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PARASITIC PLATFORMS An Undergraduate Thesis Submitted to The College of Architecture and Urban Studies of the Virginia Polytechnic and State University by Jarred McGowan


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Abstract Chapter 1 Public Expression and its Urban Host

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Chapter 2 Introduction of Form

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Chapter 3 Expression of Structure

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Chapter 4 Growth of Form

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Chapter 5 Transformation of the Functional

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Chapter 6 The Parasite and its Urban Host

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Chapter 7 Parasitic Architecture as Public Expression

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What does it mean to exist? Is existence determined by the physical presence of someone or something in a unified realm of reality? Is existence proven by an entity that recognizes a separate entity’s presence? From a self-conscious point-of-view, it is easy to determine that the individual does, in fact, exist. The only definitive fact that one can really know is that they exist. “I think therefore I am.” On the other hand, it is rather difficult to determine what does and does not factually exist from an outsider’s perspective. A foreign existence can only strive to be convincing. The complexity of the situation stems from the restraint that an individual can only decipher what they interact with on either a physical or metaphysical level. Essentially, to exist from another person’s perspective, one must submit their identity into another’s reality. There must be an overlap of separate realities where an understanding of their respective existences can be shared.

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This transaction becomes much more complex when looking at a larger population. A city, for example, is a collection of all these people and ideas that contribute to a single identity. Unfortunately, it is relatively impossible for this single identity to accurately depict


everything that the city contains. Because of the massive scale, the identity becomes oversaturated with these competing ideals and values that all demand to be recognized. As a result, the “loudest voices” of the city determines its identity. Everything else that falls short of those voices become enshrouded by enveloping systems that group individuals into a series of categories and genres. By grouping these individuals into a collection, the individual no longer becomes a part of the equation. There is an existential crisis that occurs as the individual’s identity becomes progressively more and more diluted when being represented. Instead, they are represented by a series of numbers and statistics that are created to construct a more simplified model of the city. “Who am I and why am I here” becomes an increasingly harder question to respond to when there isn’t any recognition that confirms an answer. The imbalance in representation also becomes a tragedy for the city. The city’s most prominent systems and organizations, rather its collection of people and ideas, defines its identity. The problem is that these systems don’t necessarily speak true to the population’s nature. Therefore the city is misled and becomes synthetic in what it represents. For example, a

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diverse city like Los Angeles becomes defined by its politics, athletic teams, educational systems, economic standing, etc. rather than by the cultural contributions made by the individuals. Simply put, there is a lack of opportunities for the individual to communicate themselves due to enveloping systems that perpetuate an increasingly impersonal urban condition of living. An answer to this modern dilemma is not difficult to find. An individual just has to push the boundaries of the social norm so that whatever they communicate can be recognized outside of the categories that they were grouped in to. A way of accomplishing this is by asserting one’s identity into the public realm by means of creative expression. This assertion can be fashioned in a variety of ways but graffiti and street art have proven, in the past few decades, to be popular and successful methods. While each art form differentiates from each other in certain aspects, both mediums involve the re-appropriation of a public space to create a finished (and unique) product. They both involve designing and articulating some communicative statement through a visual presence. These unifying traits will be, from now on, referred to as “public expression� because that is the function in focus.

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Public expression is represented by all forms of creativity being submitted into the public realm by an individual as a contribution or reaction to their environment. Public expression’s physical embodiment is determined by its visual presence in relation to the physical constructs that defines its urban setting. Its immaterial embodiment is the individual idea or statement that is made in the public realm for interaction. Public expression uses its visual presence as a device to create a certain dialogue between the individual (artist) and the city (the public). These expressions are completely subjective in what they try to represent and how they represent it, but the social relations remain the same. The intention of the following studies is to define the importance of public expression and to answer how architecture can be used as a vessel to further re-appropriate an urban environment so that it better celebrates and recognizes the identity of the individual within the community.

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Public expression is an artistic medium defined by both its physical application and its immaterial significance. It is the product of an intimate mutualism created between the artist and their urban environment. Public expression, in the form of graffiti or street art, constitutes a series of qualities that contributes to this mutualism. The art form is considered to be a subjective endeavor so there are no definitive guidelines that determines what is and what isn’t a form of creative expression. “Street art today is too multifarious and international to be reduced to a single set of strategies or one overriding agenda.” (McCormick 24) The culture that emerged from this art form was founded on going against the rules so there will always be exceptions when trying to formulate exactly what graffiti or street art is. That being said, there is still a recognizable set of qualities deemed necessary to consider when analyzing how these expressions relate to their urban condition.

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The art form constitutes some level of anonymity. Considering the evident disregard for another person’s property, most artists remain anonymous by using alter egos to relinquish themselves from any blame or conflict. Not only does public expression refuse to be defined by any visual continuity, but “…it also reject[s] authorship


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and intentionality, at least as far as the contemporary art world’s effort to decipher it [is] concerned.” (Diedrichsen 282) By preserving the anonymity of the artist, the art on the wall can stand by itself. It can only be perceived by its existence, not by how it originated. In being anonymous, the artist also relinquishes themselves of any credit or appreciation. “The impermanence of the momentary gesture, the writing by faceless authors for an inattentive (and often unsympathetic) audience set against the vicissitudes of time and the elements, would leave no trace in our collective memory if it were not for those who choose to bear witness…” (McCormick 21) This gives a genuine quality to the art, as the audience immediately knows that the art is simply a reaction to the urban environment. A statement. Not some outlandish gesture to gain considerable fame. There are exceptions as many artists have cashed in on the graffiti scene by trying to emulate its rebelliousness to turn a profit. But by remaining anonymous, an artist is allowing their art to be treated genuinely for what it is…their own idea. Art that is placed in a public setting leaves itself susceptible to the natural elements. Graffiti and street art are considered to be temporary art forms because the artwork is restrained by a finite


duration of existence. “In using the street, artists willingly subject their work to all of its many threats – it might be stolen, defaced, destroyed, moved, altered, or appropriated… they relinquish any claim on the work’s integrity…” (Riggle 245). These threats to the artwork instill a sense of inevitability that the artist must overcome. The focus is on the statement that the art is making, not its lifespan. The artwork is a reaction to a pre-existing condition. The creation of street art originates from a social comment that the artist deems necessary to express. Whether it be a direct comment on the politics of the city or a simple mark of territory, the image tries to express the artist’s intention in defiance to what the city has conditioned. Public expressions maintain a sense of adaptability. The art and its intended message remains unique despite the unifying relationship with an urban host. The art is always a reaction to its urban environment but remains as unique in what it expresses. The art forms of graffiti and street art are unique in that they are deinstrumentalized. There isn’t a definitive mode of application that determines art to be public expression. The only distinguishing

quality is that the art’s relationship with the street must be acknowledged to be considered present in the public realm. “…Writing (or painting) in places that were not designed for the purpose – points to thresholds and boundaries between showing and withholding, communicating and concealing, the [will to art] and the hatred of art, aggression and decoration” (Diedrichsen 281) As long as the relationship with the street is established, any visual representation of an idea can be considered a form of public expression. Aside from the artistic qualities of public expression, it has a series of connotations that defines its relationship with the urban host on an immaterial level. There are three separate scales at which this immaterial relationship can be studied. The first and smallest scale of study focuses on the relationship between the artist and the host architecture. This relationship, at its most reduced state, boils down to the artist transferring some part of their identity (through expression) onto a foreign surface. Often territorial, graffiti markings are a result of someone, who deems that they do not have a

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proper say in the world, proclaiming their existence by submitting a statement into the public domain. By doing so the artist has created a separate identity beyond their physical embodiment. Architecture that preserves social identity through public expression provides an argument for the existence of graffiti -An architect’s social -An artist’s social -Architecture that ist’s social identity

identity is recognized by their architecture identity is recognized by their art allows art then allows the artto be recognized by the architecture

-As a result the artists are given the opportunity to preserve their social identity to meet the duration of the architecture The artist now exists in a private and public realm separately yet is recognized simultaneously. The relationship between the artist and the architecture also results in the transformation of the space. The architectural elements, once perceived to have a structural relationship solely for the building, now maintains a second function as a “canvas” that hosts creative expression. But as much as the art transforms the function of the architecture, the architecture in turn

defines how the artist’s statement can be read. For instance, the piece of art may be hidden in the corner of a space so that the art can speak specifically to those who are curious enough to search for it. The second scale of study deals with the relationship between the artwork and its public realm. Now that the art is assessed and appropriated for an existing structure, they must now jointly participate in a dialogue with their surrounding context. This is where the “street” becomes a necessity when creating public expression. Without the dialogue between the art and its setting, there is no establishment of the artist’s identity in the public realm. The dialogue goes as follows. An artist submits some sort of creative expression that is both a reaction and in compliance with its urban setting. Once it exists in the urban setting, the public recognizes and interacts with the art by some means of experience. The public then reflects upon the visual image and perceives what the message is trying to convey. Despite how severe the impact may be on the viewer, there is a recognizable giveand-take with the artwork. Now, at this point, the artist’s identity


becomes validated because some expression of theirs was recognized by some foreign entity. By being in a public setting, the artist opens their expression up to interpretation by people beyond its intended audience. The art and its message becomes a part of the viewer’s “path of existence.” The art, in this case, is appreciated for contributing to the public realm rather than for its function as social commentary. “…This is how street art often enters one’s stream of consciousness. Walking down the street…an unsolicited aesthetic injection. One is jolted out of whatever hazy cloud of practical thought one was in; one is forced to reconsider one’s purely practical and rather indifferent relationship to the street, and a curiosity to explore the work develops.” (Riggle 249) The third scale of study relates to the interaction between the collection of all the pieces of public art and its urban host. Both sides contribute a significant influence as to how the other is understood. Urban art, at this scale, is a way of measuring a population’s relationship to the urban experience. By tracing the public expressions of artists over the years, “…we can…use the myriad and ever-evolving ways in which subsequent generations came to interact as artists directly with the urban landscape to

help us chart a more dysphoric regard for the city.” (McCormick 22) Street art may be biased more toward the common man, as the medium is a product of the people for the people. The art “… takes the form of the communicative system of a sub- or minority culture.” (Diedrichsen 282). But instead of understanding the city’s history through a chronological documentation of, say, economic growth, the art informs how the population reacted to being in the city at that time. And as much as the artwork can be used to represent the city, the city in turn serves as a “muse in order to contextualize the kinds of expressions it engenders.” (McCormick 22) The city provides a condition in which a population reacts to, and collectively these reactions contribute toward the culture of the city. The art form is described as “…unorthodox and unsanctioned interventionist practices [that] are widely regarded by the general populace as a kind of urban noise – prosecuted when possible, but otherwise best ignored…” (McCormick 19) Much like traffic or littering, graffiti and street art become a part of the urban “package” that one is to expect when experiencing the space.

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Public expression is defined by a close relationship between the architecture that hosts the art, the street that views it, and the city that contextualizes it. Some of these elements are independent in how they operate. The artist, for instance, cannot be conditioned to create a certain piece of art. The city, in comparison, cannot be reconfigured to cultivate a different culture. By designing architecture specifically to host public expression, there is a greater potential for the art’s message to be received and for the artist’s identity to be recognized. Designing architecture for public expression gives the artist an extra level of influence by allowing them to play a role in the construction of their “canvas.” There are two ways in which the “host” architecture can result in a more successful piece of art. One way deals with the relationship between artist and the host. The other way deals with the host’s relationship with the street as the host’s positioning in the urban environment can affect the dialogue that is to be created between the artist and the public. 12

The relationship between the artist and the architecture brings up the question of the qualities of the surface that the art will interact


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with in relation to its intended expression. The modular piece of architecture depicted is a product of understanding the overlapping ideals between the artist’s intentions and its related urban format.

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The material of the surface should be both celebrative of the art while still preserving its integration into the urban landscape. In this case, the modular form presented is constructed of typical urban materials. Specifically, the walls present on the four sides of the modular form are concrete as to pay homage to the materials used in constructing a city and to create a familiar sense of interaction for the artists. The orientation of the modular form is defined by an orthogonal means of construc-


tion to convey the two axes of approach. By doing so, the form better fits within the urban grid to become more applicable to various types of city conditions. The scale of the form is roughly ten feet tall by ten feet wide by ten feet long so as to provide a large enough canvas to house larger pieces of art while still considering its access for interaction based on the human scale. The volumetric quality of the architectural form is in compliance to the human scale and to its function as a canvas. The cubic form was chosen so that the design emphasizes the presence of interior and exterior surfaces equally. Its interior presence is important as it caters to the occupants who are curious enough to delve into the space. The exterior surfaces cater to the population’s “path of existence” and promotes the artwork beyond its intended audience. The architecture’s exterior becomes a tool for the artist to use to speak to a larger population. The relationship between the architectural host and its public setting brings up the question of how the form can relate and even benefit from its urban context. Considering the intimate give-andtake between the city and its presiding graffiti culture, the architectural hosts should be treated as an extension of the urban landscape, not a statement against it. The architectural form is constructed by a modular design so that it may be brought in to a variety of urban conditions. The site must ask for the form to be introduced much like how the city “asks” for its graffiti. The modular design was chosen so that an ambitious third party can bring in these forms to house public expression and ultimately transform the space it occupies. Being that the module must be adaptive to various urban settings, it is constructed by a simple geometric design. By utilizing the geometry, the module is given the potential to accompany an additional number of modules to construct a more complex volume for the viewers to occupy. In addition, the four concrete walls that determines the individual volume are placed along a rail system so that the wall can move and react to its occupancy. For example, the occupants can choose a path by moving certain walls to create unique circulation throughout the spaces. In addition, the artist can apply two separate images on facing walls and watch them interact with one another as the walls slide past each other creating an interactive canvas. 15


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Public expression utilizes an interdependent relationship with an architectural form. The medium is unique in that the form of expression acts much like a parasite. It’s considered parasitic because of the symbiotic relationship between the art and its host. The host, in this case, is the architectural form that becomes re-appropriated once it establishes its role housing the artwork. Structural and spatial qualities dictate the condition in which the artists and occupants experience. Certain design decisions that deals with the scale, geometry, and orientation of the architecture all contribute to how the surfaces dictate the space. By manipulating the geometric elements of the architecture, the architect can design a condition to better synthesize art into the public realm. Not only do the relationships between the surfaces become re-appropriated, but the volume can also be altered to better facilitate its interaction with the public.

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A dialogue between the artist and the structure must be established to understand how the architectural members can fabricate a desired condition. Essentially the architecture asks how its formal qualities can best accommodate the placement of art. In one way, the structural elements can create a sense of


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hierarchy through scale. By constructing a volume that exceeds human limitation, the architecture can create a physical gauge that determines a certain level of difficulty when applying the art. If an artist tags a space that had previously seemed unreachable, the tag then becomes appreciated as a testament to how the artist overcame that obstacle. Despite the artist being anonymous, “… there [is] virtually nothing with which graffiti [is] more intensely concerned than authorship and intention…’I was here, it was I who made the effort to do this, and this is my name!’” (Diedrichsen 283) The relationship of the structure to its occupants must be taken in to effect when conditioning the space. In other words, the architect asks how the architecture can direct circulation and provide an appropriate visual frame for the occupants to experience the art. Specific elements contribute in providing a more ideal visual frame. On a larger scale, the conflicting geometries of the space define unique surface relationships. The bold juxtaposition of the pyramidal form suspended in a cubic, grid-defined system results in an articulation of three separate spatial conditions. The bottom floor, prominently defined by the columns, emulates an inherent relationship with the art. The grid creates a more confined space dominated by smaller surfaces creating an intimate spatial condition. The second floor utilizes the pyramidal volume and the cubic envelope equally. The relation between the two results in a strong contrast between the angled walls that defines the interior void and the surrounding space for circulation. There is a tension between the geometries clearly representing different conditions of interaction. The opening end of the pyramidal void dominates the third floor; relatively free from the constraints of the cubic grid support system. Here the complex angles of the walls and the expansive stretches of surface are celebrated and expressed. In comparison to the bottom floor, this area defines a more open space for interaction. Here, wherever the art is placed can be susceptible to a broader range of visual access, thus speaking to a larger audience. Additional elements are expressed to contribute to the circulation of the occupants. The unifying void that stretches down all three floors provides a visual connection to the whole space. This visual connection leads to an easier understanding of the structure to assist the occupant’s navigation. The layout of the building is

symmetrical to indicate a repetition of spatial conditions. Both of these qualities contribute to the occupant’s understanding of the space and in turn constitutes a more refined experience with the art. Rather than having an adaptable design, this architectural form focuses on how the host would exist as a separate entity from its urban landscape (rather than being an extension thereof). Considering its role as a separate space outside the urban condition, the architecture still remains site-less. Admittedly, this detail was that of a mistake. Being site-less was an attempt to find out what the volume can achieve when the art, rather than its urban context, dictates the spatial condition. The relationship with the street is a necessary element to consider when designing architecture for public expression. By removing this element from the equation, the architecture comes to represent a synthetic and almost contradictory statement to that of street art and graffiti. Whether being in the public realm is beneficial or harmful to the art, it is necessary as it defines a separate level of appreciation where the art is recognized for overcoming and adapting to a preexisting condition. If those obstacles weren’t there to overcome then the artwork wouldn’t retain the strength in its message.

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Introducing a form into an urban context can facilitate the intention of public expression while avoiding certain restraints of the preexisting condition. By designing a geometric form that can react to its environment, along with additional modular forms, a unique dichotomy of expressions can exist. This dichotomy performs on two separate levels yet contributes to the single unifying function of expressing identity in the public realm. One expression deals with the artist’s relationship with the architectural form. The other expression deals with the architecture’s relationship with its urban context. Both expressions become appreciated for the dialogue that is established with their respective hosts.

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To function as an extension of the urban landscape, the formal qualities of the architecture must speak in compliance to the city. The material used to construct the module must be in reference to the city’s construction. For instance, the modular form utilizes a steel cage that defines spaces for panels to be bolted into. These panels have a uniform shape and size so the only variation deals with what type of material is put in place. The artist can then choose what type of surface they would prefer to interact with and can then place said material into the panel spot.


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These panels retain their uniform size and shape because the rhomboidal dodecahedron form defines the panel space. This geometry consists of twelve, equal-sized rhomboidal surfaces to define one volume. The geometry was chosen for a multitude of reasons. In addition to being able to be constructed by twelve identical panels, the form also has an equal interior and exterior presence, capable of expressing both simultaneously. When the form is given the opportunity to interact with an additional module, they can seamlessly interact along their congruent geometries. By utilizing three axes of growth, the modules have a potential to conjoin to define a volume in a multitude of directions in which

it can also speak to. It’s newfound potential for growth then contributes to a hierarchy of access. The artist can bring in multiple forms and stack and join them in such a way so that there are variations in what people can or cannot interact with. The scale still speaks to the human form, as the volume is roughly ten feet high and ten feet wide (at its greatest measurements). Now this scale makes the individual module easy to interact with from all sides of approach. The module can become elevated, though, by being placed on another module, creating a collection. The scale then becomes increasingly more and more difficult to overcome. 27


Introducing the modular form into the public realm relies directly on the architecture’s capacity to relate to its occupants. Not only must the architecture fulfill its role as a host for public expression, but must accommodate its function as a vessel to transfer the expression into the public domain. To do so, the architecture must facilitate its existence in compliance to the occupant’s perception.

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The module’s potential for growth speaks to how the architect can control its relation to the urban landscape. A few modules can be constructed together to form a smaller collection of expression to remain nonintrusive on the urban condition. In comparison, the architect has the potential to construct a large amount of modules to dominate a space and to define a more insistent volume.


These modules would change the occupation of the space but would still respect and preserve the existing landscape. These enveloping conditions can also be defined by the relationship between the occupant/viewer and the panel. The panel, aside from the material choice, can also be determined to exist on the module or not. By removing or adding surfaces, the architect

has the potential to manipulate how the occupants enter and navigate through the space and how the surfaces are revealed or hidden from the viewer. It provides a visual frame that is adaptive to how the artists want their expression to be perceived.

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The architectural form is a product of its function that it is intended to fulfill. The form can then become altered or transformed by facilitating an additional, yet unrelated, function. In this case, the originating architecture is designed to facilitate its role as a train station while additionally becoming re-appropriated to also fulfill a role of becoming a host for public expression. By achieving a dichotomy in functions, the train station provides a symbiotic relationship between the existence of art and its function for transportation. The separate functions feed off each other to jointly contribute to the “success� of its experience. The train station, by accepting its additional role of hosting art, now speaks to the artist and their intentions while still maintaining a dialogue with the public who are travelling. Consequently, this piece of architecture serves as a study of when two functions must coexist while still being contained by the same spatial and structural conditions.

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To understand how these separate functions can coincide, the architecture must establish a condition that speaks to both of the functions’ intended participants. In one way, the architecture must facilitate its role as a tool for transportation. As a train station, the architecture must define a condition that easily communicates


how an occupant would go about interacting with the space. For instance, the form of the architecture defines a singular path that is to be elevated above the train’s height to provide an access to both sides of the rail. The transition between the elevated plane and area alongside the train is then answered by the introduction of a stairway. There are three main architectural elements that must speak to the occupant. Those elements are the elevated path, the waiting area by the trains, and the transition between the two elevations. All must work simultaneously to mediate the acts of waiting for and transitioning on to a train.

In another way, the architecture must facilitate the intentions of the artists. Considering creative expressions are subjective, the main gauge of success comes from the artist’s ability to submit and preserve their identity in a public realm. So how can the architecture facilitate their efforts while still mediating its function as a train station? Well, the relationship between the architecture and the art can become beneficial for one another. As it had been discussed before, the artist can preserve their identity in two different ways. One is being the aesthetic value of the art that they create. This can only really relate to the talents of the artist. The


second way is by overcoming human limitations to place their art on a surface less threatened by its existence in the public realm. The architecture, in this situation, can have a direct influence by creating these conditions. The key is that the architecture must balance the surface’s accessibility with its visual frame. Now, by appropriating the three architectural elements of the train station, the building can mediate its two separate functions. By including subtle, yet recognizable design decisions, the architectural form can speak to both its role as host and train station. For example, the staircase includes a series of load-bearing walls that protrude through the set of stairs and define a linear path to travel along. There is detail, though, where the stair protrudes out through the sides of the walls, creating a secondary path around the other side. This condition speaks to both the traveler and the artist. The linear path up the stairs caters to the occupant who is trying to reach a

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destination. The secondary path, in comparison, speaks to the artist and provides the opportunity for them to interact with the other side of the wall (a canvas unattainable by taking the linear path). A similar condition is present along the elevated pathway. The pathway speaks to the traveler by providing a succinct direction of passage. There are benches integrated into the surrounding walls to further cater to those waiting for the train. But, much like on the staircase, a secondary pathway is subtly introduced at the beginning of each of the path’s ends. This caters to the artist in that the secondary path reveals to them surfaces that would otherwise not be attainable. The waiting area next to the rails is

the least manipulated space. Here the artist has free interpretation to interact with what they see fit. The occupant, on the other hand, may use the space in anticipation for the oncoming train. The area is left relatively untouched as a reference and homage to graffiti’s history with subway systems. Trains are particularly advantageous for an artist because their canvas gets paraded around the city. Their message gets spread to a much larger audience than it being on some stagnant wall. That being said, the waiting area is the least manipulated space because historically speaking; its role in attracting artists has already been conditioned. 33


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Public expressions relate to and interact with both their host architecture and their urban context. The transition of the expression into the public realm is defined by the symbiotic relationship between these separate entities. While they are identified separately, they both work toward one unifying function – that the public recognizes the artist’s identity through their expression. This symbiosis may not be necessarily beneficial or harmful to the host, but necessary nonetheless. By designing a modular form that statically houses the public expression, the architecture rather restrains and further complicates the symbiotic relationship. By striving for an ideal form, the architecture hinders the message that the public expression aims to achieve. The architecture fails to genuinely reflect its function as a host because the conditioned form ignores the reactive elements between the art and the city. Street art and graffiti are products of the urban condition. They overcome the situational “obstacles of reality” that the city presents to re-appropriate the spatial condition. The modular forms that have preceded this text ignore these obstacles and instead assume that their form will integrate into the urban fabric seamlessly. The only way to truly respect all of the aspects of public expression (from its application to its aesthetic value) is


to design an architectural form that reacts to the city in the same fashion that the public expression does. To appropriately fulfill its function as a host the architecture must become parasitic much like how the street art is perceived. By having the architectural form respond directly to its physical urban landscape, it is able to exist as a reaction to the context rather than to act as some foreign entity forced into the site. To answer what condition best directs the architecture to become a platform, the form must look to the interstitial spaces of the urban environment. The interstitial spaces are the otherwise unrecognized or appropriated spatial conditions formed by the surrounding functions of its urban landscape. It’s where the functional constructs of the city contradicts its physical layout. Essentially, the interstitial can be described as the pockets of leftover space in a city deemed unfit to contribute to any sort of function or process. Here, the

relationship between public expression and its host can be genuine and true to the art’s nature. As much as the interstitial space influences and defines the architectural form, the form in turn re-appropriates the space by introducing a function. This function is in reference to the architecture’s capacity to host public expression. The host transforms a place once deemed “useless” into a space where the community has the ability to represent itself. It’s taking back the spaces that had once become lost in the urban construct to become a platform for the public to voice their expressions. In a sense, by re-appropriating the interstitial, the architecture is able to give the space back to the community. An understanding between the formal host and its interstitial context must be defined when constructing parasitic architecture. The interstitial space, the dismissed or forgotten spaces present within


the urban fabric, is only signified by its presence. The unrecognized space was brought in to existence by the implication of the function of its surrounding architecture. The surrounding functions define the spatial qualities of the interstitial, and therefore relates back to how the urban environment has conditioned the space. The architectural form must be reactive to its urban environment to be considered parasitic. To react appropriately to the wide variety of spatial conditions, the form must exist by modular construction. It becomes a study of the form’s constructive elements in relation to the interstitial, rather than by the interstitial relating to a finalized formal presence. By breaking down the parasite into its elements of construction, it becomes open to the interpretation of the artist (or whoever is ambitious enough to construct the parasite). The constructive elements remain adaptive to the city much like

how graffiti and street art is. The identity of the architecture is a product of how the public interacts with the space. The public’s interactions “generate an overall conceptual transformation within the space they hacked, and they move beyond the existing structural and representational frameworks of the space.” (Yildirim 27-28) Essentially, by allowing suggested elements to be put into place, the public is able to determine both the parasite’s formal qualities as well as how its function is fulfilled. The interstitial space is a product of its urban condition. The specific space in question is located at 1656 Moravian Ave. in downtown Philadelphia. Two strips of retail face outward from a narrow street, defining the spatial qualities of the interstitial in between. Aside from possibly posing as a service corridor for its surrounding retail, there is no gesture by the public or by the city that would imply a function to the space. Its location, however,


provides an interesting condition along the public’s “path of existence.” The potential for the public to interact with the space is mapped out by prominent positions within the city. These mapped locations are deemed relevant to consider when determining what the re-appropriation of the interstitial will be in response to. Some of the locations speak to how the public interacts with the city, such as the parks. Other locations speak to the cultivation of art within the city such as the academies and galleries. One location, in particular, speaks directly to the city’s political construct. By mapping out the location of city hall, there is an established visual relationship with the interstitial. In a way it’s setting up a physical comparison of the spaces to parallel their contrast in function. The parasite’s constructive elements are reactions to both the interstitial space and to its function as a platform for public

expression. The narrow street that defines the spatial condition makes it relatively easy for the parasite to bridge from one surface to the other. By placing its support solely on these facing walls, the form is able to be lifted above the street as to not be an intrusion on the space but to rather suggest another path for the occupants to consider when walking by. The facing walls are also defined by a differentiation in height. The parasite utilizes this change by applying a truss system that stems across and up the walls. The truss then uses a series of cables to suspend a floor panel and stairway beneath it to define the height of the volume. The cables additionally function as structural members that hold a series of vertically-oriented panels. While the whole parasite is open to house public expression, these panels act as the main “canvas” for the artist to interact with in the space. 37


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The architectural parasite is a reaction to both the interstitial space and to its function as a platform for public expression. By using a modular form of construction, the parasite is able to adapt and integrate into the urban fabric. By taking it one step further and simplifying the modular construction down to the relationship between a few key elements, the architecture is not only able to adapt but gains the potential to grow. The public is able to witness and interact with the form as well as contribute to it. The parasite is then able to become its own form of expression as the initial form grows along with its interactions. In a way the parasite becomes a sort of three-dimensional graffiti that not only houses expression but can also further emulate an expression through its formal qualities. To achieve this potential, the parasite is broken down into three structural relations. These relations consist of the point, line, and plane. To preserve the scale and treatment of each member, the parasite is also defined by a three-dimensional grid system. This grid creates a guideline for the interested parties to construct the parasite along a fractal format. By utilizing the fractal based system, the form is able to retain the ratios between the relating elements. The differing aspect comes from the


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scale of the elements, but the relationships remain constant. The construction of the parasite goes as follows. The spatial conditions of the interstitial space is evaluated and measured. The architect can then understand what volume the parasite must fill to structurally support itself on (and around) the existing architecture. The grid system is then placed into the appropriate position. The grid dissects the space in order to evaluate how the elements can be put in to their appropriate positions. After the grid is put in place, the exact positioning of the points of the structural relationships can be determined. The points are then connected by the system of lines that configures a series of triangular voids. A set of planes is then introduced into place to fill these voids to create the canvas for the artist’s to work with. This is where the public is able to influence the form as the panels have equal use being present or void depending on how the public wants the volume to be defined. The material construct that follows the geometric elements of point, line, and plane speaks to both its function as a parasite and to the urban environment that conditions the space. Again, by using materials common in the construction of the city, the parasite becomes an extension of the urban landscape rather than a contradiction to it. The point is physically represented by 40

the most complicated, yet necessary element. An steel joint is put into place to branch out in twelve directions. Of these twelve, four of the directions allow for the line to be applied orthogonally to define the interior volume of the parasite (and to construct supports for a floor panel). The remaining eight connectors extend the line in an angular fashion to construct the triangular voids that are intended to contain the panels. The line’s physical presence is defined by aluminum piping that, at two different lengths, can be used to conjoin the points to construct the skeleton of the parasite. Much like how scaffolding is constructed, the aluminum pipes are threaded into their respective joints to solidify the pipe as a structural member. Now the triangular voids retain their geometric qualities so any material that is cut into shape can be placed to act as the panel (canvas). Much like in the previous modular form, panels can be added or removed as the artist seems fit. These panels, being oriented along the angle that the joint creates, presents itself as a canvas speaking in multiple directions. The panels can face down toward the observers on the street as well as toward the observers from higher vantage points. So in total, the parasite is constructed of two different lengths of piping, one universal-sized panel, and one type of joint. Now by utilizing the similarities in the geometry between all the elements, not only is the parasite able to span across reasonable distances but also has the ability to adapt around obstacles that interrupt the space. In addition, the joints, if placed correctly, present their open connections as opportunities for growth. By applying additional piping to extend from these opportunities, a series of structural members and their consequential panels (or voids) can be added to the initial form. The parasite is then able to grow and further react with the space, spanning its support from other existing pieces of architecture. By utilizing simplified geometric gestures, the parasite is able to grow, adapt, and react to the urban condition much like public expression does. It’s structural stability stems from the existing architecture but becomes expressive as a unique form results from the interstitial space. There are two interstitial sites located deep within the urban fabric of Philadelphia and New York City. The site in Philadelphia is the same as the last study so the spatial conditions have already been discussed. But to test how adaptive the parasitic form can be in multiple environments, the interstitial space in


New York has notable differentiations. This site is prominently defined as an empty lot between a row of houses and an adjacent warehouse. Connected to the warehouse is a notably smaller shack that breaks up the lot’s empty void and creates a unique spatial condition between the buildings. By implementing

the grid system to define the spatial constructs of the parasite, the form is able to adapt and even use the shack’s structure to span across the lot. Much like at the Philadelphia site, the parasite is lifted above the ground level as to not intrude into the space where the occupants can walk past and observe. 41


Parasitic architecture re-appropriates the interstitial space within the urban context to provide a platform for public expression. By transforming these spaces, the architecture is providing the community with the opportunity to submit their identities into the public domain. This opportunity helps to develop the artistic culture and identity of the city as a whole. By celebrating the artistic culture of a community, the architecture is able to achieve a radical stance against the sterility of the urban environment.

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Diederichsen, Diedrich. “Street Art as a Threshold Phenomenon.” Art in the Streets. By Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman, and Aaron Rose. New York, NY: Skira Rizzoli, 2011. 281-288. Print. Fletcher, Jennifer Dunlop. “Lebbeus Woods: An Architecture of Dialogue and Resistance.” Lebbeus Woods, Architect. By Joseph Becker and Brett Littman. New York, NY: Drawing Center, 2014. 17-21. Print. McCormick, Carlo. “The Writing on the Wall.” Art in the Streets. By Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman, and Aaron Rose. New York, NY: Skira Rizzoli, 2011. 19-24. Print. Pit, M., Steller K., & Streng,G. “Parasitic Architecture.” http:// www.gerjanstreng.eu/files/T02%20essay%20parasitic%20 architecture.pdf (2007): 6-11. Web. 15 March. 2016. Riggle, Nicholas Alden. “Street Art: The Transfiguration of the Commonplaces.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68.3 (2010): 243-257. Web. 12 Feb. 2014. Tate, Greg. “Dark Angels of Dust: David Hammons and the Art of Streetwise Transcendentalism.” Art in the Streets. By Jeffrey Deitch, Roger Gastman, and Aaron Rose. New York, NY: Skira Rizzoli, 2011. 111-14. Print. Yildirim, Senem. “Urban Parasites: Re-Appropriation of Interstitial Spaces in Architecture Through the Act of Graffiti.” Thesis. Middle East Technical University, 2013. Print.


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