Studio Project Application to Housing Development

5 May

I’m a Fourth Year student in the University of Virginia School of Architecture.  For my final project, I am developing a thesis project in the realm of housing.   There is a vast array of options posed by this subject, but my interest in Architectural History, along with my architectural history major thesis topic inspired my design direction.

My architectural history thesis deals with 1920’s prefabricated residential architecture in America.  This was a response to major societal and technological shifts that brought convenient and modern modes of living to the masses.  Neighborhoods shot up all over the nation, filled with these homes, whose pieces were shipped by freight and assembled on site.  The housing schemes display an unrivaled level of complexity, convenience, and modularity.  Another major aspect behind these houses is that inhabitants were able to use vast arrays of options for design that allowed them to express individuality.

For my design thesis project, I am taking these aspects of complexity, convenience and modularity and applying it to a modern residential model intended to exist in any of today’s cities.  Just as the assemblies of the 1920’s were highly standardized, the sizes of the apartments I’m designing are also uniform, to allow maximum versatility.

My project is made up of modules specially allocated for modes of daily life and personal preferences of users.  The apartments offer a variety of arrangements and module variety, also to facilitate maximum versatility.   The modules also move and operate to create different spaces, moods, and serve different functions for the appropriate mode of the inhabitant.

Why is this form of compact living appealing to inhabitants and developers alike?  First of all, these apartments can be placed virtually anywhere, and with variable multiplicity.  For my particular design role of this project, I used the dimensions of the bays in the old, abandoned Packard plant built in the early 20th century in Detroit, Michigan.  These apartments can be inserted in pre-existing structure, fostering sustainability by means of conservation of materials as well of ensuring the longer lifespan of pre-existing structures, while also attracting activity to previously deserted areas.

I think this is highly crucial to the efforts of housing developers.  We must use the assets, whether material or social, that we already possess, utilize what is positive and operable about those aspects, and adapt them for the future, just like I have with this project.



Interesting New Materials

9 Dec

I feel that I have a minor obsession with lighting, in almost any form.  But it wasn’t until I visited my studio critic for this semester’s own studio at the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, that I discovered fiber-optic countertops.  Kitchin specializes in the fabrication of concrete objects, ranging from bathtubs, to countertops, to picnic tables.


So, Alexander creates these custom countertops, and if you have the urge for illumination, you can have fiber optics implemented into these designs.  He simply casts the concrete (in a variety of colors) with the fiber optics imbedded in them.  So, these countertops are simply installed and are powered with electricity.  It may not be everyone’s taste, but its definitely and interesting material choice to add to the market, especially with the increasing demand for the use of concrete in modern kitchen (not to be confused with the artist’s namesake) designs.

Countertops Concrete Countertop Institute Raleigh, NC

Response: The Power of the Brief

9 Dec

In The Power of the Brief, Guy Battle and Christopher McCarthy explore the concepts of temperature control in public venues in relation to the perceived comfort level by those who experience these spaces.  It is interesting to me that they approached this issue with a relation to geography, history, and overall context, and its relations to evolving comfort or sensory perceptions.  They provide examples such as the fact that northern Europeans prefer the sun-exposed part of the sidewalk as opposed to the shaded one, while Southern Europeans prefer the shady side.  In its relation to simply the last century, I found it especially interesting that travelers on European railroads would draw their curtains when travelling through the Alps simply because they perceived the wilderness (panoramas which are highly sought after today) to be ugly and void.

For my own explorations with systems and architecture, this simply reinforces to me the growing importance of context and site information to the architect and his design motives and decisions.  He or she must constantly be aware of not only the site conditions themselves, but also of the implications set forth by the people that are going to inhabit and/or visit this building.  Furthermore, how can buildings be crafted to accommodate evolving comfort/beauty perceptions?  Can solutions to this problem become what are known as timeless designs?

Parabola Project/Lecture

5 Dec

The lecture was very informative about the design process and decisions made by the lecturers.  In addition, it inspired us, as students, to implement more passive (lighting and ventilation) features into our architectural investigations (unfortunately, this was on the due date of our systems intregrations into our studio design projects).  In any case, they showed how certain features can almost be intuitively implemented into design projects.

Of course, the focal point piece of their lecture was their Timepiece House, which contained an isolated oculus, which could give information at virtually any point of daylight about the time and weather, to a person who is standing inside the room.  However, I actually found more interesting other implementations of passive systems into their architectural designs.  In particular, I found their use of a sunken clerestory most profound.  The decision, design wise, seemed so natural to implement into the particular house, while it also allowed for amazing light penetration and passive ventilation if the windows are open.  It makes me ponder ways in which I could not only include these in my design explorations in the future but also become innovative about the forms they adopt.

Systems Application: Strandbeesten Portal

30 Nov

In my studio course, I have designed a series of structures that host a program accommodating both privacy and public exposure, where guests can convene to tap into wifi hotspots, or simply view the city from the fourteenth story.  My towers rise up from below the highline, remaining orderly in form at first, but seemingly overflow as they rise above the pre-existing site buildings.

The wifi hotspots are provided by my own version of operable and moving Strandbeesten, which exit the structure, and travel throughout the city, offering these wifi hotspots.  At ground level, there is a long pool which not only offers another space for human interaction (either with one another, or with the Strandbeesten) but also offers a means by which the stories directly above (which house electrical machinery and charging rooms for the Strandbeesten) can receive some cooling.

The design of my towers also speaks much to the aspect of varied visibility.  The outer shell of the building is clad in dark metal, which is predominant toward the bottom of the structures, partially because of the already limited lighting, and also because this is where most of the machine maintenance takes place.  The upper part of the building is sheathed in translucent glass, which offers light penetration and diffusion, but limited visibility.  The most interesting feature of these buildings, however, is that I have implemented atriums, which are surrounded by tranparent glass, offering full visibility to the inner workings of the towers.

As you can see in this exploded sectional diagram, I have divided the functions of the towers based on program, as the spectrum flows left to right from private to public.

As many buildings in New York, much light is provided by means of reflection.  These towers are designed to amplify these effects. with the highly reflective transparent glass, along with the white translucent glass that coats much of the building.  One can see that even at 6:00 in the evening, light is still highly amplified by these buildings, as direct light naturally flows into the uppers stories, and is reflected downward toward the pool by the adjacency of the glass-clad towers.

The next diagram is a detailed view of the top of the tower farthest to the right, meant for guest observation and interaction.  From this lofted atrium space, guest can take in the diffused evening light, or observe the Strandbeesten workshop through the transparent glass in the adjacent tower.  It is also shown how these atriums can channel the winds from the southwest creating cool airflow through the upper chambers, and allowed to exit through the cavity in the other side of the tower.

A Journey Down to the ASchool Dungeon

15 Nov

A few weeks ago, our professor gave us a tour of the architecture school’s main subterranean infrastructure.  As one first takes the main staircase to the basement level, the view down the corridor indicates a few pipes along the ceiling, where he quizzed us on the types of these pipes, based on their material and size.  As we moved farther into the lair, we soon realized this apparatus is composed of much more than a few pipes.  Suddenly the corridor wrapped around to another corridor that spanned virtually the length of the building.  I then began to realize the breadth of detail with which engineers have to design these systems with.  There is a high level of precision and considerations that must be taken into account when designing this apparatus, such as the location and root of various pipes, emergency cutoff systems, as well as even flexible joints for techtonic shifting.  The spaces that housed this equipment also began to become taller to be able to accommodate the sheer size.  Let’s just say that I’m glad that architects only have to effectively accommodate and implement these systems, not figure out how to design them.

Energy Saving May Not be a Lifesaver?

9 Nov

My mom recently forwarded my an alarming warning about the use and breakage of energy saving bulbs.  This quite spam-like email contained gruesome images of a mercury-poisoned foot, claiming that this could easily happen to you if a bulb were to be broken in your presence.  Alarmed by disgusted by the images, I looked into the situation in greater detail and realized that while, yes, these bulbs do contain amounts of mercury, that the great danger posed by them, even if broken is a slight myth.


Indeed, broken bulbs should be handled with care and caution.  The crucial step of the cleaning process is to make sure that you’re cleaning with the right materials, first off.  It is important to use a broom, and carefully pick up the large glass pieces, and place them into a sealed container for disposal.  The main no-no is to make sure that you don’t use a vacuum cleaner when picking these up, as the pieces can be redistributed on your floors as you clean other areas.  On hard surfaces, it is suggested to use tape to pick up any pieces you may have missed.


Other than that, there is really no serious danger to one’s life posed by the breaking of these bulbs, contrary to what my mom tried to alarm me with.  For more detailed information, refer to the following link: