Each time I get around to editing my portfolio, I forget, without fail, the common requirement for it to remain under 5mb. I often entertain a desire to go back and edit each placed file, optimizing it to be the perfect size, resolution and detail so as to not take up too much space. I dream of not having to rely on “Compress PDF” in a panic to squash down work so that it will be accepted as an email attachment. In the obligatory process of compression, I’ve bid goodbye to many once precious drawings, pages of material and even entire projects without hesitation. Some things never make it back into my portfolio. A forced letting go. Work slipping quietly out of rotation.
The practice of packing a whole lifetime of work into 5mb (or 10-pages, or 3 images) is a special art. I know I can appear a completely different designer depending on how I make that selection. Through the compressed portfolio, projects come to rest in their final form, settling into place as digestible fragments. After some time living on as links in InDesign files, the rest of these projects eventually crumble away. I stop searching through folders to find better images, more detailed sections, sketches that more succinctly capture a project’s idea. My fixation with reframing what a project was ceases. Is this where the project ends? Once my desire to continue touching-up its appearance, tucking in its shirt, fades? Once I am satisfied the project can keep its current guise for posterity?
I wonder how we might announce the end of a studio project. The schedule of the semester disciplines a supposed start and end, with the final review as a finish line that must be endured. At this stage, the project’s parts, still flailing, gather their names “_FINAL”, “FINAL_2”, “FINAL_THIS_ONE_PRINT”. The other day I received a Rhino file titled “dont care” dated the morning of a final presentation. Maybe the project ended when all interest in it was abandoned.
These unbuilt projects have many different after-lives. A 1:10 scale washing machine sits on my dresser at home. One remaining part of detailed models that made a whole piece of city, and had called for late nights of careful folding and gluing. All that I have left physically from this project is this small paper object. I don’t think its image even made it into my most up-to-date portfolio. I know this small memento might leave unannounced one day, probably during some move back across continents, squashed under a stack of books. I doubt I will have the chance to say goodbye to it.
FORMAT is a recurring column that confronts the modes, methods and medium of Architecture as a discipline. A rifle through some of the many unquestioned formats of architectural education, poking at them with a critical, yet tender, curiosity.