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i’m so excited — i’ve just walked out of the most enjoyable talk i’ve seen in my three years here at mit.  david macaulay, author of several architectural-themed books that i cherished as a child, just gave a one hour tour of how his imagination works over in the stata center.  there is no way i can even come close to capturing the excitement of his talk given the limitations of blogs and my storytelling capabilities.  instead, i thought i’d just note here some of the things i observed, in the hopes that these cues will help jog my memory for at least a couple years and thereby prolong the enjoyment i experienced tonight, past my recollection’s usual limit of about 3 days.

  • i gained a much deeper appreciation for the decision processes illustrators make.  macaulay kept asking himself: “how can i choose the viewpoint to a scene that will most strongly engage and involve the viewer?”  or, “am i conveying enough movement?”  he also constantly grappled with twisting perspectives: “how far can you bend straight lines so that the viewer sees everything that she needs to see to understand a composition?”
  • over the course of his whirlwind passage through at least 100 drawings and sketches, i grew more and more convinced that david macaulay cannot be human.  no man could possibly: a) possess an imagination that playful and rich; b) turn out such a prodigious amount of work in a single lifetime.  the detail in many of macaulay’s sketches is so meticulous that i’m convinced it would take me hours to simply trace, let alone conceive of one of his drawings.  (what’s perhaps even more astounding than what macaulay has published is what he hasn’t; so many of macaulay’s drawings that “weren’t good enough” or “weren’t quite right” would probably have been considered masterworks for normal illustrators.  it reminded me of the quotation attributed to gauss: “few, but ripe.”)  
  • it was breathtaking to be taken on a guided tour through the imagination of a certified creative genius.  to play witness to ideas’ first conceptions, to see how they’re folded and batted around, to watch them get crumpled up or occasionally refined and even finished.  all the while reflecting on macaulay’s punctuated, but still quite funny and witty narration. 

ok, it’s time for dinner — enough hero worship for now.  final words for future lawrence: “don’t forget this lecture!  this was one of the reasons why you spent 5 years of your life living in the second-lowest tax bracket.”   oh, and a little something to jog future lawrence’s very visual-based memory:   macaulay talk at mit (i’m just blown away by how decent the camera is on my phone.  although future lawrence probably won’t be as much.)

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