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James Piacentini | 310.922.3125

Portfolio 2018

Portfolio 2018

James Piacentini 310.922.3125

see more at



Columbia University


M Architecture & MS Urban Planning

Design, Visualization, and Planning Fellow

2016 - 2020 (exp.)

Summer 2017

• University Senator: Housing, Vice Chair of External Relations • Columbia Food Bank Development Committee • URBAN Magazine Content Editor

• Executed performative design analyses with architecture and strategy teams • Produced and edited short film for civic design bid presentation • Conducted GIS-based spatial analysis of housing and access in the San Francisco region • Completed brand and design overhaul of partner-firm RoundhouseOne online content

University of California, Berkeley BA Architecture 2009 - 2013 • Minors: City Planning, History of the Built Environment

Columbia University GSAPP Research Assistant to Professor Leah Meisterlin Spring 2017 • Produced 100+ maps through spatial analytics, geocoding, and georeferencing • Performed site research for Professor Meisterlin’s gender-based urban data project

University of Rome “La Sapienza” Fulbright Researcher 2015 - 2016 • Project title: “Rome: Eternal City or Evolving Metropolis?” • Constructed 20+ maps to document planning, design and growth from 1871 to present • Conducted primary archival and on-site research, translations and material analysis

Laurus Corporation Assistant Project Manager 2014 - 2015 • Managed $5M+ in hospitality and commercial construction and renovations • Coordinated budget and timeline with vendors, consultants, and property representatives • Facilitated funding operations, QA review, and site operations with asset managers

LAD Architecture Intern Fall 2013 • Performed concept design and schematic design for private remodels and school facilities • Organized design and presentation documents



American Planning Association

Fulbright National Conference - D.C.

Poster Competition 2nd Place - 2017

“Rome: Eternal City or Evolving Metropolis?” - 2017 • Presented Fulbright research paper to scholars

U.S. Fulbright Foundation Fulbright Scholarship - 2015

18th N-AERUS Conference - Milan, Italy “Blogging as a Tool for Advocacy Planning” - 2017

Matthew M. Lyon Prize in Photography

• Presented graduate research project to international scholars

Honorable Mention - 2014

APA National Planning Conference - NYC College of Environmental Design

“Rome: Past, Present, Future” - 2017

Berkeley Circus Design Showcase - 2013

• Presented Fulbright research project to US planners




URBAN Magazine

• Adobe Creative Suite : Ps / Ai / Id / Pr / Ae • AutoCAD • Rhino + Grasshopper • 3ds Max • SketchUp • V-Ray

Map / Analysis • ArcGIS : Map / Scene • Carto • QGIS • Stata

“Somewhere under Somewhere, Somewhere in the City” - 2016 • Personal Essay published in Columbia’s urban planning magazine

The Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, Vol, 27, Issue 1 “The Building Environment: A Brief History of Architecture’s Influences on Human Survival” - 2014 • Undergraduate thesis published in peer-reviewed university journal

LAD “VILLAE MINIMAE [Translation]” - 2014 • Translation of professional design brief published in Italian and English

Architecture The Cistern

Columbia GSAPP - Core I Critic: Tei Carpenter Site: Lower East Side, New York City

Archive of Extinction

(as of mid-review) Columbia GSAPP - Core II Critic: Karla Rothstein Site: DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York City


Columbia GSAPP - Core I Critic: Tei Carpenter Site: East River Parkway, New York City

Good Food

UC Berkeley CED - Architecture 100B Critic: Ajay Manthripragada Site: SoMa, San Francisco

Urban Planning Rome: Eternal City or Evolving Metropolis?

Fulbright Scholarship - Rome, Italy Advisors: Laura Ricci + Chiara Ravagnan + Irene Poli Site: Fori-EUR Corridor, Central and Southern Rome

Design Thinking for Healthy Urban Environments

Columbia GSAPP - Urban Planning Studio Critics: Jose Luis Vallejo + Belinda Tato Site: Pedregulho, Benfica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Experiments + Artwork Monument to Shadow


Columbia GSAPP - Core I Critic: Tei Carpenter

Columbia GSAPP - Core I Critic: Tei Carpenter

Control / Resist

Drawing + Photography

Columbia GSAPP - ADR Critic: Danil Nagy


The Cistern


Columbia GSAPP - Core I Critic: Tei Carpenter Site: Lower East Side, New York City

The Cistern operates as both an entrance to the L train subway station on 14th and Avenue A, as well as a performative system to produce storm resistant surface infrastructure and an underground mitigation system to protect the subway during heavy weather events. Based on an understanding of the L train as a site of risk and resilience (in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and with the expectation of its closure for repairs in 2019 as a result of Sandy), the Cistern operates through the interaction of two primary formal strategies to provide useful surface space and an active storm mitigation system below ground. A series of angular berms on the surface create a linear parklet, with space for walking, sitting, and relaxing, while also providing functioning bioswales that help control rain runoff. These angular forms are mirrored in a series of long, shallow ramps that descend into the cistern chamber below. The ramps allow for ADA access as well as create a specific procession downward. The cut volume underground descends 60 feet. At 30 feet below grade, the ramps connect to the existing L train subway platform. Beyond this, ramps continue downward to the bottom of the cistern and connect with a catwalk resting on a shallow reflecting pool. This system is intersecting with a series of nearly 250 slender light columns which are filled with clear water that reflects light as it enters the shaft. The columns are spaced

at 20 foot intervals along the edges of each ramp. The overlapping linearity of the ramps creates a complex matrix of columns that are both dense and scaled to ensure that there is always ample open space for people to walk through and explore. On the surface, these columns rise up slowly from ground level to nearly 25 feet, providing a dramatic and elegant series of visual ‘walls’ when viewed from one end of the park. Their height rise is also meant to reflect an awareness of sea level rise over time. The columns pierce through the park and are used as the primary light source for the massive cistern space below. Just as they change in height above ground, their depth is shifted below so that some meet the ground below and others end at or above eye level. The density and lightness of the columns mimic the feeling of standing in the rain. The Cistern’s large volume is meant both to reflect the enormity of the effects of natural disasters (and climate change at large), as well as provide enough space to become performative flood mitigation infrastructure in the future. As large storms approach the city, through the various drainage systems, the Cistern can fill up to 30 feet with water that would otherwise have flooded the L train and buildings above. Flooded water can then be pumped outward through the runoff system. After the closure of the L, the Cistern can be concealed from the construction site of the station, and continue to function as both a ground level park and an underground water mitigation structure.

Site Plan - 1’ = 1/100”


Open Space



Circulation Ramps

Shallow Pool

Section A/A - 1’ = 1/24”

Section B/B - 1’ = 1/24”

Section C/C - 1’ = 1/24”

Section D/D - 1’ = 1/50”

Plan (-10’) - 1’ = 1/50”

Archive of Extinction (as of mid-review) Columbia GSAPP - Core II Critic: Karla Rothstein Site: DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York City

The Archive of Extinction is a living investigation of the increasingly hazardous relationship between humanity and the world around us. A site for both reflection and discovery, the Archive of Extinction is a museum and a memorial, showcasing the damage caused to the planet and its inhabitants as a result of human activity. Seamless transitions between open groundscape and voluminous, light-filled interior spaces guide visitors to confront and reconcile with the cityscape through a series of exterior viewing decks. A sanctuary for and from the natural environment, as the Archive of Extinction densifies with program humanity’s ability to engage dwindles. The Archive of Extinction draws on initial conceptual and spatial studies, resulting from investigations into the liminal qualities of forest canopies, and the operative analyses of Delauney/Voronoi intersections. These qualitative and geometric excavations produced a specific set of relationships between points, lines, planes, and volumes, as studied in drawings, digital modeling, and physical modeling in a variety of materials. The latent potential of the procession from point to line to plane, in service of producing inhabitable spaces, coincided with site investigations in DUMBO, revealing key relationships to view corridors, the sloped ground condition, and circulation potential. These spatial potentials were digitally and physically explored, culminating in a set of potential spatial and circulation arrangements within a flexible massing.

The Archive of Extinction will serve as a cultural hub for reflection, learning, and archiving. It will house three key collections that rest above the open groundscape parklet. This groundscape is both a part of the cityscape and a refuge from it, an open access public space and a curated environmental data collector. The three main galleries within will each focus on a specific topic: climate, extinction, and resilience. Each of these programs will be refined, and the architectural, programmatic, and performative aspects of the building refined alongside them, furthering the integration of the conceptual and operative analyses previously conducted. The experience will culminate in outdoor spaces for congregation and circulation that allow for a return to the urban experience, and a chance to reflect upon one’s own relationship to New York City.


Operative System Drawings

Delauney / Voronoi Spatialization

Physical Exploration - Metal, 9”x9”x9”

Build Space

Green Space

Flood Zones

Initial Site Analysis - 1’ = 1/80”




Section - 1’ = 1/24”

Model - Wood, 1’ = 1/16”



Columbia GSAPP - Core I Critic: Tei Carpenter Site: East River Parkway, New York City

With performativity and connectivity as guiding principles, PlatformNYC reconnects the Lower East Side’s Baruch Housing Project with the East River Promenade, operating as a re-invigoration of both the parkspace and the waterfront by recalibrating the urban landscape to the water’s edge in new and dynamic ways. Located along the East River Promenade between Houston and Delancey, the project is a response to three primary site conditions: it’s high flood vulnerability, lack of easy direct access back to the city, and the flow of the East River tide. Through a series of striated and overlapping ramps, platforms, and pathways, the project incorporates both reactive and proactive design elements to provide educational and performative functions today while also engaging with and preparing for a rising sea level along Manhattan’s coastline. Operating as a new and blurred edge condition both horizontally and vertically, the project exists as three linear programmatic zones that adapt striation and weaving into distinct yet connected formal and conceptual typologies. The first, performativity, seeks to leverage the resources and physical infrastructure of the area to produce environmentally performative results. The second, education, seeks to empower visitors and local residents to learn, engage, teach, and share knowledge regarding their relationship to the water, and climate change. The third, awareness, seeks to remind us all of the importance of climate change and coastal risk in the 21st century city.

Active bioswales along the parkway dip into the water to become frames for tidal turbines which power the site year round. A weaving educational center provides spaces for exhibitions, community collaboration, and knowledge sharing. A set of linear tidal pools is calibrated to the daily changing tides to provide a beautiful and dynamic reminder of the water’s role in the city. These three zones serve to The site is also prepared to operate as a new ground condition in response to expected sea level rise in the coming century, rendering the influence of the river’s water visible throughout the project’s lifespan. Built from reclaimed wood with minimal additional structure, and minimal energy requirements, the project is designed to be efficient and adaptive.

Site Map

Baruch Houses


Site Plan - 1’ = 1/50”

Tidal Pools

Entrance to Educational Spaces

Tidal Turbines Bioswales

Plan - 1’ = 1/50”

Butterfly Section - 1’ = 1/50”

Circulation + Performativity

Striation + Weaving

Good Food


UC Berkeley CED - Architecture 100B Critic: Ajay Manthripragada Site: SoMa, San Francisco

Good Food is a 30,000+ square foot, multipurpose civic building focused on promoting the interaction between sustainable food production and performative architectural spaces. The diverse program includes gardens, galleries, research laboratories, educational classrooms, a lecture and performance hall, and a full-service kitchen and open dining hall. Corollary to the theme of integration, the program was first divided into typologies, and then reorganized to promote interaction between visitors. These programmatic volumes are staggered and stacked according to functional and logical relationships between nearby zones, creating visual-spatial connection between program areas and within the building at-large. A dual-skin system is employed, creating a habitable zone between that houses circulation and also intersects with major program areas, such as the theater. The interior skin system, comprised of active phytoremediation greenwalls, provides passive air filtration throughout the space, while also housing the hydroponic infrastructure to grow organic produce in a controlled yet architecturally performative condition. The exterior skin, a callibrated opaque and transparent glazing system made of low-e glass and controllable apertures, allow for diverse light diffusion as well as active and passive climate control during the year.

The resulting structure is both solid and free, with volumetric spaces slotted within a structural steel frame, and various public and private programming to allow for functional food research as well as inviting public and civic engagement with the neighborhood community.

Program Breakdown

Serial Sections

Section A/A - 1’ = 1/24”

Program Rearrangement


Volumetric Staggering


Volume Stacking


Section B/B - 1’ = 1/24”

Interior Skin - Phytoremediation Greenwall

Exterior Skin - Low-e Operational Glazing

Section C/C - 1’ = 1/24”

Ground Floor Plan - 1’ = 1/36”

First Floor Plan (+15’)

Second Floor Plan (+25’)

Third Floor Plan (+35’)

Rome: Eternal City or Evolving Metropolis? Fulbright Scholarship - Rome, Italy Advisors: Laura Ricci + Chiara Ravagnan + Irene Poli Site: Fori-EUR Corridor, Central and Southern Rome

This project analyzes the development and planning strategies employed in Rome from the Risorgimento (Italian Reunification, 1871) to the present. It focuses on a region of Rome known as Fori - EUR. This region stretches southward from the historical center, including the Fori, Coliseum, and Piazza Venezia, following the outward expansion of the city.

reunification (Risorgimento), modernization (modernizzazione), the post-war reconstruction (ricostruzione), the mid-century expansion (espansione) which followed the ‘economic miracle’ in Italy during the 1950s and 1960s, until the contemporary generation of transformation and metropolitanization (trasformazione/metropolizzazione).

The expansion includes areas such as Testaccio, Ostiense, Garbatella, and the EUR. This area was chosen to represent the city, and Italian planning practice generally during this time period, because it showcases the sequential objectives and specific urban projects that exemplify the various strategies and methods of planning instituted across this time period. Fori - EUR, in this way, is an appropriate microcosm of Rome.

These planning phases were born out of the series of official Master Plans in Rome, known as the Piani Regolatori (PR) and later Piani Regolatori Generali (PRG). The first substantial PR was established in 1883, with an 1885 variant. Subsequent PRG’s have been in 1931, 1965, and most recently in 2008. Key developments from each of these PR/PRG’s is mapped in the second set of maps.

During the past 150 years, Rome underwent a series of distinct planning phases, each characterized by a unique approach to defining the identity of the city, and a balance between enhancing what had come before and investing in what would follow. This engagement between past and future was at the heart of Rome’s modern development, and continues to be a major issue today. Here, Rome’s historical planning phases are defined according to the sequence of planning phases, or generations, described by Italian urban theorist Giuseppe CamposVenuti. The first set of maps documents the structures (edifici), opens spaces (spazi aperti), and transit infrastructure (viabilita’) which were completed during each planning phase of contemporary Rome’s history, from

Essential to showcase the primary systems of organization present in the PRG, the three primary systems for analyzing the city, and particularly this area are the Sistema Insediativo, Sistema dei Servizi e delle Infrastrutture, and the Sistema Ambientale. These highlight the various lenses through which to view the progression and current state of the city’s infrastructure, as well as allow us to locate opportunities for analysis and reflection. By using these systems, we can understand how the PRG of 2008 has integrated and modified the plans which came before, and further understand the current and future city. *This research project was awarded 2ndPlace at the American Planning Association’s (APA) 2017 National Planning Conference in May in New York City.*

Urban Planning

Map of Rome

Vatican City Termini Train Station Pantheon Piazza Venezia

Coliseum Circus Maximus



St. Paolo Beyond the Wall

Fort Ostiense

Palazzo Della Civilta’ Italiana

Palazzo Dello Sport

Fori - EUR Corridor


Implemented Interventions According to the PR’s of 1883 and 1909

Implemented Interventions According to the PR of 1931

Expansion of the city perimeter and growth of industrial and manufacturing zones, as well as Italy’s first ‘garden city’ workers housing. Major boulevards in the city center begin construction.

Fascist leadership expands on earlier efforts to build housing in support of growing population and industrial manufacturing. Planning for the EUR (World’s Fair Exhibition) zone to the south begins.

Implemented Interventions According to the PRG of 1965

Implemented and Ongoing Interventions According to the PRG of 2008

‘Comune’ of Rome officially established in the PRG, reconstruction and recalibration occurs across the city. Areas are designated conservation, reconstruction, and re-zoning to accomodate post-war population shift.

Historical zones are clarified, as well as areas for re-consolidation and re-construction. Zones clarfied for new development and programming are part of larger metropolitan agenda.

Generations of Growth Across Three Typologies - 1871 to Present

System of Environments

Typological growth patterns of buildings, open spaces, and transit infrastructure in the Fori-EUR corridor according to the planning generations as described by Giuseppe Campos-Venuti and others.

This System map highlights important environmental elements such as the Tiber river, as well as indicates the locations of important archaeological ‘environments’ throughout the city by type.

System of Services and Infrastructure

System of Settlement

This System map illustrates the layers of public transit infrastructure as well as key civic services and urban centralities - zones of particular importance when considering transit access and growth patterns.

This System map highlights numerous layers of information from important ‘zone’ typologies - historical, consolidated, restructured, transformation, and urban and local centralities.

Rio: Design Thinking for Healthy Environments Columbia GSAPP - Urban Planning Studio Critics: Jose Luis Vallejo + Belinda Tato Site: Pedregulho, Benfica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Design Thinking for Healthy Urban Environments studio was conducted from January through May 2017 by a team of 12 researchers, one teaching assistant and two adjunct professors at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York City. The studio centered around using urbanscale design thinking strategies to improve residential health conditions for those living in the Rio de Janeiro social housing complex formally known as Conjunto Residencial Prefeito Mendes de Moraes (Pedregulho). Through archival and on-site research, collaborative design processes, and community feedback loops, we developed a toolkit of seven project actions, designed to be implemented individually or together in stages. The initial premise of the studio, and its focus on design thinking, was an understanding that the built environment and its associated social and economic structures affect health systems as a whole, especially the health and wellbeing of individuals living in an urban setting. This understanding led to a mixed-methods research process that combined case study analysis and on-site experiences. The project deliverables were a 12-minute documentary video written, filmed, and produced by our studio team, led by James Piacentini, as well as a 100+ page printed and published report. These deliverables were presented to the Columbia GSAPP Studio Review Committee, as well as given to our Client, the community of Pedregulho, to use for self-advocacy and community development.

Included here are selected diagrams, photos, and renders from our Project Toolkit, each reflecting the concept, process, and goals of our seven project actions. Photos taken by various members of the studio team. Renders designed by Eric Pietraszkiewicz. Diagrams and Gantt charts designed by James Piacentini. Access to video content and to our full report is available online through my website at, or by scanning the QR code below with your mobile device.

Urban Planning

Urban Health Index (0 - 1)

Median Income

Pedregulho Site Plan - 1’ = 1/300”

Pedregulho Section - 1’ = 1/30”

Project Toolkit Diagram

Monument to Shadow Columbia GSAPP - Core I Critic: Tei Carpenter

The Monument to Shadow, hypothetically occupying the triangular intersection at Union Square East and 14th Street, engages critically with the intersectional condition that emerges at the crossing of Manhattan’s street grid at the curved edge of the public park space. This moment of intersection creates a spatial irregularity, a leftover void space that is distinct from each of its constituent parts. This corner forms the backdrop for the project, approached through the lens of sleep. The leftover corner acts as a shadowform in the city, part of a series of overlapping and transparent experiences. By studying the transition of light and shadow across the site over a 24-hour period, a sequence of distinct moments and spaces unify to form a processional experience. Light and dark form and reform spatial conditions across every moment of the day, while the corner they manipulate remains distinct. These overlapping moments, much like the overlapping layers of a dreamscape, reveal new relationships as they are stacked to create volumetric solid forms and spatial voids. Through this process, the void is rendered as occupiable space just as the site itself becomes the occupiable corner void in the city. This layering of plans creates sectional complexity, forming the conceptual backbone of the project’s hinging mechanisms. Rotating planes are defined by their structural relationship to the plates above and below them, following a rigorous structural determinism.

As each plane moves in tandem independent of others, and as the light and shadowspaces of the daily cycle of the sun occur, a continuous upheaval of the known allows for the continuous creation of new planar and sectional spaces and experiences.

Experiments + Artwork












































Solid / Void

Model - Acrylic, Bearings, Pipe

Section A - 1” = 30’


Spin = 0°

Spin / Static

Section A - 1” = 30’

Dreamscape / Cityscape

Spin = 90°

UpSpin Columbia GSAPP - Core I Critic: Tei Carpenter

UpSpin is informed by the flying squid and small deep sea jellies. These aquatic cephalopods are characterized by bilateral symmetrical body structures and tentacle extensions that aid in propulsion and stability. At once an endorsement and an inversion of the propulsion systems and formal structures of these creatures, UpSpin utilizes a bilaterally symmetrical two-tier curved fan system. The fans are framed by hollow metal tubes, and tied with small colored bands reminiscent of the bioluminescence of deep sea jellies. The fans, eight in total, curve to scoop and propel air through the system. The two tiers of fans are curved in opposing directions, and fastened to a thin central structure through smooth ball bearings. This produces an elegant and dramatic bi-directional twirl, the project eponymous ‘spin’. Through the melding of these sea creatures’ forms and movements, UpSpin’s aerial experience takes on a subversive quality, coopting the logic of aquatic movement to create aerodynamism and the controlled fall.

Experiments + Artwork

Model - Metal, Acetate, Bag Ties, Bearings

Spin Analysis (Theory)

Spin Overlay (Practice)

Control / Resist Columbia GSAPP - ADR Critic: Danil Nagy

Control / Resist is an experimental project that investigates the role of architecture on social structure of oppression and access through the lens of a ‘critical paranoia’, or a falsified and paranoid presentation of reality drawing on intentionally incorrect interpretations of direct evidence. In this case, Control / Resist imagines a dark interpretation of the intentions behind the modern high-rise housing and mixeduse project Toulouse Le Mirail, designed by Candilis-Josic-Woods, begun in 1962. The project, and in turn all modern housing projects of the mid-century and reconstruction period in Europe, are imagined as part of a secret Fascist order, dedicated to the inculcation of totalitarian ideology through the expansion of ‘international’ style architectures around the globe. The irony of such grand and megalomaniacal architectural endeavors, however, is the inevitable crumbling of the quality of these structures, and the localized cultural and social entities which form a natural social barrier to a globalized fascist regime. Through modeling and drawing, this project purports the hexagon, a central organizational motif of many modern housing projects, including Toulouse Le Mirail, as the symbol of both oppression and resistence.

Experiments + Artwork

Model - Rockite, Acrylic

Drawing + Photography Various

This small collection highlights manual techniques of representation using pencil, water color, and photography. The first pencil drawing of an empty desk space was completed as part of an undergraduate drawing studio. The second spread, a water color tree and pencil sketches of street lamps, were done during a guided study of landscape representation in Southern France with UC Berkeley landscape architecture professor Chip Sullivan. The photography is selected from a 60+ page self-published book of photographs taken while studying with architectural photographer Erieta Attali. The book, titled “Looking Through�, focused on highlighting spaces that lie beyond the surface of the urban streetscape in New York City and Rio de Janeiro.

Experiments + Artwork

James Piacentini 310.922.3125

see more at

Portfolio - James Piacentini 2018  

A portfolio of design, architecture, and planning work done by James Piacentini.

Portfolio - James Piacentini 2018  

A portfolio of design, architecture, and planning work done by James Piacentini.