Bodies We Built

Type:       Academic
Details:   Harvard GSD, Thesis
Date:       Fall 2018
Advisor: Sergio Lopez-Pineiro

Looking into the history of architectural manuals for bodily accommodation, authored throughout history by the likes of Vitruvius, Corbusier, and Neufert, reveals a disciplinary disinterest in indulging an excess of physicality or identity. Architecture and the systems of governance and commerce that produce it appreciate bodies at their most acquiescent, standardized, and ‘good.’ What happens when bodies come to stay awhile? The corpse may be the most acquiescent subject, or perhaps the most radical as it is freed from our lived standards of comfort. But typical spaces for housing the dead are standardized, rigid, and austere. Even in death, bodies are opted-in and conformed to structures and systems of hierarchy and power: heterosexual male bodies laid on the “right” side of their wives, gay, trans, or tattooed bodies excluded from certain necropolises, poor or unknown bodies laid to rest in unmarked mass graves. The expectation, hope, or privilege of having a final resting place reveals that even the dead can’t escape constructed taboos. More exuberant and optimistic than the architectures or landscapes planned to welcome dead bodies are the objects found, purchased, rented, and crafted to commemorate them. This is the material culture of death. In these objects are traces of gender, race, and class - the cleavages that are typically smoothed over in the planning of dead communities.

Working towards this flamboyance, 7 characters were studied. They are real, but curated narratives undermine the possibility of a single, final resting place. Instead, bodily legacies are conceived as “construction sites” and illustrate a process of becoming dead. Their bodies pass through spaces with little to no geographic or temporal link and include spaces scaled to the individual body like a coffin, institutions like a prison, and spaces hosted online like a Wikipedia page. Each tells a story about a body, its stuff, its life, and its death. When 7 exuberant deaths combine with stories of death sourced from hundreds anonymous online users via Amazon Mechanical Turk, the question remains of how to accommodate a large constituency of bodies while making room for traces of the individual.

The Illinois Medical District provides a testing ground to situate the exuberance of individual death within institutional collectivity. In Chicago, a city aware but often indifferent to the mortality of its citizens, the institutional machine for the processing of dead bodies can be found at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office - the morgue. To reconcile the individual and the masses, the morgue articulates two vectors. The ‘deconstruction of the animate’ handles the breaking down of dead bodies and streamlines a menu of end-of-life treatments. The ‘construction of inanimate’ agglutinates the stuff, the spaces, and the personal. At once, sterilized and standardized spaces accept bodies that leave little to no trace, while adjacent spaces accommodate the ever-provisional amassing of objects and effects. An architecture of sequence and accumulation, this thesis makes a case for the idiosyncratic, the hodgepodge, and the mess in the realm of the institutional processing of the dead.


Ordinary Wormholes

Type:       Academic
Details:   Harvard GSD, Core IV
              In collaboration with
Bradley Silling
Date:      Spring 2017
Critic:     Jennifer Bonner

This project began with an online experiment to investigate how ordinary urban experiences connect people. Amazon Mechanical Turk was employed to source narratives and experiences from anonymous users around the world. For a small fee, hundreds of strangers answered a simple question: what can you see out of your window? As a single architectural element, the window separates inside from out, hot from cold, light from dark. But windows seldom operate in this reductive binary and never exist in isolation. As an urban element, windows can express individuality and collectivity, and initiate dialogue with their neighbors - one floor down, across the street, or perhaps on the other side of the ocean. Can answers to this simple question provide enough information to map connections between strangers across space and time?  

Responses came flooding in. Some described dull, dreary days. Some spotted neighbors and passersby. Others offered profound reflections on the state of their lives in the city. A man in Argentina and a woman in Texas both watched birds at a feeder. In some way, perfectly ordinary moments connected these strangers across space through window-like wormholes. A network of ordinary wormholes emerged, all facilitated by the humble window.

With the global wormhole network in mind, focus shifted to Boston where windows have evolved their own unique mythology. The quintessentially-Boston Triple Decker emerged as a housing typology that allowed for affordable, high-density housing for a range of lifestyles. The typology combines the density of a row-house with access to 360 degrees of light and air. Windows are an integral part of the Triple Decker’s DNA. Specific patterns of placement, size, and alignment evolved over time, giving the Triple Deckers expressive facades of improvisation and wonder and accompanying folklore. From the footnotes of light wood construction manuals to the comment boards of the Boston Globe, the city is steeped with stories and moments of sublime weirdness, uncomfortable confrontations, and surprising quirks found in the subtext of ordinary Triple Deckers.

Seven families of new Triple Decker types emerged. Regularized window patterns of the original type unifies all seven as formal and programmatic variations distinguishes them. An elevated mat building provides surface parking, a tower invites athletic activities of all sorts, a curtain-wall cluster is unified by a community curtain, a sunken mat opens up a large park above, ramp connected triple deckers create shared kitchens, micro towers sprout up from an underground supermarket, and large enclosed courtyards between separate building produce gallery spaces to view from bed. New kinds of connections between residents within and across the seams of these micro-neighborhoods produces a new network of housing and wormholes in South Boston.


Waste Mgmt

Type:       Academic
Details:   Harvard GSD
Date:       Spring 2018
Critic: Jeanne Gang, Claire Cahan

In the 21st century, concerns over the inadequacies of current waste management infrastructure are growing in the face of population growth and ecosystem degradation. While major cities are overexerting infrastructure to accommodate their increasing populations, smaller remote and rural communities face a different set of challenges. Island communities, for example, are strained by limited land, infrastructural isolation, and imbalances between their import and export economies. With governments and environmental agencies enforcing stricter regulations worldwide, these communities already at an infrastructural disadvantage are slipping further behind in their ability to provide adequate systems, facilities, and services for waste management.

Situated between Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, the U.S. Virgin Islands are facing this predicament as they respond to intensifying climate risks while planning for the slated 2020 closure of the last operational landfill in the territory, the Bovoni Landfill. The Islands were hit by two Category 5 hurricanes in the fall of 2017. Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the lives of residents and their properties and added an immense waste load.  It was estimated that a year’s worth of waste was added to the already strained waste streams following the two storms. The Islands have been operating a single-channel waste management system, sending everything to the landfill, and have no municipal infrastructure for recycling collection, storage, composting, or waste-to-energy processing. Current policy has been pushed to its breaking point in recent years as the EPA has increased pressure given a range of non-complying metrics in the Islands’ landfills. Bovoni is leaching contaminants into the ground and surrounding Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve, has surface and subterranean fires, and utilizes disposal mechanisms deemed improper by the EPA. The Islands will be forced to export their waste to Florida, Puerto Rico, or further if a contemporary and comprehensive waste management plan is not outlined.

A grassroots organization on St. John called Island Green is running a very small but impactful operation called the Sustainable Living Center. The organization collects salvageable waste for resale, crushes cans for recycling export, composts, and promotes environmental awareness and resilience across the Islands through volunteer work. As the storms destroyed most of their property, Island Green is hoping to expand the SLC’s services and operation capacity as they re-build. With resilience in mind, this proposal puts forth a phased approach for re-building and growing the SLC’s mission. The completed SLC would include a sorting facility to accommodate 29 distinct waste streams, a loading dock, modular storage, artist-in-residence accommodations, a community center, and an expanded facility for the re-sale of donated and unwanted items. Given its scale compared to a fully-functioning landfill, the SLC’s reach is limited, but it has the potential to serve as a model for resilience and environmentally-minded waste management among island communities.


Uncomfortable Tower

Type:       Academic
Details:   Harvard GSD, Core III
Date:       Fall 2016
Critic: Maryann Thompson

Adding to the Doha, Qatar skyline of glass and steel towers, frozen icons, and geometric extrusions that ascend from the ground using dangerous labor practices and endure despite precarious climatic conditions, this Tower feels uncomfortable among its neighbors. Instead of desiring to solidify into permanence like its neighbors, the Uncomfortable Tower explores the potential of assembling the tower type as a provisional architectural solution, itching from its inception to escape its own skin. Can a tower anticipate its own ruin and evisceration? The Uncomfortable Tower tries to do just that, positioning its form as a container that allows programmatic variety to exploit the typology’s vertical structure and density.

As a proposal for a 600-foot mixed-use hotel, the Tower’s programmatic arrangement, circulation, and structural strategies are straightforward. The Uncomfortable Tower houses 306 hotel rooms, a hotel lobby and restaurant at ground level, 22 artist studios, 3 gallery spaces and a black box theatre nested together, 3 structurally co-dependent open-air pools, a 4-story gym and fitness center complete with physical therapy pool and yoga terrace, 4 vertical means of egress, 6 elevators, dozens of planted terraces, and spaces to support servicing and back-of-house maintenance.

In such a banal assembly, can there be agency or hierarchy? A tripartite hierarchy is established between elements that serve as container, glue, and filler. Formally, the three elements are easily differentiated. The container is established as two volumetrically identical rectangular boxes, a south tower and a north tower. Each is equipped with two means of egress and an elevator bank. North and south must be differentiated according to unique environmental loads. Porosity and apertures on the north facade contrast a solid and monolithic south facade that utilizes scissor-stair egress to distance inhabited spaces from harsh solar exposure. The container provides the structural logic of the Tower but its division into two halves requires an adhesive to unify north and south. The large-scale program spaces are formalized as glue-like ellipsoid volumes, flung and wedged into the containers. These volumes house communal program spaces and their anchoring between the two structural containers provide the access points to cross from north to south. Some ellipsoids sit in isolation, a gym, for example, while others nest together, like the three galleries and black box theatre to create interiorized continuity. Some play nice while others put pressure on their fixed container and register as facade bumps or a cantilevered lap pool that doesn’t fit within the Tower’s footprint. Finally, around the ellipsoid spaces and within the container, hotel rooms and artist studios aggregate freely as rectangular modules according to the simple structural grid. As these systems massage into one another, awkward spatial residues emerge. The relationship between wall-container, ellipsoid-glue, and box-filler establishes the discomfort of the new Tower: a permanently provisional monument for Doha.


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.


Institutional Armpit

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


Gendered Generic

Type:       Personal / Academic
Details:   Harvard GSD, Independent Study
Date:       Fall 2017
Advisor: Jennifer Bonner

Exhibited at Front/Space Gallery, Kansas City, MO

Curated by Bad Little Brother

Gallery photos courtesy of Timothy Amundson, via Front/Space Gallery