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Derek Belcher

Professional + Studio Works 2013


ke painful effort to ust ma shak m I “ e CESA : : Cen ter for Europ

a San Vitale,


: : College o f Architecture Blacksburg, Virgi +D

- 2009

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ean Studies + Architecture : : Riv

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Virginia Poly tech

Ticino Canto n

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owledge of our senses? ” he kn t Lou , t is A tan s n rag ni a on r o f n e ev

ign chelors of A rchitecture 2010

nia USA : : Ba


Tokyo 2011

Co-Owner of a family owned industrial business dealing with the design and fabrication of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) products for the coal, power, chemical and paper sectors. Tokyo 2012

Kengo Kuma Architects

Staff Asst : : Worked briefly to help manage construction of several client models for a theater project in Shanghai. Designed and fabricated final models as well as trained and delegated work for interns.

Skills + Craft

Digital : : Rhino, VRay, AutoCad, Adobe CS5 Suite, Lightroom 3.0, 3DSMax, Rapid Prototyping (Lasercamm, 3D-Printing, 3D-CNC), Photography, WebDesign, CSS, SketchUp Pro


itle s to o p po s

is derived fro edge that m re a nowl s o n he k ent Is t

Derek Belcher : : 2013

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Analog : : Wood working (Joinery, Carpentry), Ceramics, Plaster, Concrete, Acryllic, Screen Printing, Film Photography, Sketching and Perfect, Stitch, Japanese Bookbinding

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Industrial Design Products

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Staff Candidate : : Part of an international collaborative team handling projects, competitions, and installations of both domestic and international significance. Engaged in physical modeling from conceptual to finished, digital montage, 3D modeling and theoretical/ schematic development. Competed and won in the Beton Hala Waterfront Open International architecture competition for the design of a transportation hub, museum and cultural center in Belgrade, Serbia. Also assisted in the development of several constructed/published projects.

USA 2004-2010


Sou Fujimoto Architects

d seem natural, can credit woul wh , as a t my ind b

1 mpetition : : Joint Winner 201 Beton Hala Waterfront Intl Co 010 9-2 Dean’s List 200 and Scholarship 2009 ion ect Sel CESA olarship 2003-2010 Virginia Commonwealth Sch er 2008 n Competition : : Team Memb Virginia Tech Solar Decathlo 2003 iety National Honor Soc

Port + Culture Cente r Ticino

Atmospheres Switzerland


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la Ha n eto

et mp o C



::E v olu t io n of a


T h esi s



3 Regions • 3 Influences • 3 Projects


As a young art student I studied the classics as well as eastern art. I was fascinated by Zen, Karesansui (sand art) and the concept of Wabi Sabi in Japan. These were utterly alien concepts in the West. I fell in love with their ethereal ambiguity, their self-sufficient, esoteric and often irrational beauty. I lived and worked in Japan from 2011-2013, arriving shortly before the Great Tohoku Earthquake.

Wabi S Japan The concept of “Wabi Sabi� is what drove me to live in Japan. Though impossible to define (by nature) I would describe it as a reverence for the melancholic, transient, rustic, and empty. In other words, the beauty of the unbeautiful. The withering of fall leaves, a crumbling, overgrown statue, a humble, asymmetric folk ceramic. These items evoke the feeling of Wabi-Sabi. They exist with a kind of imperfection and ambiguity, which humanizes them.

Sabi American South I was raised in rural America, on my family’s farm. In the south, we have a kind of folk art which appreciates the deteriorating state of abandoned barns. There exists a kind of poetry in their disuse and decline. A melancholic appreciation I had not understood fully until I sought Wabi-Sabi in Japan.

eton Hala Competition [ 1st Prize ]

Sou Fujimoto Architects

Project : : Transportation Hub, Museum and Culture Center Location : : Belgrade, Serbia, Spring 2011 Designers : : Sou Fujimoto, Hideto Chijiwa, Derek Belcher + Team Brief : : To create a cultural node which revitalizes the waterfront area of Beton Hala, reconnect the city with the Sava River and establish an architectural anchor point between historic and modern Belgrade.




Beton Hala Competition







The Cloud

A form which exhibits continuity, connectivity and ethereality drove this proposal. Otherworldly, it became analogous to a Cloud, where the chaotic forces of nature coexist and harmonize in a light, airy space. The three dimensionality of the cloud and freedom of movement inspired the complex, yet efficient organization of this project. It exists as a hub, as a dense central district and yet as an open, democratic space for the people. Kalemegdan

Kalemegdan Park Fortress


Commercial Bus Terminal


Kosancicev Venac





Cloud Square

Cloud Square Tram




Tram Restaurant

Ferry Terminal

Ferry Outdoor Exhibition

Beton Hala

Beton Hala

Danube : : Sava Rivers

Sava River

All 7 paths converge and spiral into a central plaza. Simplifying a complex structure of transportation and site nodes into one elegant civic gesture. RESTAURANT

Areas are zoned into a dynamic 3D mosaic and service spaces are placed underground, creating an uninterrupted civic plane and river promenade. COMMERCIAL












Multiple access points and overlapping rings gives flexibility and a rich, vibrant pedestrian experience.

Generous car-parking space located underground

Panoramic views exist from any place within the structure. Rings act as promenades to enjoy each district.

Though chaotic in appearance, the overlapping rings create an overall unified experience.

Rings provide a logical progression through spaces while also visually informing the viewer of where to go.

By elevating the structure slightly above the civic plane, pedestrians may choose to interact or pass efficiently through the site.

Belgrade and Beton Hala

As a Post-Soviet Republic, Belgrade (Capital of Serbia) is experiencing a renaissance of culture and development. Unchaining themselves from their oppressive Stalinist civic structures, their hope is to create a new, democratic vision for the city which reconnects its history with its present. Beton Hala itself is a disused industrial port which, through adaptation, has become a night life center but suffers from a multitude of issues; namely, conflicting and often dangerous traffic patterns, disconnectivity with the Sava and surrounding areas and crime.

Fortress + Kalmegdan Park site

Port Master Plan

Old Belgrade

New Belgrade Central Business District

Sava River

Beton Hala Competition

The Plaza

All methods of transportation converge into the central plaza. Here, Density and Dispersion coexist in a meandering promenade. The civic space offers order yet encourages an infinite number of interconnected moments and motions. The layered spatial development establishes a clear relationship between yourself and the sky, the water, the earth, the city and each other.



Beton Hala Competition

Process city



dead space






Varini Illusion transport

approach elevation

My initial proposal were paths of a projected geometry which connect the city’s critical points as well as with the Sava River. Funneling into a central museum

d resizing the brief an I began by synthe e sit d an y, cit re, ltu searching the cu

Other op 20 form tions were exp s were propo lored. Over sed, ea a ch wit ll, more tha h 2-4 it n eration s

Glass M ountain

Waves e Simple Circl

pography Undulating To

Not So Simple Ci


An offsprin g

of the later

and initial proposals w as


ysical ing, ph d draw s vital n a h n e a e w ing betw d discussion Switch ng an li e d o m

Analog and Digital development merge d seamlessly in this process, each informing the other

Modeling the comple x form digitally gave both accuracy and freedom to experi ment with the form


Marcus Breitschmid was my (very Swiss) 2nd year professor from Bern. He challenged me constantly regarding space, theory and design. From him, something resonated profoundly with me about Swiss design. Even now, many of my favorite artists, thinkers and architects are Swiss: Peter Zumthor, Giacometti, Galfetti, Jean Tinguely, Valerio Olgiati, of course Corbusier, to name a few. In 2009, I was awarded a scholarship to attend the Center for European Studies + Architecture (CESA), in Ticino Switzerland, where I spent half a year studying Swiss design.


The most valuable lesson I learned from Switzerland was the appreciation of Architecture as a holistic sensory experience. The Atmosphere of a place must exude from the treatment of light, material, of sound or procession. Swiss design is, of course, very clean, precise and theoretically rigorous but also some of the most soulful. Many spaces such as the Therme Vals by Zumthor have an almost religious purity not found in structures outside of cathedrals or abbeys. Pursuing the tactile, the phonic, the visual and the spiritual elements of Architecture have become a lifelong passion and drive for me.

icino Port + Culture Center

European Studio Project : : Riva San Vitale, Switzerland

Project : : 4th Year Student Project, Prof Heiner Schnoedt Location : : Riva San Vitale, Ticino, CH - Spring 2009, 2013 Program : : Lake Port for Lago di Lugano, Piazza and cultural spaces Gallery, Cafe and Shop featuring Ticino artists/food/crafts.

Ticino Port + Culture Center Ticino Switzerland

Riva San Vitale

A Tectonic and Cultural Gateway As a typology, the port is typically a utilitarian point of (dis)embarkation -- a mechanism for transition. However, the port acts as both a physical and psychological threshold for the city. Therefore, in this project, the port is imagined as both a tectonic and cultural gateway to the city. As a former Roman colony and medieval village of the Lombardy,

Riva San Vitale’s urban fabric is a chaotic mesh of historical anachronisms. The city grew organically, with great density, giving an extensive range of urban forms both public and private. A structure which attempts to regulate or compete against this complexity would be unsuccessful; rather the goal is to reinterpret the ur-

ban chaos with a form which achieves both complexity and simplicity. Sensual curves counter the irregular geometries of the

city center, while plasticity in the form allows one simple surface to articulate and accomplish a complex array of tasks.

The site is located in a small bay, walled from the lake, and overtaken by parking lots, a bisecting road and disused boats. The urban ges-

ture of this project is to reconnect people with the water and establish a new piazza which orients and informs the viewer about the city.

A form which reaches, welcomes, is essential. A geometry which has memory of nature, of water, of mountains, generated the undulating forms of this structure.

Simple geometry generated this elegant concrete form. Swiss Engineer Heinz Isler (1968)

Here, the concrete shells are parametrically modelled giving both unhindered fluidity and geometric precision to the form. This expressive form honors the great tradition of Swiss concrete craftsmen while modernizing it for the 21st century.

Relationship between land and water Existing

Inland : : Rejects water

Floating : : Land becomes subordinate

Boundary Conditions Existing

Wall : : Physical/Phenomenological Boundary

Cliff : : Phenomenological Boundary



Pier : : Engages both the land and water seamlessly

Slope : : Reconnects city/people with the water



Mt Generoso San Vitale

San Rocco Chapel


Ticino Port + Culture Center

Villa Maderni : : CESA Town Hall

Mt San Giorgio St Santa Croce

Holy Cross

Museo Ogetti

Lago di Lugano

The Civic Compass The Piazza is both a civic space and an urban mechanism. A promenade and steps sloping to the water diffuse the boundary between city and lake while radiating datum lines orient the viewer towards heritage sites in the city.

Ticino Port + Culture Center





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Ticino Contemporary Arts Gallery

1 Entrance 2 Ticket - Coffee 3 Ticino Bistro 4 Open Kitchen 5 Ticino Culture Shop 6 Gallery 7 Pier 8 Dock

Entrance + Ticino Cafe

Ticino Design + Craft Store

Ticino Port + Culture Center

The Shell Fluidity and rigidity, permanence and ephemerality converge into a contradiction of the senses. The shell is self-sustaining and total.

Structural Fold


Building Entrance Dock Structure

Roof/Wall Structure

Load Transfer

Ticino Port + Culture Center

Cross Section

Longitudinal Section

The composition of spaces allows visitors to either pass through efficiently or interact with the spaces.

Ticino Port + Culture Center

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g lin de

Resear ch

Phy sic al

M o

Di git al M Sketch ing

Disc uss ion

Slee p




Initial explorations dealt with geometries which reached out to the water; however, the complicated form became distracting from the idea.

In later iterations a simplified version of the geometry was achieved by focusing on the manipulation of surfaces. Greater complexity was achieved.


My country of origin. America is a dynamic, sprawling country in constant flux. As in nature, vibrant ecosystems of cities, peoples and spaces exist barreling through periods of vitality and degradation. As a side effect of this delirium, a kind of blunt, face value aesthetic has evolved. Though deceptive in theory, in practice the anachronistic assembling of ‘styles’ and forms (as seen in the iconography of Las Vegas, for example) represents a simplicity in the taste of the population. As a response to this, I developed an anti-thesis to the status quo of building and city in America.


Growing up on a farm cultivates the imagination. Without modern distractions, the mind develops in a plastic reality. The child is challenged both physically and metaphysically to erect enigmatic worlds. Nothing is as it appears. In Architecture today, the reverse occurs. The organic form exists without narrative or mythology. A 1:1 relationship is established between the eyes and mind. My intention is to create enigmatic spaces which require physical and mental engagement to comprehend. Spaces which entice and seduce, hide and reveal, confound and reward. Spaces which evoke those feelings I had on the farm.

Evolution of a Space Professors Heiner Schnoedt, Hans Rott, Hilary Bryon

Project : : 5th Year Undergraduate Thesis - Virginia Tech Location : : Princeton, West Virginia - 2010 Program : : Adaptation of an abandoned post office into a vertical civic space, including a museum, shops, cafes and metting spaces.

Evolution of a Space : : Thesis

Thesis Architecture must evolve with the city through reuse and absorption. Preservation and protectionism stagnates the vitality of a city by inhibiting its ability to adapt. Generating a new thought for existing spaces increases the cultural depth of the edifice while enriching the surrounds as well. The mechanics of this theory are executed through the use of Form and Seduction.

Site Issues + Solution

(1) Civic Space : : ‘Main Street America’ is constricted between physical and phenomenological boundaries building facade and sidewalk edge.

This condition gives little freedom and diversity to interact with the city

(2) Facade Driven : : Main Street neglects spatial development and dialogue with the periphery.

(3) V betwe betwee

Vertical Monotony : : Pressed een floor slabs, the relationship en person to earth, to sky is cut.

Existing Post Office for Princeton, West Virginia Abandoned in Spring 2000

Hyper-individualistic Buildings : : Offer an infinite scope of moments and interrelationships between spaces.

Evolution of a Space : : Thesis

The facade is reorchestrated from a static monolith to a permeable, tectonic threshold, much like a colonnade.

Movement (1) Cut and open windows to the floor level

Movement (2) Raise a plinth to the floor level, creating an uninterrupted civic plane

Movement (3) Unburden the building of its roof

This public gesture restates the building’s relationship with the street, inviting the city rather than deny them.

Movement (4) Generate a large lofted space to house program

During the day, the form exists as a mysterious cube, ghosting the space beneath

At night, the reverse happens and becomes a luminous beacon for the downtown

Evolution of a Space : : Thesis





To conceal is to create tension. To reveal is to expose order. To discover is to interact. The Ambiguous becomes Metaphor and Confusion, Enlightenment. One experiences the space as a child, through curiosity and immersion. By challenging the viewer to explore they become co-creators in the design. “ I want to create something bright and cheerful, something for children to clamber and jump about, I would like something that feels good, that is spectacular, merry, crazy, also festive in a bucolic way. It will have entrances, exists and passages, people will be able to walk up and down, people will be able to pass through it . . .It is a sculpture, a pan demonic meta-meta-maxi sculpture full of harmony.� Jean Tinguely Swiss Painter + Sculptor


Evolution of a Space : : Thesis

South Roof Terrace


Meeting Space


Cafe Stage Bakery

The Meeting Space : : A small civic volume for town meetings and events

Elevator West





Plaza Service

Museum with glass bridge connecting Gallery A to B

Catwalks alternatively connect volume to plaza to volume.

Evolution of a Space : : Thesis

A mosaic of extruded blocks animate the streetscape, offering an infinite range of interactions. Inhabitants are encouraged to establish their own personal relationship with the space.

Embedded Steel Columns Concrete Shell, Precast Off-Site

Joint Connection : : Column to Shell

Catwalk Connection

Service Space Hydraulic Piston Core (Elevator) Column Supports, Concrete Caissons

Elevator Structure Exterior Glazing Primary Tubular Steel Structure Bearing Casement (tracks) Secondary Structure (elevator car) Elevator Car Platform Interior Glazing

Roof + Screen Structure

Perforated Concrete Roof Screen Structures Perforated Screen

Column Connection Utility and Drainage Lines Insulated Steel Column Flange Connection Stationary or Variable Pin Connection Direct Route to Service Space Access Panel

Fully Articulating Joint

Light Cannons Drainage Juncture Embedded Steel Connection Insulated Steel Column


Craft has always been a huge part of my life. Primarily, in design, I consider myself a thinker and a crafter. I grew up with a tectonic appreciation as well as dexterity with my hands. Today it informs and influences every aspect of my design both in and out of the studio.

Craft Wood Working Pen holder for Copic Multiliners Zebrawood, White Maple and Gold Leaf

Physical Modeling Design for small office inside IDP fabrication shop. Plywood, polycarbonate, larch


Ceramics Our founder, Olivio Ferrari, encouraged exploring architecture holistically. Ceramics gave me insight into the physical and metaphysical worlds of design.

Digital Fabrication Has become a staple in my design process. Integrating it into traditional methods produces more accuracy and plasticity to explore forms and ideas. Wrapping Butterfly Relief Box white acrylic, lasercamm

Digital Craft Photomontage. Independent project (above) Matsuhashi Museum for Sou Fujimoto (below)


Light Exposure - Tokyo, Japan

Vitra - Weil am Rhein, Germany

Goetheaneum, Germany

Law Library - Zurich, Switzerland

Sagrada Familia - Barcelona, Spain

Tadao Ando Garden Gallery - Kyoto, Japan

Photography Digital : : Nikon D90, Nikkor 35mm f1.8 Film : : 1979 Nikon FE, Nikkor 35mm f1.4 Shuri Castle - Okinawa, Japan (left)

Piazza Del Campo - Siena, Italy

Duomo - Milan, Italy

La Tourette, France

Post Office - Barcelona, Spain

Olympic Park - Athens, Greece

Epilogue My passion is the pursuit of designing an enigma, to reintroduce mysticism and provoke the imagination. I desire spaces which immerse the observer in a personal and spiritual way. Spaces which inspire and compel the observer to explore, engage, and create their own mythology. Thank you very much.

Nikko, Japan

Derek Belcher

Professional + Student Works 2013  
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