MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Jenny X. '13

Feb 22, 2011

Fact: Architecture majors have to code

Posted in: Academics & Research, Majors & Minors

Well...if there’s one thing you can know for sure about studying at MIT, it’s that time flies by - whether it’s funtymz or seriousbusinesstime. Long hours spent working might seem like eternity, but we somehow always get past it and immediately get behind another battle before we even realize...

Spring semester so far, the new battle for architect majors in my year is ... CODING.
Yeahhh - What the...

I’ll be first to say that when I planned to major in Architecture @ MIT, I thought I’d be drawing pretty pictures. From my past entries, that’s clearly incorrect, but I’ve also had an exciting, adrenaline-rushing - albeit tiringgg - time learning all about model-making, 3D modeling, 3D printing, etc.

But now for 4.113 - Applied Architecture Design Studio I, we have to code...with programming languages. A few of us have some programming background, but for the rest of us (me!) it’s like … I don’t know, catching up with the rest of MIT. (Just kidding, architecture pride.)

But seriously though, for our first project in 4.113, each one of us had to thoroughly research a natural example of self-assembly or self-organization. I picked oscillating chemical reactions (reactions that oscillate in time and space), so I had to pore over chemistry textbooks and scientific journals for information on the mechanism of these reactions. The idea is to extract how self-organizing mechanisms occur in nature and adapt them into ways architectural elements can populate and self-organize in any given space. So basically, I’m trying to write code that aggregates geometric elements in a defined space as if chemical reactions are adding a certain ion in a petri dish...and pray that what I create look as interesting as this:

An oscillating chemical reaction. Source

It would be a pain to manually draw recurring shapes over and over on a 3D modeling program, so that’s where the coding comes in. We’re using Python for the Rhino modeling program. While I’m totally intimidated by coding, I’m also genuinely excited for what I come up with...because chances are, it will help me. (Last semester I spent 6 hours drawing line segments, and 6 more raising them to different inclines).

How would you feel if MIT had a programming requirement for graduation - like the swim requirement? Just many majors need it here anyway...And as far as I can tell, it’s quite useful :P This is what I've been playing with in Python for Rhino:

Not sure how I'm going to make it more oscillatingchemicalreaction, but that thing would have taken eons without programming.

Anyways, the second class I’m taking is 4.302 - Introduction to Visual Arts for Majors...Let’s just say this class makes me put on my artsyfartsy hat and speak all I feel about emotions, identities, parts and whole, bodies, the familiar vs. unfamiliar - also known as, the abstract thoughts that run through my head abberantly, and often unnoticed. So I thank this class for teasing out some of the artist juice I’d like to think I have inside me. Our first project is about body-extension, which means building something that when engaged with the body creates a meaningful SENSORIAL experience. I also thank this class for ‘sensorial’ - my new favorite word.

The third course in the architecture repertoire is 4.605 - Introduction to the History and Theory of Architecture....This is like a history class but with much more visuals. While we look at slides of ancient villages and cities, a TA is hovering around Google Earth on the side trying to show us what the present day locations look like. This class makes me want to travel everywhere - I’m really tempted to just drop everything and go live in a historical African village for a while, like this:

In addition to these three classes, I’m also taking 15.812 Marketing Management in my effort to complete a minor in Management. I’m really liking it so far. The lectures and case studies are immediately applicable in real life; I mean, my shopper IQ went up by like 50 points after the first lecture. Lastly, I’m taking 21F.108 Chinese II Streamlined as a part of my HASS Concentration in Chinese; Chinese I Streamlined was easy, but now the essays take me 2 hours a piece … :( But anywaysss

Thanks for reading this rambling interlude of my spring courseload!

Let me know if you have any questions about anything I mentioned;

Yay school!

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)


Posted by: doc on February 23, 2011

I think you mean "Chinese I thought was easy" instead of "Chinese I was easy". Great post though! And good luck with the essays.. =)

Posted by: Nikita on February 23, 2011

Excellent post. It's interesting to see all the interrelatedness between subjects!
I'm liking the idea of a programming requirement. Scenario: An electronic safe contains your diploma. It, however, has an unconventional locking mechanism. To unlock the safe and obtain your diploma, you must write a program that....

Posted by: P. Ovidius Naso on February 23, 2011

@ Nikita: I think she's referring to Chinese Level One (in roman numerals).
Although, I'm curious as to what "streamlined" means in this context: if anyone can shed light on that?

Posted by: P. Ovidius Naso on February 23, 2011 bad! :s

Posted by: Nikita on February 23, 2011

Great post! That pic of BZ reaction (is it BZ reaction, anyways?) looks pretty!

Posted by: Saule on February 23, 2011

that lovely.

Posted by: 0 on February 23, 2011

Search web "python program belousov zhabotinsky", hope it helps. Some related differential equations in this PDF...

Posted by: PsuedoIntelletualHack on February 23, 2011

@P. Ovidius Naso: Streamlined typically means that it is a class for native speakers who, in this case, may have grown up speaking Chinese, but never learned to read or write it. MIT has a similar class (though not a series of classes) for Spanish speakers.

Posted by: Becca H. '12 on February 23, 2011

@saule - yes it is a BZ reaction c:

Posted by: Jenny '13 on February 23, 2011

Haha. An entertaining read overall. By the way, don't you mean "pore over chemistry textbooks" and nout "pour". Because I can assure you that if you really were pouring over library books or something, your behaviour would be frowned upon. raspberry

While I don't have an interest in architecture, per se, but 3D Modelling and even coding get me all tingly. What little exposure I've had of 3D modelling during my explorations with video compositing (AfterEffects rules!) has captivated me like little else.

Also, you'd be pleasantly surprised to see the way architecture and coding can come together at times. For example, there is this video game, called Far Cry 2. It's based in Africa. Sure, there is a lot of lead-pumping involved, but the entire world in that game is modelled so beatifully, it's enough to make anyone weep. You should look up some screenshots. In addition, Ubisoft has modelled one of the African villages *exactly* like the one in your picture. That's what reminded me of FC2. Do just check it out in passing, because the world rendering (with remarkable HDR and depth of field effects, not to mention a rather excellent physics engine to boot) is truly spectacular.

Posted by: Vivek on February 23, 2011

If MIT introduced a programming GIR, then I'm getting the heck out of there as fast as I can.

...good thing I'm graduating in ~3 months smile

Posted by: oasis '11 on February 24, 2011

I swear to God I thought the picture was from Far Cry 2. The game is so realistic now that I think about it. And nice workload Jenny.

Posted by: @mit on February 24, 2011

@mit - Exactly! I had to do a double-take too.

Posted by: Vivek on February 24, 2011

@VIvek - wow thanks! I'd never even considered that the pore was "pore"; i just always thought it was pour.... hmm.
But I googled it just now haha; will change it.

Also searched up Far Cry 2...looks really pretty, but violent hmm...

Posted by: Jenny '13 on February 26, 2011

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