Shack Up

Type:       Academic
Details:   Harvard GSD, Core II
Date:       Spring 2016
Critic: Tom DePaor

What is the contemporary condition of romantic relationships among young people, specifically among the millennial demographic? Compared to previous generations, millennials tend to have a looser, more open-mind with regard to the way in which they DTR – define the relationship. Architecture and its treatment of sexuality is an underserved point of research within the field and has been largely limited to readings of domestic spaces - houses, villas, etc. - while excluding larger, communal, or public spaces. The little amount of speculation on the subject is arguably out of touch with the contemporary condition of sexuality and the spatial format of millennial urban dwelling and socializing as in the city of Boston.

Intimacy and camaraderie come into dialogue at Shack Up – a club-like space intended to foster and accommodate all types, durations, and intensities of romantic and sexual inter-personal relationships among the millennial demographic. Permanence, establishing the institution of the club, must simultaneously allow for increasing spontaneity and openness toward fast and chance encounters.

A dispersed 9-square grid opens 4 alleyways for circulation. Upon entry, visitors to the Club have the choice of ascending narrower, more efficient “fast tracks” that move north-south through the site, or wider, meandering “slow tracks” that weave east-west through more programmatic stations. Individuals, pairs, and groups can each set the duration, pace, and sequence of their stays at the Club.

The structure of Shack Up maintains contextuality with neighboring Boston brick buildings while simultaneously producing a radical overlay on the site as it absorbs a small surface parking attendant shack as a found object into its logic. Informed by the thick party walls and tunneled basements of the Church Street row homes adjacent to the site, Shack Up employs a system of masonry piers, slabs, and walls with a monolithic and opaque outward appearance. Each square of the grid is defined  at its perimeter by 8 structural piers and together they are legible as 9 miniature towers on the site. All 72 piers extend up to the same height of 95’ with a 2x2’ top profile. Providing stepped shelves to hold the slabs, the piers step out to varying base widths at the ground as a formula of the number of slabs that each set carries. Within this simple and rigid framework, the programmatic diversity is allowed to flourish. Bedrooms for temporary occupation intermingle with spaces that accomodate a gym, spa, screening theatre, nightclub, bowling alley, bar, restaurant, and various lounge spaces. Localized floor and ceiling topographies foster bodily desires and are slotted into the column arrangement expressing themselves within the confines of a square profile: structure as city, room as landscape.