my family came to copenhagen this weekend, and in typical chu family craving fashion, we wanted to eat asian food in a non-asian environment.  so we went to wagamama, the newest restaurant addition on the Tivoli grounds. [started in london, this chain has made its way around europe and into harvard square as well]


what impressed me:

  • very cute minimalist branding [black + white + darling red star amidst a sea of hip lowercase sans serif letters]
  • equally delightful interior design [sleek wooden tables, canteen-style seating, open kitchen plan, fun white webby balls surrounding the light fixtures]
  • the small, useful glossary of japanese culinary terms on the side of the menu.  and the attractive graphics of the placemat settings.

what made me roll my eyes:

  • how wagamama tries to brand itself with a number of ‘features’ that are really not special at all.  the waitresses say, ‘welcome to wagamama, have you been here before? oh, no?  well then!  at wagamama, we want to ensure the freshness of your food, so it is served once it is cooked — meaning some dishes may arrive before others! enjoy the wagamama experience!’  how does that constitute an experience?!  i feel like this happens all the time…
  • on their menu: ‘side dishes – these are not starters but the perfect complement to your meal’ — why cant you order side dishes for the sake of ordering side dishes?  if wagamama is truly based on the noodle bars that have been popular in asia for centuries, you should be able to eat just edamame as a roadside snack!
  • the diction that the menu uses to describe the dishes is so painstaking and annoyingly detailed —  it seems like they are adding such exotic, diverse ingredients [i.e.  topped with seasonal greens, sliced marinated pods of asian mushroom, embellishly garnished with a garden-fresh springlike spriggy sprig of slightly fucking yellow-green tinted onion, etc.] ….where in actuality all of these things are already expected to be in the most basic of ramens.
  • food quality = ordinary.

wagamama probably has the worst, most asymmetrical restaurant environment : satisfaction ratio i have ever experienced.


a question indirectly posed to me by sam kronick one late lasercuttery night, and one that i am starting to rethink this semester:

is studio really the best-designed environment for design?

what makes doing your design work in studio better than, say, in your nicely-decorated dorm room?  or the buzzy woodshop?  or one big round table with lots of seats?  or smaller, more focused conference-esque rooms?

at MIT, maybe it’s those rolling pin-uppy dividers that make it so conducive to sharing ideas.  i love walking around and admiring other people’s creativity when i’m stuck.  or maybe it’s the communalness of it all — our generous materials sharing [/mild pilfering] habits, the food table, the fridge…  or the expectation for course 4 kids to always be in studio creates an automatic sense of gathering and livability, and it becomes comforting to know that there will always be someone there if you need inspiration.

here at DIS, it’s been a little different.  our project is an exhibition space in Rundetårn [the round tower], and the smaller scale makes me feel closer to my project, knowing that what i design coulllld potentially be constructed.  interior architecture itself claims to ‘solve the meeting between architecture + individuals!’, and seems to be more about a story and some kind of feel-good humanistic journey.  and i think that’s what i love most — creating the narrative, the back story behind an experience.

but i don’t spend half as much time sitting in studio in denmark, and i wonder why.  even though there are similar amounts of design thinking to be done this semester [notice i did not say work, because that to me is all too wrapped up in the idea of production], i don’t feel as inspired at my desk.  instead, i feel inspired when i am walking around copenhagen, at museum exhibits, at the black diamond, the danish architecture center.


(i guess i didnt really answer the first question, but here’s another question anyway…one that might be worm-canny)

why is it that ‘studio’ disappears after college and grad school?  why is there not more of a studio culture in professional architecture firms?  why oh why is the education so different from the profession?


archibabble updates from michelle + jon’s ‘This Week in AD and CPH!’:

last week:  liminal spatial exchange.

this week: replace the word effect with Affect to achieve more active presences in your building; be sure to over-pronounce/capitalize the A (depending on if the term is being spoken or written).

spain escape


friday = best flight ever day.

lamb + goat cheese sandwiches, red wine, and chocolate creme cookies.  thank you KLM.


i will mention that after this bottle, two more magically came along

we emerged from the danky depths of the metro (‘renfre’) and slowly rose to the level of Passeig de Gracia. a breathtaking [and slightly wobbly, due to airplane wine] vision of wide, tree-lined avenue warmth! i took my jacket and socks off and twirled around. we were definitely not in denmark anymore…

after roger and i meandered around a couple more Eixample streets [that widen at intersections and have cut-off corners, making an octagon-type shape that sort of ‘celebrates’ the intersection and also forces pedestrians to skooch off to the right side if they want to cross], we ended the night with tapas [grilled garlic cod, bread topped with tomatoes, + another delectable fishy dish], and of course, sangria.


saturday = feet day.

what a surprise to find that our hostel was twenty skips away from gaudi’s Casa Batlló!

casa battlo : visceral, organic, skeletal, modernisme...and perhaps a little reptilian

casa battlo : visceral, organic, skeletal, modernisme...and perhaps a little reptilian

roger insisted on galloping all the way to Plaça d’Espanya so he could sign in for the marathon and snatch a highly-coveted size S t-shirt.  at the runner’s expo, i felt extremely vigorous and athletic by association.  another vigorous-looking person even gave me a powerbar sample.


a premature victory lap

we walked all the way back towards catalunya, and encountered many fascinating affairs along the way:  two raucous food markets, pleasant triangular garden plots punctuated by playgrounds, a bird woman cuddling up to and whispering to a fine-feathered friend.  and countless ‘street entertainers’ drowning in spray paint — such as the jilted goth bride with raven, the ever-popular gold metallic winged Maleficent, and leafy fruit tree woman.  initially shocked and soon bored, roger refused to look at them after about two blocks, and adopted a no-peripheral vision policy along La Rambla.  (which may have been a factor in the near-successful pickpocketing of my eyelash curler in my backpack the following night.)

it was soon evident that roger and i were captivated by different things.  i, by alluringly cheap spanish clothing vendors, narrow, laundry-laden alleyways, and any waft of paella; and roger, by spiral earring spacers, curiosity shops, and the puzzling photographs and life stories of argentinian nomads.  it worked well together.


sunday = ISFP day.  [introverted sensing feeling perceiving]

roger ran a marathon while i snoozed at the hostel.  he also wrote me an excessive note of what i was supposed pack and bring for him at the end of his run.  among the items listed: socks, shoes, new cardigan, 2 oranges, my brain, and a sunny disposition.


i expected nothing less

we went our separate ways in the afternoon. i went to the MACBA (museu d’art contemporani de barcelona) — and when i turned the corner and saw massive planes of glass and overwhelming whiteness, i thought to myself, why hello mister Richard Meier.

other places of note: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, the Montjuïc area, mies van de rohe’s barcelona pavilion!, parc joan miro, the old city/ciutat vella: el raval, barri gotic regions — the most perfect street layout for ‘discovery-making’ that i have ever experienced.


monday = power day.

7.30am wake up. 8.00 breakfast. 8.30 leave hostel. 9.00 la pedrera. 10.00 leave for parc guell. 10.30 walk steep path to parc guell. 11.00 sit/people-watch amongst the teacups. 12.00 play in parc. 12.30 leave to gather belongings from hostel. 1.00 get on the wrong renfre away from the airport. 1.30 fix our mistake, get on the correct renfre, scamper to the airport. 2.00 check in for flight. 3.00 drink wine and fly away back to copenhagen.


the weekend in more pictures:

mercat de san antoni

mercat de san antoni

street 'entertainers' along la rambla

street 'entertainers' along la rambla

laundry: adds life and activity and community, and one of the most subconsciously pleasant sights for humans

laundry = life, activity, and community, and one of the most subconsciously pleasant sights for humans

from 4.205 to real life :)

mies van der rohe - from 4.205 to real life 🙂

la pedrera/casa mila in the morning light

la pedrera/casa mila in the morning light

playing in parc guell

playing in parc guell. (which included careful observation of the various power symbols of tour group leaders. personal favorites: pinwheel wand, long metal back scratcher, mickey mouse baton.)


making discoveries

never have i been more excited to do 200 pages of reading for class than when each homework assignment equals trying out a new danish cafe.

on my daily journey home from school, i pass at least ten cafes, and they’re not just any euro-ish starbucks or panera-esque chain appendage — but all so charming and full of character.  [and in my opinion, so individually worth the 40 dkk/$8 that copenhagen has decided is a normal price for hot chocolate…]  my happiness level seems to be directly correlated to the number of hours per day that i spend in a coffeeshop.

>> there is Paludan Bøger on Fiolstræde [an adorable walking street], which is also an antique bookshop with delicately wrought iron chairs and has become my favorite for a quick getaway between classes.

>> and Robert’s Café [now called ‘The Living Room’ in a questionably psychedelic font] with huge brown leather armchairs and lit only with candles + a fireplace, is so incredibly cozy/dark that sometimes i can’t distinguish between reading + dozing off.

>> Jazz Kælderen on Skindergade plays the best background music, doubles as a record store, and is slightly raised above ground level so you can look at everyone’s gorgeously blonde windswept hair/balding spot.

>> Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus down the street from my kollegium in nørrebro is quite a good studying environment with the added value of its chuckle-worthy name.

>> and my most recent favorite:




i am currently sitting at the Laundromat Cafe on elmegade — where JD says he has been every single day this past weekend — and four washers + a dryer rumble comfortingly in the background, amidst rows of color-coded bookshelves.  [perhaps not the most efficient system, but rather aesthetically pleasing.]  one man is sipping wine and playing solitaire, one couple is giggling and smooching over a game of backgammon, a few students are catching up on reading homework, and two mothers are hanging up their laundry to dry.

a conversation snippet about design with a non-design person:

John: design people always add some part that doesnt make senseand put a question mark next to itlike…curves -> planesplanes -> objectsobjects -> 4D??

strikingly insightful…

when i see concept boards for the beginning of some design project’s life cycle, they are littered with grand [and often completely disparate] ideas and manifesto-sounding categorizations of as some profound way of organizing those ideas.

i am certainly not excluded from this sometimes tiresome designsperson’s malady:

my original concept board for my exhibition space

my first concept board for an exhibition space in Rundetaarn (round tower in central copenhagen) - the second project for the interior architecture studio

look at all those ?? marks

look at all of those presumptuous ???? marks

yesterday, we had a gallery critique at school, where everyone walks around to different studios and presents/critiques each other’s projects. with over 100 students, all of the groupings and sessions were efficiently scheduled in such a meticulous manner [–a 3-page excel spreadsheet complete with a cross-reference numbering and partner system] that both impressed me and disoriented me, coming from the casual, homey 15-archies-per-year environment at MIT.

after significant exposure to aspiring architects, interior architects, and urban designers all afternoon, i noticed a distinct difference in the jargon of each species.

phrases that i heard multiple times throughout the course of the afternoon:

from the architect species: “articulate the spirit of the facade!”  “how can daylighting and the structural system INFORM the identity of the infill?!” [i.e. the constant rhetorical struggle to marry and justify frustrating technical restrictions with beautiful conceptual theories]

from interiors people: “curate full bodily experiences that heighten the senses with figurative expressions of movement and interactive involvement” [i.e. concept is God, forget anything structural and based in reality — because who wants to be bothered with that stuff anyway when we can just wallow in our sumptuously succulent abstractions]

from the urban designer camp: “the typology and morphology of the context should be directly influenced by ‘form follows cities’ and revitalized by the 12 crucial points of urban quality and consideration of the different speeds of life” [i.e. in love with their perceived ability to spontaneously generate community and love and green space and happiness from asphalt]


every monday, i eagerly anticipate the email update from michelle beaulieu and jon mayfield of the Architecture + Design department at DIS, so that i can savor and let the archibabble term of the week roll off of my tongue with joy.

week 1:  “Our archibabble term of the week is: emotional texture.”

week 2:  “The archibabble* term of the week is: streamline extensible rhizomes.**”

week 3: “The archibabble term of the week is: architectonic symbiosis.

(**Jon says, referencing rhizomes is still “quite hip.”)

if you are interested in learning more, do see jean’s entry on AJMPP, the fledgling Architecture Jargon Magnetic Poetry Project.

jutland jaunts


last weekend, the architecture + design program went on a study tour to western denmark – including the cities of arhus, aalborg, and kolding.  they all reside on the jutland peninsula, which forms the mainland of denmark and ‘juts’ like a finger into the north/baltic seas:

where does water end and sky start

before embarking on the ferry from zealand (island that copenhagen is on) >>> jutland. where does water end and sky start??

new church in jyllinge

jyllinge hellig kors kirke (new church in jyllinge) by KHR Architects. made from all fiberline compsite material...+ fresh snow!

arhus town hall, by arne jacobsen + erik moller.  the exterior seemed to be less than magnificent, but the instant we walked in, the use of light was so perfect

arhus town hall, by arne jacobsen + erik moller. the exterior seemed to be less than magnificent, but the instant we walked in, the use of light and attention to detail (all the way down to the light fixtures + ashtrays, like typical jacobsen) was...perfect

ARoS art museum in arhus by schmidt, hammer, and lassen.  can you say ...guggenheim

ARoS art museum in arhus by schmidt, hammer, and lassen. can you say ...guggenheim

'the horse sacrifice', piece exhibited at ARoS. aka a horse killed + chopped up into chunks + crammed into a gajillion preservation jars. = art? (really?)

interior of nordhyllands kunstmuseum in aalborg, the only alvar aalto work in denmark (my favorite sitting + sketching spot on this whole trip)

yes we got to see some alvar aalto! interior of nordhyllands kunstmuseum in aalborg, the only aalto in denmark (my favorite sitting + sketching spot on this whole trip) -- look at the way he bends + reflects light to make this museum one of the brightest indoor spaces...anywhere

awe-inspiring castle restoration work by inger + johannes exner.  (interlock your fingers together with both hands and that is how the interweaving of old+new here is described by the danes)

koldinghus: awe-inspiring castle restoration work by inger + johannes exner. (interlock your fingers together with both hands and that is how the interweaving of old+new here is described by the danes)

playing along the wall leading to the entrance of the trapholt museum of art in kolding (that's me peeking out on the right)

playing along the wall leading to the entrance of the trapholt museum of art in kolding (that's me peeking out on the right)

a weekend of sketching

at the end of a weekend of sketching

the cities in western denmark are just like smaller, quieter, quainter copenhagens — although perhaps not necessarily as cosmopolitan, there is a distinct cozier feel.  perhaps it is the exclusively danish chocolate flakes (‘pålægschokolade’) that were served to us for breakfast at the hostels =)


on my newly decorated wall in my kollegium room

the to do list on a newly decorated wall in my kollegium room

classes i am taking this spring [@ DIS + university of copenhagen]  :
1. danish design
2. interior architecture studio
3. european urban design theories
4. turkey at the crossroads
5. human rights in africa

fully comprehensive list of meals that i have cooked for myself thus far :
1. omelette
2. stir fry vegetables
3. tortellini with tomato sauce
4. ravioli with pesto sauce
5. fried rice
7. fried potatoes
8. cereal

different housing in cph, and what i am jealous of in each :
1. kollegium [where i am living now – the closest to a ‘dorm’ environment, with predominantly international students. more on this in a future post.]
2. host family [well-fedness, i.e. 3 homecooked meals a day…drool.]
3. danish roommate [constant closeness/friendship to a danish peer.]
4. folkehøjskole [a more rural folk high school outside cph with a tight-knit group of danes; also well-fedness.]
5. shared DIS housing [apartment-style right in city center]

americany habits [which i still do but i don’t mean to] that are simply not done in denmark :
1. unnecessarily saying ‘sorry’ all of the time. [i.e. when skooching towards a seat on the bus] – danes might use the word ‘undskyld’…but only very sparingly.
2. jaywalking. [danes on street corners are so patient and law-abiding!   i guess the $200 fine helps…]
3. gabbing loudly on public transportation, asking mundane questions such as ‘how are you doing?!’ [because danes, frankly, do not care…and really when i think about it, neither do we]
4. eating meals with fork in right hand.  instead, the ‘proper’ way here is knife in right hand/fork face down in left hand. [why is this so hard for me to do? i feel neanderthalian, not being able to place food in my mouth in a stable manner. i heard from my visiting sister, rikke, that she wouldn’t be caught DEAD with her fork in her right hand by her mom or else she would get a right scolding]

i wish i had packed :
1. my furry indoor slippers
2. more fiction books
3. trace paper [kicking myself in the shin, i was forced to buy a little roll today for 100 kroner = $20, a;sdfjkl;asdjk;asdf]
4. an extra left glove

things that are less expensive in denmark than in america :
1. wine [can be 15 kroner which is < $3 at Netto, my ultimate savior in grocery store form]
2. that’s it.

travel plans for the semester :
1. feb 27-mar 2: barcelona, w. roger
2. mar 6-8: cruise to oslo, w. keops kollegium krew
3. mar 11-16: chu family comes to visit!  germany??
4. mar 21-28: sweden/finland [including stockholm + helsinki], w. architecture study tour
5. mar 29-apr 4: paris/southern france? w. john
6. apr 5-10: istanbul, w. turkey class
7. wknd of apr 25: milan? [for the salone internazionale del mobile, aka the milan furniture design fair]) w. tbd
8. may 18: back in the united states