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AIDAN ACKER

Academic and professional work in landscape architecture and digital environment design


MIT Campus, Cambridge, MA “Context Informs Form� is a site based design studio exploring the relationship between modern landscape design and significant works of architecture. The project includes a proposal to redesign the Alvar Aalto Baker House site, Kresge Auditorium and Chapel site, Simmons Residence Hall site, and adjacent connective landscapes. This site design includes the removal of a central median on Memorial Drive allowing Baker House to claim additional land, the removal of two deteriorating residence halls and the construction of replacement residence halls to create a new campus gateway, and the establishment of a rectilinear planting strategy connecting Kresge Auditorium and Chapel with adjacent MIT sports fields. The project contains three phases: the master plan, the site design, and the detail design of site furnishings.


CLIMATE ANALYSIS


Original sports field complex surrounded by chain-link fence barrier

Breaking apart of sports fields creates circulation and smaller spaces throughout site

MIT Campus Phase 1: Master Plan The MIT West Campus master plan utilizes a hierarchical, gridlike organizing strategy to connect buildings and create open plazas and walkways which circulate throughout the campus playing fields. Two main walkways connect the West Campus to the East Campus at Massachusetts Avenue,and each major building faces a plaza and a playing field. Two primary operations open up space in what was previously a series of barriers: removing a chain link fence surrounding an interior playing field complex provides internal site ciruclation while maintaining most of the site’s green space; removal of an unused median along Memorial Drive to the south allows new green space to be created in front of the residence halls along Memorial Drive facing the Charles River.

Median removal facilitates new green space in front of residence halls along Memorial Drive


Site Design, MIT Kresge Auditorium + Chapel The design of the landscape of Kresge Auditorium and Chapel includes the construction of a simple plaza and creation of circulation paths, with an offset tree grid connecting the dome-shaped auditorium and the circular chapel.

Creation of primary and secondary circulation

Emphasis of connective negative space


Site Design, MIT Simmons Hall Plaza The design of a landscape for Simmons Hall presents the challenge of connecting this significant work of architecture to the rest of the campus. With the removal of the chain-link fence, previously isolated Simmons Hall now has the opportunity to function as an integral part of the MIT West Campus. Three residence halls on the south side of campus have been identified as needing replacement in the future, providing the opportunity to specifiy construction of new buildings that are spaced apart to open up the south edge of campus to Memorial Drive and the Charles River. The new architecture will respond to the character of Simmons Hall, and the buildings will be connected through a plaza that will extend to Memorial Drive, forming a new campus gateway that faces the Charles River. The experience of entering the plaza is one of experiencing the visual and physical relationship between the landscape and the surroundiing buldings. Walking through the plaza, the tree canopy grid gradually gives way, revealing the architecture beyond. Residence halls planned for removal

Construction of new residence halls

Creation of new campus gateway


Site Design, Baker House Yard The site design of Baker House presents the facade of the building in a simple manner, utilizing construction of a stepped plinth as a gradual transition from the paved waklway to the entrance of the building. Facing Baker House is a sports field that also functions as a front lawn to the building. With the removal of the median on Memorial Drive, room has been created for aa wider, terraced backyard that extends below grade to provide an enclosed space separated from traffic on Memorial Drive.

Baker House front and back terrace

Baker House section with back terrace and plaza adjacent to Memorial Drive


TOTAL BENCH LENGTH 70’

1:2

24”’

24”’

24”’

24”’

24”’

18”’

PLAN: BENCH UNDERSIDE AND SUPPORTS

PLAN: SITING

60”’

4”’

1.5”’

14”’

1:5

SECTION: BENCH AND SUPPORT DIMENSIONS

Site Furnishing Design, Lighted Bench + Illuminated Bike Rack

The final phase includes the scheme of a long illuminated bench and a modular, hybrid illuminated bike rack.


GSD 1211: Hydrology Analysis A watershed or basin is an extent of land where water from rain or snow melt drains downhill into a body of water, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea or ocean. Our site lies within the Coastal Mega Basin which drains to the Atlantic Ocean. Within the Coastal Mega Basin, the former naval base is located on the boundary of two major watersheds: Boston Harbor and South Coastal. Within the Boston Harbor watershed, our site lies within the Weir subwatershed draining to Weymouth Back River, which ďƒ&#x;ows to Hingham Bay and then into the Boston Harbor.

GSD 1211: Biosystems The majority of the site is characterized by generally ďƒ&#x;at, slightly rolling terrain including bedrock outcrops, wetlands, waterways, excavated depressions, and developed areas.


3D Modeling and Representation of South Weymouth Naval Base

The elevational change across the site is 30m, with the highest spot being 62.0m, the lowest 32.0m. The variation in slope across the site ranges from 0.0% to 5.8%, with the greatest slope at the edges of water bodies. The area adjacent to the site, extending 23,000m from the site boundary, has a high point of 62.733m and a low point of 23.207m. The greatest elevation is found within the Blue Hills Reservation. In developing the Base, Huckleberry Hill (where Runways A and C join) was leveled and the soil moved outside the runway edge.

4

A’ 3

1. Stream 2. Lake 3. Wetland 4. Road

Vicinity Map (maps.google.com) N

W

1

5

5. Railroad / Train Station

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3D Modeling / Sections (exaggerated x15)

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2

1 1

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3

3D Modeling (DTM Massachusetts State Plane, 2005)

Topographic Section (exaggerated x15)

A

A’ LAKE

Section Elevation

ROAD

ROAD

RAILROAD

RUNWAY

WETLAND

1.00 km


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City Populations and Distance

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Minor Highways Major Highways

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Seaports

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Ferry Routes

Subway

Bay Circuit LDT

Commuter Rail

Warner LDT

Airports

Bicycle Trails

! 10.00 km

Regional Mobility

South Weymouth Naval Air Station is located in the Boston Metropolitan Area, which has the highest concentration of the region’s population. The city of Boston lies approximately twenty five kilometers north of the site and serves as the hub for a regional transportation network with major roads and rail lines radiating south. The site is located along the Kingston/Plymouth commuter rail and several major highways such as route 18, 3, and 139, none of which transact the site. Instead, both the commuter rail and highways circumnavigate the site, in effect creating an island. There are also long distance hiking trails and a bicycle routes within the vicinity of the site. These serve as possible future connections for recreational purposes. Source: MassGIS 2007, Information and data from USGS, Central Transportation and Planning Staff (CTPS), and the Executive Office of Transportation - Office of Transportation and Planning (EOT-OTP).

Site Access Points (MassGIS, 1999)

Traffic Volume and Underpasses (MassGIS, 2002)

10.00 km

REGIONAL FIELD

An analysis of the Eastern Massachusetts regional field reveals a largely unplanned, horizontal development pattern comprised of urban, suburban, and rural developments. The sprawling metropolitan pattern reflects the public’s competing demands for open space, varied recreation, environmental quality, economic development, jobs, transportation, and housing. The preference for living in the suburbs and the increase in the number of second homes has caused the amount of land used for housing to outpace the rate of population growth. Consequently, most of the 4.4 million inhabitants of the Boston metropolitan area do not live in the city proper; making eastern Massachusetts largely suburban as far west as Worcester. This suburban paradigm is relatively recent phenomenon, as the region historically consisted of a densely urbanized metropolitan core with arterial connections to neighboring satellite cities, such that urbanized areas acted as figures in an open, undevelopment background. Within the last few decades, suburban developments have uniformly filled the interstitial spaces, effectively reversing the historical regional figure ground and transforming remnant open spaces into disconnected figures within a developed background. Source: Massachusetts Geographic Information System, 2007.

2.50 km

Local Mobility

This image combines a historical map from 1941 overlaid with the present road condition surrounding the South Weymouth Naval Air Station. The site, which had been a wetland previously, was developed as a militarized zone thereby severing its current condition from its previous ecological and cultural form. The natural topography and ecosystems were destructed by vehicular infrastructure resulting in the disconnection of the original road system to the east and the reorganization of neighborhoods. Currently, access to the site is limited from the town of Rockland, but more accessible from Abington and Weymouth, with the greatest volume of traffic on route 3. By overlaying the historical road system with the current condition, a strategy for reconnecting the surrounding regional communities can begin to be ascertained. Source: http://historical. mytopo.com/index.htm, MassGIS - USGS, Central Transportation and Planning (CTPS), and the Executive Office of Transportation - Office of Transportation and Planning (EOT-OTP), and the Draft Environmental Report submitted by the South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation.


SITE ELEMENTS FORESTED WETLAND

WET MEADOW

SHORT GRASSLAND

TALL GRASSLAND

CONSTRUCTED WATER BODY

UNFORESTED WETLAND

WETLAND EXPANSION AREA

RUNWAY

BIOREMEDIATION

PHYTOREMEDIATION (FLOATING WETLAND) EXISTING BUILDINGS

ROADS

WALKING/BIKING PATHS

FACILITIES A

500m ROWING COURSE

B

SPECTATOR AREA/FINISH TOWER

C

FIELD HOUSE

D

SKATEBOARD PARK

E

TENNIS/BASKETBALL COURT

F

PARKING LOT/BEGINNER CYCLING TRAINING AREA

G

400m RUNNING TRACK

H

250m VELODROME

I

MOUNTAIN BIKE/ALPINE SKI TRAINING HILL

J

PRACTICE TENNIS COURTS

K

PRACTICE BASKETBALL COURT

L

BASEBALL/SOCCER FIELD

M

COMMUNITY ATHLETIC COURTS

500m 1m CONTOUR INTERVAL

Site Plan 2020


Design Thesis in Landscape Architecture This proposal investigates the landscape as a catalyst for future network infrastructure. The Internet has transformed completely since its inception, responding to growth by expanding and building new infrastructure. The result is a decentralized and deregulated system which will be statistically unable to sustain such growth in future years. Network equipment and topology is constantly upgraded or built to meet the demands of an increasÂŹing user base. However, the constant need to build new infrastructure is both wasteful and inefficient. Landscape design provides an opportunity to explore the possibilities of this redesign process. Rapid expansion in high-speed techÂŹnology means that it is no longer necessary to physically locate most network equipment near its recipients. Instead, this equipment can be relocated farther from urban centers. Removing urban physical constraints from data storage centers is a critical component of exploring modularity and scalability of future network infrastructure. Exploring emerging advancements in such modular, expandable data storage solutions, this thesis proposes the application of such technologies within the landscape, implemented over time through a phased landscape design. Utilization of existing and developÂŹing landscape techniques to create microclimates and provide shelter expands the potential for the machinery of servers and routers to better function within the landscape. In examining the potential for a site with a multitude of complex factors to function as part of information technology expansion, new potential for a networked landscape is discovered.

Paul Baran, Network Diagrams, 1964

Siting To plan for infrastructure that will continue to expand over time, it is crucial to consider not only the initial site, but the extent of the future site. In a region with a high level of topographical variation, a major infrastructural intervention must respect the visual impact of such an intervention. Especially in light of the fact that the infrastructure will continue to expand its footprint to accommodate the expanding requirements of data storage, the intersection of infrastructure and wilderness deserves consideration. Avoiding interruption of sight lines from the I-95 corridor can be achieved through a study of hidden and visible areas from this corridor. From this study, an appropriate site is established.


Design Thesis: Tracing Network Traffic Routes The structure of the internet in North America has been translated into a graphic which - while having no physical resemblance to the actual infrastructure in terms of equipment, proximity, or size - is an informative diagram of network hierarchy and depth of network nodes. By randomly selecting nodes from this graphic and running packet traces originating from Harvard University, and tracing the hops that occur along the path to these nodes, the relative randomness of the path data takes can be uncovered. Following the path of least resistance, and informed by the intelligence of network equipment that can broadcast its signal and varying bandwidth, traffic will follow routes not physically connected to the locations between its origin and destination. Though the difference in network latency is often imperceptible to the operator, the aggregate quality of this network latency suffers at peak traffic hours. Sofware Code developed by The Opte Project http://www.opte.org/ Network Node Diagram provided by The Lumeta Project: http://www.lumeta.com/ Visualization of network traceroutes compiled through Visualroute SupportPro Edition: http://www.visualroute.com/


Site phasing to 2050

Site topography and longitudinal transects

Design Thesis: Data Storage Hydro-Landscape


Stacking equipment turning radii

Shipping container and server rack form factors

Design Thesis: Infrastructure

Stormwater runoff

Water channels

Berms Transitional ecology Trees

Servers Ecological flows

Access roads

Security gradient

Design Thesis: Site Operations The site measurements are based on dimensions of server shipping containers and turning radii of stacking and movement machinery, such as lifters and semi trucks. Access road width accommodates the 40’ width of one shipping container, and server infrastructure is staggered to facilitate close placement of server containers while maximizing movement capacity of machinery. Server infrastructure is interspresed with berms and retention basins to slow down stormwater runoff and create cooling microclimates; the large footprint of the server infrastructure is offset by equally large patches of untouched land.

Shipping containers are used to store server racks - each rack contains up to 32 server blades. Shipping containers are becoming increasingly popular for network infrastructure, as they are modular, scalable, affordable, and non site-specific. Phased deployment of shipping containers allows the site to expand over time, growing to meet the needs of increased data storage requirements.


Avian migratory path

Study of disturbance effect on native bird habitat

Visual projection of disturbance effect on native plant species population over a 10-year period

Design Thesis: Site Ecology The site ecology is one of disturbance interspersed with untouched low mountain condition. Projections of the impact of heat-producing infrastructural disturbance on surrounding native plant and tree species is a major influence on the decision to leave large patches of land untouched. Similarly, tree canopy studies find that native bird species will likely depart from areas where tall timber is removed; retaining a large enough patch size of untouched tall timber will facilitate ecological resilience throughout the larger site footprint. A transitional treeline on either side of each infrastructural intervention creates a buffer zone between the disturbance and the adjacent ecology.


Berms come into direct contact with the server infrastructure; the infrastructure is built into the side of the berm, and cooling and electrical/TCP/IP supply is routed through the landscape to the server containers. Berms both provide use for cut/fill surplus form topographical manipulation, and create a microclimate that cools and shades the server infrastructure.

Water channels run underneath the server containers and adjacent access roads. Used both as retention basins to aid in slowing down stormwater runoff, the channels also prevent flooding of the server containers during high water levels. The presence of water underneath the server infrastructure creates a natural cooling environment for the equipment.

Trees are planted and then moved as necessary to accommodate the growth of server infrastructure. The trees that remain fill in the interstitial space on the site, creating a transitional zone between the infrastructure and the surrounding landscape. The trees provide a natural cooling microclimate for the server infrastructure, giving shade.

Design Thesis: Data Storage Site Infrastructure Landscape Elements


Design Thesis: Data Storage Site Experience


Design Thesis: Data Storage Site Context


ABU DHABI PAVILION, UAE, GROUND LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE

PRIVATE RESIDENCE, ALAJUELA, COSTA RICA


Harvard Graduate School of Design Group Exhibition: Digital Terrain Selected images for exhibition taken from ongoing thesis work. Concept model, sketch study, animation stills / Graphite and marker, Maya, Adobe AfterEffects, Terragen The digital workflow has become an essential component in my design process. A drawing can now quickly become an entire world. Modeling software not only allows the creation of terrain and architectural form, but also the inclusion of elements of nature, envisioned in detail. The ability to realistically render atmosphere, daylight, grass, stones, and individual plant species with accuracy facilitates true visualization of a concept or design. It also allows both the creator and the viewer to dream, realizing a vision of a landscape that feels truly real. This work explores the intersection of the natural and man-made world. The work tells the story of a journey of discovery where a simple built form is encountered embedded in the landscape. The moment of intersection between the two, when rigid structure meets the malleable edge of the natural world, fascinates me. At the point where vegetation and terrain joins perfect, symmetrical form, tension, reciprocation, and interplay occurs.


Animation Study: Parametric Point Distortion Modifying parameters for the values of vertices, and assigning time-based attributes to these values produces an animated study of parametric form variation. Over 20 seconds, the points move based on the assigned values, causing the trusses to lengthen and shorten. The result is a form that appears lifelike, morphing as it moves farther and closer to the camera, moving outside of the frame and returning to our field of vision.


Dynamic Component Modeling A study of modeling with a single dynamic component, programming rotation of the original part creates a useful algorithm. Multiplying the parts across the X and Z axis generates additional forms; generating dynamic variation across the Y axis creates a variegated surface that is based on a simple original part.

part 1

part 1 x2

part 1 x10

part 1 x100

original part x10

original part x10, with variable rotation


Modeling Form Within an Environment: Sketch to Render

A simple set of studies exploring a concept I sketched one day, I began exploring the potential of parametric design to mimic the environment’s natural variation. Placing these forms within a rendered terrain complete with weather, atmosphere, and variation within the rock faces and vegetation, I began working with the randomly generated environments to contain and engage the sketched images. The first step was to model the environment, after which a simple honeycomb and geodesic dome were generated. Further manipulation of the form models to generate variable dimensions and XYZ values created modulated features. I then sited these forms within the generated environments, exploring the intersection between the natural and the artificial - although both elements are artificial, one appears more natural. The result is a casual exploration of how form and environment might meet and inform the other.


Illustration and Photography Graphite on paper / Opposite: digital image


Illustration and Photography Graphite on paper / Opposite: digital image

Aidan Acker Portfolio  

Academic and professional work from studies in Landscape Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design 2011