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Some Evidence of Real Alternatives M.Arch Thesis 2017

Blanca Abramek Kristina Eldrenkamp Grigori Enikolopov Sam Ghantous Max Jarosz Alice Kao Chang Liu Liang Liu Wayne Liu Xinyi Ma Jessica Pace Kai Peng Joohui Son Chenxue Wang Xu Zhang

MIT Department of Architecture Keller Gallery, Room 7-408 On view February 16 - April 7, 2017 1


It seemed not too long ago that alternative realities were indeed the purview of all architectural projects. But as that notion (and term) got swept into the vortex of contemporary media and politics, swirling now dangerously closely to the drain, real alternatives seem ever more urgently necessary. The 2017 MArch Theses included here operate on the dangerous edge where contemporary environmental, cultural and political transformations meet the discipline and the profession of architecture. Their premises are radically real and their conception of architectural agency hopeful. The projects are presented here as a collection of fragments that one might indeed encounter in a future archive.

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Blanca Abramek

Parade Square: The Discursive Surface of Post-Socialist Warsaw

Parade Square in Warsaw, Poland is a battleground where different political projects are confronted, without any possibility of a seamless reconciliation. Prior to World War II, the area used to be a dense residential neighborhood. In the post war years, it was reconfigured by the socialist urban design project. It became the site of a monumental skyscraper commissioned by Joseph Stalin, called the Palace of Culture and Science. Today, having been used as a parking lot for the past quarter of a century, Parade Square is about to be reconfigured again, this time by the neoliberal economic forces. This thesis positions the square as an agonistic space in which every order is political and based on some form of exclusion. The project seeks to disrupt the prevailing contemporary discourse about the future of Parade Square and to bring to the fore other possibilities that have been repressed and that can be reactivated. 2


Kristina Eldrenkamp Spaces Between Places

In a fast-forwarded Brooklyn, the over-building of luxury towers leads to a real estate bubble burst. Waterfront rents stagnate, and entire buildings sit abandoned. In a city defined by divisions, a social movement emerges. An architect and her band of social subversives descend on an empty tower. They begin altering their living spaces with deviant acts of connection. United by an opposition to divisions, they wage a war on the party wall.The ideology of the existing plan is at odds with the ideology of its occupants. The plan relies on privacy and separation, leaving social programs near the street and far from everyday living spaces. The social subversives are wary of the intolerance produced by the echo chambers of their Twitter feeds and believe that home can be a space of resistance to neo-tribalism, if daily ritual is interrupted by interactions with the other. Their manifesto reads, “We aim to reveal, to conceal, to upend the everyday through a new set of architectural operations.� The operations take on the redundancies of sideby-side private programs and elicit new types of social interaction. An opening in the wall above a dining room table, for example, allows neighbors to momentarily become company for a meal. The manipulation of the interior imbues the minutiae of domestic life with unexpected social forms. Over time, as markets shift and members of the group move on and out, the afterlives of these interventions vary. Some new neighbors accept them as idiosyncrasies of the city’s housing stock. Most fight to undo them, but the acts have already been committed. However short-lived, they have already produced their intended effect, a disruption of the everyday.

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Grigori Enikolopov

Decamping: Correspondences from the Transient City

Unprecedented levels of migration, displacement, and expulsions mark the contemporary moment. With the increase of protracted conflicts and environmental crises, the numbers of displaced persons fleeing war, famine, disease, or poverty has now surpassed levels seen previously only after WWII. As the world urbanizes, rural populations move in greater numbers to cities in the developed world and gentrification reshuffles historical settlement patterns. The spatial technologies that surround this mass movement of persons have been inadequately explored and represented. A new form of urbanism is emerging—not static cities of migration, but conduit cities of populations in motion. This new form of transient urbanism will not replace the static city. Instead it is superimposed upon the existing city; it emerges from its obsolete artifacts. The city of Athens, Greece, a gateway into Europe and confluence on the migrant route from the Middle East, is taken as a case study for architectural speculations into the ways transience alters the experience of cities. Athens poses numerous difficulties and opportunities as the state’s ability to formulate meaningful action is challenged by the ongoing government-debt crisis which began in 2009. Another consequence of the crisis is the hollowing out of the city center: vacant building stock increased to the tens of thousands, reports journalist Yiannis Baboulias. This thesis takes the form of a manifesto that aims to replace the camp imaginary with correspondences from the transient city. The proposal projects not a utopian vision of the future but a provisional project already in the process of becoming. Drawing is used as a tool to heighten and amplify the transformations now underway. 4


Sam Ghantous

Architecture in the After-Net

Tweeting from your couch, in your sweats, can be an architectural act. Architecture’s ability to serve and shape a public has been weakened by its disciplinary exclusivity and the privatization of public space. Hope for architecture today is found, instead, in its ability to be shared online. There, its value is in its newfound velocity, intensity, and spread - an ability to “get around.” Attention is a currency; the image, a visual byte that circulates, has already replaced the building in space as such. Architecture is on and of the web, and it can shape public there. If you Tweet @archmixes with selections from the archive of 3D meshes I compiled, you can make architecture. Appropriated from 3D models uploaded to Sketchup Warehouse, anyone can make anew from preexisting digitized disciplinary matter. This is a call for the regime of a new six points of architecture: Search, Select, Combine, Tag, Archive, Share. Sharing is a creative act that will disperse into the fiber optic infinitum your architecture rendered specific by its anxious formats: JPEGs, 3D meshes, videos, GIFs, 3D print files, Shopify listings, Instagram posts, Pins. Files are promiscuous and will degrade in order to be as mobile as possible, to be reused and misused; they just want to be save-as’ed. Rather than a proposal, this thesis culminates in a performance. MIT ACT’s Cube is transformed into a living room where the audience is introduced and consequently participates in the labor of architectural production by tweeting canonical projects that consequently get combined and dispersed. This is a call to speed up and broadcast architecture made of the web, for the web. Creativity has been democratized: now anyone with a phone and repost button can sculpt their own aesthetic universes, be it on Instagram, YouTube, or SoundCloud. Through recycling the pixel, vector, and mesh-waste that lives online, architecture has the opportunity to sustain the archive of its disciplinary history; it stands the chance to engage publics, it might even sustain an economy of attention in the era of perpetual distraction. 5


Max Jarosz

Toxic Urbanism: Heart | Heimatlosigkeit | Home

The year is 2024. The Anthropocene has wreaked havoc and produced a world of toxins. Humanity has settled in a condition of toxic urbanism, contained by the toxic wastelands of the periphery. Early estimates of the exponential destruction caused by our toxic landscapes of production were low; constantly shifting metrics of toxicity provided by different agencies, bureaus, and offices made measurement difficult. Remediation efforts were too slow, too costly, and failed to produce any agency in the age of toxicity. We continued to produce Superfund sites across the country. Landscapes of toxic air, contaminated soil, and polluted water became our second nature. As we shifted from one machine age to the next, the continued autonomy provided to landscapes of production allowed increasingly more toxic means of production to develop. This methodology assured there would be no post-toxic future. Within the confines of toxic urbanism, people dressed in protective suits every day. They wore protection more for peace of mind than protection of the body. As we destroyed the land, we perfected the interior. Continuous halls stocked with machinery created a perfectly sterile environment that defined lives; the sprawling mechanized interiors of the no-stop city had finally been realized. We had come a long way. Ever since humanity created the fire, toxins had been part of our environment. The hearth originally acted as both an object of environment and an object of culture. As we followed the flames into modernism we found ourselves in a state of homelessness explicated by the dichotomy between our technological culture and its toxic means of production. Martin Heidegger described the sensation as Heimatlosigkeit, the signification of our existential orientation in the era of Gestell. Humanity has however always been a risk adverse society, and as we began to reject the sterile environments of safety and embrace the toxic environments of experience, we gained agency through the design of toxins. In an increasingly toxic world, this thesis explores how toxins can become active participants and drivers for the production of temporal spaces defined by the hard and soft boundaries they operate within. Architectural interests in materiality and dimension are deprioritized in favor of velocities, gradients, and densities that define zones of occupiability. 6


Alice Kao

Anthropogenic Landscapes: Owens Lake, CA

ALABAMA HILLS INYO MOUNTAINS

LONE PINE

DOLOMITE (RUINS)

SWANSEA (RUINS)

KEELER BARLETT COLUMBIA-SOUTHERN GLASS PLANT (RUINS)

NATURAL SODA COMPANY (RUINS)

U.S. BORAX TRONA CLAIM

CHARCOAL KILNS (RUINS)

SIERRA NEVADAS

DIRTY SOCKS HOT SPRINGS (RUINS)

CARTAGO

CENTRAL PARK

OLANCHA

BRINE VEGETATION GRAVEL SHALLOW FLOODING TILLAGE

In the Age of the Anthropocene, human activities have greatly altered and transformed all aspects of the geological environment, typically extracting what is considered valuable and leaving behind degraded landscapes. Often existing in between the city and wild nature, these landscapes are largely forgotten and assumed to be unchanged. How can we reengage these landscapes and can they become a meaningful part of our culture? A prime example of an anthropogenic landscape is Owens Lake in eastern California. It has a rich history: the earliest agricultural domestication, silver and salt mining, death by a greedy neighbor far south, major environmental disaster, and a surprising resurrection. Owens Lake was a dusty alkali flat known for the worst particulate matter pollution in the country. In the early 2000s, Owens Lake was carved into ‘cells’ and a new infrastructure of pipes, roads, sensors, and dust monitoring equipment was laid as part of a one billion dollar dust mitigation effort. Each cell was re-tilled, re-watered, re-planted, or re-paved, resulting in a strange yet fascinating ecology where multiple “natures” (wild, artificial, and reconstructed) co-exist uncannily. Owens Lake sits within federal lands; public engagement was a requirement of the dust mitigation efforts. Architecture, an important contributor to anthropogenic change, offers the opportunity to re-engage with the site. Stan Allen writes that “any work of architecture is (first) a transformation of the landscape.” Inevitably, architecture sits on or interacts with land, is composed of materials extracted from the land, and most importantly, reorders the landscape through artificial constructs. Here, a network of architectural interventions draw people, whether casual passerby, adventure seekers, or scientific researchers, to key areas around Owens Lake to discover the human and non-human dynamics that shape this particular place and to find potential and understanding in an anthropogenic landscape. TRONA MINING

BIRD NEST L.A. AQUEDUCT ROAD RAILROAD

SEASONAL STREAM

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Chang Liu

Library of Wonder

In 2008 we tore all of our books from the past three years into pieces. It was a celebration of graduating from high school and a longing for a new life. Yes, we hated books. We were forced to stay in the classroom for 10 hours every day; our eyes switched between books and the blackboard. Our days were filled with tasks from books. Directed by the running countdown on our blackboard, we were spurred on by the slogans surrounding us. Soon, we forgot how to read books and we forgot the joy of reading. We searched for the beautiful refuge for reading books and looking at things, the kind of paradise imagined by Jorge Luis Borges. Unfortunately, most of the libraries in China were designed to represent the sanctity of knowledge and the dignity of the nation; they were to be clear symbols of national pride and knowledge. We found ourselves too small to embrace them. The joyful experience we were after did not exist there. However, we did have some amazing discoveries when we escaped our classrooms of book-counting. A new world composed of three secret gardens awaited us, as long as we had the patience to look. Through a reading of the Chines garden, my thesis arrives on principles to create a new kind of library, one that emphasizes personal emotions and experiences, forgets the authority of books and nations, and blurs the boundary between story and reality. To read in the garden library is to simultaneously sense the physical surroundings with the body, observe the beautiful view with the eyes, and get carried away in a story unbounded by time and space. The library of the future will transcend its environment and present experiences as perception, perceptions as stories, and stories as experiences. Who knows what can come from such a playful practice of knowledge? 8


Liang Liu

A Generator of Sensory Architectures

“As we have said, the majority of people consider architecture and space as an essentially visual experience. Architecture: these are buildings – and space is the emptiness contained within its walls. It is precisely where the misunderstanding resides, because space is not emptiness but rather an environment for life contained within the walls, an environment that is stimulating to the senses. It is obviously light and shadow, proportion and color, perspective and decoration, but also sounds that reverberate, surfaces that our feet walk upon, textures that we touch, temperatures that determine our degree of comfort and smells that surround and seduce us. All these things together multiply one another into an ensemble that we perceive as a whole surrounding.” — Marc Crunelle, Sense of Smell Why do architects emphasize vision rather than the collaboration of all senses? Due to the convenience of disseminating visual information, we mostly perceive the outside world through vision. In both architectural production and experience, architects typically rely on visual modes of design. The conventional design process emphasizes drawings and visual representation; it is most convenient and expedient to draw sketches, build three-dimensional models, and make renderings. This mode of production, however, hides the fact that architecture is a three-dimensional project that should be created and experienced by the collaboration of all senses. In prioritizing vision, we limit our capacity to understand and pursue the production of architecture in a broader way and to engage the other senses in the design process. This thesis proposes to rouse the multi-sensory architectural design process and experience. Through this thesis, I aim to challenge the dominant ocular reading of architecture, conventional design methodologies, and existing means of architectural representation. 9


Wayne Liu

A Living Monument for a Rootless City

The Chinese city of Shenzhen has transformed from a village to a megacity in just three decades due to the nation’s economic policies. Despite its economic success, the city struggles with a lack of identity. In this thesis, monumentality is used as an analytical and design tool to address the city’s rootlessness. Defining Shenzhen as a city of immigrants, this thesis proposes to build an urban monument for the immigrants. In addition to its symbolic meaning, the monument is an excuse for preserving a preeminent Urban Village in the Shenzhen Central Business District. The ‘Urban Village’ is essentially a settlement that accommodates thousands of lowincome migrant workers. It carries much of the immigrants’ memories about the city and is a vibrant site. By analyzing the prevailing mode of urban renewal in Shenzhen, this thesis focuses on how the new building could satisfy various stakeholders. The design is twofaced to respond to different parties’ requests and specific site conditions. As a result, a living monument for thousands of migrant workers is made as the city’s true memory. 10


Xinyi Ma

From Roots to Routes

Over the past two decades, more than 200 million people in China moved from rural to urban areas. These migrants fled the countryside, which is regarded as an economic wasteland in perpetual stagnation that is locked by feudal traditions and peasant values, to the largest cities. They sought a connection to a modern China, one that is marked by a booming economy and pronounced popular culture. These rural-to-urban migrants have formed the largest peacetime inland migration in history. Mobility is a socially produced notion that often bears an ideology. It is associated with a desire for progress, freedom, and opportunity. The massive inland migration in China demonstrates the tremendous social force that aims to overcome the outdated social strata. However, as migrants move, limitations on mobility emerge. The Hukou, the household registration system in China, is an institutional framework that has entrenched the social strata for ages. Records of births, marriages, and moves identify each person with a place. As soon as migrants move from their designated origins, immobility appears: welfare exclusion, job inequity, urban transit inaccessibility, to name just a few. This thesis proposes to study this condition of mobility, immobility and estrangement in the district of Minhang, Shanghai, where 1.5 million migrants currently live and work. The scooter, an emerging fast and cheap personal vehicle, is the protagonist in this story of migrants. Linked closely to migrants’ life, scooters are not only their primary means of transportation but also their means of production. This mobility empowers migrants to move beyond their territory, while the scooter’s unique scale and flexibility allows for rich spatial possibilities. 11


Jessica Pace

Finance & Architecture: A Tragic Love Story

Our markets are volatile. Our economy is unstable. Our future is unknown. This thesis investigates the architecture of financial institutions within the current context of complete failure and abstraction. Historically, the building of banks was undertaken in order to produce a sense of public trust in the institution. It was the task of the architects of great financial establishments to maintain an image of lofty seclusion, of power, and of stability. Banks were constructed of stone, were monumental in scale, and referenced the Greek orders. Their architecture was wrought with symbolism and representation. They were built to last. However, the nature of our financial institutions has changed. The crash of 2008 represents a distinct shift in our relationship with our financial institutions. The masses began to question the interests of their government and the corruption of their financial institutions. With each new headline of scandal and fraud, public trust is no longer an option. In the face of this, my thesis is in search of an architecture for failure. Can architecture challenge these traditions of seclusion, power, stability and separation? Can it undermine the perception of strength that no longer defines our financial institutions? Can it acknowledge uncertainty? This thesis reimagines the stock exchange as a machine for trading: a data center. Anticipating the total obsolescence of the trading floor, the new exchange boasts floors of servers to run the complex algorithms that will soon take over. Constantly whirring with fans and mechanical systems, the machine puts off heat which is used to inflate a network of public spaces that wind through the building. These give access and allow for new occupations of the Exchange. The new face of Wall Street is no longer solid nor stable. It is temporary, claustrophobic, flickering, buzzing and slightly saggy. 12


Kai Peng

People’s Wall

“If the Warsaw community is to be reborn, if its core is to be constituted by former Warsawians, then they have to be given back, their old rebuilt Warsaw to some extent, so that they can see in it the same city, though considerably altered, and not a different town on the same spot. One must take into consideration the fact that individual attachment to old forms is a factor of social unity.” — A writer’s comments Warsaw’s post WWII reconstruction project for the Warsaw Escarpment, 1946 The notion of “Wall” is intrinsic to how Chinese people understand and define a city; in fact, the very character “City” in an ancient Chinese pictogram depicts a wall with two gates preventing an attacker from invading. The People’s Republic of China came into power with an overwhelming desire for a revolution and a new beginning following the trauma of World War II and the Chinese Civil War. In the early period of modern China, the critical relics of the wall were quickly dismissed in favor of expansion and modernization. It was dismantled under Mao Zedong’s regime in only a decade. The sentiment to resurrect the wall has long been present; people wish for its resurrection in part because many places in Beijing are still named accordingly. It is apparent that the wall and its gates are still instrumental to the local inhabitants’ psycho-geographic maps. However, the few reconstruction projects that were actually realized by the government have not only disrupted the life of current inhabitants, but also harmed the surviving courtyard house fabric. Therefore, this project proposes an alternative method of reconstruction, which enriches rather than damages the old city center. The new wall is imagined as a continuous landscape infrastructure; the design systematically investigates the original footprint and existing context. A set of interventions, ranging from constructions of new wall structures to minimal markings of the original footprint, aim to actualize a much-missed coherency in a fragmented reality. 13


Joohui Son

Enclave: Testing City for Korean Reunification

The city is a form which not only reflects, but also builds social relations. The forms of the city and the types of architecture in the city have been used as tools to lead and stimulate societies toward certain utopias. How can the form and architecture of the city be tools through which heterogeneous groups of people can live together despite serious political conflict? This thesis explores strategies to establish social relations between two heterogeneous societies, North Korea and South Korea, in Kaesong, a jointly run small industrial city. The two countries joined together to build an industrial city near their border to take advantage of the technology and capital of South Korea and the labor force of North Korea. This thesis asks: What is the ideal city form for Kaesong City? What kinds of scenarios will stimulate the polarized people to mingle in Kaesong? What type of architecture will allow the two societies to live together, happily? Although Korea was a single country for over 5,000 years before the Korean division in 1948, the North Korean and South Korean social structures are now totally different. The shapes of the cities are entirely different, too, reflecting the social structures. However, current Kaesong is a replication of a South Korean typical industrial city. Despite the ruthless dictatorship of North Korea under the ideology of communism and socialism, the life of North Korean people is changing toward a free capitalist society. This thesis suggests Kaesong as the accelerator of that movement to reduce the economic and cultural gap between the two countries. To do so, this thesis proposes a sequence of urban strategies and architectural types that transform everyday life toward a mixed type of city, instead of a replication of one country.

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Chenxue Wang

Living with the Dead

This thesis seeks to reimagine the space for the anonymous dead in New York City by proposing a new scenario for burial in Manhattan that reconnects the alienated community and program to the heart of the city and other civic activities. The construction of the architecture proceeds as the substances transformed from human bodies accumulate. The processes of transformation are embraced to perform new rituals for the anonymous New Yorkers. Meanwhile, the architecture decays and deteriorates as its weight increases. Such cyclical processes continue to happen on the site. Urbanistically, the thesis argues that the status quo of anonymous burial is spatially circumscribed and finite, geographically dispelled and demographically unequal, and that there is a conflict between the scarce space for the living and the dead as part of the “ever-accumulating past� of the city. Thus, attempts to generate a new urban dynamic should be made. Moreover, using the space for the dead as one incidence, the thesis intends to criticize Manhattan’s habit of expelling and outsourcing unwanted infrastructural elements at the expense of sacrificing other landscapes instead of absorbing and resolving the issues. Architecturally, this thesis challenges the typology of a cemetery as a picturesque park that has been embraced to cover up the deceased since the eighteenth century, despite continuous urbanization. The project explores alternative configurations, materialities, spatial qualities and events associated with the burial process.

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Xu Zhang

Conversation on Saving a Historical Community: A Participatory Renewal and Preservation Platform

What if stakeholders, architects, developers, and bureaucrats could be in a conversation about preservation? Architectural and community heritage in China is in great danger because of the lack of authority, financial support, knowledge of preservation, and requests for development. Local residents, students, and citizens want to preserve the history and living environment of the community but bureaucrats want to demolish entire communities and rebuild for economic development. Architects do not often have enough input and rarely collaborate, while preservationists try to save every piece of historical heritage. This thesis proposes a platform to bring together voices from all the relevant participants, to allow for democratic communication between politicians and community members, and to create multiple architectural proposals based on crowd sourced materials. Furthermore, the project also establishes a digital world, created from the evidence uploaded by the various stakeholders in the process of evaluating buildings for demolition. In the end, win or lose, the platform creates a digital archive and an exploratory tool of the former buildings.

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Thesis Advisors & Readers

Azra Akšamija Lorena Bello Yung Ho Chang Brandon Clifford Arindam Dutta Dennis Frenchman Antonio Furgiuele Antón García-Abril Rania Ghosn Timothy Hyde Lauren Jacobi Mark Jarzombek Caroline Jones Sheila Kennedy Andrew Kovacs Joel Lamere Fadi Masoud Miho Mazereeuw Ana Miljacki Takehiko Nagakura William O’Brien Jr. Kijio Rokkaku Curtis Roth Brent D. Ryan Adele Naude Santos Hashim Sarkis Andrew Scott Maria Alessandra Segantini Rafi Segal Skylar Tibbits Gediminas Urbonas James Wescoat J. Meejin Yoon


Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture & Planning Department of Architecture 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 7-337 Cambridge, MA USA 02139 617 253 7791 / arch@mit.edu architecture.mit.edu

2017 M.Arch Thesis