March 16, 2011

Dragon Week Through the Spectacles of an Architect

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Saturday, Mar. 12th

Finally, two months worth of Dragon Day build-up and freshmen architect education has led to the beginning of what will surely be an unforgettable week. Tonight, I slipped into my awkward green American Apparel plaid and leggings and marched down into the darkness of Collegetown to begin the mythical festivities. As all the architects gathered in the discreetly selected location, I partied, danced, introduced myself to familiar faces and quite possibly did too much talking. Spirits were high by the time the clock had disoriented us and all of the clove cigarettes were smoked. There was no doubt: a Dragon was on its way.

Sunday, Mar. 13th

As everyone trickled painfully into studio to work on our elevations and renderings for the midterm reviews that are looming ahead, there was a surprising absence of freshman in computer lab. Walking past the shop, though, it became clear that a beast was coming to life in the flame of the welding torch. As we upperclassmen stared at our computer screens, I reminisced nostalgically about my own freshman dragon week. My only allowable distraction, other than the occasional screaming from the freshman studio, was the continuous and quickly escalating need to design the perfect costume for the biggest of days. Most people want to have a group theme that allows for specialized group performances and better-choreographed displays of affection. Some, however, will always choose to be individual objects, striving to stand out as the most interesting or aesthetically pleasing designs in the sea of parading costumes. As Sunday came to a close and the last call for coffee was announced at the Green Dragon, I dreamt all night of the moment when studio will end and Dragon will be all there is.

Monday, Mar. 14th

Today, the stress level is rising. Not only are reviews approaching and eyes blurring, but costume decisions must be made soon as well. As I focused on my multicolored plans, a strange bumping noise suddenly came through my headphones. “Is that ‘chicken noodle soup’ playing?” Yes it was. I know what has brought this mainstream music to Rand Hall: the freshman are getting ready for Nerd Walk. I went downstairs to take a peek at the engineer lookalikes, with their geeky Cornell t-shirts and unstylish glasses. I can see the excitement in their eyes and remember the overwhelming joy of being able to parade around campus with my friends and harass unsuspecting library patrons, while making a point of how ironic it is that we would dress like nerds (right?). The night of silliness came to a close too quickly, and the new dragon mural glowed proudly from the windows of second-floor Rand.

Tuesday, Mar. 15

After an all-nighter in studio, I finally looked up from my desk and did a double take, thinking that my lack of sleep had made me insane. The busy freshman builders appeared to have transformed into a pack of wild beasts. Boys and girls alike have traded their stylish haircuts for intimidating Mohawks, turning a gallery reception into a European rave. It is a proud moment for every architect when they let go of their inhibitions and answer the call of the Dragon. I reached out and touched the growing hair around my ears to appreciate its existence. The memory of the clippers on my own head is still fresh, even though years have passed. There is no turning back now for this year’s freshmen — it is only a matter of a couple of days before the transformation into dragon people is fully complete.

Wednesday, Mar. 16

I get to studio after finally showering and changing into nicer clothes for my review, only to find the door handles and walls smeared in ogre-green paint. As I stumbled over to the Green Dragon for some espresso, I saw in my periphery a green mob running by. Looking closer, I discovered that it was none other than the freshman class, chanting dragon cries and running semi-nude through the arts quad onto other, more mysterious parts of campus. As if a streaking stampede wasn’t enough to grab people’s attention, the cries of the Hulk-colored naked runners woke the campus up completely. Now fully awake, I head to my review to present and then pretend to listen to the critics, while mentally finalizing my costume idea. Time is running out for me to make a costume and for the freshmen to conjure up Dragon.

Thursday, Mar. 17

After getting a week’s worth of sleep in one night, I arrive back in studio. The freshmen were no longer the only shop workers. With reviews over, every class is busy with more important matters — only 24 hours remain to complete the perfect costume. I get out my Exacto knife and chipboard, and begin constructing. The freshmen appear to have multiplied, as every single one of them is present and working to finish in time for this most important deadline. They have become a cohesive team, forgetting, for the time being, stolen studio supplies and bonding over their welding tan lines. As hours crawl by, the Dragon seems to slowly rise out of the ground behind Rand Hall. What started out as only a few metal trusses has now been shaped unmistakably into a giant reptilian torso. The freshmen only have one additional task left to complete — they must drop their human clothing and, in a last bold hurrah, moon the lucky library goers. For my friends and me, it’s all about finishing our costumes and going to bed at a reasonable time. Dragon Day starts early.

Friday, Mar. 18: Dragon Day

An excited trickle of costumed individuals makes their way towards the designated pilgrimage stops. Breakfasts are served and drinks are poured. Crowds start to form around Rand Hall as the freshmen continue their now frantic construction efforts. The upperclassmen’s worries are all gone as they finally return to their home base. Suddenly the beast wakes up and the crowd roars. The triumphant procession begins, claiming the campus as the Dragon’s kingdom and the architects as its masters.

Original Author: Jose Tijerina