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portfolio [selected works] Christopher Wagner Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Graduating Class: 09 / 10






projects A Delicate Balance The Watchtower American Embassy Smartcar Dealership Chumash Cultural Center




process sketching Fifth Year Fourth Year Third Year


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artwork Perseus and Medusa Corporal Studies Florentine Context Collage


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photography Central Coast, California High Sierras, California Florence, Italy Cinque Terre, Italy Rome, Italy Venice, Italy Montalcino, Italy Barcelona, Spain

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Christopher Wagner 1039 Montalban Street #403 San Luis Obispo, CA 93405 805.540.9136

EDUCATION California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo, CA Cumulative GPA: 3.92 - Summa Cum Laude

Cascade High School - Leavenworth, WA Cumulative GPA: 4.0 - Valedictorian

ACHIEVEMENTS AND HONORS 2004 - 2005 Rotary International Foreign Exchange - Barcelona, Spain (Language / Culture Studies) 2008 - 2009 California State University International Programs - Florence, Italy (Architectural Studies) CPSU Dean’s List: Fall 2005 / 2006 / 2007 / 2009 . Winter 2007 / 2008 / 2010 . Spring 2006 / 2007 / 2008 CPSU President’s List: Academic Year [ 2006 / 2007 ] . [ 2007 / 2008 ] Top Graduating Academic Scholar: College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) AIA Henry Adams Medal 2010 - Excellence in Architecture Don Floyd Memorial Scholarship 2008 / 2009 CSU International Programs Scholarship 2008 / 2009 Kruger Bensen Ziemer Architects Scholarship 2009 / 2010

REFERENCES R. Thomas Jones - Dean, College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) (805) 756.5916 campus office Margarida Yin - 3rd-year professor and architect (805) 756.1381 campus office Greg Wynn - 2nd-year professor and architect (805) 756.2074 campus office (805) 544.2239 professional office

DIGITAL EXPERIENCE Graphic Design: Photoshop CS4 . InDesign CS4 . Illustrator CS4 Production Drawing: ACAD 2010 . REVIT 2010 Conceptual / Rendering: Sketchup 7 . Rhinoceros 4 . Maxwell 2 Other: Word . Powerpoint . Excel



freehand sketching . hard line drafting . various media: prismacolor pencils and markers model making: conceptual / developmental / finish full-scale mockups: furniture

origins I grew up in a tiny tourist town in central Washington right at the base of the impressive Cascade mountain range. Think Solvang - but with a Bavarian theme strictly enforced - and a more accurate environmental context, perhaps. My parents had moved to Leavenworth from Idaho with the dream of starting a summer theater, however the first year was nearly a complete failure as wide spread forest fires doomed all tourism for the area. Fortunately, the next summer they gave the idea one more shot, and riding the success of a contextually brilliant show for the area, The Sound of Music, the company’s success has grown exponentially now for more than a decade and a half! While my first experiences in architecture, like many young children, evolved from a distinct obsession of playing with Legos, they begin to evolve due to my constant involvement working alongside my father designing, constructing, and maintaining theatrical sets, stages, amphitheaters, and surrounding landscape. Although this form of architecture was often rudimentary at best, it taught me at an early age about the balance between creativity, cost, and feasibility in producing physical manifestations of an idea, as well as the difficulty in putting disparate parts together. In High School, I still wasn’t particularly interested in architecture or construction, although I can remember being blown away looking at the work of a local architect at a career fair. My time was divided almost evenly between school and athletics, the latter consisting of varsity soccer and basketball. The one small indication that I might pursue a career in the industry came in the form of my senior project, a wooden staircase I designed and built to help improve circulation and safety on a steep hillside along a frequently used pathway to school. Nearing graduation, I still didn’t have clear picture of my future, despite being the sole Valedictorian for my graduating class. So instead of rushing off to college, I decided to follow the footsteps of my older brother and spend a year abroad through Rotary International Foreign Exchange. I spent the next year of my life enjoying a wanderlust experience in Barcelona, Spain - the city which can single-handedly claim convincing me to pursue architecture. Amidst the greatness of Gaudi, but not forgetting a wealth of other interesting, more contemporary work, I was transfixed by the architecture of this strange place. Although my day-to-day life was often occupied with hours of meaningless classwork, I still found endless time to pursue my love of the “derive”, that is to say wandering through new neighborhoods with the only objective being to experience random space. Along the way, inevitably, I also found out how much I enjoy learning and practicing foreign languages, and experiencing foreign culture. My application to Cal Poly was completely on a whim, as by then I had realized two things: one, that I was interested in becoming an architect, and two, that I wanted to live somewhere more Mediterranean than Washington State. Overall, my experiences in San Luis Obispo have been overwhelmingly positive. After five arduous years trying to figure out this thing called architecture, I can’t claim to be an expert, but certainly someone very much still on board for whatever comes next. The diversity of curriculum and staff at the University have prepared me for success at the next level, and has rubbed off on me, as I hope will be self-evident in the work contained in my portfolio. If there is one concrete thing I’ve learned so far, it would be that practicing architecture is a balancing act, on so many different levels. Along the way to graduation, I have also become a much more diverse person outside of school. I was incredibly fortunate to spend another entire year abroad during my 4th year of studies, in Florence, Italy. Here, I was able to add another spoken language to my arsenal, broaden my historical foundation, and truly fall in love with another place and culture (or shall we say, lifestyle). It was easily the best year of my life so far! My love of food and wine has also branched out into small amateur hobby, as beyond the daily enjoyment of cooking, I am very much interested in baking artisan breads, wine tasting, and being an at-home pizza chef. I also place a high value on staying active, which I find to be the key in staying healthy and balanced in life. Currently, I divide my time between recreational soccer, hiking, biking, trail running, and the occasion rock climb. Finally, I am a musically-inclined individual, having grown up in arguably the most musical family ever. I played piano for eleven years prior to switching to electric and acoustic guitar, which I have continued to play for the last six to seven years. I firmly believe that keeping a variety of interests in life is the key to longevity and continued happiness.


personality I am still, and have always prided myself on having been, a very hard-working, organized, and persevering individual. Whenever I start something, I remain committed to carrying it through to the finish, at all times trying to maintain a consistently high level of quality. This has been a blessing for me in life, as I have been able to find success as a direct result at every step along the way. Although I don’t want to take anything away from myself in terms of raw talent and potential, I do achieve a large amount of my success by working harder and longer than those around me. Another quality I possess is the ability to quickly learn and adapt to new situations, whether that means using or learning a new software program, performing an unfamiliar task, or working in a new position. Some of this flexibility is now inherent in my character, having spent two years abroad, adjusting on my own to unfamiliar environments, cultures, and languages. However, to focus on architecture-specific examples, I spent the first three years of Cal Poly without using a computer, beyond remedial photoshop work for scanning images and organizing posters. I had developed my entire skill set and process through trace, drafting, and models. Since that time, I have completely mastered using Sketchup, also worked with Rhinoceros and some CNC fabrication, gone through the motions with three disparate rendering programs, grown significantly in my skills with the Adobe creative suite, and kept up a basic proficiency with AutoCAD and Revit (originating from a course taken during my third year of studies). These digital advancements have significantly improved my ability to think in three-dimensions and envision more detailed, realistic buildings, and have also helped streamline my process to allow me to produce and explain ideas ten times faster than before. Still, even though I believe that I have very strong computer skills, I also hold on to what I think is still the foundation of good architectural design, that is to say always starting with a pen or pencil and a simple sheet of white paper. Although I can be very professional and serious at times, I am also a very easy-going, friendly person who enjoys life, having a good time, and above all a good sense of humor. I try not to take life or myself too seriously, and still maintain some of that simple childhood joy and awe. I am easy to get along with, both reliable and committed, and just a pinch ambitious. While I think that architecture and my career in general are of the utmost importance, I also firmly believe in a balanced lifestyle that allows for a healthy proportioning between work and personal time. That being said, I can’t wait to see what the rest of my life will hold for me in the industry, as I expect to be heavily involved for at least the next fifty years!


2_introduction career objectives + design philosophy In the next five years, my goals are to complete the IDP process, pass all parts of the ARE, and become a registered architect in the state of California. Concurrently, I will pursue LEED certification. I am looking for a firm that is willing and eager to help me develop these goals, and provide the mentorship and opportunities necessary to fully develop all aspects of my professional experience. I recognize that even after five years of architectural education, I have at best a generalized grasp of the skills and knowledge-base necessary to be a successful architect. As a result, I am very much still in need of education and nurturing. Although in school I’ve become well accustomed to the design process and schematic requirements of diverse project types, I am lacking the practical, professional experience that comprises the actual functioning body of the industry. As a designer, I am not particularly interested in architectural “style�, instead I think good design treats each project as a unique challenge, responding to the site and program with creativity, in addition to utilizing responsible climactic strategies to minimize adverse effects to the environment and provide comfortable, durable space. Also, I believe that process is equally, if not more, important than the final product of architectural design. There can be many solutions to any single architectural problem, some better than others. At the end of the process no project will be perfect, but with a comprehensive and thoughtful approach within the given time frame, one can be confident of having done their best.






A Delicate Balance 5th-year thesis project

[in progress - spring quarter 2010]

location: Seattle, Washington date of completion: Academic Year 2009 / 2010 project brief: My thesis is about changing the current relationship between people and the natural environment, one in which our standard approach has been to rely on new technologies to try and solve climactic problems. It is our innate human nature that attempts to resist change and seeks to control our surrounding environment. The natural environment has long been thought of a known threat to our human survival. It should come as no surprise that the architecture we generally choose to design and inhabit treats climactic forces with the same type of enthusiasm. I am proposing a paradigm shift in the way we understand and relate to the current environmental crisis, a change in perspective and attitude that goes beyond our stubborn habit of expecting emergent technologies to solve the immediacy of much larger problems. If we change the manner in which we design our inhabitations, work places, and gathering centers, we can hope to achieve this paradigm shift. By intentionally designing an architecture that takes control away from people and allows some degree of variability through the unpredictable climactic forces of nature, I am hoping to reintroduce some level of balance and co-existence between the built and natural environment. Perhaps this variability and lack of control would help people to understand that we are just a small part of a much larger, impossibly complex ecosystem, one that demands humility and co-existence instead of new technological solutions alone. To showcase my thesis idea(s), I am designing a complex multi-use public / private development within the confines of a large site located alongside the southern shore of Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. This development consists programmically of a work / live community housing units of various sizes, a community center comprising of a theater, reception hall, rehearsal / conference / activity rooms, a multi-use covered athletic court, and a public pool, and finally a large, immersive park that unites both public and private elements together, creating a gathering hub not only for the immediate neighborhood, but also for all of Seattle. I’ve chosen to pursue a complex program because my thesis idea(s) should be applicable to all parts of life, and therefore require residential, occupational, and recreational components at a bare minimum. The particular program specifics also have evolved from a current document published by the city of Seattle outlining goals for the revitalization of this particular neighborhood, including the creation of a community center and additional housing units in anticipation for a population surge in the next two decades. This is my most recent architectural project, and although it is not fully complete (it is still very much in progress as I complete this portfolio), I think it is comprehensive enough at this point to provide an accurate display of some of my current ideas and skills.


Critical Agenda [a critique of both the current state and future directions of the modern city and the culture of the people who dwell within it (and the inevitable direction of an eternally progress-driven society, one that continues to disregard and distance itself from nature and the reality of climactic issues] Architecture, particularly in urban settings, has a strict legacy of control over the forces of nature. While this creates the illusion of a safe, cohesive abstract system that represents progress, we are actually growing apart, more than ever, from both the external environment and each other. Relationships are fragmented and abstract, and our effect on our surroundings is no longer significant or obvious. According to the French product designer Philippe Starck, “We are in a world where we have everything and nothing, or rather too much and nothing at the same time. A person can have a house crammed with equipment and furniture and still feel very much alone, you can be in tears in a huge mansion. And our environment can only evolve towards immateriality”. Relating life to the design of architecture, which is traditionally always geared towards monumentality, he goes on to say, “life is a symphony with loud movements and soft movements. Otherwise it becomes something unbearably strident”. Architecture has built itself up on a pedestal of monumentality, this strategy to resist time and the forces of nature unlike the reality that which our human condition provides. The buildings we’ve put up now and before contribute to a legacy of permanence and stasis, which now suddenly turns against architecture itself, as a fast-paced, image-obsessed society no longer places any value on these aging principles. Now that architecture doesn’t need to be monumental to be relevant, it needs to respond to and engage its inhabitants to remain significant. Meanwhile, the over-saturation of information and the complexity of current society has caused us to become even more numb, apathetic, and completely too comfortable with our day-to-day existence. It could be argued that with the progress of society, science, and technology-culminating in the endless urban city-we have become numb to even our mortality. The city, this human-controlled, almost completely artificial environment of concrete and steel, static world or shapes and shadow, has replaced nature with our strangely ideal new world. The city promises opportunity, excitement, success, social interaction, and the end-game that we should be happier. Our crowning human achievement-this playing of “God” on an epic scale, should be accompanied by dramatic social improvements as well. Consequently, have architectural design and a positive social agenda completely disconnected? What has gone wrong in the process that we are designing emotionless boxes of productivity, that oppress the inhabitants and confine them within restrictive spaces. It is interesting, especially in a city, that we might spend by far the largest percentage of our living moments in buildings, yet for the most part we don’t even acknowledge their presence. The average person is apathetic to the vast majority of well-intended architecture, beyond a purely aesthetic and basic functional critique, because without ever experiencing an architecture that promotes more than just an image and an expected function, they couldn’t possibly have higher expectations. These static, monumental forms that tower around us, enclose us, direct us, become boundaries and memories of a dated past and hopeless future. They offer nothing new. “The forces of capitalism have converted places that could encourage difference and interaction into non-places of homogenization and indifference. Diversity, encounter and change, qualities that urban environments seek to encourage are substituted by alienation and passive consumption. Commodification within capitalist cultural contexts has reinforced separation, fragmentation and atomization. Open spaces promote corporate images that reduce the public to mere consumers. Corporate plazas, shopping malls and commercialized skywalks arc all evidence of the privatization of what once was perceived as public space. Crucially, the ideology of corporations has infected public bodies, becoming the model for the redevelopment and expansion of the urban realm as a whole” (Parkour Reading). One area of life in particular, the traditional office work place, seems to suffer greatly from so-called modernity. These value-engineered spaces have become so efficient that they are almost considered non-places. The only character they possess comes about in direct relationship with the aesthetic manipulations of the workers at a micro-scale (I.e. cubicle


decoration). By so superbly controlling both the environment and the users within, they can be viewed as a finished, dead creation. This legacy of control is at the heart of the issue, and is the focus of needed change. How did our society arrive at this unfortunate situation of alienation and isolation from nature and creativity? The human legacy of control began with the move from nomadic to agrarian societies. This trend has continually progressed until eventually the forces of nature could all but be ignored by humankind. This enabled humans to be more productive, working longer and harder hours, no longer concerned a subsistence-based lifestyle. The industrial revolution brought with it the advent of the machine age, and humankind could, for the first time, begin to populate cities without needing to worry about tending to the fields to feed themselves. The new jobs that emerged took place within enormous buildings erected for the sole purpose of keeping the environment at bay if only to get a few more hours each day out of the works. The invention of the light bulb and electricity only improved the efficiency and operability of this capitalist system. Now today in our modern society, although we wouldn’t think to compare our evolved work environments with those of the industrial revolution or even the modern-day sweatshop, in many ways they are very similar. The major component that still hasn’t changed is that work environments are designed first and foremost to maximize the profit at the expense of the worker. The monotony of these current spaces reflects the mentality of production-driven office space that suppress human nature and creativity in exchange for economic advantage and progress. They elevate consumption above the need for human well-being. When, if ever, and more specifically how, will the work environment become a place we want to spend time in-a space that benefits the worker, enriching their body and mind on a daily basis? But how much control over the environment do we really have? While we have been able in most cases to successfully quell human nature and enforce high levels of productivity at the expense of health and happiness, nature has never cooperated easily. Just in the last few years we have seen the levee disaster in New Orleans, as Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the city and populace within, the tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, which killed over 200,000 people and destroyed the entire coastline, and numerous earthquakes around the globe that decimate structures, killing and trapping inhabitants within. Beyond these large-scale natural “disasters”, if we must call them that, routinely we see wildfires, landslides, tornadoes, and floods effortlessly destroy mankind’s physical landscape. Now, the growing threat of climate change and global warming seems to promise us a whole new set of issues. Maybe the legacy of control over the environment isn’t the best human response to our “condition” on this planet, and all our technological progress hasn’t led us to that fictional “promised land”. Christian Norberg-Schulz says it best in the following description about architectural phenomenology, “The basic act of architecture is therefore to understand the “vocation” of the place. In this way we protect the earth and become ourselves part of a comprehensive totality. What is here advocated is not some kind of “environmental determinism.” We only recognize the fact that man is an integral part of the environment, and that it can only lead to human alienation and environmental disruption if he forgets that“.


Thesis [nature reclaims the city and its people - an alternative reality where interaction and engagement with climactic forces is emphasized in place of the current model of controlling and eradicating the reality of a given climate...] Architecture can instead become intentionally vulnerable to the destabilization by outside forces, making the occupants aware of a larger, cohesive system in which they are invited to partake in real relationships with both with the external environment and each other. This unconventional variability introduced through external forces promotes conscious navigation of what is traditionally mundane space for each of us in our daily journey between point a and point b--in essence this new architecture provides the spark to wake us up from our passive relationships with monotonous space. The city will be a testing ground for the rediscovery of an acute ancestral awareness of nature and our own intrinsic ties to an organic existence. The prevailing current urban design strategy is to control nature to the point of sheer domination. Our strange hesitance (but seemingly inevitable resistance to change) to consider the potential of built environments that adapt and change seems ironically-incompatible with our increasing obsession with product novelty and customization. While technology is practically expected to provide us with every possible solution to the innumerable daily “problems” that could befall us, and thus must change and adapt at a frantic pace, architecture has been long been left along the wayside as a static monument to the past. Technology has fully replaced any potential that architecture could or might once have possessed to cater to the changing demands of a fast-paced society. As cities become metropolises, and nature is pushed even farther away from these epicenters, inhabitants trapped within can become isolated from the reality of our earthly heritage. Instead of expecting urbanites to make lengthy pilgrimages to find refuge and rebirth in nature, could nature come back into the city? Not in a sense by adding another artificial and manicured city park, but by transforming the buildings in which city-dwellers spend the vast majority of their lives to give them a more acute sense of their mortality and fragility. Can the city become a more livable, healthy (albeit perhaps still partially artificial) environment? Statistically, for the first time more than half of the world lives in an urban environment. If our progressive human history can be trusted, it would be expected that the city will soon become the most occupied space on the planet. Can we entrust our cities, based upon their historical development, to take care of the needs of their inhabitants beyond providing for a fast-paced, consumer / information driven lifestyle? Is there another vision of the city that can be realized, and if so, can architecture seize this opportunity to redefine the ways in which our dwellings and workplaces can do more than enclose spaces for activities-that they can influence us to lead healthy, active, appreciative lifestyles based upon that renewed awareness of our organic reality? In short, if the city can’t be stopped, then nature will have to come into it. One area in which perhaps architecture can play a pivotal role deals with the current condition of the modern work place. Here, architecture needs to be an integral actor in creating an awareness of the environment. Instead of trapping workers within hermetically-sealed volumes that alienate humans from the outside world, and more specifically from the environment, the architecture of work places must strive to create a constant dialogue between humans and the unpredictable nature of reality. This disconnect from nature is part of the reason for why we have such a hard time changing our energyconsuming habits and mindsets-in short, we have become too accustomed (we’ve placed our entire trust) in the notion that “everything will work out” and the “invisible forces” that have always taken care of us will continue to do so in the future. This coming amidst daily reminders from nature that indeed not everything will work out, and that we need to be cognisant of the dynamic nature of our planet. On another level, architecture must work to empower the workers themselves (we design buildings specifically for them in the first place): the suppression of creativity and freedom of workers goes far beyond job titles and mundane, repetitive responsibilities. Architecture is a huge culprit for depriving workers of meaningful experiences in the places were they


spend the majority of their entire day. The work place has been wrongfully stripped of its potential to encourage human interaction, play, and creativity. Architecture must take upon itself this new responsibility of leading a revolution to overthrow the system of control and power that suppresses the occupant, creating a much-improved reality. One simple way to start achieving this interaction is to also allow users of buildings to physically interact and manipulate the built environment in conjunction with the variability of outside forces which are acting on the same entity or an interconnected part. Undeniably, there has been, and always will be, value placed on connections with nature. The best attempts by clumsy, rationalized human design fall inevitably short when compared to the beauty and awe inspired by nature. How can we differentiate the city and its buildings from nature? The city seeks to create a new reality outside the constraints of the natural environment, whereas nature (perhaps too obviously) embraces and adapts to changing conditions. In a city, all possible attempts are made to create a comfortable, consistent, and trustworthy environment that proposes in its essence a disconnect from the reality of organic life. Nature, meanwhile, acknowledges that at the core of all existence the distinct and very real possibility of death and is always present. Yet part of the joy of being in nature is this rediscovery of our very own mortality-grappling with a renewed sense of fear and vulnerability-the end game being that as we re-emerge into the civilized world, we find ourselves so much more appreciative and aware of our own existence. But living completely in nature is also incompatible with the human condition in today’s urban society. There exists then a balance in between openness, or complete variability, and full control. In short, the framework of this new urban architecture must allow for interaction and variability caused by nature and mankind within the limits of obvious human safety, structural, and other constraints.


Site Location

larger site context

current photo of site, looking out over S. Lake Union Why Seattle? It is one of the most progressive American cities, and one that still has strong ties to the environment. Still, it has urban sprawl that blocks its citizens from quickly discovering the natural environment within the city itself– and given that people in dense urban areas need places of escape, refuge, transition and contemplation, some form of meaningful space within walking distance that is both public and private would be welcomed with open arms.

immediate site context


Seattle is an urban environment with significant environmental variability. This creates a perfect testing ground for my architectural thesis ideas. However, under similar conditions the ideas can be universally applicable.

Initial Site Analysis Diagram

sun path, annual wind patterns, important views, public easements + downtown tram route

Site Photos

view south of downtown Seattle

old naval armory as existing

tram and adjacent boulevard

current site as existing

As opposed to a temporary escape, this new community will be a permanent escape within the city itself. Instead of solely promoting the “derive�, or random exploration of new spaces (essentially architectural wandering), I am proposing that the users of this community will be tempted to enjoy exploring the same space daily under the condition that it constantly changes and is therefore refreshingly interesting. This also will have the potential to stop and disorient the public, or those just passing through from point a to point b.


Climate Data


Case Studies

delft university of technology library . delft, holland (mecanoo)

olympic sculpture park . seattle, wa (weiss / manfredi)

vancouver convention centre . vancouver, bc (DA + MCM + LMN)

seattle civic center fountain (Kenichi Nakano & Associates)

wind veil, gateway village . charlotte, nc (Ned Kahn)

maremagnum center . barcelona, spain (Manuel de SolĂ -Morales)


Initial Program

[a delicate balance: also referring to balance between public and private space, built and natural environments, and efficiency vs. languid enjoyment in life]


the site is conceived of as both a gathering point, or “hub� for the South Lake Union community, as well as the rest of Seattle. however, it is also a transitional space in several ways: for those travelling around the lake path, for those visiting a work / live unit for business, for those transfering from the tram stop on the street to the community center.

Thesis Concept 1 [rain-activated “flipper facade”]

thesis concept location within overall project

conceptual flipper activation sequence (eight “components” per 16’ bay)

sunny day_zero degrees (no rain)

starting to rain_thirty degrees

raining_sixty degrees (flipping in progress)

rainy day_ninety degrees (gravity system full)

traditional gutter philosophy used to power system: water fills gutter buckets, balance is now out of place, latch releases, system goes 90 degrees and blocks façade, while opening up skylight above. when water drains, the system is restored again. will create a dynamic facade pattern across many bays


Thesis Concept 2 [floating “wind bridges”]

thesis concept location within overall project alignments (access rating)

all bridges aligned (easy)

bridges staggered (hard)

wind bridge single bay modular prototype (20’ long)


semi-alignment (medium)

wind bridges collect breezes and when unoccupied are able to glide on frictionless rail system attached to concrete islands from one side to the other, and stopping at any point in between. the alignment of the bridges makes this “fastest path” across the site either convenient or difficult to navigate. some users will try to cross efficiently while others will want to stop and enjoy the view, have a picnic, or read a book.

aerial perspective showing circulation complexity and gathering spaces

wind bridges and concrete islands . day rendering

wind bridges and concrete islands . evening rendering

21 design scheme development (not final design)

Thesis Concept 3 [“run-off plaza�]

thesis concept location within overall project

gradual filling up of plaza sequence the run-off plaza carves through the middle of the site, between the public community center spaces (theater, reception, activity rooms, etc.) and the private work / live community buried in the hillside. it is formed as a canyon between two sloping hillsides that channel run-off water into the plaza. the canyon starts slightly elevated at the entrance to the site from the east, and continues to descend ever so gradually until reaching the level of the actual lake (which does not fluctuate, since it is controlled by locks) beyond the community center volume, in the small bay created within the boundaries of the wind bridges path. in future iterations, the run-off plaza drainage pattern will favor thin paths at the highest elevation that connect major circulation arteries between the two larger volumes. when there hasn’t been a lot of rain, the whole plaza will be open for the public to enjoy, however as rain begins to accumulate, the plaza is reduced to purely functional circulation routes. luckily, the water will eventually drain off through a filtering system embedded in the plaza form work.

22 exaggerated vision (not final design . conceptual purposes only)

Initial Schematic Studies

initial site massing inspiration

massing and program combine

aerial view of initial proposal under development

“guiding lights” of units and wind bridges (conceptual rendering to be applied to final) work / live units vary in size from studios to entire family units based on scaling of “hillside”, while several outdoor ramps / paths cut throuigh hillsides to provide alternative circulation paths. the community will be well-lit and safe at night, both for private and public users.


Schematic Studies - Further Development

street-facing facade vision (flipping facade above + cascading louvers beneath)

interior public ramp leading to viewing amphitheater

massing view of amphitheather and circulation

aerial perspective of overall site massing

schematic site plan


flipping facade creates urban connection to city, while obscuring view of natural elements found throughout the actual experience of the site. perforated aluminum panels diffuse south sunlight into spaces, and create a filtered portico space between the actual building and the facade.

aerial perspective showing further development of overall project

activity spaces and theater / reception as seen from across the lake

interior conceptual rendering_rehearsal / meeting / conference /activity space wind bridges and concrete islands are now more refined (simplified). islands are flat, but delineated by strips of grass, hardscape (decking), or bare concrete with flush lighting, creating a varied surface and speed allowance when entering / exiting wind bridges. there are now several circular inset pools with stepping stairs to allow for some privacy for relaxing activities on the islands.


Schematic Site Plan + Axonometric

current site axonometric view from south east

current site plan showing development of run-off plaza and wind bridges


current site plan is rationalized and simplified from earlier versions. wind bridge path transitions from northwest corner of site to southeast, run-off plaza zigzags directly across east to west, breaking down into the bay and merging into a boardwalk that continues out around the shore and along the empty park. the upper ramp cuts through the live / work community hillside, providing additional access to upper stories and the viewing amphitheater at the end.

Schematic Sections and Details skylight

roof pavilion


loft office space

banquet / gathering hall

see: flipping louver detail

public entry

circulation ramp circulation ramp

existing buildings dining kitchen private entry / living room


primary site circulation


public parking

private garage

see: wind bridge section

lobby / reception

sleeping quarters

Valley Street

Lake Union




SCALE: 1/16” = 1’ - 0”

40 20


schematic longitudinal section showing work / live unit, run-off plaza transition, and theather / reception

spider clips with silicon gasket connection

vinyl canvas sail plate glass

composite decking

rigid aluminum alloy frame

plastic floatation component

WIND BRIDGE longitudinal section


8 4


SCALE: 1/2” = 1’ - 0”

WIND BRIDGE transverse section

longitudinal section showing two-bay (40’) wind bridge + transverse section rigid aluminum alloy frame

concave drainage holes

stainless steel rotating shaft copper louver funnels copper water bucket



4 2


SCALE: 1” = 1’ - 0”

detail of flipping louver component

first full study of work / live unit typical bay


Live / Work Unit Development

section rendering of typical work / live unit bay

rendering of spatial experience under development within work / live unit


work / live units composed of single or double bays (20’ wide each), with lofty vertical spaces for the living quarters on the top floor (accessible from the outer ramp) that are affected by a cascading “triple” flipping facade system. lower spaces used for additional family needs or storage / workshop space. at street level, offices or shops open out to a covered portico or an interior walkway beneath the “hillside”.

Design Development Details sliding wheel connection high density rubber track connection to concrete foundation frictionless core (delfin) c-channel clamp (stainless steel) sliding rail (stainless steel) hydrolic stabilizer steel plate rotating connection plastic floatation component steel plate connection (frame to beam) aluminum alloy structural frame







chris wagner studio jackson spring 2010

wind activating bridge movement

wind bridge prototype

wind aligns bridges to create a direct path

concrete islands and wind pattern combine to create irregular circulation across system

wind bridge detail

metal sheet perforation rotating axis rod aluminum structural truss drain pans / louvers upper drainage channel lower drainage channel upper drain pan lower drain pan concave bucket perforation gravity (water) bucket

rain activating interior spatial change

chris wagner studio jackson spring 2010







low intensity vegetation planting layer

flipping louver detail

green roof detail

filter fabric (drainage) rigid insulation root barrier membrane water proofing membrane structural metal deck


pre-cast concrete system

3.0” 12.0”


3.0” 3/4”








chris wagner studio jackson spring 2010


site plan

generalized site plan showing overall programmatic volumes, circulation paths, and thesis ideas within context


current project_diagrams


hillside interior space

interior rendering showing ground entrance to work / live units on left and gymnasium on right (upper path above)

interior hillside volume at night


current project_wind


wind bridges and concrete islands with theater / reception + work / live units community volumes in distance

wind bridges stay active at night with adequate lighting, acting as an alternative entrance to theather


single bay work / live unit at night, looking out upon Seattle skyline

rain-activated flipper facade final sequence showing transition from full sunshine to diffuse cloudy glow


current project_flipper


living room view up at flipper facade after full 90 degree activation (diffuse light, sound of rain on glass, skyward view)

[end of current project . middle of spring quarter 2010 . more work to come!]



The Watchtower

location: Florence, Italy date of completion: Fall 2008 (4th year) project brief: The project calls for a unique corner site in-fill architecture office and a separate large apartment residence. This new proposed design seeks to create a new architectural identity for this somewhat faceless peripheral neighborhood of Firenze. The architecture office is located in the lower volume, relating more to the immediate context, and creating a dialogue with ribbon windows and a large, street facing south “dynamic” facade. During the daytime, the transparency of the fenestration allows for observation by both the street citizens and by the architects. At night, the glow of hard working architects illuminates the streetscape and creates an exciting visual beacon both for traffic and citizens enjoying an evening “passeggiata”. In the nearby park. the upper volume is a large single-family residence orientated around a three story circulation cylinder with a direct view down to the street, far below! The various rooms are stacked alternately in section to create a more varied, interesting space and compliment the superb views from up high. This volume twists to create an intense cantilever, anchored back to the apartment blocks by a steel ladder that climbs up the back of the site. the twist creates betterframed views of the river Arno to the south and Fiesole and the rest of the Tuscan hillside in the background to the north. Then, the eastern ribbon window view creates nearly an unobstructed 180 degree view of historical Firenze. The simple volumetric forms that “hover” in space and rise up almost impossibly into the sky are developed following a roughly fourteen step criteria seen in the conceptual development section, in which the forms rise up, get thinner, twist, and are modified to respond both to the context and the solar conditions to allow for ample natural daylight and avoid over exposure to the typically hot Florentine summer months. The reflective metal monocoque skin wraps the linear volumes and reflects both the context and changing skies, as seen above. A comprehensive circulation system ensures a quick and safe egress, but more importantly creates interesting vertical outdoor spaces. The main mode of transportation is the elevator accessed from the street level, whereas the ramps and external stairs are primarily for exiting the buildings and in cases of emergency. Inside the architecture office, the elevator and internal spiral staircase are the primary modes of vertical travel, while in the residence a cylindrical void with wrapping staircases provides a very exciting daily experience travelling from room to room, as the view down the chute is, well, breathtaking. This external void in the center of the residence also helps by acting as a wind stack to relieve heat during the humid summer and fall, and as a private retreat into the fresh air. Finally, a dual system fenestration controls ensures that the occupants of both volumes have complete control over direct, indirect, or no sunlight at all, responding hopefully as intelligent users to the changing of the seasons and needs of the space. Diagrams of both the large facade and ribbon east and west windows control systems are found above in the section “constructional”.


original conceptual sketch


“The Watchtower” Project 1: Via Baracca Studio / Residence

conceptual vision

Site Location

site within context of Florence

specific site location along Via Baracca

site within neighborhood context


Site Location site context street view

Case Studies


site context axonometric

formal manipulation

conceptual origins the original concept for the design was to create a lightweight, delicately balanced “ladder”, better said a structural system, that would hold the respective volumes elevated “flying” in space. this concept was further developed into the idea of a modern-era “watchtower”, a beacon for a fringe neighborhood still searching for its own architectural identity and landmarks. the design strives to fulfill this need, creating an exciting, dynamic, reflective edifice that breaks up the connective apartment block and rises above creating a strong, almost provocative statement against the status quo. the twisting, vertically focused design schemes attempt to contrast with the context, yet relate, with the use of panoramic ribbon windows.


Final Elevations

south and west elevations (sun control off)

south and west elevations (sun control on)

Final Floor Plans / Sections

transverse section


longitudinal section

Final Floor Plans

floor 4

floor 1

floor 5

floor 2

floor 6

floor 3


Building System Elements

vertical structure

horizontal structure


floor plates

building envelope

sun control

Skin Construction Details

ribbon windows using vehicle “automatic window� technology


South Facade Shade System

south facade “hydraulic” sun control system

Wall System Explode

Wall Section Explode


Exterior Renderings

daytime rendering

sunset rendering

night rendering

Interior Rendering: Architecture Office

architecture (studio) office atrium


Interior Renderings: Residence

residence reading room

entryway vestibule



American Embassy

location: Florence, Italy date of completion: Spring 2008 (3rd year) project brief: This project addresses the creation of a new American Embassy for Florence, Italy in a quasi-fictitious location within the central core of the city. The programmatic requirements called for a singular edifice comprising around 95,000 sf. Three separate groups of space programming elements had to be reconciled, which included ten of the standard branches (sections) of an embassy, temporary housing for visiting diplomats, and finally a garden space and major connecting atrium. In addition, the design of a public piazza which would necessitate the setback of the actual building from the street was required. Building anything new in Florence is a challenge, not the least of which an American Embassy. Some of the contextual challenges in this historic city consist of being sensitive to the iconic skyline, in which the only two strong gestures are the city cathedral, il Duomo, and the government palace, il Palazzo Vecchio. This automatically placed a vertical limit at around four stories high, to blend in with the existing buildings around. As Americans, the worst approach we can take in the post-9/11 world would be to build an arrogant, flashy, aggressive embassy in a foreign country. In addition, heavy security requirements demanded outer wall reinforcement, minimal public entrance, and balustrades. As a direct result, several primary issues became the focal point of this exploration: mitigating the desire for transparency and dialogue between the city and the embassy with the necessity of high security; bringing ample light into the working spaces and providing a window as required by the EU within 15 feet of each worker, while providing safety from a car bomb blast radius; fitting all the programmatic elements within a tight horizontal and vertical space, and still having enough room to create a light-filled atrium and outside garden. An initial concept for the project was to conceive of this new building as the modern grand palazzo. To deal with the security requirements, branches of less importance would be situated at the ground floor, while the highest security offices would be placed on the top floor. The outer wall facade would start as a heavy, secure, buttressed mass at ground level, to deflect a bomb blast radius, and continue to grow more transparent with each floor as the security risks diminished. However, the facade would also move from opaque and rough at the bottom to smooth and reflective at the top, eventually fading into the sky above (the idea between a smooth transition from the built-to-natural environment and a modern material interpretation of Florentine rustication). In addition, the immediate space within the outer wall would actually be an exterior circulation corridor and breezeway, to help not only provide additional security space between the interior and exterior, but also to facilitate natural ventilation into the offices during the hot and humid summer months. There was a strong desire to blend the historical Renaissance heritage of Florence while incorporating a modern sense of American sophistication into the overall design. This was manifested in the use of both local gray marble (modified into modular panels) and reflective security glass and aluminum mullions along the facade. The main entrance is much more opening and welcome, cutting down into the heavy stone facade with glass, and leading to the grand atrium (the connecting core of all programmatic elements). This was made possible with the setback and balustrades created by the public plaza.


Final Plans

site plan showing plaza development and roof-scape


ground floor (typical floor plate)


Final Sections

longitudinal section


transverse section


Section Detail

typical office space facing security corridor and sidewalk


Final Model

overall massing

embassy entrance


Final Renderings

street level view of entrance

aerial view from south

marble panel facade system

outer security corridor


interior atrium

interior courtyard



Smartcar Dealership

location: fictitious abandoned gas station lot (usa) date of completion: Spring 2008 (3rd year) project brief: This project was a quick two-week introduction to the quarter in which we were asked to design a small dealership to showcase Smartcars. The site was a simple, rectangular fictitious gas station lot. The minimum requirements for programming included space to display the tiny cars, several offices and an information / reception area, a rest room, and adequate parking. My initial reaction was to use the storage of the Smartcars to also act as a changing billboard, so that as cars were sold and inventory was restocked, the cars would be placed along the southerly facade facing the primary intersection, as well as hoisted above to the second deck and into small cages facing the secondary intersection running perpendicular. As a result, the spacing of the structural bays and the general flow of circulation responds directly to the dimensions of a Smartcar. The main entrance approach is from the east, with processional staircases and a corridor allowing easy access from the parking lot to the south and east of the building. Around the backside, on the northerly facade, a disability ramp provides access for the handicapped. The disability ramp would have an outer wall cast of concrete with translucent panels to form a large sign with the letters of Smartcar inset. During the day, the sun would penetrate these panels from above and create a focal point for advertisement. In the evening, LED lights would illuminate the same panels. Drawing inspiration from MAC store designs, the interior of the building would be conducive to wandering and self-guided exploration of learning about the Smartcar, without bothersome, aggressive salesmanship. At the far end of the long space, beyond interactive screens, wall boards of information, and several different models of Smartcars (able to be viewed and experienced from all angles as well as inside and out), non-intrusive sales people could be contacted behind a bar for help.


Steel Design additional project brief: The second part of this project was to take the conceptual design of the dealership and develop two separate schemes for possible construction, the first utilizing a steel framing system, and the second a concrete pre-cast system, trying to maximize the efficiency and advantages of each. The primary purpose of this exercise was to first learn about typical details and connections for each system, and then to compare and contrast the advantages of each. The steel frame system favors minimum structural sizes but requires slightly smaller bays. This allows for large expanses of glass, which can easily be framed into the steel with aluminum mullions as a curtain wall system. Also, the steel frame is able to create significant cantilevers. One disadvantage is the lack of natural fire-proofing in steel, which necessitates the use of either intumescent paint or more intrusive spray-on plaster. In my design, I had specified a second-story deck to be used as a storage / display for several Smartcars. I also wanted to have a clean, column-free curtain wall facade where the remaining Smartcars could be viewed easily from the street and parking lot outside, as well as be walked around within obstruction on the inside. As a result, the actual columns for the frame are inset between the display area, circulation corridor, and the offices and on the far side. Between the cantilevered design and the need for additional strength to account for the load from the deck above, the girders are rather thick!


aerial view

east elevation

wall section detail

south elevation


Concrete Design additional project brief: The concrete design came second, and contains several deviations from the original steel frame plan. The overall framing involves pre-cast columns and beams, coupled with tilt-up concrete walls, with glass in fill. The design in steel didn’t properly account for the south sun exposure, despite the large cantilever, because of the large expanse of glass on the second deck that would essentially act as a greenhouse! To mitigate this issue, the design in concrete features a small cantilevered roof to block the summer sun angles, as well as aluminum louvers set within the interior just behind the seamless outer glass facade to provide additional sunlight filtering. The pre-cast members are deeper, thicker, and more visually imposing than their steel counterparts, and therefore the overall design of the building is now intensionally heavy, with planer elements, and glass frames. Some advantages of the concrete pre-cast system are the ability to cast members in a controlled environment off-site, ease of frame assembly, natural fire-proofing, and larger bay size. This allowed for more floor space free from the clutter of columns, and space between the floor levels to provide for a drop ceiling and duct system. Also, in this second design, the rather unrealistic steel cantilever was replaced with several concrete columns along the outer facade. One difficult part of the design was dealing with the small cantilever roof. The main volume was much too far to span in the longitudinal direction with a singular hollow core beam, so instead the planks would have to run transversely across the frame. As a result, the span between beams and girders would be filled with long, rectangular hollow core slabs cast off-site, topped with an additional layer of concrete to tie the overall system together. Above this, rigid insulation and waterproofing layers comprised the rest of the system. However, along the outer visible facade, modular translucent polypropylene panels had to be integrated into the overall system using aluminum clips and spacers. Overall, this concrete design was simpler and cleaner than its steel counterpart, although both had their own constructional and aesthetic advantages in the end.


aerial view

east elevation

wall section detail

south elevation



Chumash Cultural Center

location: Avila Beach, California date of completion: Fall 2007 (3rd year) project brief: The concept for a cultural museum representing the Chumash Indian Tribe cannot take place without an explicit connection with nature. The Chumash Indians once inhabited the very land that we “coastal Californians� now call the coveted Central Coast. They lived lightly on the land, giving back to nature for everything they borrowed, and at all times consciously strove for a harmonious existence. This integral connection to nature is the basis for my own conceptual ideas about what a Chumash Museum should be. In my two-dimensional collage, there is an exploration of a building that will focus on the incorporation of natural providence, that is to say the benefits we can reap from wind, water, earth, sun, and the seasons. As well, I envisioned a building with a solid, earthen core surrounded by circulation and support in the form of lightweight, non-intrusive pathways. The three-dimensional collage continues these themes, and adds to them, by focusing on the integration of found, natural materials that blend into the site, and the idea of large plazas covered by a light-diffusing outer shell. The client envisioned a long-span open structure with flexible partitions inside, and along these lines, I too will pursue the form and function that comes along with a long-span system. After weeks of site analysis and design development, the first official design concept for the Chumash Museum comes into light. The design follows the idea of a wave-form that attempts to mimic the hillside, and creates interesting spaces where it dips and undulates. The public spaces are organized to follow a direct axis through fossil point, and are the most pronounced, expressive buildings. Meanwhile, ancillary spaces hug the edges of the plateau, carving into the ground in an attempt to disappear into the earth. There is a central plaza that breaks up the museum experience, allowing for outdoor exhibits and a connection between the public and private circulation paths. A water feature snakes through the site, mimicking the wave-form plan of the ancillary spaces, while providing a visual continuum for guests, which starts at the museum entrance and ends at the fossil point viewing area. The museum is divided into two separate buildings, the first as a one-story volume, while the second contains a two-story volume with a viewing platform (the reward for making the museum journey experience). Initial ideas of structure and skin come into play, with a long-span glulam shell that covers thermally-insulated gallery spaces. The final design sees a significant revision of the original design. The main changes that highlight this new developing design focus on the rotation of the overall building form to perform better in terms of solar gain, day lighting, and relationship to the actual topography. The new design has maintained the wave-form in a sense, but now the public volumes relate well both to their function and program, and to the site as well. Elongated in an east / west direction, the major volumes provide a sweeping gesture that attempts to continue the pattern of the surrounding hillside, as if the manmade plateaus had never been carved into the site. As well, each volume increases and shifts, creating ample north light opportunities while providing for the experience of a cave, earth, and sky gallery. This new museum design focuses on the experience of the guest as they travel through different environments, all enclosed still in a long-span shell above. The ancillary spaces, in the meantime, relate directly to the main public volumes, almost as if they were pulled, and deconstructed off to the east axis. The scale of the overall form is broken down, and the smaller buildings attempt to blend into the receding hillside. A connecting pathway with a covering trellis brings the entire system together. Finally, the overall building layout relates to a grid created by axis lines through fossil point, and a secondary axis that runs through a smaller point, creating a unique thirty-degree shift.


Part 1: Conceptual Development

2D Concept Collage

Fossil Point Vista: East, South, West

3D Concept Collage

3D Site Collage

Part 2: Site Analysis


Part 3: Design Development

Site Section

Site Plan

Initial Gesture Model

Museum Site Section

Program / Plan Revisions

Museum Site Plan

Gesture Model Revision






section model

glulam-to-wall detail

bris soleil system allows views + blocks summer sun

drop cieling

overall section model - midterm model built to help explore + develop final construction ideas


Final Model

aerial view of buildings on site

view of connecting corridor and rolling hill gesture





A Delicate Balance (furniture project) materials:

birch plywood aluminum rods vynil covering foam and filler wood glue

plastic coated aircraft cables steel turnbuckles crimped aluminum sleeves steel anchor shackle dynatite cable locks

date of completion: Fall 2009 (5th year) project description: An entry piece for the Vellum Competition 2009 as part of my overall thesis project. This furniture project attempts to transform the idea of a static bench into a more dynamic, user-activated experience. The project title, “A Delicate Balance�, is speaking about the process of interaction that must occur both between multiple users and the furniture itself to remain in a functional balanced state. The more users that attempt to use the furniture and the more varied the positions of the seats are creates a system of disequilibrium in which they must work together to find a new balance that suits all. Although when in its purely sculptural state the furniture is both static and seemingly stable, it becomes instantly dynamic when a human force is applied. The creaking of the cables, rocking of the frame, shifting nature of the seats, and possibility even perhaps of sliding or falling off creates a sense of awareness that is unusual for a sitting bench. The agenda behind this experience is one of provoking human users to be more cognisant of their surrounding environments, to have some level of control over them, and finally to encourage them to actively engage that environment.


final conceptual rendering of project, pre-construction

finished product


project component explosion

possible uses (rendered and real)


rendered detail of cable connections

the bench in action (1)

the bench in action (2)

sliding seats detail (3)

79 finger joint detail (4)


5_process sketching


fifth year

senior design thesis_sketch of rain-directing skylight idea for urban parkscape

senior design thesis_conceptual idea for weather-activated transformatic space


senior design thesis_concept sketch for rain-activated public shelter

senior design thesis_detail drawing exploring wind-activated system to re-arrange interior


senior design thesis_site planning gesture dealing with solid / void relationships and light

senior design thesis_site planning sketch dealing with circulation, axis, and composition


senior design thesis_initial concept sketch of work / live units + planted roof park above

senior design thesis_development of work / live units + internal / external relationships


senior thesis project_overall site plan contextual relationships, circulation patterns, and grids

senior thesis project_site drainage diagram to help shape run-off plaza


senior thesis project_early development of flipper facade system

senior thesis project_early development of flipper facade system


senior thesis project_wind bridge transverse section sketch

senior thesis project_wind bridge details


senior thesis project_structural diagram for theater and skybridge

senior thesis project_conceptual section sketch of final work / live unit typical bay


fourth year


case study and site visit sketching / analysis of notable architectural project near Florence

third year

american embassy_project site and surrounding city context

american embassy_early conceptual sketch of entrance and light penetration potential


american embassy_program relationships and massing

american embassy_conceptual ideas


american embassy_contextual issues and early inspiration

american embassy_contextual issues and security study


american embassy_plaza development and section / massing detail

american embassy_section study


american embassy_facade explosion diagram

american embassy_interior atrium space early vision


smart car dealership_project development


chumash cultural center_southwest elevation sketch + building details

chumash cultural center_site axis and views diagram + roof massing

chumash cultural center_design development sketches of museum / offices transition





Perseus and Medusa media: black ink on paper with pencil underlay date of completion: Fall 2008 (4th year)


Corporal Studies media: black ink / charcoal stick date of completion: Fall 2008 (4th year)


Florentine Context Collage media: graphite pencil on paper date of completion: Fall 2008 (4th year)





central coast, california


high sierras, california


florence, italy



cinque terre, italy


rome, italy


venice, italy


montalcino, italy


barcelona, spain



portfolio [selected works] Christopher Wagner Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Graduating Class: 09 / 10

About The Author...

Chris currently lives in San Luis Obispo, where he has just finished up his collegiate career at Cal Poly. He is excited to enter the next stages of both his life and career, and looks forward to the challenges and rewards along the way.


CPSU Architecture Portfolio_concise  

portfolio of selected works and projects during five years of study at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA.