Dragon Day ‘moving mural’ hides a secret
By James Dean, Cornell Chronicle
There are many ways to skin a dragon, architecture students know.
The first-year B.Archs leading the College of Architecture, Art and Planning’s (AAP) Dragon Day parade this year – starting at 1 p.m. on March 31 – plan to sheath a winged serpent in colorful fabric, creating the effect of a moving mural.
The fabric’s removal during the Arts Quad finale promises to reveal a secret hidden within, while the dragon’s skin is transformed into an outdoor tapestry installation (pending required permits).
“The idea is to produce a dragon that can be reproduced into something else, so the life of each material is longer than it would have been,” said Austin Johnson ’27 of Pennsylvania, a Dragon Day co-captain. “Sort of like eternal life.”
The as-yet unnamed dragon will extend a more than century-old AAP tradition that roared back to life last year following consecutive pandemic cancelations. In 2022, first- and second-year architecture students teamed up to design a two-headed monster – “Scrap Dragon” – composed of recycled materials.
The current cohort of about 70 first-year architecture students is excited to build on that momentum while further cementing sustainability as a design priority. The dragon’s skin will be sourced from local recycled materials and cover a body assembled from deconstructed surplus wooden pallets. Any additional lumber utilized will be donated to the college’s wood shop for student use.
“We want to instill sustainability not as a theme but just something you do every year,” said Matt Miller ’27, of Ohio, another co-captain. “It would be a little irresponsible as an architect not to integrate sustainability in some aspect.”
Preliminary drawings envision a dragon stretching some 30 feet with wings spanning nearly the width of a city street. Potential embellishments include flappable wings and dragon “smoke.”
The dragon will appear fierce in countenance, Johnson said, befitting its anticipated parade route encounter with a phoenix fabricated by rival Cornell Engineering students. But “not full-on ‘Game of Thrones,’” Miller qualified, perhaps mindful of the parade’s all-ages audience.
Held the day before spring break, Dragon Day is a festive occasion that also challenges the new architecture students to put into action the skills they've begun to hone. They must not only translate an idea into physical and digital models, but bring it to life as a large team collaborating on everything from creative work and construction to fundraising and permit applications.
“Dragon Day has given us the opportunity to be involved in so many things that wouldn’t happen just on a computer screen,” Miller said. “Completing a project that’s rooted in design is very eye-opening, and teaches us skills about leadership, communication and time management.”
“We’re taking these tactics that we’ve learned,” Johnson added, “and applying them to a dragon that can showcase our talent.”
As in prior years, the parade will loop from Sibley Hall at University Avenue down Feeney Way (formerly East Avenue) to Campus Road and Ho Plaza before returning home to AAP on the Arts Quad.
In addition to architecture students, parade participants may include banner-wielding classmates studying art or planning, and possibly the Big Red Marching Band. As the dragon enters the Arts Quad, its minders will take care not let its wings snag on any branches before the planned finale reveal.
“That’d be an early skinning,” Miller mused, “if they get caught in the trees.”