A letter to future television writers

February
6
2014

I teach a class at Savannah College of Art and Design where students write original television pilots. Lucky me, I get to read exciting material from writers who are just finding their voices and have something to say. As a teacher, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Oh, and just as an aside, having pitched my share of series to both network and cable executives, and having watched or sampled at least 80 percent of all new series over the past umpteen years, I can say without reservation that a lot of my students’ work is better than most of what makes it on the air. I am not being hyperbolic here. That is my sincere belief. And you know what? I’m sure that any professor who teaches a similar class at a college with a student body as talented as SCAD’s feels the same way. And they’re right, too. 

That’s both the good news and the bad news.

The bad news: the odds against a writer making his or her way into an office to present an idea for a new show to an executive who can actually make that show happen are astronomically high. Maybe 10,000 to 1. Really.

The good news: those executives’ very lives depend (nope, that’s not hyperbole either) on beating those odds. So they take meetings and meetings and more meetings—which are only a fraction of the meetings their assistants take.

And what comes out of those meetings? The great Ernie Kovacs once said: “Imitation is the sincerest form of television.” We get shows we’ve already seen before. By the way, that quote was from about 60 years ago. Some French guy once said, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose,” which roughly translated means: “Hey, Betty White was hot in the 50s, and here it is 2014 and she still gets ratings. Give her another show.”

Do I blame the executives who are charged with making money for their studios and networks and thus go after shows and stars that have worked before and therefore will hopefully work again? Not a bit. That, after all, is their job. And I’m a smart guy. I know how to work a remote.

Let me tell you who I admire, though: the executives who said, "Let’s take a chance on shows like Mad Men, and Orange is the New Black, and The Walking Dead, and Justified." You get the idea. Shows that are different, shows that have made television great again.

So what do I tell my students? Be bold, take a chance. At no time in the history of television has there been such space and appetite for originality. Go ahead, create something that would have made Ernie Kovacs puff on his cigar and say, "Must've been written by one of them SCAD kids."

Chris Auer is the chair of film and television as well as dramatic writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design. His career as an Emmy-nominated writer and producer for sitcoms, dramas and soaps spans more than 25 years. Meet Chris at aTVfest (Feb. 6 - 8), where he'll moderate Q-and-A sessions with cast members from Justified, The Walking Dead and more.

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Video: SCAD-FOX Sports Super Bowl collaboration

February
5
2014

We’re happy to bring you the final result of SCAD’s partnership with FOX Sports to design the opening animation for the Super Bowl. Originally scheduled to air at 6 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, FOX Sports moved the airtime up to 2 p.m., during the network’s pre-game broadcast. Enjoy the show and the buzz it created.

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How my class designed the Super Bowl open

January
30
2014

Editor's note: The SCAD/FOX Sports collaboration ran at 2 p.m. during pregrame broadcast, earlier than originally scheduled by FOX Sports. Watch the final animation here: http://youtu.be/HSXd7O5bjpo.

How did a bunch of art students land one of the biggest jobs on television? As with most things, this dream job happened because of relationships. Many of our motion media design alumni work for FOX Sports. We got together and figured out that designing the 20-second opening title for the Super Bowl would be the perfect assignment for Motion Media 408, a class created to teach students about network branding. Here’s how they did it:

 

To come up with a unique concept for the Super Bowl open, the class first dug in to understanding the FOX Sports brand and researching its aesthetic. Any designer has to retain this kind of information so that their concept matches the brand’s style.


The students finally landed on three different options to pursue and presented them to FOX Sports. FOX Sports decided to focus on Concept Two: Cleatus racing through New York City to arrive at an activation chamber, where he’d place his football to trigger the start of Super Bowl XLVIII.

With a clearly defined vision, and a healthy dose of notes from FOX Sports, the class began pre-production on the stylized world and story that will draw fans from the nachos to the TV for kickoff. First came the written treatment and laying out the specifics of the animation sequence. Even more important were the style frames and motion tests, which conveyed the style and pacing of the animation to FOX Sports.


Animating a giant football player robot is complicated for anyone, but Motion Capture technology gave the team the perfect tool to work with. They recruited local high school football player Robert Heyward to model the moves that an animated Cleatus the Robot would make along his journey through New York City.



The motion tests gave FOX Sports an idea of how the students would move Cleatus and the cameras in 3D. The students took the animated data and turned them in to motion clips, blending the movements together, or animating Cleatus, at 60 fps, which means for every second they created 60 frames, or images, each with a different pose. The class then rendered each frame and compiled them to create a complete animation.


The team spent a lot of time fine tuning the concept and creating storyboards. These boards showcased the mood, style, specific shots and camera angles in the opening sequence, which gave FOX Sports a scene-by-scene layout to approve.

But the most time-consuming elements of this project were the final design boards, which required several designers and countless hours to produce.
With each style frame treated like its own piece of art, the complete design boards exhibited a few significant scenes from the storyboard. Expertly composited of 3D, 2D, texture and lighting elements, the design boards were made to simulate the refined look of the final animation that you’ll see on Super Bowl Sunday.

Austin Shaw is a motion media design professor at Savannah College of Art and Design. He has worked as a creative director, designer, and animator for companies such as Süperfad, Digital Kitchen, and Curious Pictures, creating original content for the broadcast and advertising industries. His credits include numerous Broadcast Design Award and Emmy-nominated projects.

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I'm going to Disneyland!

January
29
2014

You may hear the famililar refrain of champions, "I'm going to Disneyland," ring out from your television on Sunday night after the big game. But four students from Savannah College of Art and Design programs in Interior Design, Animation, Illustration and Interactive Design and Game Development have the Super Bowl victors beat.

They’re in Disneyland this week visiting the headquarters of Walt Disney Imagineering. The dream field trip and their eight-week internship at Hong Kong Disneyland, slated for June, are prizes for their first place finish in the Disney ImagiNations Hong Kong contest for emerging designers.

Click here to read more about students who are working to create the world's leading theme parks of the future.

The winning 2013 Disney ImagiNation's Hong Kong team took us inside their winning concept "Second Star to the Right" and what it took to be the third team in a row from SCAD to take home the grand prize.

"Our team proposed to bring 'Neverland' to the Hong Kong audience. While famous as the setting for Peter Pan's adventures, we wanted Neverland to become a unique, personal experience for guests."

"Each aspect of the land is as immersive as it is diverse. It features interactive Pirate Bay and Mermaid Lagoon playgrounds, a fantastical Pixie Hollow restaurant, a thrilling gesture-activated dark ride in which guests help Peter save Tinkerbell, and a theater in the round showcasing the story of Peter's adventures with the Darling children through 360 degree projections."

"Throughout each area of the land, guests can also document their adventures through Magic Mirror photo booths and pixie-powered light drawings. Guests are then able to weave their personal Neverland experience together through the creation of their very own storybook."

"There were many iterations of the Neverland concept, but we always knew that the land had to offer an experience that was both immersive and interactive. We realized that the land's uniqueness rested primarily on the guests' ability to feel a personal connection to Neverland. Keeping that in mind, we focused on building a unique hook for guests to experience. We also narrowed the attractions down to the ones that made the greatest cohesive impact."

A lot of the technology we use in Neverland is derived from technology already available in the market.

"In our dark ride below, for example, guests use gestures to interact with the environment. This is very similar to the technology they use for the Kinect, where special cameras detect specific body or hand gestures and use them as cues to trigger events. In our Magic Mirrors, guests can take photos of themselves and apply backgrounds and images to their photos, similar to that of a Purikura Photo Booth. In our Indian Brave Camp, guests can draw onto the walls of a special tent using a totem, using technology that is very similar to the wiimote.

"In terms of conceptualizing and developing our ideas, we worked a lot with traditional sketches to flesh out our initial concepts. What's great is that the design process is iterative, and being able to quickly discuss things with your teammates and edit ideas on the fly is incredibly convenient. After everything had been figured out, we worked almost exclusively with Photoshop to create the final illustrations and slides you see above."

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The future of fashion

January
15
2014

What does it take to be considered a rising star in the fashion industry? Each year, the YMA gives us a glimpse into what the future of fashion holds when it crowns a new group of Fashion Scholarship Fund winners.

As the New Year got under way, the YMA awarded its coveted $5,000 scholarship and pinch-me-I’m-dreaming internships, with industry leaders like Neiman Marcus and Polo Ralph Lauren, to 100 fashion students to watch. Nine of them are Fashion or Fashion Marketing and Management students from Savannah College of Art and Design.

From left to right: Annalise Lao, Oliver Selby, My Dinh, Elva Jiang, Sania Tharani, Rachel Johnson, Chanelle Bertelsen, Linda La, Hannah Aylward, Prof. Daniel Green

Here’s why their applications wowed the judges.

The challenge: Present a plan to help retailer JCPenney reach the Millennial customer.

My Dinh (B.F.A., Fashion, Junior)


My solution for the YMA 2014 case study is a street wear clothing line for women named #neversleep. The hashtag is a manifestation of youth. Using social media to build a lifestyle around the brand name is the main strategy. The products of #neversleep are identified by its playfulness which is visualized by its bold silhouettes and whimsical prints. The brand has a much needed witty perspective on the harsh realities of modern fashion and life.

Oliver Selby (B.F.A., Fashion, Junior)

The brand that I created for JCP is LINE, connecting fashion to cultures. LINE connects the world of fashion to different cultures of the world, old and new, while creating a modern twist with the combination of print, fabric, and color blocking. Each piece of clothing is able to be matched with others in the collection, enabling the customer to combine different prints and colors, allowing them to connect different cultures of the world together.

Rachel Johnson (B.F.A., Fashion, Senior)

My concept was initially inspired by modern architecture and the lines found in the architecture for the garments themselves. I was extremely inspired by geode rocks and minerals for the prints and color stories I used for the line. My brand Concrete was created for a strong and confident woman and was to be a store-in-store at JCPenney.

Sania Tharani (B.F.A., Fashion Marketing and Management, Senior)

I proposed The Vanguard Collection, a hip menswear brand of distinctly branded apparel and accessories that appeal to the Millennial man with its slim-fit tailoring and fresh print and color combinations. A store-within-a-store layout and interactive social media marketing foster a seamless transition among all platforms, providing him with a pleasurable shopping experience catered to his every need.

Linda La (B.F.A., Fashion Marketing and Management, Senior)

My vision was to create a contemporary, item-based clothing line that was genderless in nature. Having a gender-neutral line taps into the psychographics of the Millennial customer and goes along with their changing attitudes regarding social ideology. All in all Kris Kross exists to challenge what defines fashion in the realm between identity and modern society by offering a gender-neutral wardrobe at value prices in order to build strong, enduring relationships with a younger generation at JCPenney.

Chanelle Bertelsen (B.F.A., Fashion Marketing and Management, Junior)
I created a product line called 27 & Grand showcasing a powerful impact presentation of sneakers in a high tech shopping environment. JCPenney stands at the corner of a major intersection. This intersection is the place where the troubled past meets the opportunity the future holds for JCPenney. The launch of the brand “27 & Grand at JCPenney” will connect with the Millennial generation in a way that will create major business opportunities for the store and for its future.

Hannah Aylward (B.F.A., Fashion Marketing and Management, Junior)

The main focus of my project was to partner with American Apparel and set up Miniature American Apparel stores within JCPenney locations in order to entice the Millennial customer. The American Apparel for JCPenney brand presents the right merchandise, at the right price, at the right time. The brand's well-established credibility and style are perfectly tailored for the lifestyle values of the Millennial customer.

Elva Jiang (B.F.A., Fashion, Senior)

Glass Ceiling at JCPenney empowers the young, business-minded Millennial woman who strives to transcend economic and social boundaries to take over the “corner office” and become the top executive of a company. The sophisticated yet trendy selection of styles allows our customer to present herself professionally in all business occasions while expressing confidence and individuality.

 

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SCAD alumni fan the flames of Super Bowl ad fever

January
13
2014

An Ostrich. Doritos. The chance to be seen by one of the largest television audiences in history. Not getting the connection? Keep reading.

"Breakroom Ostrich," by a team from Atlanta-based FUGO Studios, including cinematographer Richard Webb (B.F.A., Film and Television, 2005) and Brandon Morris (B.F.A., Motion Media, 2010) is one of five finalist commercials, out of thousands submitted, in the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl ad contest.

What made this spot by Savannah College Art and Design alumni break through for a real shot at the $1 million prize?

An ostrich named “Clyde” had a little something to do with it. Though Clyde wasn’t invited, Brandon and Richard will attend Super Bowl XLVIII with the other Doritos finalists and watch on the edge of their private suite seats to see whether "Breakroom Ostrich" will be one of two finalist ads to air during the big game. I caught up with them before they depart for New Jersey.

Thread: What led you to enter the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest?

Richard and Brandon: We've always been interested in advertising. The main reason for entering the contest, besides the awesome prizes, is to truly learn what makes a commercial successful. There is a true art to getting your message across in 30 seconds, and the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest allows us to sharpen our skills every year.

T: How did you come up with the concept “Breakroom Ostrich”?

R & B: The spot was written by director Eric Haviv and VFX supervisor Bryan Westberry. The concept was born out of Eric's longtime fascination with ostriches and a solid brainstorming session over a beer or two. Another factor that drove the idea was the success of previous Crash the Super Bowl entries. There is no formula to winning this contest, but it helps to pay attention to what works and what doesn't. There were a few different versions of the script floating around in pre-production. One idea was based on the hilarious way ostriches eat, but we figured we probably wouldn't get the shots we needed from the birds. We really went into production with the notion that the ostriches themselves would dictate where we could go with the final spot.

T: Where in the world did you find Clyde?

R & B: Clyde was found by a cold call to Bird Brain Ostrich Ranch in Sherills Ford, N.C. The owners were so accommodating, which was a huge help. Believe it or not, there aren't too many ostrich farms near Atlanta, so when we found one that was eager to help a few young filmmakers, it was very exciting.

T: What challenges did Clyde pose on set? Any problems that made you think you couldn't pull it off?

R & B: The main challenge in filming Clyde is that he is a big, mean, flightless bird. Ostriches are virtually un-trainable. In fact, as the shoot day wore on, it seemed like they just wanted to do the opposite of what you needed them to do. Our initial plan was to get the ostriches in front of a green screen, which would make visual effects much easier. As it turned out, Clyde was terrified of the green screen. These birds knew something was up immediately, and it made the shoot day a real gamble. Once we realized we were in a plan B situation, we knew that it would be up to the magic of visual effects to make this spot happen. We brought the footage back and did a couple of tests, which came out great. This was a wonderful boost for morale, and we decided to move forward with the office portion of the shoot.


T: When did you know that you had a winner, or at least a finalist, on your hands?

R & B: Honestly, we never had that feeling until we were notified. We are always our own worst critics and once you watch something 100 times during post-production, you start to wonder if it's funny or not. Luckily, we started to get a great response from the people we showed it to, and we knew that, win or lose, we had something we were proud of.

T: Did you get any advice or learn anything from other SCAD alumni who have entered the Doritos contest before?

R & B: We always enjoyed the entries from the Dandy Dwarves, who are SCAD alumni.

T: What would you do with the $1 million prize?

R & B: Besides buy an ostrich farm of our own? You know, the four of us have been working hard and honing our craft for years now, and we want to make a feature film soon. I think $1 million would make our dreams come true.

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Parking garage as host for micro housing model

January
7
2014

There was a time during my freelance television production days when I would have gone anywhere for work. In fact, being able to uproot from Atlanta and moonlight in a new city for six to ten weeks of production sounded like the ultimate adventure. Where to live? No matter. I would apply to the job first and answer this question second, knowing there had to be some college friend or distant relative in said city who would welcome a carpetbagger.

Thanks to Savannah College of Art and Design, however, college friends and distant relatives alike may never have to receive another call from a roaming creative professional looking for an available couch.

SCAD's answer to temporary urban digs, or permanent urban digs sans the extra square footage, lies in the micro-housing experiment opening at SCAD Atlanta this spring called SCADPad. Yes, parking included, but that's not the only thing that distigushes this project from its brothers and sisters in the micro housing movement, like San Francisco's SmartSpace or the "Making Room" exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.

If you're a SCAD student in Savannah or Atlanta, go to SCADPad.com for a chance to live in this one-of-a-kind space. Artists and designers, to take a gander at leaving your imprint on SCADPad's interiors and exteriors, email SCADPad@scad.edu for information on the RFP, submission deadline Jan. 20.

 

Three prototype dwellings are currently underconstruction. In April, these three versions of SCADPad will host three rotations of students who will live in the units for two-week cycles. As an extension of the work that School of Building Arts students began this summer and fall, this quarter students from additional programs have been assigned the task of making the SCADPad prototypes functional and even fun.

 

Industrial Design students will create modular wall systems for the bathroom, kitchen, and exteriors, as well as ceilings and floors. Interactive Design students will work on the dwelling systems, like water management, while Sustainable Design students will address solid waste, energy waste, and water collection.

 

Last but not least, Interactive Design and Game Development students will create video games to promote social interaction between SCADPad residents, while also exploring how technology can contribute to a sense of community in this experimental neighborhood. Furniture Design students will outfit the common areas with tables and chairs where residents can lounge.

Stay tuned for details on how the prototypes are progressing.

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Working Class Studio debuts Spring 2014 collection

January
6
2014

Emerging from Working Class Studios' prolific design laboratory this week is the Spring 2014 collection of products for the home. Check out the catalog that’s fresh off the presses. Or see these items in person, before they land in stores like Nordstrom, Uncommon Goods, or Smithsonian Gift Shops, at the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market (Jan. 7-14), Chicago Market: Living and Giving (Jan. 16-22), Seattle Market Week (Jan. 18-21), or NY Now (Feb. 2-6).

The result of Savannah College of Art and Design artists’ grit and genius, the Working Class Studio collections hold more meaning than most trinkets of a similar function. Here’s a peek at the process and inspiration that contributed to these items coming to kitchen counters, coffee tables, and nightstands throughout the U.S. and abroad soon.

The Katherine Collection Lantern

Katherine Mirabito (B.F.A., Industrial Design)

“I really enjoy knowing that what I design may one day make someone’s day just a little brighter, even if it’s just for an instant.”

 

 

The Yan Collection Lamp

Yan Zhao (M.A., Furniture Design)

“My inspiration came from furniture joints, nature flowers and the golden section shape, which is the shape of the lamp.

MUJI Art Director Kenya Hara’s design philosophy called ‘Emptiness’ also inspires me a lot.”

The Danielle Collection

Danielle Hansen (B.F.A., Fibers)

“While designing my collection, I was focused on Peru, specifically the mountains and plant life. I wanted to take these natural elements and transition them into modern textiles.”

The Eda Collection, Little Red Riding Hood, and Three Little Pigs Placemats

Eda Sy (B.F.A., Graphic Design)

"The Eda Collection is inspired by springtime blooms and the harvest season, where everything is starting to come alive. The Three Little Pigs series is inspired by the popular children's tale. I wanted to tell the story in a new light, but still make it familiar and relatable to people. I broke it down to different characters and materials for the houses, and used these as motifs to create the overall design."


The Lauryn Collection

Lauryn Reiners (B.F.A., Fibers)

“I am a board game fanatic. When we were asked to design a collection of items that would be an ‘impulse buy,’ games immediately came to mind. They're perfect for all ages and you can never have too many. Even better, by screen printing them they become super easy to store, easy to carry, and they have that unique twist WCS is known for.”

 

 

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"Look Inside" to win $100k

December
20
2013

The acres of art and design on display at Art Basel Miami Beach was mind numbing. By day three, I’d slipped into a bit of an art coma until the news that Savannah College of Art and Design alumna Whitney Stansell (M.F.A., Painting) and her husband Micah Stansell hit a veritable ABMB lottery jarred me from my stupor. The $100K prize they pocketed, though, wasn’t due to luck, but the barrel, yes, barrel, they tricked out for Herradura Tequila’s Barrel Art Collection contest.

Hint: their winning entry proves the well quoted adage that ‘what’s on the inside matters more than what’s on the outside.’ Or, I might add, that the work matters more than the canvas.

To start, this was one of 80 plain oak barrels – used for aging tequila – that Herradura dispatched around the country to be transformed by local artists. A list of 77 participating artists was honed to 8 finalists, including Whitney and Micah, who were invited to Miami for a grand finale party created by Thrillist Media with the help of event producer Adrienne Wright (B.F.A., Fashion).

Here’s the artist's statement on the barrel "Look Inside":

"Though a 150-pound tequila barrel is not our usual medium, we set about the process of 'making art' in our usual way; anthropologically. We considered the barrel not just as an aesthetic object, but as a utilitarian one; an object with a particular historical purpose. Here we struck upon the idea to use the inside of the barrel, leaving the outside of the barrel unchanged save for a marquee sign with a simple call to action: 'look inside'.”

"We’ve created a zoetrope, an early 'cinema' device, inside the barrel. The running horse pays homage to Muybridge, a pioneer of the moving image, and the marquee sign and the act of peering into the barrel are a nod to the kinetoscope/mutoscope. Early alchemists believed the distilling of 'spirits' to be magic. In the same way, early cinema devices like the zoetrope were used to conjure spirits and were presented as magical objects. We think there’s still something pretty magical about the inside of our Herradura barrel. Look inside and see for yourself."

So what will they do with the money? Here's what Whitney had to say on bringing that fat check back to their home in Atlanta:

"It's hard to overstate what one hundred thousand dollars means to a working artist. I think more than anything it carries with it a feeling of freedom. The sense that we are free to continue making art on our own terms. Maybe the less-than-glamorous truth is that this prize, in a way, is a return on more than ten years of investing in our art (and much of it will go to servicing debt from many of those past projects and student loans!). Likewise, it's equally hard to overstate what it means for a company to invest in artists in this way. For Herradura to stand up and say, 'We think that art and artists are important and we're going to put a significant and substantial amount of money behind that belief,' is incredibly encouraging to a talented group of artists. A heartfel thank you to all of those involved in in administering this prize."

I think more than anything it carries with it a feeling of freedom. The sense that we are free to continue making art on our own terms.

I'd say that's enough incentive to always look a little closer, and not to be afraid to take a different approach.

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Immersion Hong Kong: a 20-day tour of the city's architectural gems

December
16
2013

In case you’re stuck somewhere cold, snowy, uninspired, or all of the above, here’s some eye candy that’ll whisk you away on a virtual, albeit momentary, adventure.

The images come from 18 graduate and undergraduate students from Savannah College of Art and Design's School of Building Arts who are traversing Hong Kong in search of the neighborhoods, architecture, and urban design that make it one of the world’s great cities.

Hong Kong's historic and modern culture provides students with rich perspectives of Chinese architecture, social and political influences in its urban design and architecture. - Hsu-Jen Huang, Professor of Architecture

These postcards and excerpts from the travel-study itinerary document the field trips and assignments the students have participated in since arriving in Hong Kong. SCAD Hong Kong's location in the North Kowloon Magistracy Building has not only provided a welcoming home base, but a context for understanding development and preservation in Asia at large.

Day 1: Arrival in Hong Kong.

Day 2: Orientation and first class meeting at SCAD Hong Kong, then dinner with SCAD architecture alumni representing Handel Architects, Marc & Chantal Design, Aedas and Pleasanthouse Architects.

Day 3: Chungking Mansions site visit followed by a walking tour of the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Day 4: Fa Yuen Street Market, Ladies Market and Jade Market.

Day 5: Field trip to Macau and the Ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Day 8: Firm visit at Foster + Partners. Meetings with local residents, preservationists and firms give students a taste of what it’s like to be engaged in a global practice. Then a stop at Kowloon Walled City and a discussion of the Kai Tak Airport redevelopment site.

Day 10: The pier at Cheung Chau Island.

Day 13: At the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, students pitch in and help the American Institute of Architects teach architectural sketching for the Draw Together Hong Kong event, which teaches participants how cities develop through observation and the resulting drawings.

Day 11: A field trip to Tian Tan Buddha.

For more photos follow SCAD Architecture on Instagram, #immersionhongkong.

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