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CLOUD CAPIT CLOUD CAPIT L

L

The Scaffolding of American Democracy by KENT WILSON

Master of Architecture Thesis, 2015 University of California, Berkeley


A thesis presented to the CLOUD CA PIT L College of Environmental Design at University of California, Berkeley CLOUD CAPIT L in partial fulfillment of the

The Scaffolding of American Democracy

requirements for the degree of

Master of Architecture 2015

by KENT WILSON Advisors:

Ronald Rael Greg Castillo Jill Stoner


CLOUD CAPITOL Copyright Š2015 by Kenneth (Kent) Wilson All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, Kenneth (Kent) Wilson, except for the use of brief cited quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.

U.S. Capitol Quarry The Capitol is first embedded in resin and then quarried like Carrara marble, sliced into 10-foot cubes for commodification and extraction. Scaffolds replace the obsolete building and provide a framework for projecting cloud-based democratic imagery onto the facade.


Contents Acknowledgments Introduction Models

VII 2

1 5

Final Installation

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Scaffold Systems

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Photographic Research 169 Summary

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VI


Acknowledgments This thesis would not have been possible without the scourge of neoliberalism ravaging human cultures and the earth. The neoliberal death cult drives planetary extinction, precipitates financial ruin, and imposes a corporate, militarized surveillance state where once we had a semblance of democracy. These crises prompted my return to academic and design research, leading to this thesis. My energy, passion and inspiration are nourished by a diverse network of friends, family and colleagues. If you are one of these extraordinary people: thank you. Thank you for your wisdom, your love, your healthy skepticism, your constructive criticism, your creative brainstorming. Thank you for being in my life and for remaining engaged.

VII


Introduction Scaffolding frames this cultural archaeological investigation into the disappearance of democracy in the United States. “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism. “ Into the Cloud Scaffolding shrouds the U.S. Capitol as workmen begin a major restoration project. The restoration of the symbol belies the evaporation of the democratic processes that it once housed, and masks the migration of democracy into the placeless cloud of corporate control. v


building mass

1818 – 1855

MOVING YOUR INFRASTRUCTURE TO THE CLOUD

1863 – 2008

2008 – 2016

2016 – 2021

2021 –

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visible facade

The 2014 Princeton University study quoted above confirms with statistical rigor what many Americans already understand: democracy in the United States is not in need of reform and is not ailing. It is simply gone. The vestigial illusion of democracy embedded in the Capitol building now supports the growth of corporate hegemony by concealing it behind a reassuring facade. The physical architecture of the building assumes such an essential role in this power play that it provides an ideal site for architectural design and material studies that examine the neoliberal tactics of dispossession, privatization, and disinvestment in play at the U.S. Capitol and other public institutions worldwide.

Updates That Reflect Emergent Reality In its early years, the building changed dramatically to reflect the conditions of U.S. democracy; but for the last 150 years, the outer facade has remained frozen in time. 4


“And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.”*

– The Bible (King James Version) Revelation 14:16 5


Architects risk complicity in capitalism’s global democracide unless they cease to build and restore the symbols that enable the corporate elite to maintain illusions of democratic freedom while gutting global ecosystems and decimating human cultures. Architecture must break free from its role as aesthetic legitimizer of neoliberal madness, and adopt a decisively oppositional stance. Its evocative visioning capabilities have the power to expose the necropolitical agenda and inspire desire for alternatives. Architects must deploy their core weapon, the scaffold, a powerful architectural form that acts directly upon other architecture. The scaffold gives birth to other architecture, sustains and restores Cloud Cotillion

other architecture, and destroys other architecture. It

Prismatic cast-resin pillars contain sections of the U.S. Capitol dome to form an acrylic event pavilion. Corporate elites gather to celebrate the migration of democracy into the Cloud, while police repel crowds of the dispossessed. 6

renders human scale to whatever it addresses, and thus conveys architecture’s agency.


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Mining the Capitol Injections of casting resin stabilize and solidify the Capitol building and all of its enclosed interior spaces. This converts the building into an extractable resource. A scaffold composed of 10-foot modules gradually replaces the building, which is sliced into 10-foot cubes for transport and sale.

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Framework for Cloud Democracy The new scaffolded structure provides a blank slate for projections of democratic ideals. The flexible network readily adapts to market imperatives, and the vast new interior spaces accommodate architectural innovation.

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Converting Architecture to Money The physical artifacts of the Capitol increase in value as extraction proceeds.

Money and Architecture Virtual dollars generated by accounting schemes at private banks increasingly replace physical U.S. currency. The Capitol follows the money into the cloud. 40


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Quantification and Commodification The entirety of the Capitol’s architectural components, and the spaces that they enclose, are digitally modeled and sliced into standard 10-foot cubes. The 10-foot increment balances shipping concerns with pricing and marketing objectives – small enough to ship by rail, truck and container ship, and large enough to maintain status as a coveted luxury artifact.

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Stabilization and Extraction A bath of resin encases the entire structure. This serves three purposes. First, the resin “freezes” space to make it convertible to fungible assets along with the solids. Second, it stabilizes small parts – columns, cornices, trusses – that would become detached during cutting. Third, it expels oxygen and preserves the assemblages to maintain their value.

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A rough cut removes the temporary scaffolding and yields a 10’ x 10’ x 30’ bar suitable for shipping. These can later be cut into 10’ x 10’ x 10’ cubes, or remain in bar form. Polishing removes scaffold residue. A numbering system organizes parts for matching and reassembly into partial Capitol tableaux.

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Warehouse on Wheels Unmarked stainless steel trucks carry prismatic Capitol sections throughout the United States, and to container ports and rail terminals.

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The Public-to-Private Pipeline Prisms embedded with Capitol core samples depart from the Port of Baltimore destined for global luxury markets.

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Study Model Spatial development with interplay of slicing, cubing and scaffolding. 58


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The Swollen Cloud Rationalized digital “financial bubbles” swell and aggregate to form the new cloud organs within the gutted and scaffolded body of the Capitol. A thin shell of 3D-printed cement is fabricated from a digital model that follows the contours of scaffold cubes and “inflates” to lodge itself into the scaffold. Openings that correspond to the 10” x 10” scaffold provide access for vertical and horizontal circulation, light, air and mechanical systems. 60


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Voting and Building with Dollars Paper U.S. currency, with both hanging and detached chads, serves as architectural material, combined with rough-cut (unpolished) sectional prisms from the U.S. Capitol and steel scaffolding.

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tax shelter Built upon a remnant of the U.S. constitution, this tax shelter constructed of minimally regulated financial instruments shields wealthy corporations and individuals from scrutiny as they defund the society that made their wealth possible. 68


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View inside the foundation of the tax shelter, from below. A veil of resin and currency obscures the traces of the U.S. constitution laser-etched into the top. Sockets that receive scaffold rods taper to sharp points and disappear into the dense material, betraying the laser cutter’s inability to penetrate far beyond the surface.

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Financial Bubble (before) Portions of the U.S. Capitol, suspended in a temporary scaffold network, soak in a calm bath of epoxy resin awaiting an explosion of bubbles. Acceleration of the chemical bonding process will cause violent, erratic expansion, heating, and instability.

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Financial Bubble (after) An exothermic chemical reaction boils portions of the Capitol in a viscous polymer, creating uncontrolled bubbles that freeze in place as the material hardens. Super-heated gas bubbles infiltrate the architecture to shatter it from within, and then harden into a durable new normal. 76


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Financial Bubble (digitized) The explosive chemical reaction eventually submits to computational rationalization: it is digitized. Laser scans map its geometries and generate a three-dimensional computer model. The massive digital scaffold that holds its coordinates in a network of derivative curves taxes the capabilities of computers and eludes any clear human comprehension.

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Exploding Financial Bubble Engulfing Capitol Dome

ROOF PLAN 85


WEST ELEVATION 86


The U.S. Capitol dome is falsework: iron scaffolds and hollow, ornamented shells, as historic drawings reveal.

SECTION 87


Crisis Capitalism’s states of exception inspire an update of the Statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol Dome.

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Filling the Void A cluster of 3D-printed forms, derived from the financial bubble logic and tempered by the rigor of the grid, fills what remains of the Capitol rotunda.

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We the people... A small financial bubble rests on a scrap of the U.S. constitution, where it hardens, and gives birth to habitable space. The Cartesian grid, in the form of the scaffold, calibrates and rationalizes the bubble.

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Visible from below, through a veil of resin, a fleeting trace of the U.S. constitution remains, laser-etched into the petroleum-derived foundation of the financial bubble. Sockets that receive scaffold rods taper to points and disappear into the dense material, betraying the laser cutter’s limits in penetrating beyond the surface. 98


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Financial Bubble A fully developed financial bubble held within the scaffold suggests spaces for habitation. The artifact of the controlled chemical explosion, digitized (3D scanned) and converted to a digital mesh file, has passages for scaffold rods built into the file so that the 3-D printed cement structure readily fits into the grid despite its complex form.

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Rationalized Financial Bubble with Prismatic Inserts This larger-scale iteration of the earlier thin shell 3D-printed cement study model shows the potential for the Capitol scaffolds to serve as supporting structures for habitable spaces derived from financial bubble forms. Fabricated from a digital model that follows the contours of scaffold cubes and then “inflates” slightly to lock itself into the scaffold, the system incorporates apertures that correspond to the 10” x 10” scaffold module (access for vertical and horizontal circulation, light, air and mechanical systems.). Prismatic components containing fragments of the Capitol dome serve as circulation corridors, light shafts and partitions.

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Scaffold In-Fill with Scrim for Large-Scale Graphic projections A space of pure scaffolding reimagines the Capitol interior. Scrims hung on the exterior portray images of the Capitol of memory, and have the flexibility to change and portray other imagery as needed.

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Infrastructural Ductwork as Scaffold Within Scaffold Ductwork can carry mechanical systems while defining space and structure. Here, 3D-printed cement shafts provide capacity for mechanical duct systems while forming a secondary scaffold within the scaffold. This opens enhanced possibilities for occupation.

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Modular Unit System Suspended in Scaffold Modular units are designed as concrete slip castings formed within surplus shipping containers specially designed to anticipate this use. After shipping Capitol cubes, the containers are re-used as slip cast matrices. Tubular passages correspond to spacing of the scaffold. Modules cluster in a multitude of configurations inspired by the minute crystalline structures of gypsum, while regularly spaced tube passages ensure scaffold grid continues through modules. Occupiable spaces of the modules become continuous with those of adjacent modules and interstitial spaces, while tube apparatus accommodates mechanical and structural scaffolds.

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Matrix concept: hexagonal shipping container holds Capitol Cubes, is repurposed as slip cast matrix.

Digital model of slip cast concept, with occupiable interior voids that enable varied interstitial spaces created by adjacencies with other units.

(left-hand page) Configuration example: plan or section 122


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Capitol Dome Aloft Within Scaffolds

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Split Capitol Dome With Billboard

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Strip Mine at the National Mall, Washington D.C. Site selection anticipates the gutting and value extraction of not only the Capitol building, but of all publicly owned property.

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Site Model The Cloud Capitol map is overlaid on scraps of the Capitol embedded in a slab of resin and digitally carved (CNC routed) with the digital topographic contours of the financial bubble. Here, that bubble digs into the earth to become a strip mine. This provides a platform for the exploration of architecture and money at the Capitol.

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The National Mall, White House and Capitol Hill merge into a cloud formation as the digitized financial bubble spreads to become a strip mine routed into fragments of the U.S. Capitol building embedded in a slab of resinous petroleum derivatives. 134


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Graduate Thesis Exhibition May, 2015

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THE SCAFFOLD

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The scaffold conveys human agency in architecture, conceptually and technologically. It should break free from its role as precursor to, or merely supportive of, the architecture. We should employ the scaffold as a primary tool of architectural expression. This research explores that proposition. Conceived as temporary, the scaffold persists in its occupation of built form, its spirit always present, its tangible structure continually obscuring or transforming architecture. Travel to the world’s great buildings and monuments, and find scaffolding shrouding, infilling, supporting, or perching between the viewer and the architecture. Scaffolds betray the handcrafted reality of the architectural object, undermining its pretensions of autonomy.

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Scaffolding Behavior

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Cage Most commonly, the scaffold appears as a cage-like array that provides access – usually for repair and maintenance (left), but also during construction (below) – for humans to make contact with the surfaces and details of structures at a large scale that would prevent human contact without the aid of a structure to provide human-scale support and circulation. The structural loads for the scaffold cage mostly transfer within the scaffold directly to the ground.

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Scaffolding Behavior

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Suspension Sometimes the scaffold hangs from the architecture. In these cases, the scaffold parasitically transfers all of its loads onto the object of its construction or repair.

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Scaffolding Behavior

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Shroud The scaffold often shrouds its architectural subject, adopting its form in a slightly enlarged halo that reflects the general form while smoothing over the smaller articulations. This provides space to accommodate human access as close as possible to each surface. Loads transfer both to the architectural subject as well as to the ground, depending upon the specific demands of the site.

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Scaffolding Behavior

Perch Perching to negotiate complex shapes, the scaffold remains true to its mission of providing human access to structures.

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Bridge Its truss configuration allows the scaffold to morph into a bridge when needed, to provide access routes that span distances high above the ground.

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Scaffolding Behavior

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Matrix By calibrating space, and dividing it into manageable pixels, scaffolding facilitates the incremental production of large-scale form-work.

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Scaffolding Behavior

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Support Overlapping with its matrix behavior, the scaffold can also support a structure – temporarily transferring its loads – until the structure itself grows strong enough to assume that role on its own. The scaffold may also support structures in a restorative or preservation mode (below).

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Scaffolding Behavior

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Collapse The collapsing scaffold, usually deemed a failure, in fact reveals new tangents and vectors that defy the human control or agency that the scaffold represents. This unwelcome mutation of form opens up diverse creative possibilities that designers should exploit.

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Scaffolding Behavior

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Entropic Frame At the architectural scale, a scaffold abandoned to the forces of entropy provides a framework within which non-human ecosystems can thrive, configuring unexpected spatial opportunities. At the scale of human organs and bodily articulations, medical artisans take advantage of the scaffold’s potential as an entropic frame that gives form to, and then dissolves within, human tissue.

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Scaffolding Behavior

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Combustion The high level of porosity and low mass structure inherent to scaffolding provides an ideal environment for combustion. Serendipitous formal discoveries can emerge. Like collapse, combustion behavior in the scaffold defies the imposition of order that is fundamental to scaffold deployment. This mutation of the intended order gives birth to diverse opportunities for spatial experiences that might never occur within the native logic of the scaffold.

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Scaffolding Systems

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Fabricated Frame Produced in a variety of proprietary configurations, the fabricated frame scaffold employs welded moment frames in several standard modular widths and heights. These couple telescopically in the vertical direction, and through x-bracing in the lateral direction, perpendicular to the welded frames. Because the frame and the perpendicular members define this system, it functions best in applications where linearity and orthogonal configurations prevail.

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Scaffolding Systems

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Tube and Coupler Tube and coupler systems offer more flexibility in conforming the scaffold array to irregular forms such as domes, angular articulations and complex curves. This flexibility derives from the system’s freedom from the large, rigid modules that define the fabricated frame system. The tubes within this system can be cut to varying lengths, and the couplers allow connections to occur and a variety of angles. Some proprietary couplers provide several set angles, while others allow for full 360-degree swivel.

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Scaffolding Systems

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Pole – Wood, Bamboo, or Other Plant-Based Bamboo and wood systems, used extensively outside the U.S. and Europe, maximize flexibility in adaptation to both subtle and dramatic articulations of form. They also offer the most freedom from the corporate domination inherent in other systems where uniform, proprietary parts disallow cross-compatibility. Bamboo and wood systems foster greater autonomy on the job site, and their renewable nature makes them a less radically extractive alternative than the steel or aluminum systems that dominate in the thoroughly westernized areas.

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Design Research

Scaffold Exploration and Photography Scaffolds facilitate climbing. The largest and most imposing structures, when calibrated to the human scale by a scaffold, become accessible to the determined climber, bestowing a degree of power closely guarded by authorities. The following photography documents scaffold explorations that preceded and, in part, inspired this thesis design research.

Strident corporate claims of authority, ownership, omniscience and legal privilege fail to diminish the scaffold’s allure or its conveyance of agency to the committed climber.

Following page: Scaffold with shroud, in Berkeley, CA 170


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Design Research: Photography

Scaffolds with shroud, planks and scaffold parts, Berkeley, CA

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Design Research

Scaffold Exploration and Photography The dome of the Palace of Justice rises more than thirty stories above Brussels. Scaffolds, erected in 2003 for renovations, still shroud much of the building. The labyrinthine scaffolding, weathered and creaking but still robust, conveys access for an encounter with gilded lions adorning the dome, and with massive figures of the Titaness Themis, personification of divine order, natural law and custom.

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Early Drawings

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Design Operations

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Physical Particle Modeling Clay particles generated with particle manufacturing machine. Digital rendering of particle behavior within a hypothetical scaffold.

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Summary and Conclusion

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For architecture to address the most pressing issues that humanity faces, it must deploy its most powerful tools. Those tools include theoretical positioning, representation, modeling and building. At the core of all of these tools is the scaffold – in its abstract, conceptual form, and in physical reality. The scaffold is architecture’s fundamental code. This research uncovers the workings of this code in these various applications to leverage its potential for transformation.

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Profile for Kent Wilson

Cloud Capitol | Thesis | Kent Wilson | 2015  

Master of Architecture (M.Arch) thesis book. University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, 2015

Cloud Capitol | Thesis | Kent Wilson | 2015  

Master of Architecture (M.Arch) thesis book. University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, 2015

Profile for kentw
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