Alexander Newman-Wise ’08 does not like walls.
“I mean, they’re there just because they’re walls,” he said. “They serve no other purpose or function. To me, a wall is nothing more than a flat plane.” That may seem peculiar, since this architecture major is best known on campus for his design surrounding the CCL construction site — a wall. Newman-Wise developed his design this past summer and, after speaking with his dean, master and the DUS of the architecture major, got the approval to proceed with construction. But unbeknownst to Newman-Wise at the time, the burden of the wall’s construction would also fall on his shoulders. And though both the design and approval were difficult, actually building it would turn out to be the most challenging part.
“I’m surprised it’s still standing. I put that thing together myself with nails and wood and industrial glue and stuff,” he said. “I think I may be more proud of that than the design itself.” Maybe the pride in its construction is understandable considering the challenges inherent in creating art that defies your aesthetic ideals. But this is nothing unusual for Newman-Wise, as everything in his life — from his schedule to his architectural designs — seems to be in a state of constant conflict. But instead of being riddled with tension, Newman-Wise feeds off of this energy. And always looks good in the process.
Fresh off the finale of his architecture crits, Newman-Wise hasn’t slept in two nights (not to mention the two other all-nighters he pulled the past three days), yet he manages to look sharp enough to grace a Ralph Lauren runway. Standing in the Art & Architecture monolith, a building that has become a home to him and most other architecture majors, he wears a crisp maroon polo, jeans, Sperry topsiders and a deconstructed Abercrombie military jacket. His shiny hair is delicately tousled atop his head; his coif is “organic,” as he might say, not messy. And while this look might be easy for your average model, Newman-Wise doesn’t have the benefit of beauty rest.
“Everything I do is extreme; not necessarily by itself but in relation to everything else,” he chuckles. Newman-Wise’s activity-riddled schedule poses deeper conflicts. In addition to the notoriously time-consuming architecture major, he is also a member of the varsity lightweight crew team. But he finds a way to make these two commitments work: Instead of going to bed at four, he usually stays at the A&A until his morning crew practice, sleeps between practice and class, and then goes to class and afternoon practice.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all of this, it’s that I can go two or three days without sleep and still be semi-productive,” he admitted. “I tried dropping crew, but went back the next semester. I can’t seem not to do the hardest possible thing each semester.” While this passion might suggest a lifetime commitment, Newman-Wise doesn’t even plant to continue either architecture or crew after graduation — at least not immediately. What else does he plan to do, you ask? Why, take his clear complexion and winning smile to Hollywood, of course! “I’ll give acting a couple years, maybe two or three, and see if I’m getting encouraged, see if there’s a reason for me to keep trying,” says the aspiring actor, who will play Geoffrey in the Dramat’s production of “The Lion in Winter” this spring.
But if acting is what he plans for the future, then why continue with the architecture major, especially considering the rigor and endless number of sleepless nights it entails?
“I’d rather drop out of school than drop the major. Eventually I want to be an architect, but that’s not what I want to do immediately after college,” he said. Although his present seems to bear no relation to his immediate future, Newman-Wise remains composed amid the chaos. His architectural design channels a similar focus on remaining centered in the face of conflict.
“Initially, your surroundings, the city is visible, but as you continue up a ramp, membranes begin to envelop you and consequently filter out your senses. And finally, when you have reached the core of the building, all you have is your sense of self,” he wrote for his final project last semester.