The Future of the Renwick Ruin at the Technion-Cornell Institute on Roosevelt Island
This project proposes a model of historic preservation which, instead of seeking to restore, preserve, or glorify an original building, uses the existing building as material for a new building in a way that neither privileges old over new, nor indeed the reverse. Instead, this model seeks to highlight the process of continual re-making and re-use—and therefore of history itself.
Here, the existing building is the Renwick Ruin, a former smallpox hospital and nursing school on Roosevelt Island. The new building proposed is a conference center and museum of medical history for the Cornell Technion Institute campus which is currently in construction north of the ruin. This project proposes tweaks to the ongoing master plan of the campus; instead of the current nuclear layout, the proposed new phase 2 plan uses the geometry of the demolished Goldwater Memorial Hospital to organize the as-yet-unbuilt buildings at the south end of the campus. This plan unites the heart of the campus with the southmost end of the island, including the ruin and the FDR Memorial.
The new building on the ruin site is intended as the campus’s public engagement building, bringing in visitors and fulfilling Cornell and Technion’s promise to educate the City about high technology and its vital role in the economy.
The ruin is comprised almost entirely of walls, including exterior stone walls and interior brick walls. The new building preserves the interior brick walls, which have already been stabilized, in their original location, to organize the circulation through the building and recall its history as a hospital. The exterior walls are stabilized in 9’x9’x2’ panels which are then recombined to construct a new exterior curtain wall and interior partition walls for a quadruple-height atrium which serves as the conference center.
Submission to Folly/ Function 2018
In collaboration with Andrew Percival
Remnants Rebuilt was a proposal for seating in Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY. This series of modules can stand alone as individual seats or be aggregated to make benches and multifunctional seating arrangements. These pieces are designed after the park-side façade of a demolished turn-of-the-century Fifth Avenue mansion once known as Clark’s Folly. When Clark’s Folly was demolished in 1927, to be replaced by a luxury apartment building, the dismemberment of its façades was featured in national newspapers. Remnants Rebuilt suggests an approach to the built history of the City which is an alternative to demolition and whole preservation. The façade of such a publicly presented private building, famously little used by its owners, is a cultural artifact for the city’s inhabitants. By turning the façade into park seating, we invite city dwellers to claim the artifacts and to see them up close.
What is “reused” here is not historic material, but history itself as material. Remnants Rebuilt may be nostalgic, but it stands firmly against the idea of restoration and recognizes nostalgia as a creative act of reflection. It asks park visitors to reflect upon the past of a specific building, the material past of the city at large, and the changes to that material over time. The lightweight materiality of the manufactured “ruin” is a nod to the impossibility of restoring the past.
Open House New York, Fall 2016
In collaboration with Andrew Percival, Kayla Manning, and Julian Harake
This interactive media wall was installed at Open House New York’s opening event in fall 2016. It contained over a thousand pencils and surveys for users to take and complete. Each end of the wall contained a pencil sharpening box, a box for survey collection, and a specially designed OHNY map and list of activities. Each survey “scroll” was bundled with a different suggestion for an OHNY event, giving it a “magic eight ball” quality and encouraging users to participate.
The wall panels could be taken apart for flat packing to facilitate moving and storage. Easily assembled custom milled aluminum joints allowed for different configurations and spatial divisions. The transparent shorter end walls encouraged visual interaction between users on either side, while the larger wall panels became increasingly visually porous as pencils and surveys were removed. The wall invited constant tactile engagement, as the depth of pencils could be shifted from either side creating silent communication across the two sides of the wall.
The holders for pencils and scrolls were designed loosely following the shape of the New York skyline, which changed constantly as materials were removed or moved around the wall. This was intended to convey the notion that the city and its form are constantly shifting and evolving with its inhabitants.
Design Studio, Princeton SoA, Spring 2016
Instructors: Sharon Johnston, Mark Lee
Art House is a proposal for a single-artist pavilion gallery for the work of Robert Rauschenberg on the Menil Campus, the neighborhood surrounding the Menil Collection, in Houston, Texas. The Campus includes dozens of pre-war bungalows, which are all painted “Menil gray.” This project takes the bungalows as found objects to be recombined, in the spirit of Rauschenberg’s Combines.
Here, the recognizable domestic form is reproduced and estranged by coupling with structures and materials not typically associated with the bungalow. Where the walls of the traditional bungalow contain its structure, here the shells of the bungalows are supported by a central spine of reinforced concrete. This structural spine allows the roof to be separated from the walls to create a clerestory for daylighting the less sensitive artworks.
The building shell is clad in oversized cement-board siding, drawing attention to the form of domestic detailing while also creating distance from it. Like the Menil gray paint, the change in materiality in the bungalow shells is intended to provoke a feeling of surrealism within the context of the neighborhood.
Design Studio, Princeton SoA, Fall 2016
Instructor: Alejandro Zaera-Polo
CloudStore proposes an alternative to traditional self-storage, in which the useful life of objects is maximized. Users of the facility can opt to store all objects privately, or they can allow either physical or digital browsing of their items, as well as borrowing and bidding. Thus users can make money from their objects in storage, objects can continue to be used, and the store can rent out more cubic footage of storage than exists physically in the facility. All objects are stored in lockers opened by unique user-specific codes; one user may allow another user access if she chooses to loan out one of her items, and the facility can always track customers’ use of lockers. Floors are all organized to maximize storage per square foot, but the circulation patterns vary from floor to floor based on how likely items are to be rented based on in-store browsing.
Patrons are encouraged to create a digital copy of each object they put into storage. High-tech facilities are available on-site for this purpose, including high-throughput 3-D scanning technology first developed in the Smithsonian Mass Digitization Office. The CloudStore app, developed in parallel to the physical facility, allows users to navigate the store, to pull up reviews and information about objects as they browse in-store, to create public profiles for their own libraries, and to track how often they or any other users access their items physically or digitally. This provides information about how and when objects are used, to help customers make decisions about which things to keep, as well as collecting valuable research about how people access and use digital objects versus physical objects (for instance, in the case of memorabilia).
Design Studio, Princeton SoA, Fall 2015
Instructor: Paul Lewis
In collaboration with Kayla Manning
A new encasement is proposed for the Black Maria, a historic working replica of the first film studio building, which rotated to capture sunlight for filming at all times of day. Within the new building, the Black Maria is for the first time protected from the elements but still rotates and operates twice a day in its original condition, including widely varying sun-lighting throughout the year. At the equinox, the Black Maria’s aperture creates a perfect sun-stage, once used by Thomas Edison to film 50-second movies. In the extreme seasons, however, the sun stage becomes extremely shallow (summer) or disappears entirely as the sun is cast against the back wall (winter).
In addition to the original studio replica, a second theater, the White Maria, is suspended above and outfitted with dynamic apertures, allowing the recreation of optimal natural lighting conditions year-round. The Black Maria remains a model of the form of the original studio, while the White Maria models the effect for which it was designed.
The visitor enters the outer building on an intermediate level, circulating primarily between the two buildings. Both theaters can be used either as live theaters for sun-stage performances as were originally recorded in the first studio, or as black-out theaters for the screening of these films. The White Maria is envisioned as a viewing device not only for these performances, but also for the site itself, as it incorporates platforms with views directed down on the original studio and back out into the Thomas Edison National Historical Park on which it sits.
Design Studio, Princeton SoA, Fall 2014
Instructor: Michael Meredith
This apartment building in downtown Princeton is loosely based on a sixteen-square, or sixty-four cube, grid. The spaces deviate from the grid within a limited tolerance, creating a “loose fit.” In this compositional strategy, similar shapes are repeated but altered to effect a slightly disrupted rhythm. The loose fit allows new figures to emerge and draws attention to negative space and the balanced relationships between parts. This creates different poche conditions where secondary programmatic elements like staircases, storage, and water closets can be housed, so that the primary spaces retain their integrity without subdivision.
The loose-fitting spaces are aggregated to make three interlocking three-bedroom apartments. The related but different forms and aggregations create apartments which share the same formal language but have very different characters in terms of their use. Apartment A has a large centralized core including living, dining, and cooking space, all open to each other. In Apartment B, all rooms except guest rooms are on the ground floor, allowing ease of access and privacy to the guests. Apartment C affords the most privacy to each resident, as all bedrooms have separate access routes from the ground floor.
This scheme of interlocking apartments begins to suggest a new model of multi-family housing. In some spaces, particularly in the circulation, a resident may be well aware of his proximity to his neighbor thanks to wall thickness and aperture placement, whereas in the bedrooms, a greater amount of insulation allows the resident quiet and privacy, in some cases far away from the rest of his own apartment. This housing scheme creates an alternative to the most common contemporary model of urbanism which seeks to provide isolation from and obliviousness of one’s neighbors. Instead, this model allows for privacy while also reminding residents of the interconnectedness of modern urban society.
Cut/Fill, pt. 2
Design Studio, Princeton SoA, Spring 2015
Instructor: Guy Nordenson
This project is an experimental community designed to test the infrastructure developed in Cut/Fill, Pt.1 and located near Raceland, on the mid-bayou where the traditional arpent system is still dominant.
Houses on floating foundations achieve greater density as sea level rises, bringing them closer to each other and to an adjacent elevated hub where shops and a school are located. Modes of circulation and the relationship between building, ground, and user change as the community adapts to the rising water. Homes are accessible in low-water conditions from ground level and in high water conditions from the roof, which takes on the role of circulation. By 2080, water levels are predicted to rise as much as 15-20 feet in this area, making this dense configuration permanent at that point.
The density of the permanent buildings on the elevated hub mimics this eventual residential density and some circulation elevated above inhabited space. Buildings are separate yet very close together, producing a condition of “loose fit” which allows light and air in through the small spaces between buildings—spaces which are fixed in the case of the permanent buildings and constantly shifting in the case of the floating buildings.
Cut/Fill, pt. 1
Design Studio, Princeton SoA, Spring 2015
Instructor: Guy Nordenson
In collaboration with Emma Benintende and Andrew Percival
This project proposes reopening Bayou Lafourche to the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana. An extensive cut-and-fill program mitigates the increased ambiguity between land and water created by reopening the bayou. This program uses existing geometries created by the arpent system introduced by 18th-century French settlers who divided land into long strips perpendicular to the bayou. In the upper bayou, the arpents have since been converted into a more traditional grid system, which is reflected in this proposal.
Each of the plots defined by this arpent-based geometry is assigned a programmatic function (agricultural flood plain, recreational, residential, industrial, and civic/ commercial) and an appropriate corresponding height above sea level, based on how flood-resilient the program is. Residential plots are expected to flood very rarely and are concentrated near the five existing municipal hubs along the bayou, encouraging greater population density, youth migration, efficiency, and the growth of commercial centers. Civic and commercial plots are designed never to flood and are accessible from all residential plots, so that in the most extreme storms residents can access refuge points. Dynamic floating residential infrastructure is proposed in lower density areas, so that homes cluster together as water levels rise over the long term, as an alternative to short-term refuge.
Agriculture and freshwater fish farming are concentrated in the upper bayou, where saltwater invasion is less of a concern than in the lower bayou. A large reservoir is introduced in the upper bayou to foster farming and freshwater fishing and to provide a large flood basin for exceptional flood conditions, when spillways off the new industrial canal will feed directly into the reservoir. In the lower bayou, new spillways help to direct sediment deposition to combat coastal erosion and retain the current balance between water and land which characterizes the bayou ecosystem.
Design Studio, Princeton SoA, Fall 2014
Instructor: Michael Meredith
In collaboration with Laura Salazar and Weiwei Zhang
Traditionally, a piñata is a scaled abstracted figure of a real object, typically an animal, which is filled with objects, suspended, and broken open by blindfolded people as part of a celebration. A piñata may look like a donkey, but because of the abstraction, scaling, suspension from normal context, and celebration, the piñata is not a stand-in for the donkey. When children hit the piñata to break it, they are not performing an act of violence against the donkey, but simply trying to get at what’s inside of it.
Traditionally, architectural practice involves translation between buildings and drawings and between buildings and models. Multiple iterations between media allows for productive misreadings that can produce new forms, new spaces, or new relationships. The insertion of a new representational object, previously foreign to architecture, into this chain creates new sites for misreading and draws attention to the strangeness of the conventions of the discipline which we otherwise may take for granted. Unlike a model, a piñata has function beyond representation, bringing an element of performance and unpredictability into the representational cycle.
The move from model to piñata is akin to the move from building to model. The translation from a building to a model or a drawing is always a move towards abstraction, including selective removal of large amounts of detail and content. The translation from a model to a piñata involves creating a functional object with specific materiality and is therefore a move towards realism. The piñata is not lacking in any detail; it is full-scale and fully functional. At the same time, with respect to the building, the move from model to piñata is a further abstraction which creates new reading. Without this translation, we might not think, for instance, to put fringe on a building, to fill a building with candy and streamers, or to crack open a building’s façade.
The insertion of the new piñata medium draws attention to assumptions we make about other media with which we are already too comfortable. It is certainly weird to see an object which represents a building hanging in the air at a 45 degree angle with no ground and no context, but many of us don’t bat an eye at a siteless worm’s-eye axonometric drawing. The knowledge that the most exciting part of the piñata is contained inside indicates the weirdness of a sculptural (non-sectional) approach to model-making. The process of piñata construction adds several more layers of estrangement: for instance, the paper mache process is the application of a continuous surface across multiple members and joints.
As this project addresses fundamental questions of materiality, structure, and architectural representational standards, the buildings selected for translation to the piñata medium by way of models should be architectural primitives. A Renaissance piñata project might take Palladian villas as its subject matter, while a mid-20th-century piñata project would likely look to Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. Today, however, a fundamental manifestation of architectural zeitgeist does not present itself. The use of architecture educational institutions underscores the lack of a formal center of the discipline in the 21st century and proposes that the institutions themselves are the most stable center in modern day.
Finally, it should be noted that these piñatas are held in unstable equilibrium with each other by a visible relational system and by the weight of contents which are not visible until the exterior is cracked open. This assembly is intended to heighten the anticipation of revealing and releasing the contents, as well as to suggest the nature of the relationship between different representational media. When this piñata mobile is hit with an external force, the components will be thrown out of balance and take some time to reach equilibrium once again. The movement will be erratic and perhaps even a bit dangerous. At the very least it is expected to alleviate boredom.
Design Studio, Princeton SoA, Fall 2014
Instructor: Michael Meredith
This proposal for a multiuse live/work/gallery space in downtown Princeton investigates the role of (anachronic) historicism in contemporary architecture and in the town. Princeton is defined largely by the university campus, which is dominated by Gothic architecture, although scant reference to the Gothic is found in downtown Princeton. This project proposes to integrate the Gothic aesthetic of the campus with the brick brutalist aesthetic of the town center. What does it mean to make Gothic architecture today? This translation takes as its starting point an early European Gothic cathedral, rather than 19th-century Gothic interpretations, but cannot help taking on board the baggage of intervening architecture, including Baroque spatial transformation, modernist (minimal) materiality, and post-modern attitude and cutting operations.
The composition begins with a Gothic cathedral type, calibrated to the site dimensions, then cut by the footprints of the surrounding buildings. The cuts disrupt the two major axes of symmetry, doubling them to create four conflicting lines of symmetry. Local symmetries are favored in places over global symmetry, creating different appearances of symmetry from different vantage points within the building. The outside of the building retains the appearance of a “cut” cathedral, but the inside, particularly in the public spaces, deforms to accommodate the cut.
In repurposing the cathedral form for a multiuse building, this project proposes a more unified model of public/private space than is typical today. In particular, the gallery is a unifying space: the nave spans the height of five floors, sharing floors with the offices and all of the apartments. Instead of outdoor balcony space, the apartments have open promenades onto the nave, to look down to exhibitions and activity in the main space of the gallery.