Wednesday, May 07, 2008
A meeting with Enkhtungalag's Second year architecture diploma students on the 29th, who were due to show their favourite UB buildings, was cancelled. I tracked down the young architect and teacher to help her with her research on the Petronas twin towers for a presentation, and had prepared ten points in Mongolian, with diagrams, for discussion. This, she said was not detailed enough, and she would prefer a full script in Mongolian. I declined to 'spoon-feed' her on this occasion.
Somehow, the message had got through to her students by the following week, and these had printed the seven page English-language Wikipedia article for the following week's lesson, although they still had not prepared any information about their favourite buildings in UB. When they attempted to hand over the Wikipedia article for translation (the Mongolian version is yet to be written) I suggested we discuss a few aspects which interest the students most. After much coaxing, they came up with height, lighting, materials, skybridge and commercial interiors. To the first, we agreed they would diagram the Twin Towers' height relative to Mongolia's tallest building alongside our current 2 storey schoolhouse and the new 5-storey one being built in front. This would be drawn at a suitable scale - as large as possible - on the classroom wall. The night lighting of the building in its city context would be demonstrated by a photograph to be researched and cheaply printed from a flash drive at a photo kiosk. The materials would be investigated, especially the metal cladding and the so-called "super-high-strength reinforced concrete" frame (apparently popular throughout Asia) which had replaced an intended steel one. These SHS RC columns would be drawn and compared to the ordinary ones on our building site outside. The flexible sybridge and its fire egress shortcomings discovered after the World Trade Centre disaster would be discussed. Finally further discussion of the interior would be postponed pending a discussion of presentation techniques including collage (C20 Western art is little known here) which I would prepare (with Ts. Uranchimeg's help) for next week.
The day following the first cancellation of CTC students favourites, I had arranged something similar as a guest at the languages institute of the State Uni of Science and Technology. The language students were mostly unprepared, but two of the group had brought materials which they could read. They agreed to prepare during the lessn and make short presentations on 'Mongolian architecture' after I 'firmly' organised them into two random groups. One group prepared a presentation called "Mongolian Architecture in Socialist and Contemporary Times", featuring one (Russian educated) Chimed, who in 1948 had begun a movement for an authentic national architecture, and comparing Choiljiljav's modern Urguu Apartments. Some footnotes offered verbally on architectural education were promised in an email by the group rep, Undram.
The second group produced a lineage of traditional Mongolian architecture, in particular, the Ger, from the C13 to the present, and covering herders' Gers, Monastery Gers and the distribution of urban settlements, in what could have been a very interesting topic.
During the remainder of the week, I took in the amazing kitsch film "The Conqueror" (USA 1953) at the ACMS Mongolian Studies film series, 'starring' John Wayne as Chinggis. On the weekend our group of nine made our overnight train visit to Sainshand in the Dorno-Gobi and to Danzanravjaa's Khamar Monastery in the desert.