Page 1


MONIKA L. OUM Bachelor of Architecture | 2006 - 2011 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

MONIKA L. OUM Architecture and Urban Design Portfolio

CONTENTS FINAL PROJECT VERTICALLY LAYERED ECOLOGIES Cultural resonance through polemical juxtapositions |2| DESIGN STUDIOS THE VERTICAL URBAN FARM Evolving food production through minimal surface applications | 10 | REDEFINING THE URBAN IMAGINARY Demarginalizing the informal sector of Indian urbanism through democratic urban housing in Ahmedabad | 16 | THE BOUTIQUE HOTEL AS A MICROCOSM OF MANHATTAN Using the urban grid to break down rigid hierarchies | 26 | COURSEWORK THE PIXELATED ENCLOSURE-FACADE An in-depth material systems investigation | 34 | THE GATES AND HILLMAN CENTERS Carnegie Mellon University | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects | 38 |



Cultural resonance through polemical juxtapositions B. Arch. Final Project | Fall 2010 - Fall 2011

LOCATION The Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, Boston, Massachusetts INSTRUCTOR Mark Mistur Much of today’s built environment is not designed as much as it is planned and optimized for purposes of efficiency and economy, as understood by unsustainable sectors of human enterprise. Aesthetic, experiential, social, cultural, natural, temporal, and other abstract concerns have become, at best, secondary considerations. Buildings and their events are often positioned as autonomous of their surroundings and each other. This built environment creates and reinforces a sense of isolation within the subconscious of its inhabitants, doing little to nothing to promote a sense of awareness of and concern for one’s surroundings or an understanding of one’s role within a larger context. Through unexpected and polemical juxtapositions between program, building, and context, and by framing and emphasizing the relationships these associations promise, architecture can produce vertically layered ecologies that set up fertile conditions for the emergence of resonant patterns of activity and interaction.

For a comprehensive publication, please visit : monika_oum/docs/oumm_final_project_book_2011 2

The abstract and thesis set up a discourse that is partially rooted in the act of taking a conscious and critical look at our relationship with any entities and systems that comprise our surroundings. This begins with zooming in on and reimagining a building’s physical relationship to its site, prompting an investigation into hovering as a design operation, as shown above.


The design proposal is characterized by the integration of a high school campus with the ecologically vital site of the Belle Isle Marsh in Boston. The formal logic of the hovering studies is reflected in the design scheme and its components. The scheme is made up of a boardwalk that connects three satellite towers and corresponding auxiliary structures, all of which hover just a few feet above the salt marsh grasses. The towers themselves are matrices of space within which smaller programmatic volumes appear to hover.


en Av


La wn

Av e








The high school is conceived as an open campus, the boundaries of which are ambiguous. The boardwalk connects not only the towers, but also pre-existing microclimates of the Belle Isle marsh such as the alive and functioning marsh zones, the dead marsh, and the manicured public park space and accompanying pathways. It also serves to frame and draw attention to the site--the mudflats especially--inspiring an appreciation for its natural richness.




Evolving food production through minimal surface applications Architectural Design 6 | Spring 2010

INSTRUCTOR Sulan Kolatan “By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 1 billion hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming continues as it is practiced today.� Such is how Dickson Despommier frames the challenges facing future generations. The proposed solution is to devise methods and strategies and utilize cutting-edge technologies to extrapolate the practices of indoor farming or, as Despommier coins it, vertical farming. A scheme for a vertical and urban food production facility was generated by investigating the design implications of modular thinking and minimal surfaces. Discourse on The Vertical Farm was used as a programmatic framework and hydroponic planting systems were preferred over traditional soil farming.


The helicoid is a single continuous surface that appears multi-layered. Architecturally, it can be interpreted as a ramp system in which both sides of the surface imply enclosure for one another. In terms of the program of a vertical farm, the shape of the helicoid is particularly useful for the purposes of water drainage and distribution due to its continuous slope.

Variation in the topology of the helicoid is accomplished through manipulation of its central axis. This operation has the potential to increase the amount of interior surface area explosed to sunlight, thereby optimizing the design to facilitate crop growth.

Keeping with this logic, the overall form of the vertical farm is derived from the topological variation shown to the right. The vertical farm can ultimately be described as two helicoids coiling about a central core to form a single tower. 11


The skeleton curves of the helicoid module are used to generate a crossbracing system that serves as the framework for the building’s facade and a portion of its structure.


Hydroponic piping systems follow the coiling pattern of the helicoid module in order to ensure exposure to sunlight and water drainage and distribution.


Helicoid modules of a smaller radius are merged with the larger modules in order to create space for chicken coups and fish farms.




Further variation of the helicoid module is accomplished through slight rotations of its baseline. These variations are merged to investigate differences in density and their design implications. In the case of the vertical farm, this method is used to create a vast, almost landscape-like stair at the tower’s base, which serves as the building’s main public space.


The building’s enclosure and facade are conceived of as two separate systems, the former positioned as the outermost shell protecting the sensitive inner workings of the building. The enclosure is made of structural glass sheets molded to collectively form the shape of the coiling tubes that encase the helicoids. Under the enclosure is a system of mechanically operable blinds by which natural daylighting is calibrated.






Demarginalizing the informal sector of Indian urbanism through democratic urban housing in Ahmedabad Architectural Design 5 | Fall 2009

LOCATION Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India INSTRUCTOR Erik Carver In the city of Ahmedabad, real estate development firms put out prominent billboards advertising large residential, commercial, and corporate schemes. These billboards communicate an idea of what is most desirable in terms of aesthetics, socio-economic status, and lifestyle. They influence the goals and aspirations of the urban population, contributing to a collective urban imaginary. The urban condition suggested in these advertisements shows no trace of Ahmedabad’s distinctive urban culture. This culture primarily occupies the ground plane; a resource of the most accessible and opportune space for sectors of self-sufficient enterprise, movement, convergence, and exchange. A wider scope of the urban population can identify with this culture and it is being marginalized by the most influential and powerful agents of Ahmedabad’s construction boom. If these billboards promoted building and landscape design that championed the urban outdoors and its intrinsic culture, it would redirect the urban imaginary on a path towards a more distinct, democratic, affordable, and sustainable urban reality. For a comprehensive publication, please visit : monika_oum/docs/oumm_india_fall_2009 16

Instances of Ahmedabad’s ground-plane-oriented urban culture tend to accumulate and flourish at peripheries that demarcate different spatial zones, paths where movement is most varied and dense, and interstitial spaces that are biproducts of building, landscape, and urban design. This trend poses the following question : how can the street, the sidewalk, the empty lot, and other urban outdoor spaces and their events engage with architectural design? 17

THE SITE...Rana Pratap Marg, Karmchari Nagar


Residential and commercial units derived from the modular area of a 5 x 5 meter square are arranged about a channel in and through which resonant patterns of settlement, activity, and movement can emerge and flow.

The semi-public platforms perforating the walls of residential units can be extended outward and brought down as steps that meet the ground. This makes the platforms fully public and adds nuance to the experience of the ground plane by creating the effect of it peeling, lifting, and piercing the building. 19

The 10 x 15 meter area module used for the residential units can be multiplied by story to create maisonettes, affording more options in terms of layout and square footage.

The section of the formal strategy can be reconfigured to include walls of commercial/corporate units. These walls can act as buffers for the walls of residential units, shielding from the disturbance of the traffic and activity going on in the street.

The steps could have similar sociocultural implications inherent in the spatial construct of the ghats along the Ganges River in Varanasi. In that case, the ghats serve a variety of purposes and are vital to the history and identity of the city.


The alternative urban imaginary suggested by the design scheme is showcased in a series of prominent billboards, allowing it to register on the same scale as the vast landscape of advertisements that compete for the attention of the urban subject. This sensationalizes the urban imaginary in a way such that it is ushered into the realm of the desires and aspirations of the urban population. 21


Basement Level

The different layout options for the residential units are resolved to include two bedrooms with their own bathrooms, a kitchen, and a common area that can be extended into the unit’s patio through wall panels that can swing open.


Ground Level

First Level

Second Level

The scheme is embedded into the landscape through a basement that offers amenities and community gathering space. A detour from the main street services this level and further embeds the scheme into the urban fabric. Commercial units, office units, and parking comprise the ground level. All levels after that can feature any number of combinations of the options for residential units.



THE BOUTIQUE HOTEL AS A MICROCOSM OF MANHATTAN Using the urban grid to break down rigid hierarchies Architectural Design 4 | Fall 2008

LOCATION Forsyth Street, Chinatown, Manhattan INSTRUCTORS Reese Campbell and Demetrios Comodromos One can begin to think of a fl창neur as a person who takes walks throughout the city in order to observe and experience it. A sense of detachment and heightened aesthetic sensitivity impart the idea of the fl창neur with a special significance to the fields of architecture and urban design. The programmatic arrangement of typical contemporary boutique hotels caters to the perceived expectations of privileged tourists and vacationers. The result is an experience of the city that is detached, but in a sheltered and pampered manner that negatively reinforces socio-economic boundaries. There exists a multi-faceted hierarchy that cancels out any dynamic and stimulating experience in and around the hotel. Placement of the boutique hotel within the context of the diverse hub of activity that is Chinatown is a polemical juxtaposition that, if exploited thoughtfully, can expand the definition of the fl창neur towards more ambiguous and mutually beneficial boundaries within the urban fabric.


The boutique hotel is reconceptualized as a microcosm of the larger region where it is located. In this case, the logic of Manhattan’s urban grid is applied to the design of the hotel.

The urban grid is reinterpreted as a series of grid frames, constituting a matrix of space that is infilled with variations on the grid block.


Variations on the grid block include disturbances that cut through the rigid homogeneity of the matrix, creating channels in which patterns of diversity and activity can emerge and thrive.









Forsyth street and the Manhattan bridge mark a disturbance in the urban grid that creates its own regular condition, repeating the phenomenon of mutations within a regular condition and their corresponding emergent patterns. An initial exploration into the design development of the formal strategy imagines the grid block infills as different enclosure systems that can plug into the homogeneous structural system of the grid frame matrix.





Ground Level

First Level

Second Level

Sixth Level

Seventh Level

Eighth Level

Third Level

Fourth Level

Fifth Level

Ninth Level

Tenth Level

Eleventh Level



THE PIXELATED ENCLOSURE-FACADE An in-depth material systems investigation collaboration with O. Lau and D. Norton Materials and Enclosures | Spring 2009

INSTRUCTORS Reese Campbell and Demetrios Comodromos In a world of rapid technological change, this course aims to equip future architects with the ability to position, understand, and implement new materials and systems in meaningful ways. The working principles of advanced materials and systems are explained and issues of material development, detail development, applications, and integration into building systems are addressed. Using the Facade Construction Manual as a guide, a material system was developed to effectively respond to the eight factors by which the functional success of enclosures is measured: fluid, pressure, motion, temperature, light/radiation, sound, load, and strength. The result is a system in which notions of facade and enclosure are analogized to aesthetics and function and manifest themselves as separate subsystems.



Two subsystems form the enclosure...The outer system is fixed and constitutes the unbroken line of enclosure. The inner system features changeable elements and is more attuned to aesthetics.

The outer layer is comprised of glass sheets fixed into a hefty metal frame. The inner layer consists of fixed and sliding wooden panels which sit in wooden frames which are fixed between concrete floor slabs. (Left) Small gaps--in the grooves where the wooden panels fit into the wooden frames and where the wooden frames fit into the concrete slab-allow the comfortable movement, expansion, and contraction of the materials. (Above) Compression gaskets form a watertight seal with the glass sheets and act as cushions as they expand 36



Carnegie Mellon University | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects collaboration with O. Lau and D. Norton Rensselaer Case Studies Project | Fall 2010 INSTRUCTOR Mark Mistur Buildings are a testament to the will and forces that affect their conception, realization, use, and experience. They bear cultural and professional significance and possess within them and their constituent components important lessons for anyone wanting to discover what a work of architecture is in its larger context, what brought it about, and how it contributes to an ever evolving architectural and cultural discourse. The Rensselaer Case Studies project examines contemporary works of architects in relation to what influenced them, and seeks to expose innovations in thinking, technique, and technology that contribute to architectural knowledge, scholarship, and progress in contemporary practice. The Gates and Hillman Centers encourage interdisciplinary academic achievement through open programming of space. The complex is comprised of two buildings devoted to two different disciplines--the Gates Center for the Department of Computer Science and the Hillman Center for the Department of Future Generation Technologies--which are linked through circulation and a network of collaborative social spaces. For a comprehensive publication, please visit : monika_oum/docs/oumm_case_study_ghc_2010 38

Zinc Cladding

Zinc Underlay

Cementitious board with laminated aluminum backing

1.5” Aluminum Hat Channel

7.5” Aluminum Z-Channel

3” Rigid Insulation

Vapor Barrier


THE FACADE Most of the buildings on the Carnegie Mellon campus feature a common facade treatment : beige brick and stone masonry and concrete. The Gates and Hillman Centers are treated with a black zinc panel and aluminum facade and an irregular overall building form, which sets up a dialogue with the rest of the campus through stark contrast of aesthetic effects. Zinc sheets were cut and folded into small square panels that prevent excessive stresses on any side, which eliminates the risk of surface distortions in the material, or oil canning. The panels overlap in a shingle pattern, allowing room for expansion due to temperature fluctuations. 39

THE HELICAL WALKWAY At the core of the Gates Center stands the helical walkway, the building’s signature architectural feature. It ramps from the third to the fifth floor of the center, visually and physically connecting the program throughout. Classrooms sit in the center of the helix and their events are revealed to anyone traversing the walkway through strategically placed windows. The helix briefly grazes against intersecting floors as it rises through the Gates Center, allowing glimpses of the spaces beyond and enticing the user to wander. The helix is one of several vertical circulatory regions of the building that encourages interdisciplinary connectivity. 40

Warner Hall

Cyert Hall

Honey Locust Grove

Hamburg Hall

Evergreen Pines

Hillman Center for Future Generation Technologies

Smith Hall

[4] Rain Garden

Aspen Grove

Winter Garden


Purnell Center for the Arts


Gates Center for Computer Science

Volleyball Court [1] Roof Lawn [2] Newell-Simon Hall

Roof Lawn

Meadow Meadow Glade

Aspen Grove


Black Locust Glade

LANDSCAPE DESIGN Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., a landscape architecture firm, designed the green spaces around and on top of the complex, treating the landscape as “the single linking element creating a continuous campus connection.”

CONNECTIVITY THROUGH BRIDGING The complex is situated in the center of the Carnegie Mellon University campus, setting it up for linkages with surrounding buildings and spaces. These linkages are manifested as a series of pedestrian bridges...

The project is meant to serve as the “backyards” not only for the Gates and Hillman Centers but also for all the surrounding buildings. With at least 75 feet of grade change, the landscape design addresses eleven points of entry into the complex and mediates between its loading docks and adjacent buildings. MVVA conceived the landscape as a composition of individual microclimates by planting different clusters of native vegetation.

The Randy Pausch Memorial footbridge [1] connecting the east side of the Gates Center to the Purnell Center for the Arts, The Newell-Simon Hall / Gates Center bridge [2], the Gates and Hillman Centers bridge [3], and the Rain Garden bridge [4] spanning the stormwater retention area and connecting the Winter Garden and the main entrance to the Gates Center on the south side.


MONIKA L. OUM | Architecture and Urban Design Student Work Portfolio  

Bachelor of Architecture, 2006 - 2011 | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute