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LOCALIZING THE ELUSIVE Redesigning a Lot in Downtown Los Angeles

Justin Tien Thesis Advisor: Douglas Jackson Bachelor of Architecture Thesis 2012 California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo


Localizing the Elusive Redesigning a Lot in Downtown Los Angeles Design Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Architecture California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo California At the time of publishing, all content created by the author is believed to be either in the public domain or used appropriately according to the standards of “fair use� and attribution. Inaccuracies may be directed to the attention of the author and will be corrected in subsequent editions. 2012, Justin Tien. Some rights reserved contact: justtien@gmail.com This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.


To my parents, Konan and Vicky Tien, for giving me everything.


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Thesis Manifesto

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Explorations

Preserved and Abandoned Ruin

Architecture for the Elusive

Drosscape

Sight of Los Angeles

City as a Spectacle

Essay on the Uncanny Essay on the Anarchic

Essay on the Temporary Location and Locality

Design Studies

Urban Void, the Parking Lot Los Angeles Artwalk

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Contents

Abstract

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3

Localizing the Elusive

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Miscellaneous

System Components

Tactile Memory

Floorplans

Cache

Site Plan Section

Artist Studio Detail Renderings

Physical Model

Mobile Domestic Catalyst

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0.1 Hollenbeck Park in East Los Angeles, once an idyllic place for recreation and community gathering, was destroyed of its serenity with the construction of a freeway through the lake that sits in the grounds of the park. Although freeway underpasses have a negative connotation, the park remains popular for the disproportionately Latino residents of East Los Angeles.


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Abstract This thesis will use architecture as a mediation that will exploit the uncanny, anarchic, and temporal values of the quickly disappearing elusive site in order to produce spaces for the ongoing public production of local experiences in order to foster and catalyze an enduring and authentic local culture. Contemporary urban landscapes are fast becoming uniform landscapes of globalizing forces of late capitalism networked through by the conduit landscapes of infrastructure. The most unfortunate loss for the evolving city is that of the urban void. Urban voids are deemed obsolete and unproductive, yet they manifest themselves as spaces of freedom and an alternative to the lucrative realities of global society. The contemporary city is becoming a ubiquitous and predictable landscape of commercial consumption rather than creative production. Society has killed the ability to tolerate a local productivity within the spaces they occupy. Developments of elusive sites are becoming heavily influenced by private enterprises, leading to an identity that is globally commercialized. The global local requires only a superficial sense of locality that is linked to marketing and branding leading the city to become fairly generic. Places have simply been reduced down to an image ready to be consumed. Vacant sites despite their former or current use are being exploited for the sake of high rises, consumer culture, and tourist facilities. This puts into question the simplistic planning policies that encourage redevelopment of these open spaces. Urban voids are unnoticed and empty spaces within an urban context that have the peculiarity of having enough scale and proximity to be extremely relevant in catalyzing a local culture. Although they are completely under used places of chaos, disorder and infrastructure, they are symbols of present congestion, precisely because they are some of the last remaining free spaces within cities. Empty and abandoned spaces are the only spaces left in the contemporary city where there still might be a possibility if they are appropriately activated by intelligent design.

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1 Thesis Manifesto

Preserved and Abandoned Ruin City as a Spectacle Drosscape Essay on the Uncanny Essay on the Anarchic Essay on the Temporary Location and Locality


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1.1 An abandoned lot in what use to be a town with a thriving textile mill industry. Lawrence, Massachusetts has often made efforts in revitalization of their contemporary ruins, but have sometimes been constroversial, due to poor planning and designing.


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Preserved and Abandoned Ruin “Voids and wastelands are latent with possibilities, but their prevailing qualities are of recent time,

containing uncomfortable memories of ultimately flawed dreams and visions. Vast derelict industrial landscapes resonate with messages of failure. That such huge landscapes, there vision of merely fifty years ago, should now be in ruins is frightening, possibly explaining why they are being erased so quickly in growing cities.”

-Helen Armstrong

The physical materialization of architecture has always been thought to exude objective permanence as a manifestation of a culture or society. Ancient architecture was erected as a dialogue between the divine and mortal world. These sacred spaces demonstrated man’s feat over the chaotic nature of the wilderness. These buildings did not represent the king or the priest, but as a tradition that was preserved. Not until classical architecture, did buildings begin to reflect the subject of the people as Greeks embodied open space and civic life. As time passed, architecture began to represent its local culture. At this time people’s perception of space was grounded to the soil they inhabited. The use of monumental architecture was effective because the views of its inhabitants were embodied in the beliefs of the ruler. Monuments were constructed as signs that signified a single message that would represent and give identity to a group. As society evolved, these structures of permanence were preserved as a sense of nostalgia or tradition. Architecture that once reflected societal values are now merely artifacts frozen in time symbolizing what once was. Monumentality would no longer work for a society fragmented in socio-cultural and constantly changing views. Architectural authenticity is challenged as these artifacts are preserved, restored, and rebuilt trying to stay relevant to the contemporary inhabitant. Architecture has not been able to facilitate the temporal contemporary user; instead it has been bound to the traditions of preservation greatly influenced by the heritage industry and the capitalism of the tourism industry.


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Post-industrial cities also face problems with regard to monumentality. The architecture that once embodied industrialization has become the contemporary ruin. These spaces are left abandoned, with no sense of nostalgia, but rather existing as unnoticed sites of failure woven into the urban fabric. Helen Armstrong notes that “dereliction and decay in these urban voids speak of recently failed enterprises, not a nostalgic romanticized time of long ago.”1 The architecture of the industrial landscape sits in contrast to the uniform housing and commercial developments that are beginning to define the globalized “local” identity of a city. The elusive sites hover over, under, and between the reality of the massive contemporary building and the infrastructure that networks the city. “Voids and wastelands are latent with possibilities, but their prevailing qualities are of recent time, containing uncomfortable memories of ultimately flawed dreams and visions. Vast derelict industrial landscapes resonate with messages of failure. That such huge landscapes, there vision of merely fifty years ago, should now be in ruins is frightening, possibly explaining why they are being erased so quickly in growing cities.” 2 The negative notions of contemporary ruins form aesthetic judgments which widely deviate from traditions of honoring ancient ruins. Classical and archaic ruins often have an aestheticized picturesque depiction derived from the romantic perspective, while industrial ruins are either seen as spaces of waste, saturated with danger, delinquency, ugliness and disorder, or as sites that simply do not represent anything. An abandoned site like Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital located in Los Angeles still recalls a once communal aspect of its inhabitants as hospital facilities can still be delineated, therefore even with the dereliction and decay associated with the site now, it still resonates with a sense of its past reality. The hospital was abandoned because of the unexpectedly high death rates, which lead to several paranormal activity investigations, and now operates as a filming location. The negative notions associated with this urban void, linger as a reaction to past failures. But other urban voids, such as empty parking lots do not have a past life that still resonates today. These sites have no identity and sit in the urban fabric as just empty and abandoned, without a past or a future. Unlike the preserved ruin, the abandoned ruin is slowly disappearing. Conventional readings of these sites have imposed thoughts of dereliction and waste. These sites once seen as productive spaces have now become useless which leads to the belief that these sites have an uncertain future. The life cycle of these sites are also temporal: spaces are abandoned, purchased, cleared, and reassembled continuously leading to a continuous destruction of the urban fabric. Urban identity constantly evolves; fluctuating the social, material, and aesthetic qualities that mediate local culture.

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Linda Vista Community Hospital, originally known as Santa Fe Railroad Hospital, ceased operations in 1991 and has been abandoned ever since. The building frequently gets used by squatters, teenagers, and film makers.

Because of it’s urban decay and dereliction the hospital has been associated with paranormal activity, attracting thrill seekers. Although the site has sat vacant for twenty years, many activities still occur in the abandoned building.


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1.4 Contemporary ruins are left abandoned, with no sense of nostalgia, but rather exist as unnoticed sites of failure woven into the urban fabric. 1.5 Classical and archaic ruins often have an aestheticized picturesque depiction derived from the romantic perspective, but have little relevance to contemporary culture or society.

End Notes: 1. Armstrong, Helen Post-Urban/Suburban Landscapes: Design and Planning the Centre, Edge and In-Between (Sydney, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney 2006), 9 2. Armstrong, Helen, Time, Dereliction and Beauty: an Argument for ‘Landscapes of Contempt’ (IFLA Conference Papers May 2006), 117.

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1.6 Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle overlaid with the skyline of Los Angeles


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City as a Spectacle “The more he identifies with the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own life and his own desires. The spectacle’s estrangement from the acting subject is expressed by the fact that the individual’s gestures are no longer his own; they are the gestures of someone else who represents them to him. “ -Guy Debord As early as the 1950’s, the Situationists questioned the capitalist society and the spectacle city revolving around concepts of commodification, reification, and alienation. The spectacle city is a unified, ever-increasing mass of image-objects and commodified spaces detached from every aspect of life. Experiences are exchanged for commodity, and the spectacle becomes a detriment to the real. Sites that have been reasoned to be ugly and unpleasant, empty space waiting for a better use, are being transformed into what the global capitalistic society deems valuable from a purely commercial standpoint. The vacant sites, despite their former or current use, are being exploited for the sake of high rises, consumer culture, and tourist facilities. This puts into question the simplistic planning policies that encourage redevelopment of these open spaces within a city that allow the dweller to experience a city in a different way. The spectacle city has become a movement towards differentiating itself from others, but has proved to create a homogenous space with an identity having little substance. Cities are becoming generic, nothing but a reflection of a generic commercial imperative. Such a city does not reflect on a historical time line. The contemporary city is becoming superficial in that it no longer bears a true identity. Developments of cities are becoming heavily influenced by private enterprises, leading to an identity that is globally commercialized. A globalized “local” requires only a superficial sense of locality that is linked to marketing and branding; for these reasons commercial interest that are beginning to shape the city are becoming fairly generic. The contemporary city accommodates only the primordial and the futuristic. The city has changed from a place with a unique local culture into something that is generic.

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The architecture that culminates to make our cities only exists to support the artifacts of our nostalgia for our former local identity. Contemporary monuments are used as icons of city branding, used merely as objects to draw in visitors and entertain the masses. These monuments simply act as an aesthetic object set to be different from its surroundings, and only contribute to its local culture through iconography. Rem Koolhaas states that “If it is water facing, then water-based symbols are disturbed over its entire territory. If it is a port, then ships and cranes will appear far inland…” 3 The spectacle city is ever changing, putting at risk the elusive sites that do not conform to the simulated authenticity of its location. The contemporary city requires an understanding that an authentic local culture is only an outcome of the creation and production of activities that promote a sense of physical location and community. The architecture that culminates to create the cities individuals inhabit should not merely be a reflection of a prescribed program or activity that will occur in a certain space. Cities should be comprised of buildings that challenge and interact with its inhabitants on new ways to adopt program and activities that may occur in the building. The city will no longer just a be a spectacle for its inhabitants, but a space for the production of an authentic local culture.

“The Generic City is the city liberated from the captivity of center, from the straightjacket of identity. The Generic City breaks with this destructive cycle of dependency: nothing but a reflection of present need and present ability. It is a city without history. It is big for everybody. It is easy. It does not need maintenance. If it gets too small it just expands. If it gets old is just self-destructs and renews. It is equally exciting- or unexciting- everywhere. It is “superficial”- like a Hollywood studio lot, it can produce a new identity every Monday morning.” -Rem Koolhaas

1.7 and 1.8 City of the Gulf, is Rem Koolhaas’ vision of the generic city he wrote about in 1994. Koolhaas believes that the generic city is a more accurate reflection of contemporary urban realities rather than the nostalgic visions one has of older cities.

End Notes: 3. Koolhaas, Rem, Generic City from S,M,L,XL (New York, Monacelli Press, 1995), 1254-1257


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1.9 I-215 heading toward Barstow and into the vast horizontal sprawl of the built environment and encountering many different forms of urban voids and elusive sites.


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Drosscape Through the fruition of the city as a spectacle, as rapid urbanization and horizontal growth continue, these waste places have given rise to the drosscape.4 The waste landscape will always exist because though industrial growth and deindustrialization, there is an inevitable abolishment of the obsolete in contemporary society. Alan Berger states that “both dross and scape are created and destroyed by processes and values derived from, or because of cultural tastes and actions. Drosscape is the creation of a new condition in which vast, wasted, or wasteful land surfaces are modeled in accordance with new programs or new sets of values that remove or replace real or perceived wasteful aspects of geographical space (i.e., redevelopment, toxic waste removal, tax revenues, etc.). Drosscaping, as a verb, is the placement upon the landscape of new social programs that transform waste into more productive urbanized landscapes to some degree.”5 Berger is able to identify and present the issues of urban voids within society, but does not offer solutions. It is understood that the development of these urban voids or drosscapes have required designers and planners to shift from the designer’s role as a sole expert or authority to that of a complex interactive and responsive process where the designer begins to collaborate with the inhabitants and the user to better develop the interstitial. The concept of drosscape believes that sprawl is inevitable and the elusive sites have potential. Sprawl is inevitable because with industrial growth and success in urban metropolises comes horizontal movement. Sprawl isn’t intrinsically negative; it gives way to a new and creative way in thinking. Sprawl, or the Horizontal City, is another subject in-in of itself; this thesis will focus on the elusive sites, or the in-between landscapes such as derelict building, vacant lots, parking lots, abandoned warehouses, left over spaces form infrastructure, and brownfields. The emphasis on the adaptability and occupation of these drosscapes as sites of authentic local culture will be one of the greatest design challenges of the twenty-first centuries.

End Notes: 4. Berger, Alan, Drossscape Wasting Land in Urban America (New York, Princeton Architectural Press 2006). Drosscape is an urban design framework that looks at urbanized regions as the waste product of defunct economic and industrial processes. 5. Berger, Alan, Drossscape Wasting Land in Urban America (New York, Princeton Architectural Press 2006) 236-237.

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1.10 and 1.11 I-5 Colonnade in Seattle, Washington is a city park underneath interstate 5 and is used as a bike park.


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Essay on the Uncanny Terrain vague coined by Ignasi de Sola Morales in the 1990s, is defined as an indeterminate, imprecise, blurred, and uncertain space that has no identity and no place in contemporary society. Terrain Vagues6 were first observed by photographers in the 1960s who were exploring the beauty of the abandoned space. These interesting voids are latent places with an absence of program that offer a sense of possibility within the generic city. Our current urban environments are now over-designed and limited to the pleasure and spectacle, paying no regard to the recent past. The latent space is inviting exploration and temporary inhabitation, while quietly waiting to be experienced. These spaces stand as manifestations of an architect’s dream, yet symbolize the failures of the industrial era. The distinction between solid/void, building/landscape, inside/outside have become blurred; what is left is the essence of what once existed, waiting to be discovered. “They evoke an aesthetic of disorder, surprise and sensuality, offering ghostly glimpses into the past and tactile encounters with a forgotten materiality.”7 These sites are mysterious in character in that they allow the inhabitants to withdraw from the monotony of globalized society in order to linger and reflect. These voids offer spaces to speculate, experiment, innovate and learn from such complex landscapes. Some of these sites are purely utilitarian, and these unique spaces go unnoticed. Highway onramps and underpasses are driven by daily unobserved, as drivers are only aware of their destination or icons of consumption. “Wastelands and voids offer quiet relief from the urban chatter of café culture, but it is not the tranquility of nature. It is something else that is equally important. These places both ground us and disturb us. They are spaces for Guy Debord’s ‘derive’, where one can wander through the leftover spaces of everyday life, randomly and often playfully drifting, even risking encounters with the unpleasant, in contrast to the re-assuring promenades created by planners and designers.”8

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The uncanny has drawn a small culture in seek of the unseen and off-limit parts of the urban landscape. Urban exploration or infiltration has developed a community of like minded individuals who have a fascination with these mysterious and unknown places. Although urban explorers realize the importance of these spaces, people often interpret these activities as trespassing or other violations of regional laws. Urban voids are quickly becoming enmeshed within new social contexts, whether it is with the adjacent neighborhoods or as a destination of interest. These uncanny spaces provide leisure, adventure, cultivation, acquisition, shelter, and creativity. 9

End Notes: 6. Sola-Morales, Ignasi de, Topographies of Contemporary Architecture translated by Graham Thompson 1996. Terrain Vague is part of a proposal of urban analysis that is an alternative to models of structuralist origin; these have demonstrated their inefficiency in their confrontation with contemporary urban events. 7. Edensor, Tim Industrial Ruins (New York, Berg Publishers. 2005) 8. Armstrong, Helen, Time, Dereliction and Beauty: an Argument for ‘Landscapes of Contempt’ (IFLA Conference Papers May 2006), 119. 9. Edensor, Tim Industrial Ruins (New York, Berg Publishers. 2005)


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1.12 Guy Debord’s collage, Naked City, help clarify the production of psychogeographical maps that show how individuals navigate a city through habitual patterns and other influences rather than being presented with a map of a city, giving the inhabitant a full omnipresent view.


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Freedom Tunnel Location: 40°48.24’N 73°58.20’W The Freedom Tunnel is an Amtrak tunnel under Riverside Park in Manhattan, New York City that became an urban gallery that allowed graffiti artists and street artists to work without fear of arrest, leading to larger and more ambitious pieces. This tunnel was once also a shantytown with a homeless population that needed shelter and who were allowed to live rent-free. After the Amtrak tunnel was complete, it was not used for long because the automobile and trucking took over most of New York City’s transport needs. Trains no longer ran along the West Side, which lead to the giant man-made cavern becoming a haven for homeless people. The shafts of light allow graffiti art to be seen in the gloom of the dark tunnel. Graffiti artists would often center their tags and pieces under the light shafts in order to take advantage of the spot light effect, creating a gallery environment. The artwork along the walls has constantly been painted over by Amtrak, but murals consistently keep reappearing, because it is still a prominent site and the birth place to New York City’s graffiti culture. The Freedom Tunnel is an important example of an urban space that was once in the grips of capitalism and designed with the sole purpose of transporting individuals and goods from one destination to another. The space was transformed when a subversive culture decided to no longer merely accept the intended, but instead chose exploit and manipulate the environment around them to their specific needs. These subversive acts revealed creative possibilities that were not brought forth by the original planners and designers.


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Garrido Academy Location: 23° 33’ 0” S, 46° 38’ 0”W Nilson Garrido, a former boxer, created an unusual mix of social institution, gymnasium, and martial arts school, which seeks to attract people in situations of extreme social vulnerability: the homeless, former addicts and prisoners, and children and teenagers at risk. The gymnasium is below a motorway in Sao Paulo and has been successively closed down by the government, but has re-established itself many times with makeshift equipment. 10 The academy initially had tires hanging under the overpass and one ring, and other rudimentary exercise equipment. Garrido started this project by creating several boxing academies under the viaducts of Sao Paulo, but finally was able to settle at his current location. His goals are to take the sport to the poor and marginalized population. Garrido has gotten much media attention toward his project, along with many scholarly dissertations about the use of unused spaces in the urban landscape.

End Notes: 10. Massafumi, Newton, Cora Garrido (Sao Paulo, AEAUSP Research Centre-Escola da Cidade, 2007)


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Highline Park Location: 40° 44’ 54” N, 74° 0’ 18” W The Highline is an elevated freight railroad, once called the West Side Line that was left unused since 1980. It became known to a few urban explorers and local residents for the tough, drought-tolerant wild grasses, shrubs, and trees that had sprung up in the gravel along the abandoned railway. The structure was recycled into an urban park that has had positive impacts in the neighborhoods that lie along the line. Before it was turned into a park, the line was in disrepair and was slated for demolition under the administration of the New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In 2004 the city committed to the development of a proposed elevated park similar to the Promenade Plantee in Paris. In addition to the integrated architecture and plant life, the High Lane has cultural attractions as well. The park hosts plenty of temporary installations and performances throughout the year. The Highline is effective because of the framework of neighborhoods around it and this once despaired space only activated the interactions that were always there. The Highline has been successful as a catalyst for gentrifying neighborhoods.


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1.13 Rings of debris accumulated in the course of inhabitation are made up of heterogeneous materials necessary for temporal shelter

Localizing the Elusive


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Essay on the Anarchic Elusive sites have no controlling rule or principle that bound them to the global local culture. These sites reflect contemporary societies’ negative perception of deviation from the generic. The anarchic departs from the established or accepted standards of the globalized society, leading the public to be skeptical of what is unknown or thought to be as chaotic. Because these sites are identified as wastelands, they foster and alternative public life that is characterized by an active and improvisational creativity, no longer under the watchful eyes of fellow citizens. These spaces highly contrast the preferred forms of urban activity in the hyper-designed themed or branded city. The interactions between the user and the elusive site can be described as anarchic. Interactions with a ruined space begin shortly after these once inhabited spaces are condemned as useless. These buildings are no longer relevant in what they were intended to be used for, and society can no longer find a fitting program for these buildings. Derelict warehouses and factories are stripped of all of their valuable possessions, such as: metals, machines, and furnishings that have been left behind. Slowly, the building is plundered as it is picked clean down to its structure, contributing to the process of decay. In the stages of decay, the building itself slowly deteriorates, but begins to gain a sense of openness and increased possibility, making the site an attractive public space for creative use. Once all the valuable resources have been stripped, the dilapidated structure may begin to attract individuals or groups to occupy the space, leading to a condition of temporary inhabitation, but sometimes can lead to a development of a community. Traces of human existence begin to develop in smaller spaces within the vast landscape of the void. Rings of debris accumulated in the course of inhabitation are made up of heterogeneous materials necessary for temporal shelter. These unkempt and indeterminate spaces of the ruin may cultivate the colonization of a counterculture. Tim Edensor believes that “They become spaces of fantasy, places in which unspeakable and illicit acts occur, places of unhindered adventure. Ruins possess an allure for those who want to escape the increasing official surveillance in urban areas and the watchful gaze of neighbors and parents.� 11 The counter culture that is established becomes tied to the roots of the physical location of these sites. Sometimes these places of temporary stay become full fledge communities that are produced in a bottom up sense and have no influence or controlling rule from the globalized local and are untainted by commercial and consumer culture.

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The openness and foreign is discussed by Georg Simmel as “comes today and stays tomorrow- the potential wanderer, so to speak, who although he has gone no further, has not quite got over the freedom of coming and going,�12 begins to define the characteristics of creativity that can potentially be found in urban voids. These sites offer social and cultural niches where foreignness and otherness are not only tolerated, but are transferred into a creative and productive product. Places like these maintain distance from their surroundings and becomes an ideal place for reflection and innovative thinking. The anarchic fosters a sense of creative play, where these vast spaces of exploration contain lengthy corridors to run along, windows to climb though, stairs to scurry up and down, and an endless array of spatial interaction. In a sense, these urban voids are taken up as recreational playgrounds where the dystopian and anti-authoritarian allow people to let go of the restraints of the organized social norms. Through creative play, there may begin to be a production of something relevant to contemporary culture and in turn can create a localized reaction. The anarchic characteristics of these sites illustrates that the inhabitants are also the designers of a building. Although the architect may have had intentions of what the building would be used for, it is left in the hands of the inhabitant to ultimately decided what will happen. The inhabitant has the power to alter and transform the building. Elusive sites show that a sense of anarchy expresses peoples willingness to interact in an authentic localized setting.

1.14 A squatter turns an office room in an abandoned warehouse building into a home.

End Notes: 11. Edensor, Time Industrial Ruins (New York, Berg Publishers. 2005) 12. Simmel, Georg Soziologie. Untersuchungen uber die Formen der Vergesellschaftung (Berlin, Duncker & Humblot Verlag, 1908) 685; translation from: Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory: Text and Reading (Los Angeles, Pine Forge Press, 2008) 259.


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Freetown Christiania Location: 55° 40’ 47” N, 12° 36’ 49”E Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood of eight-hundred fifty residents covering thirty-four hectares in the borough of Christianshavn in Copenhagen. Formerly a military barracks as part of the city ramparts, Christiania was founded by the squatter movement with roots in collectivism and anarchism. The buildings that make up Christiania are idiosyncratic constructions exemplifying modern architecture without architects. Because Christiania was originally a military base, it is a car-free enclosed area thirty-four hectares. The southern part is where the entrance and center of Christiania is located with such functions as shops, activities, and recreational areas. Although this anarchic site has become touristy, it still has no hotels or hostels. The northern end of Christiania is where the unique landscape of scattered wooden residential houses and former gunpowder houses can be found. Christiania has evolved from its days as a squatter community. The Free State has a low-tech transportation infrastructure. It does have a garbage collection, as well as its own post office and mail system. The community has also developed its own local newspaper entitled Christianias Ugespejl. The self-governance system encourages local involvement and exchange between residents.


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Kowloon Walled City Location: 22° 19’56” N, 114° 11’ 25” E The city is densely populated, largely ungoverned settlement in Hong Kong that was once a Chinese military fort but transformed into an urban enclave. An informal network of staircases and passageways also formed on upper levels, which was so extensive that one could travel north to south through the entire city without ever touching solid ground. At its peak, the city contained thirty-three thousand residents within six and a half acre. It was demolished in 1993. Kowloon city is thought to be an anti-architectural entity, with no designer who could have dreamt of or attempted to create it. Any connection to the outside world is lost just fifty feet inside the city. The streets, which were typically no more than six feet wide, disoriented visitors due to the lack of sunlight. The roofscape was the most interesting part of the city, because sunlight was cherished in the shadows of Kowloon city. The roof was used by residents to move horizontally across the city, these spaces were seen as an escape from the dark and claustrophobic realms of the streets and built environment that was below.


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Torre de David Location: 10° 30’ 0” N, 66° 55 ’ 0” W Formerly known as Centro Financiero Confinanzas, it is the third highest skyscraper in Venezuela, located in Caracas. The building was abandoned in 1994 and lacks elevators, electricity, running water, balcony railings, and windows. Since 2007 the building has been occupied by squatters. Residents have occupied up to the twenty-eighth floor and have jury rigged basic services up to the twenty-second floor. It has been observed that “The skyscraper lacks basic amenities like an elevator. The smell of untreated sewage permeates the corridors. Children scale unlit stairways guided by the glow of cell phones. Some recent arrivals sleep in tents and hammocks.”13 Venezuela is in a financial crisis, leading to the halt of construction of housing. Many of the poor are left with no where to stay. The policies toward squatters are also unclear and in flux effectively allowing many to stay in once empty properties. President Chavez has urged the poor to occupy unused lands in well-heeled parts of Caracas. Around the Torre de David, there are another twenty properties that have been claimed by other squatter communities.

End Notes: 13. Romero, Simon and Diaz, Maria Eugenia, A 45-Story Walkup Beckons the Desperate (The New York Times, 2011)


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Essay on the Temporary Urban voids can be seen as playful transitions in the monotonous cityscape. The spaces come and go and are never permanent. There are new forms of architecture where technology and rapid time are used to create fleeting places of ephemeral play. Nomadic raves and other temporary activities are transforming leftover urban spaces in a span of a few hours, creating astonishing impact with little permanent change. The constant nature of these temporal activities can act as a vehicle for more permanent uses of these elusive sites. These urban voids can sometimes be considered the new public space. Urban voids are not like their contemporary counterpart, iconic public spaces. Those spaces are “ample, sharply define, with raw, precious sparkling materials, fashioned in diverse ways, with a sophisticated composition of green spaces and trees, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ spaces.”14 These playful transitions are experiments that require little financial investments, and are often impressively effective in temporarily activating an abandoned space, but more importantly, they act as a catalyst for a more permanent use. Temporary occupation of these spaces for different activities whether it is commercial, recreational, or sexual, all occur with no influence from the predictions imposed by the political codes underlying planning and design. Giovanni La Varra created the term Post-it City to refer to “a functional apparatus of the contemporary city which is involved with the dynamics of public life outside conventional channels.”15 The Post-it City is quickly becoming the new public spaces that punctuate the urban landscape, offering informal spaces of endless articulation. Often, urban voids are associated with the Post-it City; these spaces have no predominant identity; they are vacant lots and residual spaces the planner’s gaze has left untouched. Unlike the simulated public spaces whose mechanisms of “controlled reaction” offer inhabitants and tourists very specific chances to meet and exchange, the elusive sites have no predominant codification. “Their residual character, their indifference to the traditional network, their tangential position to the major flows leaves them at the fringes: on the fringes of the complex stratification of images produced by architecture and urbanism, on the fringes of the tradition of these disciplines, whose projects are closed, limited in time, precisely shaped according to contingent needs.”16 The phenomena of the temporal interactions at unsuspected places and times make these urban voids a re-appropriation of the modes and times of collective exchange, freeing people from the invasive and normalizing rules of the generic framework of contemporary global culture.

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1.15 Shilin Night Market in Taipei Taiwan is the largest and most famous night market in Taipei. Many booths are temporarily occupied throughout the day, quickly and effectively altering the permanent spaces that exist on the site.


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End Notes: 14. La Varra, Giovanni, Post-it City: The Other European Public Spaces (Barcelona, Mutations, 2000) 15. Peran, Marti Post-It City Ocassional Urbanities (Barcelona, Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture, 2008) 235. 16. La Varra, Giovanni, Post-it City: The Other European Public Spaces (Barcelona, Mutations, 2000)

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Street Vending LA Location: not available Street vendors, predominately Latin immigrants, are part of a multitude of emerging transnational entrepreneurs that enliven streets, animate parks, and re familiarize car-dominated urban spaces, like intersections and parking lots. Although street vending is strictly prohibited in Los Angeles, it has become an element of everyday urban life and has empowered individual users to help produce a local urban culture. These vendors sell a variety of things, from prepared food, fruit and vegetables, toys, and second-hand clothing to counterfeit merchandise and other illicit products. The vendors use a variety of infrastructures including: baskets, bags, carts, cars and trucks. Street vending constitutes a spatial politics in which mobility forms the main source of agency, contestation and site of intervention from governance.


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Sukkah Williamsburg Location: 40°42’51”N 73°57’12”W During the month of Tishri as the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York commemorate the Exodus, a temporary structure known as a sukkah must be built and lived in for seven days. This tradition started in the temporary existence of the makeshift settlement as a symbol of the frailty and transience of life. These temporary accommodations are superimposed onto the contemporary urban fabric. The halakha requires that eating of all meals and sleeping should be conducted in the sukkah. There are also guidelines on how the structure must be built. The roof must be made of an organic material which is disconnected from the ground, it must have three walls, it should be at least three feet tall, and a part of the roof must be opened to the roof. What is interesting is that many observant Jews design their home’s porch or deck so that it aligns with the requirements of the sukkah’s building needs. More recently, there has been development in the portable sukkah, which is made of a collapsible metal frame and cloth walls allowing people to put up and take down when travel is necessary. These temporarily occupied structures can sometimes become a permanent aspect that redefines the form of many of the residential buildings that line the streets of Williamsburg.


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Burning Man Festival Location: 40° 46’ 9” N, 119° 13’ 12”W Once a year, a temporary city of forty-five thousand people is built, occupied, and dismantled in a course of a week. This temporary city is built to support the Burning Man Festival, which is a selforganized community that supports and stimulates the investigation of a new contemporary culture. Its inhabitants bring everything they need and take everything away with them, therefore no evidence of the city remains after the event is over. The event is described by many participants as an experiment in community, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance. The festival is held in Black Rock City in Nevada. As this temporary city has developed, it has also adopted its own infrastructure. There is a radial grid street structure that surrounds the playa, a large central gathering area devoted to sculptures, installations and a temple. At the center of the playa is a wooden effigy of a man. This man is burnt at the end of the week and serves as an orientation device until it is burnt, signifying the end of the event and reiterating the temporal nature of the city and the event. The city is highly creative, because the inhabitants are responsible for the organization of the infrastructure and every year the configuration is evolved in order to accommodate for the yearly increase of participants. The creation and disappearance of this city allows for an evolving local culture that is not bound to location.


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Location and Locality Historical monuments, in contemporary society, can be identified as fundamental cultural entities that attract urban tourism and fuel the global tourism industry. Confining culture to a physical location is a generalization of the past; as contemporary society can be seen as fragmented into intangible clusters of people extending beyond just one culture. The simplification of a concentrated spatial organization of cultural facilities and infrastructure within a city to elevate an “authentic” experience may satisfy the escapist need of the tourist and inhabitant, but neglects the existence of the multitude of contemporary local cultures. The authenticity of a location is now put into question as technology has allowed for us to have a preconceived perception of a place that could physically be anywhere in the man-made world. Contemporary local culture can also be seen as a global village, in which the age of multiple civilizations has ended and that one of a single global civilization is beginning. In this sense, electronic mass media has collapsed space and time barriers in human communication to result in an identical global society. Locals within an urban environment can now be seen as cross-cultural encounters of strangers in a physical environment tied together by shared memories that create their urban identity. Location and locality are no longer an exclusive pairing. Defining a local architecture, along with any local artifact, as authentic local culture is nearly impossible due to the simulation, restoration, and reconstruction that constantly cloud our awareness of our built surrounding. The contemporary globalized city contains several networks, which in turn form transnational communities. These virtual communities sometimes become stronger and more cohesive than the physical relationships in the city one is physically located. “A Flexible City of Strangers. New Capitalism, New Isolation.”17 This kind of behavior, fueled by the commercial global ‘local’ is threatening the tradition of localism including: extreme

1.16

Photomontage of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and a simulation of it in Las Vegas.

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1.17 The global “local� requires only a superficial sense of locality, often linked to marketing and branding.

differences between the rich/poor, ethnic and cultural, leaving communities that coexist without any real contact. The contemporary urban landscape is fast being influenced by capitalistic ideals, leading to the promotion of hegemonic and homogenizing discourses of globalization and consumerism. Although the organization of these spaces are becoming compartmentalized with a global identity, they should not be seen as non-places of homogenization and indifference, rather they should be seen as a process of adding to the conditions of a specific form; thus it is not about loss of either space or identity but the production of endless spaces. Global or corporate architecture has taken on its own unique identity and has also grown significantly in contemporary society, while a local architecture is almost non-existent. Existing architectural implications are not adapting to the transient contemporary lifestyle. A building’s relevance to societal views is restricted to a marker on a historical time line.


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Localism is becoming completely redefined. People are becoming the globalized local wherever they go. According to Eleanor Saitta “There is a growing belief that situated computation, applications that understand the geography of the real world and which we interact with in real time, are helping to revitalize the local in the everyday. In a world where we have all become global, forcibly so, actors in a culture that has been intermediated, virtualized, fragmented, and repackaged for delivery, this revitalization of the local is supposed to let us reconnect with our fellow human beings.”18 Technology has allowed us to obtain local knowledge, which has lead to a generalization of the actual local knowledge, in an area. The local is no longer the “bidirectional lived experience over time in a specific geographic region, socio-cultural milieu, and circle of people.”19 We now live in a time with an abundance of the non-place; airports, globalized consumerism, mass transit systems, and gas stations. The delocalized familiarity that crosses paths with a much larger cultural sphere has now become the contemporary global ‘local’. Authentic local culture is disappearing, as we begin to see reproduction of past realities as simulations and extensions of these simulations as simulacra. The global ‘local’ has become a simulacrum, while heavily loaded with signs; there is no meaning inherent to them. Abandoned locations are quickly disappearing as new sites for the growth of this generic locale Contemporary urban landscapes are fast becoming uniform landscapes of globalizing forces of late capitalism networked through by the conduit landscapes of infrastructure. Cities seek to display and commodify their authentic local culture while competing in the global commercial market. According to Helen Armstrong, “There is also the intention to lure the so-called affluent ‘Creative Class’ by marketing pseudo sense of place with few real memories. Instead ‘memory’ is just another commodity, this time manufactured by the Heritage Industry. Even those shrinking vestiges of land dedicated as nature reserves are too frequently heavily over-interpreted commodities for the Tourism industry.” Despite theories that post-industrial cities are characterized by fragmentation, fluidity and uncertainty, the contemporary city is becoming a ubiquitous and predictable landscape of commercial consumption. The most unfortunate loss for evolving cities is the loss of the elusive site or the urban void, spaces for the production of spontaneous, idiosyncratic, and local experiences. Urban voids are deemed obsolete and unproductive, yet they manifest themselves as spaces of freedom, an alternative to the lucrative realities of the globalized city. These abandoned spaces are the only spaces left in the contemporary city where there still might be a possibility, if they are appropriately activated by intelligent design.

End Notes: 17. Sennett, Richard Le Monde diplomatique (English Edition, February 2001) 18. Saitta, Eleanor The New Localism (New York, dymaxion.org 2010) 1-2. 19. Saitta, Eleanor The New Localism (New York, dymaxion.org 2010) 1-2.

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1.18 Photomontage of the Parthenon on the Anthenian Acropolis and a replica in Nashville Tennessee.

1.19 Photomontage of the Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy and a simulation in Las Vegas, Nevada.


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2 Explorations

Architecture for the Elusive Design Studies Sight of Los Angeles Urban Void, the Parking Lot Los Angeles Artwalk


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2.1 Temporary structures are set up in an empty parking lot for the Los Angeles Art Walk, held every first Thursday of the month.


Justin Tien

Architecture for the Elusive Elusive sites have potential, because they have not yet been consumed by the global non-local culture but constantly are unnoticed by its inhabitants. These spaces often go unobserved, not only because they are unplanned by designers, but because they are seen as mundane, derelict, or as infrastructure. Scattered throughout the contemporary city, urban voids deviate from the cultural norms and are either being completely eliminated by city planners and private establishments or ignored because the sites are seen as a ruin that is rooted so far in the subversive that there is no longer hope for these spaces. Although sensitivity to terrain vagues is of importance, they have the potential to unify an authentic local reaction that can accumulate into something great enough to compete against the global non-local culture. Architecture no longer can be thought of as a permanent manifestation of authentic local culture. The purpose of building on these sites is no longer to claim, but to maintain potential and suggest a possible identity for these unnoticed spaces. Through this suggestive architecture, variation and interesting mutations are possible because these spaces, unlike the globalized local, are not closed systems. These elusive sites constantly go through change and promote the vast niches of sub-cultures, but do not amount to anything greater. Architecture has the ability to suggest unification of these scattered sites into a local reaction that can emerge into an identity that continuous temporal activities alone cannot achieve. Unlike ancient ruins, these sites are not supposed to be artifacts frozen in time. The architecture is not meant to be preserved, restored, or re-used. The architecture is to be evolutionary, where it can generate programs through user involvement. In a sense, the user will always add onto this architecture. Unlike a designated cultural institution, these are not sterile spaces, but are instead non-institutional places for real life dialogue, discourse, compromise, and aggressive rejection. These loaded sites can’t just be responded to in a topographical sense, these are public spaces activated by the user, and there are no prescribed activities. Abandoned warehouses and roofscapes can be event activated by users one night as a hip hang out, and the next month can be desolate with no trace of this

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2.2 Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette in Paris provides non-specific hybrid spaces that invite the individuals to interpret the space and bring meaning to the follies.

2.3 A collage of Constant’s New Babylon shows a modifiable structure that spans from one civilization to another, using architecture as a kit of parts that the inhabitants could rearrange, in turn expressing their creativity.

temporary intervention. Architecture gives the possibilities that the event itself cannot; it allows past events to have a minimal trace in order to mark the site as one of temporal use, but without preordaining future uses. Singular interventions are deviations from the generic, but do not add up to anything, but architecture has the ability to accumulate these many temporary interventions and create something great out of it. The architecture is to be situation conscious, requiring residents’ participation and contribution. The structure cannot merely be a large-scale sculpture that represents these spaces. It must incorporate elements of theater, playground, and show. These elements, in a sense forge a communal art and are partially participatory. The spaces are not to be program specific, but must be hybrid spaces that invite, similar to Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette, where the designer frees his responsibility in planning, and allows the people to interpret the spaces given and naturally develop activities for these follies. “Bernard Tschumi’s set of follies at Parc de la Villette in Paris follow a set of syntactic rules with an infinite combination to reference the transition between one folly to another.”20 The cohesiveness of each structure is established in this type of architecture because there is a recognizable relationship between each structure and they are distinctly different, but connect to one another with set rules that are interpreted in an infinite amount of ways through the inhabitant. The spaces become “a series of ambiguous intersections between systems… in which the status of ideal forms and


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2.4 New Babylon was a series of linked transformable structures, which individually were the size of a small city. Individuals would wander from one structure to another finding new leisure environments and new sensations.

traditional composition is challenged. Ideas of purity, perfection, and order, become sources of impurity, imperfection, and disorder.”21 In its most radical and idealized form, Constant’s New Babylon22 visualizes an architecture for the transitory and fleeting nature of modernity. The forces driving a society of homo ludens is that of imagination and creativity. Gilles Ivain writes “the architectural complex will be modifiable. Its aspect will change totally or partially in accordance with the will of its inhabitants… The appearance of the notion of relativity in the modern mind allows once to surmise the experimental aspects of the next civilization… on the basis of this mobile civilization, architecture will, at least initially, be a means of experimenting with a thousand ways of modifying life, with a view to a mythic synthesis.”23 New Babylon manifests itself as a project that embodies a utopianism that testifies to the paradoxes and contradictions inherent to visions of this kind. Architecture for the elusive will not merely be a kit of parts that can be rearranged and changed to the will of the user. The structures that sit on these vacant sites and offer spaces for experimentation, but will also host functions that can only be activated by how the design can begin to hint at certain programs. Unlike Constant’s New Babylon, it is not completely up to the user to freely do as they want, because in reality, these spaces will not be activated purely on the curiosity and imagination of its inhabitants.

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Unlike Constant, Cedric Price proposes an architecture that is deliberately attached to its context, in the example of the Potteries Thinkbelt project24; the architecture is derived and generated by the strong contextual association with the industrial landscape. The Potteries sit amongst “Disused industrial complexes, furnaces, cranes, and a network of narrow-gauge railway lines between the buildings and the quarries are scattered over the landscape on the outskirts of the areas where the workers once lived, which in turn form parts of villages and towns.�25 Price connects the landscape with small trains that house lecture rooms and canteens that travel along the rail network that weaves through the site. Student accommodations are housed in containers that can be moved via factory cranes. The university campus is fitted within the spaces of the industrial site, but uses its infrastructure to accommodate a new form of architecture. Price is able to creatively appropriate and revitalize the industrial site by maintaining its openness but converting the infrastructure into selforganizing structures, which adapts to the changes of the user. Although this project may be effective for this elusive typology, there are many urban voids that simply do not have ideal conditions with such great infrastructural support. Nevertheless, the architecture attempts to maintain potential while trying to stay relevant to the current inhabitants.


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Justin Tien 2.5 Cedric Price decided to reuse existing railway infrastructure as mobile educational hubs. He believed that the buildings within which we operate should also be mobile and temporary/ adaptable to our constantly changing needs.

Historically, designers and planners have failed to establish an architecture fitting for ruins. Solutions have always deviated from the extremes of preservation or demolition. In order for architecture to stay relevant in the contemporary authentic local context, it needs to accept the characteristics of the uncanny, anarchic, and temporal. The abandoned or contemporary ruin needs an architecture that maintains potential, evolves with society, and continually unifies a multi-faceted culture.

End Notes: 20. Solorzano, Ramiro Architectura Laticis (Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2011) 2. 21. Wigley, Mark and Broadbent, Geofferey, Deconstruction. A Student Guide (London, Academia, 1991) 17. 22. Wigley, Mark, Constant’s New Babylon, The Hyper-Architecture of Desire (Rotterdam: 010,1988). 23. Gilles Ivain, “Formulaire pour un urbanisme nouveau,” Internationale situationniste 1 (June 1958): 15-20; English trans. in Ken Knabb, ed., Situationist International Anthology (Berkeley: Bureau of PublicSecrets, 1981), 1-4. 24. Price, Cedric, Cedric Price- The Square Book (Chichester: Wiley-Academy, 2003). 25. Christiaanse Kees, The Open City and Its Enemies (Amsterdam, Open city Designing Coexistence, 2009) 26-27.


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2.6 Integration of the parking lot and meeting room spaces.

2.7 Reinterpretation of a drive-in theater.

2.8 Early design study on relationships between mobile catalyst between floor plates.


Justin Tien

Design Studies The initial design studies investigate the characteristics of an architecture that is able to give the user or inhabitant the ability to manipulate the spaces that they occupy while also suggesting a unification of the scattered sites into a local reaction that can emerge into an identity that can begin and resist global interests. This investigation proposes a mobile architecture that has the ability to aggregate with other mobile architectures in order to produce variations of spaces that house different activities. The mobile architecture will be used as a new sort of city-car transportation system, in which the city dweller can begin occupying the streets and left over spaces and inhabit them, while interacting with others, rather than in isolation when driving a normal automobile. These mobile spaces will also interact with the architecture that houses them, rather than just sitting in the space thus turning the architecture into just a garage. Figure 2.4 demonstrates these mobile spaces attaching to the ceiling of the office structure, turning this surface of the building into an ever expanding meeting space. The mobile spaces are able to cluster together to create more meeting spaces. In Figure 2.5, the proposed movie theater is integrated into a drive in theater experience, as both people in vehicles and people not in vehicles can enjoy a movie together. Figure 2.6 demonstrates the ability for these mobile spaces to begin and having a dialogue between levels within a building. There was also an investigation on how these mobile architectures would interact with each other. The arrangement of these spaces will give to the public the freedom to create spatial organizations they see fitting. The contemporary public space will no longer be a deregulated mass of private interests; rather individuals can create sub-spaces within public spaces giving the user some sort of control over their space. The outcome of these spaces will not be a monumental architecture that tries to act upon countless number of forces, but architecture of aggregation. The architecture also no longer has a prescribed function, but will respond to the buildings they occupy or by the user’s needs. The architecture no longer represents the private global enterprises that dominate society, but rather the individuals that create and produce the local culture and architecture.

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2.9 (previous page)

2.10

Vehicle components are able to transform into architectural elements of the building. The body of the vehicle may begin to act as vertical circulation and make hyper-connections within the building that never once existed.

Different variations of studies on how individual mobile catalyst are able to aggregate into many different spatial variables in an attempt to create diverse spaces through a modular system. Studies also demonstrate an investigation in form finding for the mobile catalyst vehicle.


Justin Tien

The downside to equipping all these mobile architectures with the capability to doing everything also leads to the aggregation and production of generic space. Because all of these vehicles are identical, the spaces produced will merely be a copy paste of some sort. If the vehicles are to merely interact with themselves, there will never be a space that is spontaneous and unique, rather it would be somewhat predictable. There needs to be an agent for these mobile architectures to interact with in order to produce the potential for local engagements and culture. Through the design study, it was also concluded that the vehicles themselves need to transform when not being used as a vehicle and when being used spatially. The production of local culture can not rest solely on the vehicles themselves, but also the architecture used to store the vehicles of local culture production.

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2.11 Downtown Los Angeles Skyline shines in the sunlight in the background and is framed by the ramps of the Harbor Freeway and Century Freeway interchange.


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Sight of Los Angeles The thesis proposes that urban voids exist as a bi-product of a contemporary locality that is strung together by infrastructure, but can potentially be intelligently designed to offer human experiences and allow for interaction with the elusive. Los Angeles, then, proves to be an ideal site made up of many elusive sites, outcomes of the infrastructures of the automobile culture that networks and defines local culture. To better understand the urban voids that make up downtown Los Angeles, a brief history of urban Los Angeles needs to be analyzed and the infrastructures that enable the city to exists need to be identified. What makes Los Angeles a unique site for localizing the elusive, is that the cultures that make up this diverse city are bound to the auto-centric qualities that allow the city to exist. The large expanses of urban voids that keep the city interconnected are also the spaces that get unnoticed and have an absence of human interaction and community. Although car culture physically connects the densely sprawled city of Los Angeles, it also promotes isolation and can, in many cases, allow its inhabitants a different way of viewing and moving about the city. Unlike many other major cities, Los Angeles is unique in that before the industrial expansion and growth of the 1870’s to 1910’s, Los Angeles was still little more than a village. 1870 Los Angeles had a meager 5,728 inhabitants and its skyline was comprised of one and two storied flat roofed adobes. The water and sewage system flowed in open ditches called zanjas. The living conditions were unimpressive and Los Angeles was known was one of the toughest towns in the West. In this period of time, there was a sense of local culture. According to Oscar Osburn Winther, “Drunken brawls were regular occurrences, and frequent murders were accepted events. On Sunday morning the jail bulged with drunks, and on the Sabbath night the local “dance house” was a “general rendezvous of... low, dissolute, and degraded specimens of humanity, both male and female.”

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“Cities are known by their symbols. Just as the Eiffel Tower defines Paris and the Statue of Liberty symbolizes New York, the freeway is the universal icon by which Los Angeles is described. The freeway network, in addition to being an important transportation system, is considered the world over a symbol of Los Angeles.� -Martin Wachs


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All this changed as the completion of the transcontinental railroad made its way into Los Angeles. According to historian Blake Grumprecht, “The completion of a transcontinental railroad to Los Angeles in 1876 changed Southern California forever.� The city grew and expanded during a time of heavy development and innovation. Los Angeles eventually transformed from a small town into the southern hub for the Central Pacific Railroad, which meant the rapid expansion of Los Angeles. The city did not develop in a conventional sense, because the city shifted from a Spanish system of urban planning towards an American system. Under the Spanish system, the residences of the power-elite would cluster around the Plaza in the center of town. While on the other hand, under the American system, the powerful elite would reside on the outskirts, which lead to the heavy horizontal construct of the sprawled city of Los Angeles. Like the Mexicans, all the other minorities began clustering near the Plaza, closer towards the historical core of Los Angeles or currently Downtown. During this period of time, Downtown Los Angeles was thriving with culture and community, and there was a connection to the physical grounds one worked, played, and lived. As time went on, the emphasis to the communal environment of Downtown moved towards the outskirts, turning the Downtown region into a place to only work. The once historical core was soon replaced with office buildings and parking lots. Downtown Los Angeles had become an urban void.


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2.12 Mapping America: Every City, Every Block gathers census data of Los Angeles and shows racial and ethnic population distribution in Downtown and the surrounding area.

2.13 “Running on Empty� taken by Ross Ching depicts an image of Los Angeles as a barren city with no people or automobiles.

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2.14 Diagrams showing typical urban conditions in the United States and surface parking lot’s coverage Cyan: surface parking Black: building’s footprint Gray: roads White: unpaved areas diagrams by Stephen Kennedy


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Urban Void, the Parking Lot The urban voids that dominate the Los Angeles urban landscape exist with the sole purpose of facilitating the automobile. The thesis will investigate different architectural strategies that can be implemented to foster a sense of locality and community within the voids that transport, store and maintain the way Angelenos experience the city. The transportation infrastructure, especially the freeway, has a pervasive urban presence that detracts socio-spatial interactions making movement through the landscape an introverted experience, hindering communal or local interactions. When vehicles are not transporting individuals from location to destination, they are left unused on prescribed parking spaces, which are left vacant of any other activities. Lastly, the gas stations and auto-shops are spaces that have become globalized and fuel the car consuming culture. The proposed project will focus specifically on producing a possibility for a production of local culture on the sites of the parking lot, because these vast spaces occupy a vast percentage of the cities horizontal construct and are scattered evenly throughout the often segregated neighborhoods. Urban voids are deemed obsolete and unproductive, yet they manifest themselves as spaces of freedom, and an alternative to the lucrative realities of global society. The contemporary city is becoming a ubiquitous and predictable landscape of commercial consumption rather than creative production. Society has killed the ability to tolerate a local productivity within the spaces they occupy. Developments of elusive sites are becoming heavily influenced by private enterprises, leading to an identity that is globally commercialized. This dooms spaces that have potential productivity to engage a local culture in an era of global consumerism and commercial interests. These empty and often neglected spaces are the only spaces left in the contemporary city, where there still might be a possibility, if they are appropriately activated by intelligent design

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and can potentially produce spontaneous, idiosyncractic local experiences. Urban voids are empty and unnoticed spaces within an urban context that have the peculiarity of having enough scale and proximity to be extremely relevant in catalyzing a local culture. Although they are completely under used places of chaos, disorder, and infrastructure, they are symbols of present day congestion, precisely because they are some of the only remaining free spaces within the city. Historically, Los Angeles has always been a sprawled city, when it was first a self sustaining farm community. The discovery of oil in 1892 by Edward Doheny brought about the first automobile to hit the streets of Los Angeles by 1897. During this time frame, the city was heavily invested in industrialization. Both industrialization and the birth of the automobile subsequently fortified the densely horizontal urban construct of the city. To accommodate for how individuals moved about through the city, it adopted three infrastructures that have not only been historically significant to the cities time line, but have provided designers with many questions for what may come in the near future. The transportation network, the storage infrastructure, and the buildings programmed for maintenance and repair are the three infratructural systems that have framed the perception of locality and neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles.

2.15 Downtown Los Angeles Parking Study done by Downtown Business Men’s Association in 1945. The map analyzes parking areas as defined by public vs. private and lot vs structure.


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OIL

INDUSTRIALIZATION

AUTOMOBILE

HORIZONTAL SPRAWL

TRANSPORTATION NETWORK

UNDER/OVER PASSES

ON/OFF BUFFER RAMPS

STORAGE INFRASTRUCTURE

PARKING LOTS

2.16 A deconstructed historical lineage of the formation of elusive sites and urban voids that culminate into a viable and potentially cohesive Los Angeles.

STREET PARKING

MAINTENANCE + REPAIR

URBAN OIL RESERVOIRS

MECHANIC SHOPS


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CURRENT LOCATION

VACANT SITES

MAINTENANCE

REPAIR

ISOLATED EXPERIENCE

ISOLATED EXPERIENCE

TRANSPORTATION NETWORK

ELUSIVE SITES

DESTINATION

VACANT SITES

2.17 Residents of Los Angeles experience the city through the lens of the automobile. The buildings and structures that frame these views alter the perception of how residents understand the built environment and their physical surroundings.

The most notable structures of Los Angeles can’t be found in the skyline of the city, but are scattered throughout the built environment, connecting neighborhoods and communities. The freeways restrict individuals to perceive the city in a certain perspective. Although these massive structures already are an inefficient use of space for transporting individuals, they are accompanied by elusive sites that are wastelands that commonly go unnoticed by the city dweller. The under and over passes that the freeways create, as well as the on and off ramps that begin and end the freeways always accompany these vast pavements of asphalt; yet they serve no other purpose than to buffer noise and obscure the massive transportation artery. These are a series of elusive sites that have potential to reach a great audience if they are appropriately activated by intelligent design. Another commonly overlooked infrastructure that is pervasive in the built environment are all the buildings that exist to support the automobile industry. From car dealerships, to autoshops, to gas stations, to urban oil reservoirs, the urban landscape is constantly reminded of these non-places that exist and hold no identity. The last of the three infrastructral systems is that of storage. The storage infrastructure is by far the most pervasive and has the most potential in generating interaction between communities and neighborhoods. Surface parking lots, Parking structures, and onstreet parking all share a common function, to temporarily store an automobile. When these spaces are occupied, they become urban voids and no longer have the potential an empty lot contains. Many of these lots begin to become first impressions of a place to many Angelenos. Parking lots and structures become the interface between people and buildings as individuals hop in their vehicles to transport themselves from one building to another and need to interface between entering an automobile to storing their vehicle.


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36%

of Downtown Los Angeles is set aside for automobile storage.

8% of Downtown Los Angeles is set aside as open space or is empty.


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2.18 Surface area occupied by automobile storage.

2.19 Automobile storage along arterial transportation infrastructure.

2.20 Automobile storage along secondary veins of transportation infrastructure.


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Los Angeles sets aside thirty six percent of its Downtown for automobile storage, and a majority of these spaces are privately owned, which means these spaces are for the most part consumed by the global commercial culture. While more than a third of the surface area of Downtown is solely dedicated to parking, a mere eight percent of Downtown Los Angeles is set aside as empty or open space. Although these statistics may give someone the impression that because a third of Downtown is covered in asphalt, that these spaces are devoid of community or activity, these assumptions are incorrect. Parking spaces also hold a set of secondary program that begins to exists when they become empty lots or when these private lots are not being used to store vehicles. Looking at figure 2.19, secondary program that exists in parking lots range from intermittent to periodic, to seasonal, to perpetual. These programs can also be broken down into mercantile, service, or recreation. Figure 2.19 suggests that the elusive lot maintains a sense of relevance to its community as it is able to house programs that fulfill the users needs. The parking lot is not necessarily a desolate place with no life, rather it is a place that is lifted of its restrictions when it is not serving its main function. Rather than being a place that is merely a storage unit, it becomes a place of local production. It is where the food truck or vendor is parked when a person goes on their lunch break. Seasonally, the lots are transformed into a holiday Christmas tree sale lot, or a pumpkin patch. These elusive sites have an endless array of possibilities that can become a place to catalyze a growth for an authentic local culture.

2.21 Matrix of possible secondary off street parking program and possible durations.

Intermittent

Periodic

Seasonal

umbrella sales when raining

weekly flea market

holiday pumpkin or trees

food carts and trucks

Perpetual

Mercantile

Service

community peition

school fundraiser

voter registration

recycling center

hopscotch

weekend street hockey

temporary skate park

permanent basketball court

Recreation


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2.22 Parking lots are voids not because they are empty. They are for the most part occupied, but become voids when automobiles are stored, leaving the space vacant of life or activity.

By activating these elusive sites, the large patches of asphalt become new public squares that promote the activities that were once outcomes of when the lots were unused. The design of these spaces need to be re-approached. Integration of both these programs happening simultaneously will allow for these spaces to not only satisfy its infrastructural needs, but also its communal ones. Roger Trancik, an urban designer, defines parking lots as “the undesirable urban areas that are in need of re-design- antispaces, making no positive contribution to the surroundings or users. They are ill-define, without measurable boundaries, and fail to connect elements in a coherent way.�26 but on the other hand, he believes that they offer tremendous opportunities to the designer to rediscovering the many hidden resources within the city. Parking lots are a form of the cities’s public realm and give contrast to the congested architectural fabric of the city.

End Notes: 26. Tranik, Roger, Finding Lost Space: Theories of Urban Design (New York: John Wiley, 1986) 4.


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INFRASTRUCTURAL VOID: LOT INFRASTRUCTURAL VOID: STRUCTURE CIRCULATION INTERVENTION PEDESTRIAN CROSSING

2.23 Redefining the infrastructural voids as new public spaces will create new circulation patterns that never existed before when lots were used to only store vehicles.


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2.24 Districts in Downtown Los Angeles 1. Entertainment District 2. South Park District 3. Financial District 4. Jewelry District 5. Fashion District 6. Bunker Hill 7. Civic Center 8. Historic Downtown 9. Toy District 10. Central City East

11. Flower District 12. Warehouse District 13. Little Tokyo 14. Seafood District 15. Produce District 16. Art District 17. Central Industrial District


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Los Angeles Artwalk Downtown Los Angeles is comprised of seventeen districts. The historical downtown district is bounded by the Civic Center in the north, the Fashion and Toy District to the South, Little Tokyo to the east, and The Financial District and Bunker Hill to the west. These seventeen districts make up the central business district of Los Angeles, and house the city’s major art institutions, sports facilities, sightseeing opportunities, and a variety of skyscrapers that are associated with global commercial corporations. Downtown Los Angeles is also the hub for the cities freeway infrastructure as well as the center for the Metro rapid transit system. The historical core grew rapidly in the late nineteenth century, as businesses began moving away from the El Pueblo. During this time period there was a huge boom in commercial growth and many buildings still stand there today near Pershing Square. By 1957 Los Angeles lifted a strict height limit on buildings and triggered another building boom in the downtown area. Although there magnificent sky scrappers were being constructed, many people were flocking to the regional shopping malls, entertainment venues, and business parks out in the suburbs. As the population of consumers began shifting towards the outskirts of the city, Downtown Los Angeles was left with abandoned office buildings and no true population of inhabitants living in the urban environment. By the mid 1990’s there was a renaissance in revitalizing the residential, business and art communities that once flourished in the historic downtown area. Heavy legislation was put into place on the reuse of historic buildings in the area as well as new construction on live-work spaces that promoted a sense of local community in the once desolate Downtown. The historic core is the most residential neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles, with a majority of these residences as adaptive reuse projects that were once old office buildings that were abandoned. The loft units that exist now were formerly vacant historic commercial and office buildings, but are sometimes also still used as work spaces or artist studios. Los Angeles’s Gallery Row is a city-recognized art gallery district located in the center of the Historic District. It was started in 2003 with only three galleries participating and has now grown to as many as fifty galleries in the area that participate in the monthly event that attracts up to 5000 guests a night.

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2.25 The site sits between South Los Angeles St. and South Main Street and between 3rd and 4th Street in Historic Downtown.

Development in Downtown Los Angeles has progressed beyond its dormant potential into a realm of cultural abundance. Projects once thought impossible now contribute beautiful edifices to an increasingly cosmopolitan skyline. Street life, community activism, and a sense of pride have all risen and altered the discourse about what it means to live and work in Downtown Los Angeles. Downtown is no longer synonymous with homelessness and the smell of urine, but is now recognized for a thriving art community and a place to live and work. The historical core, more specifically Gallery Row, is looking to transform Los Angeles’s cultural landscape by educating the public and facilitating cultural and economical revitalization. These will occur with consulting services, educational programs, and encouraging creative business that are becoming establishments in and around the historical core. All this is happening to the abandoned buildings that were built in the mind 1950’s but not much has been done to the parking lots that are disbursed throughout Los Angeles. Choosing a surface lot in the historical core is a strategic decision solely based on the program that would be associated with the lots that sit adjacent to the art walk site. Because the area is already saturated with an artistic community, the individuals that express their creative potentials are willingly participating in the production of local culture. By offering up these spaces, the surface lots, the activities that already occur on these sites will be less spontaneous, but can becomes something that happens daily and in turn create change in a downtown that is already saturated with global and commercial influences.


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1000 ft.

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2.26 Recent development of housing in the Historical District partly due to influences of the downtown art walk.

2.27 Existing galleries clustered along Spring and Main in the Historical District.


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2.28 Typical activities, such as an improvised concert and foodtruck gathering, happening in an empty parking lot during the Los Angeles Artwalk on a thursday evening.


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Program for Art Walk Localized Structure Ground Floor

Outdoor Theater 1 Outdoor Theater 2 Flea Market Mobile Catalyst Drop Off Restrooms

First Floor

Offices for the Artwalk Committee Gallery Seating for Foodtruck vendors Mobile Catalyst Drop Off Restrooms

Second Floor

Artist Studio Lofts Theater 1 Theater 2 Mobile Catalyst Drop Off Restrooms

Third Floor

Artist Studio Lofts Foodtruck storage Industrial shared kitchen for Foodtrucks Mobile Catalyst Drop Off Restrooms

Fourth Floor

Mezzanine Theater 1 Mezzanine Theater 2 Gallery Mobile Catalyst Drop Off Restrooms

Roof

Outdoor roof terrace Elevated grass fields Skyline Observation Deck Mobile Catalyst Drop Off Restrooms

Community Petition School Fund raiser Voter Registration Recycling Center Break dancing Competition Concert Weekly Flea market Pumpkin Patch Holiday Christmas Tree Food cart Weekend Roller hockey Temporary Skate Park Business Meeting Tailgate Party Boondocking Soccer Car wash Fund raising Vehicle Storage Fashion Runway Show Bird watching Watching a Movie Farmers Market Picnic Basketball game Church Service Community Garden Food trucks Opera Umbrella Salesman Hopscotch Deviant Acts Photo booth Night clubbing Public Forum Protesting Camping Sun bathing Yoga Cycle meet-up Bar hopping Study Groups Urban farming Jogging Day Care Center Playground Rehearsal rooms Dance Studios Lecture hall Exhibition hall Amphitheater Education Center Sightseeing Fitness space Technology Center


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3 Localizing the Elusive

System Components Architectural Possibilities Site Plan Floorplans Section Artist Studio Detail Renderings Physical Model


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System Components

Mobile Catalyst Localized Structure Site Activity Void Activation Network


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Architectural Possibilities The architectural possibilities will result from the interaction of the mobile catalysts and the localized structure. The localized structures themselves will contain program that fits in with the surrounding context. The objective of the mobile catalyst is to promote interaction within the architecture and provide architectural possibilities when they are needed. The three different ways in which the vehicles will interact with the building is with surface change, broadcast happenings, and spatial transformation. Surface change will result from the manipulation of the vehicle body. Within the localized structure, there will be robotic arms integrated into the structure. When the vehicle initiates the robotic arm, the shell of the vehicle will released allowing it to be elevated into the roofscape. By manipulating many vehicle bodies, the shells can being to aggregate and create new surfaces making more intimate spaces. The vehicle bodies can also be used for different lighting effects or for privacy. The new roofscape surface begins to be used to define space and allows visitors to know which areas of the structure are currently occupied or activated. As parking spaces are either occupied or vacant, the facade of the building alters. The vehicles, when parked, also alter the circulation pattern into the artist studio spaces. When the spaces are empty, the spaces collapse into a single layer of parking spaces, while also lifting the stairs up because no one is using the space. As parking spots are filled, the hydraulic lift shifts down, revealing another layer of parking and in turn activating the direct circulation path into the artist studio space. The artist studio spaces also use smart glass technology, allowing the individuals within the studio space to broadcast messages and ideas to the general public that may be passing by. Finally, the vehicle components themselves can begin to be used as architectural tools. While in the theater space, the shell can be adopted to be used as theater seating. When this space is transformed into a flea market, the chassis of the vehicle can transport the booths from other parts of the building into the theater space.


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3.1 Surface change through manipulation of vehicle body

3.2 Broadcast happenings in the structure through facade

3.3 Spatial transformation through integration of vehicle components

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3.4 Onlookers can see when certain parts of the localized structure is being inhabited. Each artist studio displays messages, but also expresses when there are mobile catalyst occupying the space.

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3.5 A night scene depicting the localized structure being used at night. The artist studio has a roll up facade that is embedded with LED smart glass, allowing it to display messages in color.

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3.6 Siteplan of the Artwalk Localized Structure in its context.


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Roof plan

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First floorplan


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First floorplan aggregation

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Second floorplan


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Second floorplan aggregation

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Third floorplan


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Third floorplan aggregation

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Longitudinal Section


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3.7 Vacant artist studio with smart glass rolled up

3.8 Occupied artist studio with smart glass rolled up


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3.9 Vacant artist studio with smart glass activated

3.10 Occupied artist studio with smart glass activated

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3.11 The exterior landscaped space is being occupied as a farmers market turning what use to be a private parking lot into a public space that is accessible by everyone.

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3.12 The theater is transformed into a flea market. The mobile catalyst chassis are integrated into the flea booths, allowing them to re-arrange and move about freely.

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3.13 Because the theater is being used for a concert, the mobile catalyst chassis are being used as seats for the lower floors, and the shell of the vehicles are being integrated into the seating for the top floor.

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3.14 The roofscape of vehicle shells is creating an intimate space for the break dancer to perform as the crowds gather around and watch him.

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3.15 Both the roofscape and the mobile catalyst chassis are used again to produce accommodations for the roaming food truck that makes stops throughout the localized structure.

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3.16 The art walk galleries allow for both people walking and people roaming around in the mobile catalyst to enjoy the artwork that is put up for the new exhibition.

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3.17 An impromptu fashion show occurs on the roof of the localized structure. The mobile catalyst shells transform the space by providing additional lighting to set the mood.

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Model of Localized Structure


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Model of Mobile Catalyst


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4 Miscellaneous

Tactile Memory Mobile Domestic Catalyst Cache+


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Tactile Memory watch a short video of Tactile Memory at http://vimeo.com/31819213 The chair is a piece of furniture that most closely relates to the forms of the body, thus opening up opportunities for the user and the furniture to interact. The endless variations of the fabric and the structured nature of the triangulated panels promotes user curiosity. The user has the ability to push and pull the “rules” of the game, deforming it until he/ she is satisfied. The outcome of the users satisfaction is physically marked in the artifact as the user leaves. The next user is able to not only see the traces of what was there before but also physically engage with an abstracted memory and continue laying until he/she feels comfortable. Engagement in an alternate reality that actively engages the player to freely choose to participate and abide by the rules. Active engagement requires that the user does not feel forced to take action and allows the user to foster creativity through the activity of play. The material properties of the felt has the characteristic of endless variation, which coupled with a set of rules or “structure” can evolve into playful architecture. The “rules” of this playful architecture is that of the 5mm thick luan panels that give the chair structural rigidity. Architecture, like play, is restrained by the limits of the physical world. The architect can always try and predict a design of a space to fulfill and activity or a program, but it is when these rules are put in the hands of the user when they become playful. The creativity of the user brings life to the space, as the user constructs meaning and value into the architecture. The furniture piece allows the users to participate and decide how to manipulate the surface and in turn changing the overall form of the chair.

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4.1 Sonobe Origami is used in a study model to see the limitations of pentagonal vertices as points of transformation.

Sonobe Origami Sonobe module is a unit used to build modular oragami. The one pictured above is a tessellated icosahedron, very similar to a dodecahedron, and consists of 30 units to build. The user may push down at the pentagonal vertices and the object can then transform into various shapes thus keeping the user actively engaged. Origami is a traditional Japanese art of paper folding which has evolved into a modern art form. Origami is unique because it transforms a 2d surface of a material into a finished 3d sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques without the use of cuts or glue. This art form can also be playful because it requires a great sense of creativity, and are restricted to a strict set of rules. The completed dodecahedron can be taken apart and the simply folded modules can be reassembled into other shapes such as pyramids or cubes. The sonobe is a popular toy because it is sturdy and easy to assemble as well as very flexible in creating sculptures that follow a system.


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4.2 A mock-up of Tactile memory was tested with a rigid material, in this case cardboard, and a flexible material, cotton fabric.

Tactile Memory Handheld After the analysis of the structured blanket, which was influenced by the wooden textiles of Elisa Strozyk, and the sonobe origami, an experiment was conducted to see if the materiality of the structured blanket and the formal vocabulary of the sonobe ball could be translated into a toy that would retain traces of the user after the user had finished interacting with it. An equilateral dodecahedron was chosen to see if variability could still be produced with a modular system and because of the ease of construction. The handheld version of Tactile Memory later evolved into an oblique dodecahedron with twelve unique faces. The subdivisions were altered in order to allow for different seating positions such as a lounge, stool, and bed.

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4.4 Cnc template that consists of: two sheets of 4’x8’ 5mm luan panels and one hundred twenty eight triangular panels.

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Mobile Domestic Catalyst The idea of the single-family dwelling and its association with the nuclear family living independently from relatives is a recent development that is commonly associated with rural and suburban environments. The contemporary single-family dwelling has given birth to the “Generic City.” Rem Koolhaas defines it as “a city liberated from the captivity of the center, from the straitjacket of identity. The Generic City breaks with this destructive cycle of dependency: it is nothing but a reflection of present need and present ability. It is a city without history. It is big enough for everybody. It is easy. It does not need maintenance. It gets too small it just expands. If it gets old it just self-destructs and renews.” The dwelling is no longer able to stay relevant in the contemporary network culture that we live in and has become a generic storage container that merely holds our physical possessions that we use to identify and represent ourselves. Individuals that make up the nuclear family have become more independent as they partake in many other networks and have the potential to have other core discussion groups, which was not the case in the past, when the single-family home itself made up the core discussion group. Therefore, I speculate that the nuclear family will no longer live in direct proximity with each other, rather they would live dispersed under one mega-structure, constantly drifting and living with core discussion groups of people they network with from work, school, religion, or any common interests. Relationships with other nuclear family member will be maintained by the use of tele-communication and occasional face-to-face interaction. Not only will the individuals in the family be capable of rearranging themselves in the mega-structure they inhabit, they will also have the capability to bring their home with them if they need to move from one physical location to another. The contemporary home should be an architecture that reflects the identity of the individual and have the ability to stay relevant through time. The dwelling no longer bears the ability to represent a collective of people, but should be approached by representing individuals of the collective and their relationships to one another. If the relationships can be analyzed

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in comparison to network-culture, the home can then gain a sense of significance to an individual. If every individual in the collective can identify with the dwelling they inhabit, the architecture is doing is job conveying and reflecting the needs and thoughts of the individual and collective. The importance of the contemporary home will no longer be on the home, or “node,” but will be on the relationship it has with its neighbors in proximity as well as its relationship with other homes that may not be in its physical presence. The home must become a space that integrates network technologies into the architecture in order to create a dwelling that has ever-changing meaning and relevance. The physical manifestation of the home can no longer be stagnant. The idea of a home being a “homebase” is a misconception of the past, public spaces are quickly being transformed by domestic influences, while domestic spaces are becoming more and more public.

Who makes up the Contemporary Home? Traditionally, the nuclear family consists of a pair of adults and their children. In contemporary times this traditional nuclear family is no longer the norm, as families no longer live in proximity to each other due to work, as there has been a rise in the singleparent family due to divorcing becoming more common, as there has been a shift back to a multi-generational home due to economical benefits, and as many individuals are just staying single. According to Stacey Sawyer a sociologist, “The nuclear family no longer seems adequate to cover the wide diversity of household arrangements we see today. A new term has been introduced, post modern family, which is meant to describe the great variability in family forms, including single-parent families and child-free couples.” This post-modern family is an outcome of many triggers from the post-modern period, including pluralism, democracy, religious freedom, consumerism, mobility, and increased access to news, entertainment, and information in general. Walter Anderson states “Residents of this post-modern world are able to see that there are many beliefs, multiple realities, and an exhilarating but daunting profusion of world views - a society that has lost its faith in absolute truth and in which people have to choose what to believe.” The contemporary home has found its place into many aspects of the public sphere. The contemporary home is no longer bound to the physical place of dwelling, as access to domestic needs begin to be met by other spaces and technologies. In a sense spaces such as the workplace, non-places, and places of play have all become spaces that have domestic relevance. Individuals are now able to find the comfort of home in any setting and are no longer using the dwelling as the space to serve the function of this comfort. This function of comfort is being sufficed by the global culture, where aspects of the personal life are being done by others. The growth of a service industry, technology, and a consumer culture has relieved many people from the domestic responsibilities people once had. Typical house moms during the industrial revolution have many tasks to complete during the day and


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4.5 The detached single family home is no longer relevant to the individuals that make up a nuclear family and have become a generic storage container.

were normally confined to the boundaries of their homes. The contemporary mother has be alleviated of many of these task and now has the freedom and opportunity to leave the home during the day and even complete many of these tasks while not confined to the boundaries of her home. I speculate that the idea of family is becoming diluted into a broader set of characters that specifically satisfy the complex needs of individuals. Because we live in a network culture and have a broader reach of relationships, the dwelling can no longer serve as a single node for a group of individuals, rather the home needs to become hyper-individualized. This does not mean that people themselves are living in solidarity, it merely states that people have an inherent need to have control in the spaces they live in, and the single-family home isn’t satisfying the different identities that it is containing. Even when looking into the individual rooms of the family members, the architecture does not represent these individuals. The room themselves are generic spaces and can be anywhere, but are filled with content that may begin to create an identity or express the person that they are. If anything is done to the room, it is very superficial. The wallpaper may be changed, pictures may be hung, but the room itself is still the generic box that is copy and pasted a thousand times in the detached single family home around every suburb in the world.

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Network Culture and the Family Contemporary single-family homes that house the nuclear family are no longer relevant in the age of network culture. The traditional role of the home as a space that serves the functions that was once necessary for the individual members of the family, such as congregating to meet or to simply fulfill domestic duties, has for the most part diminished. The family members that make up the once “core discussion unit” have now become separate individuals that partake in many other core discussion groups. According to Kazys Varnelis “the self is not so much constituted by any notion of identity but rather is composed of “dividuals.” Instead of whole individuals, we are constituted in multiple micropublics, inhabiting simultaneously overlapping telecocoons, sharing telepresence with intimates in whom we are in near-constant touch…” The advent of social networking has made individuals realize the potential amount of relationships that exist and has allowed people to be more specific on deciding which individuals belong in their core discussion group. This ability to find people that are more similar to us and be able to associate with like-minded individuals is considered cyberbalkanization, in which there is a division of the world wide web into sub-groups with specific interests, to the extent that the members of this sub-group only refer to the this interest group for information and begin to see the world in this framed perspective. Although some believe there is a form of cyberbalkanization occurring within society, the act of agreeing with individuals more similar to oneself is a natural human instinct, and I believe technology has only give us the ability to express ourselves in a more direct manner as well as give us more control on how we want the world to perceive us. Social networking has given the individual the control of creating the image of their identity, although it has also allowed one’s identity to be at risk in terms of privacy. The freedom given to us by social networking has allowed us to identify ourselves with people that we find relevant and interesting to our lives. Not only does it have the capability of doing this, it is never a permanent solution, in that the network is always evolving and adjusting to stay relevant to the individual. Networking technology has given the users a sense of control of their environment, while the dwelling has failed to do so. The contemporary home acts as a generic shell for all the networking technologies that the inhabitants rely on to obtain a sense of control and comfort in their environment. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr offer a communal network that the user has precise control on how they want to be perceived and understood. The ability to send a message and know that everyone on his “friends” list will receive it further supports the jurisdiction the user has of his space. Family members have not only opened their networks to find others to be considered as core-discussion members but have also lost a sense of control over the domestic space they inhabit. The dwelling can no longer symbolize the family as a whole, rather it needs to symbolize each individual that make up the family. Communal spaces within the household such as the kitchen, living room, family room, have been become spaces of layered


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presence. These spaces have taken become containers that house a variety of activities and no longer function as they were designed for. Therefore, individuals that occupy the home become competitive over these spaces and when they are used by one individual for their need, others in the family lose control of the space they also inhabit. The tension between family members has become more evident as technology has shown the individual the ability to have control and express their identity and themselves.

Relevance and Proximity Network technologies have obviously freed the individual from using the physical home as a meeting place to coordinate things. Emailing, texting, and all sorts of telecommunicating have made the calendar hanging on refrigerator door in the kitchen obsolete. As a society, everyone is always on the go, making split second decisions about scheduling and coordinating their day-to-day lives. According to Kazys Varnelis “When we buy our first mobile phone we are unaware of how profoundly it will alter our lives. But soon we forget shopping lists in favor of the immediacy of calling home from the store to see what’s in the refrigerator. We stop scheduling dinner plans with friends long in advance when we instead coordinate them en route to a particular neighborhood. When we move away from intimate friends or family, we no longer have to lose touch. Even going away to college has a new meaning when children can call their parents just to say hi as they cross campus on their way to class.” Contemporary network culture can be seen as a global village, in which the age of multiple civilizations has ended and that one of a single global civilization is beginning. In this sense, electronic mass media has collapsed space and time barriers in human communication to result in an identical global society. Location and locality are no longer an exclusive pairing. The dwelling is no longer fixated to the physical confines of the property one many call home. The physical spaces that we live in have already begun transforming to accommodate for this spread of domestication of the public sphere. Take example for the office, once a separate physical space from the home. When the male in the family would leave for work for the entire day, there would not only be communication between him and his wife, but the physical construct of the office itself was also only a place for work to be done. When the day’s shift was over, the husband would leave the work environment and return to the domestic environment where he would again be with his wife and kids. In the past there was a clear division of the work and live spaces. In contemporary times, the office has no longer just been a place of work. Not only has network technologies given the ability for the husband and wife to communicate throughout the day, offices now are accompanied with a varied of spaces that allow for lounging, relaxing, socializing, and networking. The architecture of the office has begun to transform. Although this physical change in space is happening in the office, the same cannot really be said about the dwelling.

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There has definitely been an integration of the live and work spaces. More and more, people are not only bringing the work home, but some have completely begun working from home. In the past there has been a predefined space designed as the office, but these predetermined spaces no longer have any relevance on how people actually use the spaces within the domestic setting. The kitchen table, the living room, or the bedroom can no easily become spaces for an individual to convert into a work environment. What purposes do these predefined spaces actually serve? Work itself can also be done anywhere else, just as the home can be found anywhere else. The physical container of the home has lost relevance in this contemporary network culture. How can the architecture of the home express the control and temporal nature of this networked contemporary culture?

4.6 Abandoned parking lots sitting disused, run down, and sometimes occupied by inhabitants.


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The contemporary single-family dwelling has become a generic container associated with suburban sprawl, countervailing trends such as industrialization and urbanization. The relationship between these detached units and any sense of social interaction occurs in proximity to the “local” shopping center. Inhabitants of these communities leave the isolation of their private residence and embark on an introverted journey in their automobile to the contemporary “public square” the private parking lot before reaching their destination, whether it is their “local” shopping center or to work in downtown. This vast expanse of paved space for automobile storage, although private, has the potential to catalyze a series of networked polycentric structures that house individuals based on current core-discussion groups rather than by nuclear family because these urban voids are scattered uniformly throughout the built environment. The vacant parking lot is already a place of various temporal activities that constantly change and evolve with the needs of the inhabitant. According to Michael Kimmelman “Hundreds of lots already are taken over by farmer’s markets, street-hockey games, teenage partiers, and church services.” Why must individual family members be tied down permanently to a specific core-discussion group, when in reality, people’s relationships are no longer bound to the physical location they inhabit. Contemporary society has become hyper-connected through technological innovations such as social networking and mass media, and no longer need to be forced to gather in a common space with the nuclear family, rather they can coordinate these interactions, whether it be virtual or face-to-face. The urban void of the parking lot holds characteristics of how individuals conduct themselves in this networked culture and therefore would be an ideal site for the setting of the contemporary home. Confining domesticity to a particular physical location is a generalization of the past; as contemporary society can be seen as fragmented into intangible clusters of people extending beyond one primary discussion group. The simplification of a concentrated singular meeting space cannot stay relevant in a society that has gotten so much more complex. Urban voids can be seen as playful transitions in the monotonous cityscape. The spaces come and go and are never permanent. There are new forms of architecture where technology and rapid time are used to create fleeting places of ephemeral play. Nomadic raves and other temporary activities are transforming leftover urban spaces in a span of a few hours, creating astonishing impact with little permanent change. The constant nature of these temporal activities can act as a vehicle for more permanent uses of these elusive sites. These characteristics are similar to that of the contemporary family in that at any given moment a space can be transformed into a make shift domestic space. These empty lots or spaces are the only spaces left in the contemporary city, where there still might be a possibility, if they are appropriately activated by intelligent design and can potentially produce spontaneous, idiosyncratic experiences. Rather than letting these empty lots act as just storage areas for the vehicles we use, we can activate them as places to dwell, because the dwelling in itself has become nothing more than a place to store our material goods. Lots become urban voids not because they are empty, but when they are occupied

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by automobiles, leaving these spaces vacant of life and activity. If they public programs as well as dwellings were established on these sites, a new possibility will begin to emerge that will potentially re-generate life in many urban settings. Because parking lots are abundant in many urban spaces, they tend to be easy sites to network if the infrastructure already exists that strings them together.

Nomadic Network Urbanism A relationship can be made with what I propose and what already exist. Our contemporary society has already developed a nomadic network urbanism that challenges the traditional model of a static urban settlement. The most sophisticated nomadic networked urbanism is that of the of great magnitude, with between two and three million retirees communicating predominantly by two-way satellite internet living out of mobile dwellings. According to Deane Simpson. “ This phenomenon may be defined in contrast to traditional spatial logics of urbanism, in as much as it is mobile, informal, non-hierarchical and network-based. Operating as a contemporary manifestation of the concept of unsettlement, RV urbanism will be framed therefore not simply as an anti-urban phenomenon, but as one that offers an alternative vision of urbanism- a low-density urban field given coherency through media.� The RV infrastructure consists of three elements. The first would be the system of roads and highways that create the transportation infrastructure, while the second would be the sites that these vehicles inhabit, such as parking lots or campsites. The third infrastructure is that on the non-physical or virtual. It is based upon increasingly sophisticated and widely used on-board RV communication such as the two-way satellite internet access. These infrastructures may be adapted to the proposal for the contemporary home. The parking lots will be nodes while the mobile domestic catalysts will drift from one mega-structure to another to maintain a sense of locality and relevance in the proximity of individuals that one is surrounded by. Car living is another form of dwelling that does not involve a source of fixed residence, where the inhabitant is capable of moving from place to place. Car living has become more prevalent in contemporary society out of choice or necessity as the cost of living in urban environments has slowly become more expensive. This sort of make shift establishment has created an urbanism that is free flowing and has an ability to maintain relevance in a society that has become so splintered with the advent of digital technologies and an array of different views, rather than the singular view that was once able to keep a group of individuals as a collective. The problem with the dwelling is that it has become impossible for the contemporary home to project ideals and the identity of the individuals of the nuclear family, because the family is not longer a coherent unit. The nuclear family has become a collection of individuals that have their own agendas and values, but maintain a relationship of the nuclear family through coordination, scheduling, and planning which are all no longer bound to the physicality of the home but are increasingly becoming more and more accessible from the most remote or unthought-of area.


Justin Tien

4.7 An RV community has also been called a leisure nomad and the image above shows networked rv urbanism that and how domestic spaces can be connected even though they are physically in separate locations, but still can share a sense of community.

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Fixed program Elements: Schools, Office, Recreational Space.

Fixed Individual units that would be clustered around specific fixed program elements.

Circulation for vehicles and inhabitants. These are also public meeting spaces that can be used as domestic space.

Composite of the entire mega-structure that would be activated by domestic catalyst.

4.8 Potential parking lots in Los Angeles that can be inhabited by the contemporary domestic megastructure.


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Networked Lots The single family home is no longer relevant in the contemporary network culture, as an alternative, The contemporary dwelling should consist of core-discussion groups to live in temporal spaces in proximity to each other rather than with nuclear families. The contemporary dwelling will not merely contain the networked technologies that exist as environmental controls for the individuals; rather it will integrate these systems within the architecture for the individuals to begin to gain control of their physical environment. According to Mizuko Ito “An increasing number of people are domesticating networked digital media for their ongoing business, for socialization and for cultural exchange. This is particularly true of the current generation of teens and young adults in post-industrial countries growing up with networked digital media as a fact of life.” The structures that will be the new contemporary dwelling will also house other aspects of daily life. The building will also have schools, offices, commercial development, and public spaces. The families living within each lot will still be living under the same roof as their other nuclear family members, but they will just be scattered throughout the complex, in proximity to other relevant individuals who are also inhabiting the complex. The high school for example will be in proximity to all the kids that attend the school. Classmates will be able to live in proximity to friends they have made, but will have the ability to switch rooms as their relationships grow and diminish with certain individuals. The father, who may work at a consulting firm, will be placed in proximity with peers who he may find relevant. Rather than being forced to be living with individuals in the consulting firm, he will have the capability to decide and cluster up with people that share mutual hobbies or activities. If he really enjoys tennis, a community of tennis players may begin to cluster around the sports facility and the proximity of his living situation becomes his core discussion group when he is occupying that area of the building. One then asks what happens to the nuclear family. Because in a sense, the nuclear family is still in a reachable proximity within the structure, they may use networked technologies to coordinate and schedule places to meet within other programmatic spaces that exist within the building. Because the entire building is a communal space, the complete public spaces have become domesticated. Tele-presence is another way of communicating within the building, as each individual’s room can be virtually connected with a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were to be present at a place other than their true location. This form of telepresence videoconferencing will be integrated into the architecture, so that the room that an individual occupies will actually feel like it is expanding as one begins to communicate “face to face” with someone else. This face to face interaction will be projected at a one to one scale, magnifying the presence of the individual on the other end. This realistic rendering of the individual will allow the two people telecommunicating to exchange ideas and talk like if it were in person, but it will also collapse the spaces that they inhabit into a hybrid digital/physical space, while fusing the two private rooms into a semi-private space.

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Individuals will have their own personal unit with standard utility program, such as: bathroom, kitchen and private and semi-private spaces. These standardized units will be activated by a domestic catalyst. The domestic catalyst is a mobile unit that will act as a storage container of physical possessions as well as virtual ones. These catalysts will have the ability to attach to an individual’s vehicle and can be plugged in from one standard unit to another. This mobility, gives the individual the freedom to choose who they are living in proximity to, as well as still have the opportunity to bring their control to the space. The domestic catalyst will have storage areas that allow the user to transport belongings and act as a storage container, the same way the contemporary home is becoming. Integrated into the panels of the mobile catalyst will be screens that become portals that link individual spaces, allowing for these private places to become connected with other private spaces. The ability for these portals to exist will be through tele-presence technology, in which the entire panel of the mobile catalyst will become a wall within each individual until and this led wall panel will not only be the interface between the virtual and the virtual, but will now be an extension of physical interaction. One panel will be attached to a track on the ceiling of the semi-private space, and can be used to entertain guests while people are visiting the inhabitant. The other panel will slide onto a track that is located on the ceiling of the private space. These panels are attached to shells, that can create spatial variation, and the interior of these shells are highly customizable for one’s identity. The inhabitant of the space will also have total control of the content that appears on the interior of the panels. These panels can display virtual content that one has accumulated over time, relationships within their network, or a constant feed of updated news and information. Mobility of the units will free the nuclear family from living within physical proximity from each other on a constant basis. This allows there to be a flexible relationship of one’s living situation. Like network culture, the importance in living is no longer put on the individual dwelling itself, but on the connections it has with others and its relationship to others. The mobility is not only restricted to the structure that sits at the current lot the domestic catalyst is occupying. It has the ability to move from structure to structure as the individual has the freedom to live wherever he may want to be. It also allows for the flexibility to have the dwelling stay relevant in that the inhabitant is always surrounded by others that may have some sort of relevance in their life during that moment of inhabitation. If there needs to be some sort of face to face interaction, individual family members can schedule time to meet or inhabit adjacent units. These fixed units will be paired next to programmatic spaces such as schools, work place, or public facilities and can be occupied for any duration, from a temporal one-night event to something more permanent. According to Buckminster Fuller “... the notion of self-contained permanent settlements is obsolete... an urban strategy termed ‘unsettlement’, consisting of a network of hyper-mobile nomadic bodies operating at the scale of the entire world connected through invisible radio links.” Fuller anticipated a form of urbanism that would emerge as a reality with the birth of network culture and the ability for one to begin domesticating spaces that were once not thought of as in the realm of the home.


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4.9 Composite of individual unit with personal vehicle parked.

4.10 Closed domestic catalyst docked on railing system

4.11 Domestic catalyst deployed inside individual unit, activating the space.

4.12 Fixed elements within the individual unit consisting of kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.


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4.13 Domestic catalyst being used allowing for telecommunication through the panels in both the private and semi-private space.

4.14 The domestic catalyst closes up, also storing all of the inhabitant’s physical and virtual possessions.

4.15 The personal vehicle attaches to the domestic catalyst and is towed away. The DC can be deployed at another unit in proximity to another program or inside another mega-structure.


Justin Tien

In a sense, the contemporary family can be seen as a nomadic group of individuals that have adapted networking technologies to schedule and coordinate meeting and spend time together face time face, while simultaneously spending time with each other even when not physically present. The domestic catalysts paired with fixed program and individual units give the opportunity for the inhabitant to playfully drift from location to location, connecting with others that are relevant to their life.

Conclusion Architecture has failed to reflect the needs of the individuals that make of the family. People have moved onto other mediums to find the control they once had with the physical built environment by shifting into a digital and networking culture. The ability to have control of one’s identity, environment, and space in the digital realm are at the tips of one’s fingertips. One needs to understand that architecture no longer has the ability or capability to represent a collective of users. Architecture needs to break down to the fundamental relationship of building and individual. In order for the dwelling to stay relevant to an individual, the individual needs to feel the sense of comfort and safety through the control of their environment, something that architecture can grab some fundamental concepts from network culture. Versatility in fixed and temporary is another characteristic that can begin to define the contemporary network culture. Relationships are never as grounded, as people begin to move from place to place due to jobs, or other reasons. This can greatly affect the dynamics of the family and in turn needs to be expressed in a certain way in which the dwelling is constructed or represented. The home can’t only be seen as the plot of land with the white picket fence. The home now crosses these boundaries, into the cloud, overseas, and everywhere in-between. Architecture needs to break from its trends of appealing to a collective and its ideals of permanence. In order of the contemporary home to stay relevant, it needs to appeal to the individual and be mobile.

End Notes: Koolhaas, Rem, Generic City from S,M,L,XL (New York, Monacelli Press, 1995), 1249-1250 Williams, Brian; Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom (2005). Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships. Boston, MA: Pearson. Anderson, Walter Truet. 1990. Reality Isn’t What it Used to Be. San Francisco: Harper and Row. Varnelis Kazys (2008). Networked Publics: Conclusion: The Meaning of Network Culture, Boston, MA: MIT Press. Varnelis Kazys (2008). Networked Publics: Conclusion: The Meaning of Network Culture, Boston, MA: MIT Press. Kimmelman, Michael (2012). Paved, But Still Alive. New York, New York. The New York Times. Ito, Mizuko (2008). Networked Publics: Introduction, Boston, MA: MIT Press. Fuller, Buckminster. Delos 1 Conference. 1963. Cited in Mark Wigley, Network Fever, GreyRoom 04, MIT Press Summer 2001. pp.121-122.

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4.16 The invitation cards for Cache Jackson Studio Thesis Show.


Justin Tien

Cache+ Thesis Show Take a quick look at Cache at http://vimeo.com/42429820 Cache was this year’s thesis exhibition that featured 19 unique and provocative undergraduate architectural thesis projects whose diverse themes were united in the studio’s ambition to re-frame the physical world as a place of augmented experience. This augmentation-whether critical, playful, socially catalyzing, or individually empoweringwas intend to demonstrate the as yet untapped potential for architecture to produce physical operations on the public’s sense of reality that are commensurate with the highly participatory, interactive, creative, and authorial types of experiences that the public has already embraced in the other forms of media that have so far dominated the contemporary discourse on digital and network culture. The format of the exhibition capitalized on these themes of participation and augmentation, presenting each thesis project’s content as a series of informational layers ranging from the purely physical to the purely virtual, and accessible through both traditional as well as novel forms of viewing.

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4.17 The decoder pad is being used to obtain extra content from the upward facing projectors.


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4.18 The decoder pad is being used to obtain extra content from the upward facing projectors.

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4.19 People gathered around the the main aisle looking at projection surfaces and physical models.

4.20 The decoder pad hanging and catching the flickering lights of the upward projections.


Justin Tien

4.21 A group of individuals decoding additional content provided by the decoder pads.

4.22 Basic setup of projection surfaces that display each individual thesis project.

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Justine Tien Thesis Book