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page 06: introduction page 08: tadao ando, mt. rokko chapel case study page 14: memory blobs: museum for abstracted memory page 26: royal oak center for technology education and residencies page 34: sukkah ann arbor 2012 page 40: towards and urbanism of emergent forms page 50: volterra study abroad/ museo dell’ alabastro: piazza settembre page 60: thesis part one: the crisis of aesthetic page 74: thesis part two: seven allegorical cities page 88: resume and contact information


a comment on agenda This book showcases a number of projects significant to my development throughout my years and the University of Detr oit Mercy School Of Architecture. It both displays my skills as a futur e professional or academic as well as provide a glimpse into my design thinking.

a comment on design Design sensibility could mean anything r eally. It is nonetheless wor th sensibility mentioning due the volumes that will unfold throughout the book. If school has taught me anything it is that purpose lies at the crux of motivation. So it is natural that motivation lies at the purpose of architecture. Uncovering the purpose of ar chitecture remained my motivation thr oughout school and will likely be a career transition into a career long endeavor. Certainly, any student or professional at some level has attacked this issue. Personally, the most compelling statements ar e those that separate the architect from the builder. As a profession, Architecture has been tasked with the noble practice of designing dwelling, ever mor e efficient, ever more sustainable, and ever more productive. However, the most notable practices, do so deeply aware of the critical position the individual takes between form and space. This book contains 8 past projects represented in both text and image. It is part retrospective, part display, and part manifesto. The chief intention of this book is to showcase various pr ojects, briefly appr oach their intentions, exhibit their graphic sensibilities, and ultimately bear out my design interests. 0006

Quotes I Like... Colin rowe

…there exsists a gr eat chasm between those, on one side, who r elate everything to a single central vision, one system less or mor e coherent of articulate, in terms of which they understand think and feel – a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which all that they are and say has significance – and on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way…The first kind of intellectual and artistic personality belongs to the hedgehogs, the second to the foxes…

John rajchman

...our lives are something like ‘bundles’ of vir tualities, with indeterminate contours, capable of entering into other possible configurations with others; and he imagines philosophy as a sort of inquiry into what happens in the resulting arrangements

Jimenez lai

I’m fired up about the ar t of architecture—more precisely, formalism and historicism. When people talk about being more than just architects, about solving other world pr oblems—affordable housing, carbon emission, landscape urbanism—in my mind, they’r e effectively forfeiting the ver y thing they’re supposed to be an expert on. If we’re not going to cultivate formalism, who will?


Mt. Rokko Chapel Case Study year of Study: 2nd year Design Studio Instructor: Tadd Heidgerken


This project is a case study of Tadao Ando’s Mt. rokko Chapel. It is as much about the tool of illustration in architecture as it is anything. It exposes a highly political purpose to architectural illustration especially when compared to the pseudo-construction quality of its reference drawings. Colorless, material-less, and removed from context; the reference drawings outlined the underlying rationality and scale of Ando’s project. However, the project drawings would reveal that Ando was far from the dichotomy of his modernist predecessors. The same construction views (plan, section, elevation) that favor objectivity over subjectivity become extremely subjective with a shift in medium. From this, one can unearth a plethora of conclusions. The most relevant lesson here, as a second year student, was that reality is most approachable in its subjective phenomenological byproduct to more complex objective theories. After all, being only two years in, it was really hard to understand what anyone was talking about. Only the things that “felt” right seemed to matter.

Mt. Rokko Chapel elevation: graphite and charcoal on paper 0009


section and floorplan shadow study: graphite and charcoal on paper


site plan study: graphite and charcoal on paper 00012


Memory Blobs: Museum for Abstracted Memory

To say that there was a notion of contr ol or pragmatism involved in this pr oject would be far from the truth. Thusly, to boil year of Study: 3rd year Vertical this prject down to a few comprehensive Studio conclusions would do it a great injustice. Instructor: Tony Martinico However, four impor tant ideas ar e at play here that would sur face throughout runner up UDM SOA design school. The first is an attempt at excellence award reigning in on intuition, the second is the beginning of a r etrospective driven process, the thir d is a gr owing interest in form, and the fourth further exercising the practice of Illustration. The next four images r epresent an ambiguous laying of cer tain types of information into a proto-eidetic map. The most perceivable effect of processing the layered image was a growing abstraction of toward singular for ms. This is much like memory that first collects as a mass of vivid infor mation, but then becomes abstracted to fit into singular stories. The things we r emember only become shades of what they actually were as our minds attempt to make sense of them. 00014

In this way , instead of becoming an eidetic tool (which was the intention) this map became an allegor y for memor y and formal deterioration. Either way, the focus had tur ned to the for ms. The 5’ charcoal drawings wer e an experiment in which the for ms were depicted in multiple views (perspective, plan, and section) at the same time.


“memory blobs� diagram study: multi-media 00016


“memory blobs� diagram study: multi-media 00018





“memory blobs” section/ elevation/ perspective study: charcoal



“memory blobs” section/ elevation/ perspective study: charcoal


Royal Oak Center for Technology Education and Residence year of Study: 3rd year Vertical Studio Instructor: Wladek Fuchs

This studio was a constant struggle between wishing to continue the previous theoretical ideas and the need to create something “in the r eal world”. The project started out with an interest in rational urban planning spanning from a “tessellation” of broader urban and city plans. royal Oak is a strange of fspring in relation to Detr oit’s Woodward city plan. It’s main street splits directly off of Woodward Avenue into its own rational urban plan. The idea was to continue this “splitting” of f of royal Oak’ s Main Street as a ration uban strategy: creating a city within a city. In order to do this, a small piazza was angled against the urban grid of royal Oak. The piazza was sunken into the ground. The ear th removed was used as a hill on which the residence was set. This introduced a new urban condition within royal Oak, and a unique identity . The other programs we laid subsequently around the piazza.


Interior renders depict a typical residential unit. Similar to the center , the private programs within the unit were arranged around a public living space: A city within a city within a city.


“mini-city� early concept: digital render


residential units commercial technology center




site plan: digital render


interior design perspective for residential units: digital render


main street perspective: digital render


interior design perspective and section for residential units: digital render


Sukkah Ann Arbor 2012 year of Study: Post 3rd year Instructor: none

This was a summer competition for the Jewish festival of Sukkot. Each year it is celebrated by building a makeshift tent-like structure for feast and prayers. Designing the Sukkah was mor e of an exercise than a full project. Without really knowing it, the Sukkah was a pr oject very similar to the Tadao Ando Mt. rokko Chapel. That is, the process of designing the Sukkah pr oceeded by defining a rational building technology thr ough reusable materials. Sustainability and reusability are a kosher r equirement in all Sukkah’s. It is the craft and techtonic of the design that allows the space to become appropriately transcendental. The proposal didn’t make it into the final round. However, if it means anything, a friend/ juror of the competition claims that the pr oject was selected by the architects to move on but rejected by the rabbis as being un-kosher .


structural exo-skeleton Structural support of the Sukkah is emphasized on the exterior. It is composed of 4, 15'x15' squares, spaced 15 feet apart. The entrance support is spaced at 11 feet. The lumber itself is 4"x4".

rope walls The chief formal expression sits within the structural frame bringing experiential emphasis to the interior of the Sukkot. The walls are a sort of netting formed by rope being strung through holes in the exo-skeleton.

fiber-crop fabric (ramie) The roof is a woven tarp. The fibers are can be taken from a plant in order to fulfill the Jewish requirements. Here specified is a ramie textile.

hanging logs To further fulfill the Sukkah requirements, the tarp suspends logs from the ground.

solar powered log/.lamp The logs are fitted with a solar chip and a light at either end. During the day the chip collects light and emits it at night turning the suspended logs into lamps.



exterior site perspective: digital render


exterior perspective: digital render


interior perspectives: digital render


Towards an Urbanism of Emergent Forms

This studio was largely self-dir ected. The professor however did indicate that the notion of emptiness would be year of Study: 4th year Vertical the stepping stone to diving into the Studio project. The crumpled drawings wer e Instructor: Jan Mazur an investigation into the natur e of the tabula rasa. Any action on the tabula first place UDM SOA design rasa simply traces potential outcomes excellence award inherent in its vagueness. If anything can be traced upon the tabula rasa, it becomes the source of all things. In this way, what may seem empty is actually brimming with potential. Thusly , the emptier something may appear , the fuller it is.

terrain vague study 01, 02, and 03: pen and ink on paper/ acetone transfer 00040




This thinking was followed up with the idea that urbanism can take a similar form. Process is a tool that may coax out said emerging form. Also, the realization of utopia and its inevitable slide into dystopia can also be viewed as a spilling forth opprotunism from the terrain vague. Project study drawings and models show grids overlaying the crumpled drawings. As the ideal and rational grid collides with a highly topographical body , the grid needs to mutate in order to survive. Here is where the tabula rasa seems to gain most potential in terms of creating a unique and flexible urbanity.


That would be as far as the experiment got. The notion of a tabula rasa saturated with infor mation prompted me to write an ar ticle advocating for an urbanism of “non-planning�. The final drawings ar e pen and ink over an acetone transfer depicting various sites in Detroit. They shift between metaphor and experimental process. Where ideal grids are fragmented around and image as urban form abstracted.

terrain vague study 04 and 05: balsa wood and paper model 00045

“emergent forms� site perspective 01: pen and ink, acetone tranfer on paper 00046


“emergent forms� site perspective 02 and 03: pen and ink, acetone tranfer on paper



Volterra Study Abroad/ Museo This studio took place during the summer Dell’alabastro: Piazza Settembre of 2014. During which, the class resided in Volterra, Italy for four months while year of Study: 4th year Vertical working on various architecture projects. Studio Volterra’s is most famous for being a Instructor: Joseph Odoerfer city of alabaster craftsman. As tourism becomes more and mor e prevalent throughout the city , the alabaster studios seemed to be disappearing and the cultur e of alabaster sculptors is quickly dying of f. Memorializing the former ubiquity of this cultur e, which was a major par t of even pr e-roman Etruscan culture, is becoming ever more important. The studio pr oject was a pr oposal for an alabaster museum that impr oves the Piazza XX Settembr e located in the eastern end of the city. The building and public space was designed while studying various aspects of Italy’ s



greatest public piazzas. So the building ultimately took its for m from how it converted the Piazza Settembr e into a more ideal pr oportion. The for m of the building also acted as a commentar y on two distinct conditions. The first is an impression of how rational for ms of domesticity morph to cr eate a dynamic and flexible urban condition. The second formal condition depicts the building as a singular sculptural expr ession in its material and shape. The project involved laying out structural, parking, and mechanical systems as well as building on topography . A faulty switch destr oyed my computer’ s charger forcing me to hand draw most of my pr oject. This in tur n allowed me to explore the potential monolithic and monumental qualities of the building’ s formal makeup.

site plan/ first floor plan of proposed museo dell’ alabastro: multi-media 00051

It is necessary to mention that this project and the entire study abroad experience happened the semester just befor e beginning my thesis year . So, with this semester came intense deliberation upon some fundamental questions about architecture. At the same time the studio was constantly surr ounded by some of the greatest architecture built to this day, from Borromini to Palladio to Mies. This was accompanied by readings of rossi, Eisenmann, Koolhass, Etienne T urpin, and Baudrillard. It was here that loosely affiliated strains of idea began to unite under a central thesis

south and east section: pen and ink 00052

gallery layout: pen and ink

mechanical diagram: pen and ink 00053

alabaster museum parking layout

parking and city plan: multi-media 00054

(above) south elevation and site perspective: pen and ink (below) floor, mechanical, and structural plan: multi-media

mechanical room return supply reception structural wall

column line gallery (temporary) cantilevered truss

fire stair

gallery (permanent)


travel sketches: pen, ink, graphite



travel sketches: pen, ink, graphite



Part 01: The Crisis of Aesthetic year of Study: Masters year Thesis Studio Instructor: Wladek Fuchs 2014 outstanding thesis award: runner up

Architecture, in the innate expr ession of information through built (and nonbuilt) work, has an important issue on its hands. That is, it is unable to synthesize autonomous and semiotic aspects of built form. This is in opposition to the past. For example, the caves of lascaux can be thought of as dually , strategic instruments of survival as well as evidence as cultural and ritual practices. The Pompidou Centr e by renzo Piano and richar d rogers is an indication of a damaged relationship between object and simulacra. The object is completely autonomous, merely expressing itself. It is devoid of ritual or cultural expr ession. If anything it is indicative of extr eme cultural consumption and deterioration. The cube and duck series is a thought experiment in which an autonomous object collides with an object whose simulacra dominates its meaning to the world, especially the world of


architecture. The r esult is a narrative about how objects of autonomy and objects of simulacra for m a relationship that creates meaningful expression. This is contrary to contemporary architecture whose tendency is to cr eate singular bulleted expressions and de-facto remarks.


duck 01: multi-media 00062

cube 01: multi-media 00063

duck deconstruction 01: multi-media 00064

cube and duck 01: multi-media 00065

duck deconstruction 02: multi-media 00066

cube and duck 02: multi-media 00067

cube and duck 03: multi-media 00068

cube and duck 04: multi-media 00069

cube and duck 05: multi-media 00070

cube and duck 06: multi-media 00071

cube and duck 07: multi-media 00072

cube and duck 08: multi-media 00073

Part 02: Seven Allegorical Cities year of Study: Masters year Thesis Studio Instructor: Wladek Fuchs 2014 outstanding thesis award: runner up


The study, Seven Allegorical Cities, is a second thought experimentthat questions the purpose of ar chitecture. This part sets up a grand thought experiment that speculates on the future of the ar chitect. That is, it cr eates a scenario in which the role of the architect is wholly dependent on the survival of humanity. Each city depicts a reality set in a distant futur e. The idea is to set a vision for the spot on the “Ar chitectural Styles Curve� timeline directly to the right of the asymptotic projection explored on the right. Each city imagines that in an instantaneously progressive world, the only real scarcity to be dealt with is the scarcity of culture. In this scenario, the roles of the architect and urban designer becomes more about an exper tise in form and space than anything else. And the main ar chitectural problem is creating cultural for m in the midst of extremely advanced systems.

curve tracing 8000 years of identifiable architectural style: multi-media



























EATIng CITy idealizes the cube, an abstraction of the grid. The cube is isometric, Cartesian, and efficient. The cube also embodies little to no identity allowing it to free itself from context. For this reason it crawls across the landscape roaming for cultural form. It devours the landscape it r oams using the natural form to satisfy its nostalgic sensibilities. The city fights a losing battle however , as it abstracts the for m into something usable, the devour ed landscapes tur n into unidentifiable blobs.


“Eating City”: multi-media 00077





f Org An Iz Ing CITy idealizes the grid as an urban ideal. Being both efficient in flexibility, organization, and dir ection; it seeks to obtain meaningful identity . It takes old urban fr om the antiquated city of Chicago as a means of nostalgic relief. The buildings themselves ar e valuable solely in their ability to pr ovide the Organizing City with meaningful form.







“Organizing CIty”: multi-media 00079

Pl ATE CITy employs mass pr oduction as its idealized urban system. The city brings this conversation to an megaurban scale. It imagines the mass production of entire residential corridors at an instantaneous speed. As the city grows it slowly plates the landscape. Thusly, the city attempts to find meaning in the natural landscape that it embodies; through an ironically parasitic relationship. In this specific instance, citizens of now old l os Angeles have migrated into this mass pr oduced city. r ising sea levels have devoured the old city, where the only things visible above the tide are the old skyscrapers. They stand like giants in the distance.


“Plate City”: multi-media 00081


rOW CITy is an ef fort to fur ther the idealizing the grid. It str eamlines the condition by r emoving it’s cross members. This allows the city to improve the ef ficiency of movement in and out of the city. row City investigates culturally meaningful for m in the act of serif-ing its urban edges. Much like the modernization of textual fonts, the removal of the serif was seen as ideal in embodying multiple cultural identities. In an effort to find meaning within strife, row City allows its r oof to serif as a method of self identification.

“Row City”: multi-media 00083

Technology has a way of r eversing our notions of what for m is soft and what form is har d. As this system becomes both autonomous and instantaneous, it constantly changes for m to accommodate the ever changing needs of its citizens. In this way, its form is very soft, being almost definitive of nothing. Soft form hardly even embodies temporal identity. Thusly, SOFT CITy ’s urban form is the meaningful component. Its har d frame acts as mor e of a cultural devise than an ef ficient system. The soft city , however active and unpr edictable, remains within the confines of the urban framework.


“Soft City”: multi-media 00085

Most of this thesis was spent chasing and roping together loose thr eads that seemed to hold at least to shar e a grain of cohesive potential. Some of these ideas have been developing for years. In the end, the uniting thread was realizing something deeply essential to the practice by which I can develop a personal design philosophy . It seems that the most impor tant role of the Architect is to design space that places the individual in a critical position. The term that was thrown around throughout the year was “interstitial space”. That is the focus of an Architect’s interest, is not the space itself or the expr ession itself; rather the space be spaces and the idea between ideas.

“Distant System” and “Eating City”: multi-media 00086


experience | first american property maintenance raffin construction co. zpd+a llc. architects : 2012 detroit collaborative design center : 2013 virtuoso design plus build : 2014

awards and stuff | 2011 vertical studio design excellence award : runner - up 2012 vertical studio design excellence award : first place lunch8 university of virginia architecture journal : contributor dichotomy 20 student architecture journal: contributor dichotomy 20 student architecture journal: editor 2014 SEED design award: impact detroit/ dcdc how-to-guide pamplet graphics 2013 Detroit - Volterra Study Abroad horizon league championship: track and field - 4x400, dmr 2014 Outstanding Thesis Award: runner - up

skills | Autodesk Auto-CAD Hand drawing Hand modeling Revit Autodesk 3D MAX Design Adobe Photoshop Adobe Illustrator Adobe InDesign Sketchup Rhino 00088

interests | track and field fishing sketching drawing sports theory and history traveling

thank you for viewing this portfolio and a special thanks to all my mentors who made this work possible

contact | 219 252 0595



Joseph Raffin: Portfolio of Selected Works