, my first reaction was "No, I need to study." Then I thought, but I have to study every weekend, so I’ll try something different. I decided to join the trip as I saw it as an opportunity to affirm the reason why I study. This was crucial for me, because often I get lost in the daily routine.
I was thrown into the conference as soon as the BAC group arrived in Philadelphia. The evening lecture on Friday focused on the concept of marginal pieces that could be stackable to be used not only for commercial spaces but also for residential. I was interested in one of the topics: "What happens to those units when you work on a skyscraper? How can units be arranged when the top part of a skyscraper usually gets smaller?"
Our first night, we discovered the silence and comfort that Philadelphia offered, because the trains were on strike! What a pity, here we were with Cornell University, Syracuse University, and various other schools from cities including Buffalo, Philadelphia, and New York. We were all thirsty for learning about the history of Philly, the beauty of its character and buildings, and we could not help but be affected by the train strike, which made it harder to get around.
The next morning, Saturday, I woke up at 6:30 to explore a bit of the city. It was great to walk around so early in the morning, because sometimes with silence you can appreciate things that you might not notice when surrounded with other people.
Then by 10am, all the conference teams were ready: the red team explored the history of Philadelphia. The green team took a tour of a green roof and to understand all the qualities that it takes to make a building LEED Certified. The blue team explored modern Philadelphia with a tour to the top of the Comcast Center. By the end of our tours, we also had the opportunity to visit two firms. The firm that I visited on Friday surprised me, because the designers do most of their drafting and rendering work by hand, which is unusual.
That night, all the students networked at the Beaux Arts Ball. We danced in a celebration of design. Sunday morning, just when we were getting upset because it was time to go home, we went to the market for a brunch. It was a great experience since it represented the mixture of flavors that Philadelphia offers. It also gave us a chance to sit together and share our experience of the trip.
We had driven down and we drove back up to Boston, too. The car rides were fun, because although at times we disagreed on the architecture that we liked or the countries where we should explore, we all had the same thirst for learning, discovering and be challenged.