B.Arch Student Cheryl Lin on Challenging Conventions, Cemetaries, and Mind Control
Xinxin (Cheryl) Lin completed her thesis in the Undergraduate program at SCI-Arc. She was born and raised in Guangzhou, China and came to Los Angeles in 2014.
How has studying architecture impacted how you view the world?
It has impacted how I choose to view the world. I realized there could be very diverse and distinct ways to perceive where we exist proactively, and what matters is not the pursuit for the best (or truest) way, but the will to choose different lenses for different situations. On the other hand, we gain more from the process of investigating various values and methodologies rather than trying to figure out the “ultimate” answer (if there is one) to the “What” questions. It is important to stay alert and overcome our mental inertia in the complicated context nowadays while still being able to work on our own ideations and embrace disparate thoughts all at once.
Which living architect do you most admire, and what is the quality you most admire about them?
I admire architects that remain aggressive in challenging the convention and who re-imagine the fundamental in the context of globalization. There is much more needed to be done than simply inheriting programming and site or delivering certain ideologies in a superficial way.
If you were to die and return as a building, which would it be?
Any cemetery building. As we all have the opportunity to conceive physical space for the living, it would be thrilling to experience and become the space that shelters the dead. It is also a place where the most unusual and intense communication happens, both verbally and spiritually.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Ayn Rand has been a crucial influence in my life, whose works I came across when I had been reading Jean-Paul Sartre for a while and having questions on the epistemology of existence and consciousness. Rand’s philosophy of “objectivism” and “rational egoism” had triggered a lot of my thinking on issues related to self-identity and rationality, which helped shape an important part of my values and the way I reason and construct arguments. It was also quite a coincidence that the protagonist in one of my favorite books by her, the Fountainhead, is an architect.
What is your most treasured possession in your workspace?
My reed diffuser. Every day when I come to studio and get ready for work, I would flip the reeds and spend some time clearing my mind. It is almost like a ritual that initiates my day in studio. Also, smelling something calming can bring up senses of security and confidence in a relatively personal space in the studio.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue, both personally + in architecture? The most underrated?
Being unique and extraordinary has been overrated. Novelty has become primary a benchmark to judge if an idea deserves further investigation even if it yields no meaningful outcome other than getting extensive attention. However, the most underrated would be patience, especially in an era when everything is expected to race against time and people rush to take actions without spending enough time reflecting on details carefully.
Which talent would you most like to possess?
Controlling my mind and being able to align it with my body at any time. It can be bothersome sometimes to have an overly active mind that wanders a lot, as it burdens my thinking so much at some points that I stumble forward without the ability to benefit from the dynamic nature of the mind. Freeing up mental space helps me concentrate on specific ideas and produce more in-depth work.
How has your experience as an architecture student influenced your taste in music, and what is your current studio soundtrack?
I usually can’t watch anything while focusing on studio, so music has always been a great companion. I switch my playlists very often and listen to almost all genres. It also depends on what kinds of work (design or production) I am doing and what my mindset is at the moment. During my thesis, I enjoyed mostly symphonies, experimental rock, and jazz.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Interesting.” I try to say it less, as it can sometimes sound indifferent.
What are you most proud of?
I grew up in a high-stress and competitive environment, which I appreciate a lot now. I have been enjoying dealing with challenges and pushing myself beyond my limits with constant self-motivation. Being a quasi-perfectionist, I benefit a lot from (maybe suffer from as well) disciplining myself and maintaining clear goals in my mind.