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A first-year architecture student works on the dragon’s frame outside The Foundry.

For Dragon Day 2018, first-year architects have transparent plans

Media Contact

Lindsey Hadlock

Architecture students construct pieces of the 2018 dragon.

Even with a few dozen people involved, it takes weeks to build a dragon from concept to creature.

Dragon Day, the annual spring rite celebrated at Cornell for more than a century, happens March 30. It centers on a team effort by first-year architecture students to design and construct a dragon and parade it across campus.

The students have been busy amid a flurry of construction activity, learning safety procedures and attending to dozens of last-minute details, not to mention their studio work in Milstein Hall, classes and prelims.

While Rand Hall is under renovation to reopen next year, the students have been working behind The Foundry. With access to the College of Architecture, Art and Planning shops, they have been building pieces of a framework of metal and PVC pipe for the dragon’s long body and tail sections.

The body will taper along its length. During the Dragon Day Parade, student team members manning the structure will manipulate the sections up and down to make the dragon undulate and dance. There’s also a fog machine.

With 58 first-years participating in the effort, the students are broken into teams with different responsibilities including design, construction and T-shirt sales to raise funds for the project, including material costs.

“It comes and goes in waves,” team co-captain Erin Huang, B.Arch. ’22, said of the workflow. “In February we held a small competition for T-shirt designs, then scrambled to get the T-shirts ordered.”

Teasers in the days before Dragon Day included the "green streak" by architecture students on March 28.

When the shirts arrived, she said, “then it was go time. We met every week to work on design options, and discussed a theme. Then, knowing that, we asked, ‘What do we want the dragon to look like?’ Then we got our design and construction teams together.”

Ultimately, they arrived at the theme: “Transparency.”

“Dragons in past years have had a political tilt,” Huang said. “This theme may not be immediately apparent from our advertising, but when you see the dragon it will be apparent.”

No spoilers here.

Dragon Day T-shirts are available online, and are being hawked through March 29 in Collegetown and at campus locations including Appel Commons, Balch Hall, Ho Plaza and Robert Purcell Community Center.

A friendly rivalry with engineering students is part of the tradition, including a “nerd walk” by architecture students in costume and armed with T-squares. Dragon Days over the years have featured a phoenix, created by engineering students, to challenge the dragon as it passes the Engineering Quad on the parade route. Costumes are also a large part of Dragon Day itself, not just for the architects.

The costumed "nerd walk" from Milstein Hall on March 26 was part of the run-up to Dragon Day.

Huang said the finished dragon will exceed 100 feet in length. “People keep asking us, ‘How long will it be?’ and we have been saying, ‘Longer than the longest one,’” she said.

Dragon Day 2018 will be livestreamed March 30 at 12:30 p.m. The parade leaves The Foundry at approximately 1 p.m. and heads east on University Avenue.

The parade route continues with three right turns – south on East Avenue, past Day Hall to the Engineering Quad; west on Campus Road and then north on the walkway through Ho Plaza, entering the Arts Quad between Uris and Olin libraries. The dragon comes to rest at the north end of the quad, in front of Sibley Hall.