Heavy metal: This year's dragon will make some noise

Dragon Day preparations
Robert Barker/University Photography
A student in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning prepares the dragon for the 2017 Dragon Day parade.

First-year architecture students will celebrate their diversity and collective voice during the class’s annual rite of passage – this year’s Dragon Day parade across campus, March 31 at 1 p.m.

Among them, the 58 students speak 17 languages (including several native to the Indian subcontinent) and hail from 23 countries from Taiwan to Venezuela. Their Dragon Day theme, “Louder Together,” “embodies our diverse and close-knit community within AAP,” and invites the campus and community beyond the College of Architecture, Art and Planning to join them.

Dragon Day Parade 2017

During the Dragon Day Parade on campus (Friday, March 31, 1 to 1:45 p.m.), vehicle access along the parade route will be restricted and buses may be delayed or rerouted.

The parade route:

Begins at Rand Hall around 1 p.m., going east on University Avenue.

Turns right (south) onto East Avenue.

Turns right (west) onto Campus Road.

Turns right (north) onto the south central walkway to Ho Plaza, passing between Uris and Olin libraries to enter the Arts Quad.

Ends at the north end of the Arts Quad by Sibley Hall.

Cornell Police and Environmental Health and Safety ask the community to enjoy the festivities safely.

The theme also signals the noise they intend to make with the dragon they have constructed for the event.

A campus tradition that began in 1901, Dragon Day for most of its history has been a means for architecture students to express pride in their college and major. Much of that pride also is in their roles on this project as designers, builders and makers, working long hours on design and construction in and around the Rand Hall shops in the days and nights leading up to the parade. It involves teamwork and determination, as well as crazy costumes and other accoutrement as inventive as the creature in the starring role each year.

“It’s really about engagement,” said Dragon Day co-captain Davis Zhu, B.Arch. ’21. “It’s not for credit, and at the end of the day it’s something that you have to feel passionate and relevant about being a part of, and you really enjoy.”

Dragon Day has in the past responded to the times, against Prohibition in 1920, McCarthyism in 1954, the Vietnam War in 1968 and “Red Tapism” in 2000.

“Inspired by the social and political environment, we thought this year, our dragon could be another form of message, and this is a perfect time for us to capture that,” Zhu said, “to share people’s opinions and an overall awareness of what is going on around us, and making our voices heard. We’re trying to orient this in a fashion that it is about sharing love and sharing positivity.”

The design of the dragon followed the concept, he said: “We wanted it to be totally transparent and skeletal; and it’s going to make a lot of noise. It’s going to be open, and loud … the instrument that the students’ thoughts and feelings are projected and played through.”

As construction began, Zhu said the steel structure will be “quite heavy,” and around 80 feet long.

Amid their architecture studio projects, coursework and studying for prelims, the students work for a solid month or more on Dragon Day preparations, including selling T-shirts on campus and online to raise funds for the next class’s Dragon Day effort.

Dragon Day model
A model of the dragon.

“As freshmen we all get thrown into this tradition, and this is where upperclassmen were very helpful,” Zhu said. “Their presidents talked to us, their individual team leaders talked to our team leaders. It carries on that notion of lineage for this almost ceremonial event.”

Promoting inclusion and diversity in “Louder Together” has had an impact, he said: “Our message was … a lot more relatable for the rest of the campus. Over the past few years, Dragon Day was just this thing that we do, and it’s just fun. This year, we’re trying to engage the rest of the student body on the whole campus.”

Zhu and co-captain Sahir Choudhary presented the theme to the Student Assembly, and “assembly members from other colleges are very excited about it,” he said.

Part of the outreach on campus includes documenting Dragon Day on social media – “this whole community perceiving it from all different angles,” Zhu said – with the hashtags #dragonday17 and #loudertogether. The parade will be livestreamed starting at 12:30 p.m.

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli