The provocation of “Thinking About Home-for-All” was to improve living conditions at the cramped and bureaucratic temporary housing facilities set up in the aftermath of the serial disasters of March 11th, 2011. The events destroyed not only the physical cities of the Tohoku coastline but also the social communities by shattering families and displacing neighbors. As a result, 6 months to a year later, the most common concern expressed by residents in the region is a lack of a sense of community. This sense of community is essential to both the enjoy- ment of life in the present and to planning for the future. Our project is about people and the relationships between people. Talking with the residents of the site to understand their desires and needs, we have built a framework of what exists and what could exist.
The site of the Heita Temporary Housing Complex is located 6 km outside of Kamaishi City, leaving residents isolated and dependent on public transportation if they do not have a car. Furthermore, these residents are gathered from areas up to 48km away. Heita is a particularly large housing facility, accommodating around 500 residents - children, adults, and the elderly.
Heita has some buildings which serve the complex as a whole — a medical center, a couple commercial buildings, and a smaller community center unit. The government currently provides one community center building per housing complex, constructed using the same system as the temporary housing. The current community center is primarily used for meetings between community officials or to fulfill other civic requirements.
The areas around the units are utilitarian. Some residents have a few plants or a bench but there is nowhere to gather except outdoors. The units themselves transition abruptly from public passage to private residence, which is prohibitive of the gradual formation of community. There is none of the layering of thresholds usually seen in the Japanese domestic realm.
Heita is caught in limbo — too small to be a town, too big for everyone to know each other, carrying a perpetual sense of the temporary. What its residents need most now is a place to go “without reason”, to borrow the words of a local — a place to be. We have envisioned many places to be, where multiple types of spaces can be created by varied interventions, allowing for many different types of relationships to form across the whole site. We’ve written a Catalogue of Interventions, ideas for physical actions to build community. These begin with something as simple as a bench and a potted plant that describe a space for two yet build to three large enclosed spaces for gathering a group as large as fifty. In this way, the Home-for-All at Heita can be the entire site at large.
The Catalogue of Interventions proposes ideas for bringing people together in groups of different scales. By building relationships on a one-to-one basis or in small groups, the foundation is laid for developing a sense of community at large. Slowly drawing people out by helping neighbor meet neighbor will eventually make gathering as a large group a warm and comfortable event.
Our project takes advantage of the existing construction of the temporary housing site in order to enrich and enliven the possibilities for social interaction. Intersections between major site circulation routes possess the greatest potential for creating chance meetings between people. By building to encourage residents to linger a while at these intersections, we increase the number of interactions between residents and their familiarity. Focusing on intersections helps to structure a distributed network of interventions across the site. At the same time, we want small scale relationships to have the opportunity to come together in larger groups. Near the center of the site, where the greatest potential for activity exists, we have increased the scale and frequency of the interventions deployed to begin to gather people there.
Larger, enclosed Home-for-All buildings are an extension of this distributed strategy. They provide space for the community to coalesce. In designing these major interventions, concern was given to layering enclosure to create comfortable transitions between public and social space and to permit openness to the outdoors when preferable. The spaces inside the Home-for-All structures are flexible in their use - creating implied smaller spaces within the larger enclosure that can gather a small group without separating them from the activity of the larger group. It was also important that these structures enclose a volumetric space in order to provide relief from the monotony of the spaces created by the temporary units.
In setting up these larger gathering spaces, they were given certain characters to help shape them without defining them in a rigidly programmatic sense. A Meeting Home-for-All is located adjacent to the existing community center (and adjoining it with an extended deck). This Home-for-All provides flexible space for meetings, supplementing the existing community center, while also creating a tiny park where residents can gather for lunch or to project a movie. Here a couple can sit down with an advisor from outside the community, a teenager can do their homework with friends, elders can gather to discuss the community’s leadership.
Then there are the paired Social and Play Home-for-Alls — sited in the park, with access to the existing playground and close to the elderly housing. The Social Home-for-All provides a space where people can come to have a drink together or cook a meal. Here a group of ladies might spend the day chatting over tea, a game of cards can form, people can cluster around the warm hearth in winter.
As the Social Home-for-All reaches back, it creates a space to gather around a centralv garden and connects the Play and Social places under one roof. The Play Home-for-All is intended primarily for children and the adults minding them. It is slightly smaller in scale and contains slides and other opportunities for play with the surfaces. Here adults can leave their children in the supervision of others for a while, children can play together, teenagers can gather on the back deck and hang out.
Although the design of the Home-for-All buildings is very specific to Kamaishi, they represent strategies that can be pursued at other housing complexes as well. The most important consideration is how to bring two people together, and from that how to bring together a community as a whole. By structuring space that encourages people to come together and relate to one another, we can rebuild community in the aftermath of disaster.
This project is primarily interested in the way that inside-outside and public-private relationships are constructed in China, not as starkly-delineated binary relationships but rather as a layering of slight differences. Traditional Chinese landscape paintings use layering as a strategy for increasing the perception of distance and layering in the built environment can create the same effect. Of course the mechanism of perception is different in these two cases - the painting constructs distance through perceptual effect but the built environment constructs distance through its physicality; the actual process of having to travel a weaving path, particularly a path which is not visually perceived in its totality, increases the perception of distance within a given volume. This was particularly clear to me in the traditional gardens we visited. As we ask how to densify a neighborhood without losing the positive aspects of the relationship to the outside or the relationship between neighbors, the Chinese predisposition to walls and exterior opacity is perhaps a good strategy.
The House for Three Families works with these relationships. In one sense, it is a transformation of the traditional siheyuan, in another sense it is a manipulation of the neighborhood fabric. Each of the living units is internally focused - their circulation spirals around the private internal courtyard whose screened walls shift in and out from the edge defined by the floor plates, creating a rhythm of relationships between inside and outside, light and dark. This screen wall is also distinct from the enclosure, creating another level of interiority within the dwelling units.
The living units are organized around the private courtyards which are treated one way, and the more outward facing program is situated differently in its relationship to the exterior. There are a shared private dining room/kitchen and family room adjacent to a courtyard which are able to open up into the courtyard and to visually incorporate the plaza beyond the major wall. The public/retail component on the ground floor allows passage through the building, creating a new cross-neighborhood path.
A final note on the relationship between exterior and interior—there are selective windows in the exterior walls but they are positioned to provide light more than exterior views. The terraced roof provides east-facing clerestories to the bedrooms on the top floor for morning sunlight. The materiality of the plaza wall permits windows which are screened by the stacked tiles—providing a textured interior light, but not an external view.
section through two courtyards
siheyuan typology transformation
section through five courtyards
This architecture was designed in part in response to an earlier assignment which generated an urban neighborhood form based on a number of codes. The city which my group (Curtis Perrin, Conway Pedron, and myself) created for this earlier assignment was one which was aggressively public, with open space being synonymous with public space through a series of interconnected courtyards. The way you create a dynamic environment is by contradicting its effects at various scales. To this end, I took our aggressively public urban scheme and created housing which in its massing is very private. This effect was again inverted at a smaller scale by making certain rooms engage with the public realm very directly while others relate tangentially. In this way and through other strategies, the architecture seeks to relieve the closed-in feeling created by the urban scale.
his•tri•on•ic [his-tree-on-ik] adjective
1. excessively theatrical or dramatic in character or style 2. of or concerning actors or acting 3. (Psychiatry) denoting a personality disorder marked by shallow volatile emotions and attention-seeking behaviour
- from Oxford Dictionary of English
section through main theater
theater elevation and section
lobby with reconfigurable program boxes
main theater stage
concert hall section
concert hall stage
nighttime street view
street view from the west
expansion space between theater and concert hall
"At times the mirror increases a thing’s value, at times denies it. Not everything that seems valuable above the mirror maintains its force when mirrored. The twin cities are not equal, because nothing that exists or happens in Valdrada is symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered, from the mirror, by a face and gesture inverted, point by point. The two Valdradas live for each other, their eyes interlocked, but there is no love between them."
- from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
In Calvino’s Valdrada the inhabitants are inextricably interlinked with their images. In-between the real and the reflected, something dynamic happens.
The collaged box applies the concept of the in-between space to the idea of travel. When we travel we set up a dichotomy of experience. We carry with us our familiar daily lives and are confronted with the unfamiliar experience of the place we have traveled to. In order to mediate the dissonance between these two realities, we construct a third, virtual reality. When we travel we actually travel in-between. We can never be fully a part of the unfamiliar and we can never fully let go of what we have come from, so we create in our minds a space where both of these conditions can coexist.
What happens though when constant confrontation with the unfamiliar becomes the familiar? In Barcelona the site is already packed with sensory stimulation and a mix of foreign cultures. We are increasingly having to address the unfamiliar on a second by second basis. With this sort of overload, how are we to experience the physical world? How can we construct an in-between space of contemplation and difference when there is no point of contrast to a world of constant unrelenting contrasts?
This project creates a point of contrast to an overloaded world. The series of spaces serves as a “sensory rehabilitation center” which attunes the mind to some of Barcelona’s more subtle sensory experiences. By creating this point of contrast it becomes possible again for people to construct an in-between space where they can consider reality.
To access the site most people would come from bustling Las Ramblas, through the mingling smells and sights of the Mercat St. Joseph, onto the plaza. The site strategy is to still allow the plaza to be an active, open space where things happen and people move through. The building, being in a sense about sensory reduction, defers to the plaza, moving to the side and mostly underground. The roof of the building becomes a secondary plaza, one which moves at much slower pace, as it’s not tied to main circulation systems.
Entrances and exits to the sensorium are designed to make the transition from the outside world a gradual one. Sloping planes and columnar forms mediate the spaces. The pedestrian would enter into the building on the ground floor into a room paved with the same tiles as the plaza. As the person moves deeper into the space these tiles begin to shift in height, causing awareness of them. The person then passes through a steam room which negates and cleanses the sensory experience of the outside. From here they procede through a sequence of rooms in the building which alternately highlight a specific sense.
There is a room which mimics a starry night, something which is present always in Barcelona but never seen because of the city light. There is a room where the sound of people walking on the plaza above reverberates through the ceiling. Eventually the person emerges from these spaces and begins to walk a long slope up to the plaza.
While the transitions from the plaza to the interior of the building are gradual, the transitions between spaces in the building are more about contrast. Contrast heightens the awareness of the sensorial experience particular to any one space.
steam room entrance
site location near Mercat St. Joseph
sensory spatial sequence
Sited in Detroit between the major roads Woodward Avenue and Cass Avenue, the Hostel / Station is intended to make traveling to and from the city more convenient. At present the city suffers from a rundown, unreliable bus system which exacerbates the problem of the city’s isolation from the suburbs. The train station enables commuter travel and the hostel helps to make Detroit a destination for travelers.
The hostel and train station occupy separate areas of the building. The station is oriented along the length of the train tracks and the hostel is built up over to get a view of the city and help to orient travelers to their surroundings. This is necessary because of a quirk in the way that Detroit is laid out. The city is not oriented to the compass like many city grids, but rather radiates outward from the city center oriented by the Detroit River. This can be disconcerting in terms of navigation Large moves in the building suggest views outward to the city.
Part of the extensive programming of the building includes sports courts on the roof of the train shed which are accessible to the general public and to people staying in the hostel. There is also a library on the ground floor which serves the community and commuters. The design integrates the activities of a diverse group of people.
Parallel entries to the hostel and the station create a space which always has people passing through it or waiting there. Large stairs on the front of the building serve as a dynamic public space and also provide general access to the courts on the roof.
site and massing diagram
plans and section through tracks
This small-scale design for a commuter station sited in Ann Arbor, MI uses a folding logic to wrap the necessary program spaces together into the compact site. The steel shell wraps around both a unit containing the ticket office and restrooms and around the platform.
The logic of the structure is one that can be easily repeated and modified at other stops along the line, giving a distinct character to the route and points of familiarity for the commuters who ride it from Ann Arbor to Detroit.
section through platform
elevation facing tracks
elevation facing street
Theater of the Absurd
The Theater of the Absurd highlights the absurdity in daily life. Pedestrians are drawn from their intended path through the site and into the theater, where they become both viewer and, unintentionally at times, performer. The program consists of both a more traditional stage setting and places where the stage is set for unintentional performances. In cases where the pedestrian is unaware that they have become a performer, the performance consists of that which people do when they think no one else is looking. These strategies draw attention to the absurdity of plans and appearances and the belief that we are in control.
The project draws inspiration from the Dada film “Ghosts Before Breakfast” by Hans Richter on both a conceptual and formal level. The film depicts absurd occurrences in an everyday setting (albeit caused by ghosts). Frames were extracted from the film in order to create a collage, which then became the inspiration for a formal study of twisting space.
The twisting form derived became the central circulation path through the site. The site is located in Ann Arbor on a site connecting a parking structure to the busy State Street. The building uses the disorienting geometry of the twist to misdirect the pedestrian headed out on their daily route into a programmatic detour. Although it is possible to pass straight through the building, those unacquainted with its quirks will find themselves entering the theater space.
The above series of images illustrates the detoured spatial sequence from the back of the building towards the upper level of the main theater space. Along the way, the pedestrian encounters a two-way mirror overlooking State Street. This mirror is oriented so that the pedestrian sees their reflection but the people on the street and in the coffee shop across the way see through. The pedestrian’s posturing becomes performance. The below series shows the path from the opposite direction, where the pedestrian is misdirected into the seating for the theater space.
By putting the pedestrian’s path into clear visual juxtaposition to a more traditional stage space, creative possibilities are opened up for performance artists.
the street face of the Theater of the Absurd
formal study of twisting space
plans and circulation
strategies along path A
strategies along path B
the crux of misdirection
The Slipback Gallery is designed to display a private collection of artwork for the fictitious Mr. Steve Steves. Steve Steves is a bit of an eclectic and his tastes include works of such disparate scale (and refinement) as a Richard Serra sculpture and a collection of shot glasses, snowglobes, spoons, and statuettes. The challenge with this project is how to display these objects with equal dignity and in a space that accomodates their disparate scales.
The form for the gallery is derived from a series of formal studies. After analyzing and spatializing the formal strategies in a painting by Josef Albers, the first step was to make an object out of 96 layers of museum-board which tried to expressed this formal concept. The concept elaborated in this project is one about spaces slipping past each other. After the first model, refinements were made and the rockite model was produced. This model then became the driving form for the building design.
Exhibition spaces for the gallery are divided so that the scale of the souvenirs is not dwarfed by the Serra sculpture. The Serra scultpure resides on the roof of the building, while the souvenirs are in the basement. The stairs to these two spaces slip past each other, allowing the viewer glimpses into either space. The building was integrated into a site with several other students’ projects. Part of the requirements was to have a continuous exterior pedestrian path. This path slips up and through the main circulation of the gallery, giving the pedestrian a view inside.