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.
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.
I have mixed feelings about this course. Firstly, there is the whole three professors thing. Ralph taught Monday lectures and then the class was split into three sections for Wednesday seminar. The professors rotated the sections as the semester progressed, so you got each one for several weeks. At first, I hated this chaotic organization but I came to appreciate the fact that, unlike most classes with discussion sections, the seminars weren’t in addition to the M/W periods. The workload is fairly heavy and attendance is required. There are approximately 60-80 pages of reading a week and “reading response questions” due every Sunday night at 7PM. The majority of your grade, however, is determined by two short writing assignments and a term paper. The two writing assignments require off-campus visits on your own time (one to an exhibit at the MoMA; the other to the Seagram Building). The term paper is due progressively over the second half of the semester. The first draft represents the first half of your paper; the final draft represents your entire paper. Finally, you are twice required to co-lead the Wednesday seminar along with another student in your section. Each of you must present one of the readings for that week. Arguably the most annoying thing about this course is the due date for written assignments. Hard copies of all written assignments are due Friday mornings by 10AM on the fifth floor of the Diana Center. Submission deadlines at the end of the week take some adjusting to, not to mention that it’s difficult to drag yourself out of bed after staying up until 4 in the morning finishing said assignment. The course also entails two site visits, one to the Lower East Side (led by Todd) and one to New Haven (led by Ralph). Both excursions were incredibly informative and fairly well organized. My only complaint was the unfortunate weather conditions on both occasions. The Lower East Side visit was on a cloudy day in late February, so the cold was to be expected. The New Haven trip occurred in the middle of a late-winter snow storm. It is difficult to appreciate New Haven's architecture with snow blowing in your eyes. The professors themselves each have their own quirks. Ralph is pretty straightforward, always attempting to present as much material as possible in lecture. He is amicable and genuinely interested in the material, wishing to instill this same interest in his students. Leah is a bit more abrasive and will not hesitate to correct you in seminar. That being said, she knows her stuff and truly cares about her students. Todd...well, Todd is Todd (do read his CULPA reviews). He is approachable, light-hearted, and just so sassy. He always wears a smile and rarely speaks without even the slightest comical intent (dry humor to say the least).
Professor Rouhe (or simply Todd, as his students call him) is hilariously sassy and overwhelming amicable. He effectively taught the basics of model-making and hand drafting, emphasizing a clean and careful technique. In terms of project content, he provides explicit guidelines but is intentionally vague in describing what the final product should be. In this way, he allows the student to wield tremendous artistic license (which is particularly refreshing for SEAS students like myself). He provides helpful and constructive criticism during desk crits and pinups, but is careful to let the student work through his/her own ideas. With the exception of final pinups for a particular project, reviews were meant to help students at any stage in their creative process. The overall emphasis seemed to be on a step-by-step progression of ideas.
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.
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.
I honestly don't know why this class is required for the major. Not a good or fun way to be introduced to the theory/history of architecture. Some of the topics seemed interesting but the lecture and discussion sessions make them extremely boring. To architecture minors and civil engineers: if this class is not required for you, do not take it.
the lectures are ok and some of the articles are interesting, but most of them are boring and not conducive to great discussions. they assume you know something about architecture so dont take this if its your first architecture class. lots of pretentious tools too
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.
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.
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.
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.
Todd certainly puts a lot of time in preparation. However, lectures do get a bit boring, and are condusive for sleep. Each lecture, you walk in and take a slide list, and then the lights go off. What happens when the room is dark? Students naturally want to sleep, of course! Then he starts talking about his slides. What he has to say is certainly interesting and relevant, and perhaps even fascinating. But he has this kind of unenthusiastic way of talking that makes you fall asleep, which is rather unfortunate. The class is structured so you have lecture on Tuesday and discussion section on Thursday (or Mon/Wed), where the class is split into three sections. They're quite boring, since many people don't feel like talking, and the discussion leaders don't seem to be particularly good at leading discussion. You'll have to present readings a few times and lead discussions. It's a great situation if you love to hear your own voice, but don't expect animated feedback. Overall, the class is well-designed and thought out, but the execution is not up to par. Oh, and don't forget, there's a field trip, but unfortunately it doesn't live up to expectations.
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.
he is boring. very. the class is made up of lectures and discussion groups. the lectures are once a week in which todd would just show slides of various architectural buildings/sites/things supposedly relevant to the readings we were supposed to have read for that class. however a lot of the readings are so esoteric and stupid - how is this architecture? he sounds a little nervous and monotonous, and as a discussion group leader - he isn't very much willing to accept opinions not coinciding with his. he is a nice guy, and tries to help you out with assignments and work if you ask... but he definitely didn't spark my interest in architecture.