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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Wash-Rinse-Repeat

“Wash-Rinse-Repeat.”  The all too familiar instructions we follow every morning while washing our hair in the shower.  A cycle that has become so monotonous, so ingrained in our everyday routine, that we accept it as such without question.   We have all felt this repetitiveness of the everyday, and struggled to find reason and purpose behind it…  I can think of no better example than high school.  Each day programmed exactly to the same schedule, down to the minute, so cut and dry as to package this sameness into red and blue blocks.  What a relief it was to graduate from that structure, to transition into the freedom of university, where we choose our own agenda.  But even now, even far way from home and from USC, from where every sense of our everyday is derived, the days are beginning to echo the same “repetitive gestures of work and consumption”.

I would have thought that a semester abroad would have facilitated entirely unique experiences every day.  This was the case for the first two months of touring.  Each day a new building to visit, each night a new restaurant to taste, each week a new hotel and a new city to explore.  Now that we have established our “base” in Shanghai however, this excitement is somewhat fading.  Yet we have only scratched the surface of what Shanghai has to offer, and there is still freshness to the city, still so much to discover.  So why then do we find ourselves falling into the familiar grooves of the everyday, eating at the same restaurants, watching the same shows on our computers, and even going to the same studio and class to work on the same project.  Partly because it is all interesting and beneficial, and it is only natural to repeat enjoyable and useful experiences.  But as Henri Lefebvre points out in his article The Everyday and Everydayness, “the everyday is repetitive and veiled by obsession and fear.”  Obsession to complete our assignments, to get a good grade, to compete with our classmates.  Fear of trying a strange new restaurant, of falling behind with work, of having a bad review.  Perhaps these emotions influence our propensity towards the everyday, if only subconsciously.

What I find interesting is that Lefebvre’s assertion also applies to the design process.  Particularly as students, we are constantly browsing through precedents of famous projects, and borrowing elements to inform our own designs.  What has worked and what has not.  “The concept of the everyday illuminates the past.”  We are sometimes obsessed with replication, designing something that will function like that which came before it, for fear that it will not operate successfully.  Does this produce an everyday architecture, an everyday urbanism, a designer’s “wash-rinse-repeat” cycle?  I would argue yes.  Perhaps this is one angle from which to measure the success of a project.  When it is unfamiliar in space and experience, form and function, and it jolts you from your normal conceptions of what it should be, you are amidst great architecture.  “The spectacle of the distinctly noneveryday” is what sets it above and beyond the rest.

Alex

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Filed under: About, Architecture, everyday, everydayness, Henri Lefebvre, Urbanism

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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