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Xiao Han Selected Works 2013-2016

Fifth Year Thesis Work: The Hidden Cities Advisors: Benjamin Farnsworth & David Shanks

Prologue Architecture to me is not simply about form and space, nor is it purely a representational discipline, instead it’s much more about transferring a synthesis of ideas into the built environment. Architectural ideas reflect one’s engagement and critical response towards disciplinary, social, cultural, political, and environmental issues. Steven Holl has set out to define that while artists work from the real to the abstract, architects must work from the abstract to the real. In this process of transferring, I would like to say that the most crucial part is to take a position among tremendous choices. Taking a position means having one’s own interpretation and aim relative to disciplinary issues and the broader context within which the design is situated. The “abstract” that architecture is trying to transfer to the real world is composed of the individual’s position plus the conscious imagination. Through this “positioned imagination,” architecture has the ability to speculate on the real. In this portfolio I would like to express my point of view to the importance of taking position in architectural design through my academic experience, attempting to seek for new possibilities of how architecture can speculate on an alternative versions of the near future.


01 Excavating the Waterfront


Residential project with Children’s Museum at DUMBO, NYC

02 Moving within the Walls


Net-Zero residential project in Portland, OR

03 A Formal Affair


Architecture Institution next to the Highline Park, NYC

04 Flipping District


Research project about gentrification in Williamsburg, NYC

05 The Hidden Cities


06 Other Works


Thesis work exploring the speculative potential of architectural fictions

Digital fabrication works / Competition works / Drawings


01 Excavating the Waterfront

Fall 2014 Visiting Critic Studio Instructor: Jill Leckner Site: DUMBO,Brooklyn, NYC Individual Work

Within a few years, the waterfront of the New York harbor will drastically change due to the issue of climate change. The project is trying to explore the relationship between land and sea under the impact of surge. Instead of creating various barriers to confront with surge, why not incorporating water into the project? By creating huge “gap” between the East River and the site, which allows large amount of water burst into the “gap”(water tank), the water can be used to produce potential energy – kinetic energy – electrical energy and provide power for the residential areas. Meanwhile, this huge man-made waterfall is a unique scenery to attract visitors. The topic of using water to produce energy will be the theme of Children’s museum. Children would be able to see the “waterfall” working procedure. For residential part, the user will be visual and acoustical artists who come from DUMBO area in Brooklyn. There are two modules of housing units, one is private residence, which has a great sound insulation ( for acoustical artists ) and another is the work-in-residence for visual artists.


Flood Test Watercolor on museum board to explore different ways of preventing/draining the flood. The result shows that creating barriers is the least effective way to prevent the surge. The most efficient way is to drain the water through the trenches on the landscape.

Curvature shape as a soft barrier can induce water

mildly and avoid concussion between water and barrier. However it is hard to control the direction of water.


Piles of blocks/Marshland are unstable and easily been covered by flood, which is not an efficient way to prevent flood.

Trench on the barrier can efficiently induce water Trench on Landscape is an efficient and to specific area. The narrowness of the tunnel safe way to induce water into the city flood enables water to accumulate kinetic energy. protection system.


Water flow direction vs.Tidal heights The East River is a tidal strart, not a real river, which connects on both ends to the Atlantic Ocean. As such, East River's tidal currents change directions up to four times a day, flowing north and then turning around and pushing south toward the ocean. With the tide rising, the water flows north and with the tide subsiding, the water flows south. This duality enables this project to develop in two directions, different activities can happen when tide rising or subsiding.


1. Water Tanks

2. Trenches

3. Trenches lead to the water tanks

The gap between public and private spaces separates the Children's museum underground from the residential units upper above, meanwhile creating gathering spaces on the ground floor. The landscape allows different activities to happen.

1. Trenches and basic housing blocks

2. Housing blocks subdivides based on the footprint of the trenches

3.Landscape on hard-edge waterfront

4. More sunlights and refined hard-edge waterfront landscape


Hard-edge Waterfront The hard-edge waterfront segmented by the trenches forms "breaking ice" landscape, which allows different activites to happen at whichever direction the tide comes. The trenches are covered by glasses and extends into the water to form small swimming pools. Plates in between the trenches are at different heights which forms stages and stairs.


Cut-out Axon The water of East River is induced and becomes the underground waterfall. 08

Activities Diagram There are different activities happen at different times during a day. 09


N-S Section showing the relationship between residential units and children's museum underground.

N-S Section showing the communal spaces within residential towers. 11



02 Moving within the Walls

Spring 2015 Comprehensive Studio Instructor: Ann Munly Site: Portland, OR In collaboration with: Xue Yang, Meishi Zhang

Portland is a bicycle friendly city that promotes healthier lifestyle. The project is trying to complete the city’s bicycle loop starting from the waterfront park along with Burnside Street to our site and go back to the park. The bicycle lane will run across the entire project and act as an entertainment facility and power equipment that transfer energy of riding bicycle into electricity. The formal idea is to split one volume into two correspondent parts that separate the private residential space from communal spaces such as gym, bicycle club and retail stores. The gap in between serves as a connection between NE Couch Street and E Burnside Street. The checkerboard shape created by the separation ensures each unit has its own garden and gains enough sunlight. The wall facing west acts as circulation and mechanical core, at the same time, the perforated mesh façade with plants inside create an engawa, a threshold space, for the residential units. The wall facing east acts as a power equipment that provide all residential units with electricity produced by cycling. Also, the perforated metal façade towards Sandy Boulevard acts as a billboard for people who are going to enter the downtown Portland. Portland is a bicycle friendly city that promotes healthier lifestyle. The project is trying to complete the city’s bicycle loop starting from the waterfront park along with Burnside Street to our site and go back to the park. The bicycle lane will run across the entire project and act as an entertainment facility and power equipment that transfer energy of riding bicycle into electricity.


New bicycle lane that connects bact to the loop.

Existing bicycle lane turns before reaching the site.

Downtown Portland

Net-Zero Design Strategy The project not only completes the city's bicycle loop, but also itself has a Net-Zero inner energy loop. The East mesh wall with Biker's Club and Private Gym transfers the human power into electrical power that supplied to residents. The green terrace on the roof of residential units collect rainwater and transfer to green water that is in cyclic utilization.


Groundfloor Plan 16


E-W sectional perspective view from central pedestrian path

Housing Units in between the Service Cores The checker board shape of residential units allows each unit to have its private garden. The mesh wall on West acts not only as shading and mechanical device, but also creates "engawa space" for the entrance of each unit. Vegetables and plants can be planted in this space along the mesh wall. The bicycle ramp on East wall emphasize the process of arriving and tries to bring the lifestyle of bicycle into the project. The gap between residential units and facility wall becomes a commercial pedestrian that connects streets on north and south end. 18

Elevations 19

Layers of the Project The project superimposes various layers of metal mesh for three major facades with different lighting and program conditions to create corresponding visual effects and ventilation performances. 20

Basic Unit Type Loft is the basic unit type. All the units use natural ventilation where fresh air got filtered by plants on West wall and then enter the room, finally exhausted through windows on the East wall.

N-S section showing units arrangement 21

Bridges Each unit has its outdoor space and some of these spaces have bridges connect to the communal spaces on the East wall.



Fourth floor plan

Fifth floor plan

Second floor plan

Third floor plan

Unit Design Strategy Render: Double-height living room with glass curtain wall towards central pedestrian path The windows are operable and covered by metal mesh shutter for light and privacy control. Meanwhile, the mesh allows for natural ventilation. There are also access from living space to private garden in each unit in order to promote a green lifestyle. 24


03 A Formal Affair

Fall 2013 Design Studio Instructor: Kyle Miller Site: Highline Park, NYC Individual Work

Through researching different formal typology prototypes and re-mix these prototypes into one project, new dynamic relationships between design components will produce new architectural results. The project is focusing on creating a clear distinction between public and private space. By combining the tectonic expression with strong figural forms, the purely structure provides an entire isolated environment for private spaces: the heavy and huge volume with strong figural form provides spaces for the public and the top-heavy character creates possibilities for public activities happen on the ground level. Dominant Formal Characteristics: Simple Form Ambiguous Pareidoria Emphasizes Structure Exposure of building systems Abstraction of animal forms Forms with legs and eyes Openness and Translucency Machine-like object


Study Models In collaboration with Fang Fan Exploration of different combinations of strong figural form and tectonic expression 27




Transverse Section showing the relationship between figural form and tectonic expression.

113’ Gallery


102’ Gallery



92’ 113’


68’ 92’



80’ 102’

104’ Outdoor space

Gallery Lobby




72’ 92’ 60’

Gallery Library




72’ 68’

Outdoor Gallery space

Lobby Cafe Library

60’ Gallery




Longitudinal Building Section


Longitudinal Building Section


Longitudinal Section showing the space arrangement within figural form.

Exterior views from street and highline park The strong figural form which facing towards the street is the public library and the tectonic expression that facing towards highline is the architectural institution.



Renderings showing the connections Although the public library and the architectural institution was separated by the wall, there are still pathways that connects these two spaces without interrupting the privacy of students.



04 Flipping District

Summer 2015 NYC Research Studio Instructor: Kristian Korman Site: Williamsburg, NYC In collaboration with Xiangru Chen

Manifesto: The Gentrified Lobby Williamsburg became neither Manhattan nor Brooklyn. It is a lobby in between. People who live there, work somewhere else for higher income. People who work there, live somewhere else for lower rents. Gentrification brought the carnival in weekends, left vacant shops and streets in weekdays. Williamsburg became neither old nor new. It is eternal. The old industrial facade still telling the story of the mass production. The stores and pubs and flea markets present a trendy and modern lifestyle. Williamsburg is now a place where modern and history juxtaposed. The overcrowded and overburdened Manhattan system needs expansion. Gentrification is a spontaneous relieving process of this inevitable swelling. It has gone so far that Williamsburg cannot go back to the old time. Old spirits have gone, but meanwhile, new spirits formed. Rather than recall the nostalgia sense, it is more practical to take care people who live there. The diversity of demography and occupancy, The co-existence of modern and historic architecture, Are brought by the middle stage of gentrification. It cannot go back, and it should not go further. It needs to stop at where it is. The current condition of Williamsburg as an urban scale lobby can be maintained in different ways. What if Williamsburg became another Las Vegas, tall residential buildings rising up along the river like a huge billboard telling “I am a Lobby�? What if Williamsburg became an exhibition lobby, the existing urban fabric is enclosed by glass walls, to keep from gentrification in the rest area? What if all the historical buildings become recreational public spaces and residents are moved into another layer on top of them?


Open Hours 35

Alleys and Crimes


Gentrification in Williamsburg,NYC The research project explores the issue of gentrification along the L-train. Our site -- Williamsburg, which located at the first stop of L-train in Brooklyn, is facing the problem of losing original residents and social life as well as the rising of crime rates. Due to the process of gentrification, over fifty percent of the industrial buildings are now turned into art galleries, coffee shops, flea markets and restaurants. However, the opening of these shops did not bring social life back to the district. Most shops only open at nights and weekends, leave the area with vacant streets. In order to bring social life back to the site, we decided to create adaptive housing on the footprint of the abandoned alley and inner garden, leave all the existing industrial building as public spaces. In this case, the whole area becomes a theme park. People who works here now can also live here. The area will never be vacant during daytime anymore.


Inner Garden -- Lobby The housing units turned the existing dangerous alley and inner garden into safe lobby space. In this case, outdoor spaces become indoor spaces, exterior facades become interior decorations. The lobby has access to the public programs that surround it.


Nolli section showing the relationship between public and private spaces. 38


05 The Hidden Cities Exploring the Speculative Potential of Architectural Fictions

Summer 2016 Thesis Work Instructor: Benjamin Farnsworth, David Shanks, Kyle Miller Site: Venice, Italy Individual Work Working in and on Venice, Italy raises a series of issues pertinent to the creation of architectural narratives. In Rem Koolhaas’s book “Preservation is Overtaking Us,” he claims that “…everything we inhabit is potentially susceptible to preservation….The scale of preservation escalates relentlessly to include entire landscapes, and there is now even a campaign to preserve part of the moon as an important site. We are living in an incredibly exciting and slightly absurd moment, namely that preservation is overtaking us.” Venice is a perfect example of the city that is being over-preserved. The self-defeating preservation system rejected new architecture and organic growth, preferring the far more corrupting forces of mass-tourism. In order to preserve the image that only exists in tourists’ mind, the city resists every intrusion of modernism and is keep copying and imitating the historical building style to make Venice look like an authentic Renaissance town. However, it is tourism that makes Venice lost its authenticity. Venice has already transformed by tourism: the Doge’s Palace is no longer the house of the doge but becomes a museum; the Ala Napoleonica is no longer the office for governors but becomes the souvenir store; the Gondola is no longer the necessary transportation but becomes the entertainment facility for tourists… The real Venice is no longer exists – if it ever did. The ‘historical authenticity’ that people pursued actually becomes the ‘touristic authenticity’, which makes Venice little different from the hyperreal theme parks discussed by philosopher and author Umberto Eco in his 1978 book ‘Travel in the Hyperreality.’ This thesis contends that the loss of historical authenticity in Venice – and its transmogrification into touristic authenticity is, in fact, an opportunity to speculate on the value and agency of alternate authenticities. In this thesis therefore, Venice becomes the perfect venue for escaping the “tyranny of the real.” The narratives shaped by the current tourism boom are bland, homogenizing, and unthreatening. All subscribe to a particular view of the way Venice is experienced – on the hoof and from the end of a selfie-stick. This thesis – Hidden Cities – does not seek to recuperate some mythically authentic Venice – to recover the state of “historically authenticity”, but rather, this thesis intends to speculate on a value of setting run a series of multiple and overlapping fictive authenticities.


The Scale of Preservation-worthy Architecture

Touristical Authenticity vs. Fictive Authenticity Current Situation

Historically Authentic

Touristically Authentic

Imagined Situation

[Real] Historically Authentic

[Hyper Real] Touristically Authentic

[Post Real] A Plurality of Competing Authenticities


Fictive Authenticity 1: City and the Sky

"Nadia" (Hope)

Those who arrive at Nadia can see little of the city, beyond the scaffoldings, the metal armatures, and the conveyor belt on the catwalk. And all of these structures are rising from the Adriatic Sea – you can hardly find ground to step on. However, this is not how Nadia always look like. The old city with firm ground and narrow alleys was buried under the sea fifty years ago, so do the splendid past. Since then, the inhabitants decided to build up huge structures of steel frames and dive deep into the sea to salvage the precious elements and memories of their old city. They categorized the elements and preserved them on the huge shelves of the steel structure. So when you entering the city on a boat you would think yourself entering into a huge library of historical elements. Now everyone’s occupation in this city is a salvor, they live on the huge piers beside the conveyor belt which used to transfer the historical elements to their former foot print in the old city. Those mega structures are gradually expanding as the increasing of the elements: the inhabitants built more and more towers of steel frames to hold the historical pieces and some of the structures are turning into residential units. Finally the old city now becomes a city in the sky.

Imagined Piazza San Marco



Navigation Map of Nadia The grand canal now becomes the conveyor belts that used to transport historical elements to each site. Crosses marks the density of important historical buildings in Venice.



Imagined Piazza San Marco 46

Fictive Authenticity 2: Hidden City

"Monica" (Hermit)

Monica is a city with all kinds of labels. Even the residents of the city are talking about these labels all the time. One day a curious young traveler came to the city and tried to find out if those labels and signs are true. Before his entering, he was confident that he would find the truth about the city. However, when he finished his journey and someone asked him what is interesting about Monica? The only thing he could think of are those signs and labels. He seems completely forgot the smell of the salty water, the crumbling bridge that he past and the unique scenery he saw. All he can remember are the descriptions and the labels of the city. The truth is that Monica is composed of numerous facades with different styles and from different time, everyone could find their own labels and definitions for the city when traveling across these facades. At certain moment, every new façade the traveler meet was engraved with marks of his unique impressions about the city even though it is the first time he came to the place – it is travelers who put marks and labels on the city.

Imagined Piazza San Marco 47


Fictive Authenticity 3: Continuous City

"Daria" (Keep in good)

Daria has a huge system which measures the decay and re-birth of historical architecture. The system has a huge container for “decayed� architectural elements. Through creating different dimensions of the container, the decay rate of the building was recorded and saved for later re-birth. Meanwhile, the elements that being collected would be recycled and reused to create new architecture, the heritage site once again become the construction site. The project tries to show that preservation is an evolution process which the developments and transformation will never end. Daria is a mixture of the future and the past. The city was built with the most expensive materials on the market, with every device and mechanism and gear system functioning, decked with tassels and fringes and frills hanging from all the pipes and levers. However, if you look closer, you would find that in between these precise mechanical systems there are fragments of traditional Daria. Almost nothing was lost of Daria’s former splendor; it was all there, merely arranged in a different order and combined with new urban developments.



06 Other Works Seminar Projects & Competition & Digital Fabrications


Flickering Figures Analysis of of Daily Object b and Abstract Painting fr f om 2D to 3D and animation 52

Copy Culture Comparing Byodo-in Temple in Japan and it's replica in Hawaii 53



In collaboration with Xue Yang & Meishi Zhang 56

Deer Pile Exploration of the relationship between object and field Precedent: Pig Pile In collaboration with Fang Fan & Qiuchen Li 57

Object and Field Exploration of the relationship between object and field In collaboration with Fang Fan & Qiuchen Li 58


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