Architectural Representation: Abstraction

Apr 2021

As you've probably heard, Todd is a very... interesting? strange? person. I'm going to give you some REAL quotes he said during critiques: "the fact that you're using round dowels disturbs me" "in my day, you wouldn't want anyone knowing you were at a club" "this concept really arouses me" Todd: I think [TA's name] and I are really on the same page with this assignment. TA: What He also has a weird obsession with the Helvetica documentary, and he talks about it at any possible opportunity. Even with his Fran Lebowitz hair, he was honestly a pretty good prof, even though the way he holds a pencil is the most chaotic thing ever.

May 2020

Todd's class is great for a first studio experience: arch programs are notorious for weeding out students in early classes, but Todd's certainly won't destroy your optimism. His criticism is fair, and he'll respect it if you can (reasonably) counter him. When the projects are completed, he'll remember (most of) these conversations when conducting review and will stand up for your work and your individual process. But, you have to have a certain trust in Todd's process. A lot of people walk into Abstraction studio having very little clue what they are doing. Todd and his projects might compound this confusion: you'll definitely ask - "why are we even doing this"; "what does this have to do with architecture?" By the end, you'll be able to see how the first projects have shaped the way you thought and created the final project. He's been teaching for a long time, he knows what he's doing (even though it might not seem it sometimes). A downside is that neither he nor the TA will teach you how to use technology (Rhino, Illustrator, Indesign) in any depth. Many hours will be spent trying to figure out the simplest tasks. Todd is very old-school, so drafting, construction and materials, physical models will be much more his forte. He's also not flashy or egotistical about his own work as a practicing architect, even though it is super cool (like amazing). ASK HIM ABOUT IT. Good prof and good guy.

Dec 2018

Oh boy was Madeline the worst professor I had in my two years of school. She picks favorites, and her biases seep through everything she says. During reviews with guest critics (critiques) she will defend students she likes and discuss their projects while simply glossing over others. She will take into consideration everything you do and not just your final project, meaning that if you had any mental block with your creative process throughout weeks of work, she will hold it against you. She's also very wishy washy and can change requirements last minute. People who like Madeline's class do so because it's very creative, but that doesn't necessitate her being a good professor.

Apr 2010

Todd can be a little square--especially in comparison to Madeline Schwartzman--but he's a fantastic intro studio professor. In his class you will learn the basics of hand drafting, something that I feel is often overlooked in the intro studios of other professors. He can be very nit-picky about craft, line weight, and specificity of material and form but I really appreciated that rigor. It returns so much of the architectural discipline to a program (Barnard+Columbia architecture) that leans heavily towards the experimental and abstract. You will not learn any computer programs in this class and I get the feeling that Todd generally dislikes renderings anyway. He is very careful about giving everyone the time that they deserve. He can be painfully slow at getting around to everyone in class but if he doesn't get to you in one class, you will most definitely be one of the first people he sees in the next class. He won't leave your desk until you are both satisfied with the discussion of your work. He is very encouraging and never snarky. He also makes efforts to defend students when the critics attack. When he critiques your work, he remembers everything you two have discussed and really tries to see your work from your own perspective. It's easy to get discouraged in this department with the heavy workload, sleepless nights, and creative frustration but the things you learn in Todd's studio and his guidance make the architecture major worth it.

Nov 2009

She seems uncertain about her comments which leads to a huge communication gap with the students. Sometimes she makes rude comments, whether or not she realises it. Her projects are interesting but she tends to impose her views on students.

Aug 2009

Madeline is one of a kind. She is extremely intimidating at first and you will never really know what she is asking you to do, but at the end you finally realize how much you have grown as a designer in her class. If you aren't willing for late nights and frustrating classes don't take her, but if you are willing to put in the time, so is she, and you will take a lot away from it! Plus there is usually snack time, and sometimes she brings in her cute twin girls!

Jul 2009

Todd is an amazing person. Do not get discouraged if you had him for the Perceptions lecture (I know, BORING) but his studio course is his baby and he is incredibly approachable and understanding. Obviously you have to work hard (it is studio) but after having Madeline you will be so grateful for Todd. Work hard, show up on time and have fun with it.

Oct 2005

I had Kim Yao Spring Semester of 2005 and I was surprised to find no one had written a review of her. I suspect that is because Kim is very very good, but might not inspire a fan base. Kim is thoughtful and attentive at desk crits, well organized, and fair in her critiques. She's not trying to push bounderies and shock students into or out of architecture like may professors who seem to feel the need to assume an "uber-maven" persona. She was always understandable and there was very little bullshit, if she lapsed into jargony arkhitectur-speak she usually was self-effacing about it and laughed it off. That was a tremendous breath of fresh air and I hope I have professors like her in grad school.

Jan 2005

Todd's studio class is top notch; he has this strange, opaque way of speaking that often makes it difficult to understand exactly what you're supposed to do, but he really does know what he's talking about and once you figure it out the semester really does start to make sense. He is indeed very opinionated, which means that he didn't always agree with the equally opinionated TA, but as long as you can come up will a reason for your artistic decisions he will give your work the respect it deserves. Perhaps his most redeeming quality is his willingness to defend students work to attacks by guest critics. He really does remember the crap you made up to defend your project and will kindly explain it to the incredulous guest critics (a particularly memorable moment of the semester was when he got into a battle with his wife, our first guest critic, over our work). Still, while I found him to take our work very seriously, class was pretty laid back. He has a very dry sense of humor that definately made classtime more enjoyable. Overall, a very safe bet for first year architecture.

Jan 2005

Overall, I enjoyed this class and thought Todd was a good professor to have for my first studio course. At the beginning he and the Sam, the Swiss TA, will ask if you can draw or do this or that, and then they'll say, "Oh, don't worry. We'll teach you." Well, no, they don't. You don't have to draw much anyway, and sketches are allowed to look crappy in the world of architecture. So don't worry, you'll be fine. One thing that bothers a lot of people is you have no idea what grade you will get in the course until the semester is over. I think Todd looks for progress in quality and ideas as the semester goes on. It's often your first time working with mylar and chipboard and such, so just get used to it. Everyone puts in tonssssss of hours and he knows that. As far as critiques, Todd and Sam, the Swiss TA, gave various ideas along the way. For the in-class project critiques, I thought Todd was very fair and defensive of students' ideas whether successful or not (he is certainly more positive than most of the guest critics.) All in all, good class. The key to this class is time management skills, which apparently, no one had. Oh, Sam is Swiss, not French.

Jan 2005

Todd has been my best Columbia professor. He has a good sense of humor and really cares about his students' work. The projects that he assigns are designed for students who care equally as much about their work, a quality which seems to get students ahead. He cares about both effort and talent, so if you find yourself lacking one, you can find hope in the other. Todd gives wonderful advice during both desk crits and pin-ups, and if you want honesty (which you'll get in a euphonized version no matter what), tell him to give it to you straight. I definitely recommend him for a first year studio course.

Jan 2005

Although Todd is a bit dull at times and often presents terms and architectural jargon without supplying definitions, those are grievances that can easily be dealt with. He does not spend a lot of time lecturing, so boredom in the Abstraction class only lasts for a brief time. As for not defining terms, one can always ask him about them or just look them up after class. The main problem with Todd, I would say, is his lack of respect for students and their work. Often times, he will offer advice that he will later call into question or criticize during pin-ups. Additionally, he does not allow for creativity, choosing instead to offer so much advice and "suggestions'' to the point that you find yourself working on a drawing or model that does not reflect your ideas in any way. And that you don't quite understand how to make, either. Todd is good at coming up with wry, sarcastic comments regarding your work though. So, on the bright side, you won't only be buiding models of "negative space" until three in the morning, you'll also receive a complimentray lesson in humility.

Jan 2004

not a good prof! she is laid back, but can get nasty. effort not taken into consideration, and she is not that helpful. she did not seem that interested and was not encouraging.

Nov 2003

Madeline is awesome. Her critiques are helpful, if a bit difficult to process. You may not do as many projects--she only does 2--as you do in other studios but there's a lot of work for those two projects. Where you might do a single drawing and model in one studio for each project, Madeline will take you through several sets of drawings and one or two models for each project. She expects a lot of non-final work leading up to each final product. You will work a lot, but at the end of the term students in the less demandings studios will be jealous of your work and your experience.

Sep 2003

Todd is, in my opinion, easily the best first-level studio teacher. He treats your work very seriously, not skipping a beat in remembering the general goal and concept behind your project (in other words, you needn't make yourself a little blurb to parrot every time he comes to your desk). Oh, and he offers very RELEVANT criticism; he also understands the difference between a well-executed project and overly meticulous flim-flam (ahem). Plus, he will often stand up for you during pinups when guest critics who have never seen your project before give stupid advice. He is certainly opinionated, but if you know your stuff and honestly care about the material you can have a great discussion with him.

Aug 2003

A visiting instructor from Cornell, this person simply lacked dedication and basic teaching skills that Columbia studnets normally expect from their professors. Her desk crits were inconsistent and her comments were never concrete enough so students were often left hanging in the air all confused and mystified. Classes always lagged behind the schedule and the quality of work produced was abysmally below standard compared to what was going on in Schwatzman's studio in the next aisle (ALL students, WITHOUT exception, appeared to produce portfolio-quality work in Schwatzman's studio). In short, avoid this professor at all costs; you will learn so little for so much that you pay.

Mar 2003

Madeline is great. She pushes students to think differently than they have ever thought. However, she expects a LOT from you. She is really nice if everyone has done their work. If she says to get something done for the next calss, you better have it done or she will not be happy. (Avoid making her unhappy at all costs.) If you do your work and put in the effort the calss will be great. If you want to be challanged, Madeline is the teacher for you. If you dont want to work, get out of the class.