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paso robles_

ac[i]d miN[e]d

naomi M. szto

Design Thesis in Partial Fulfillment of the Bachelor of Architecture Degree California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Associate Professor Michael Lucas, Thesis Advisor June 2007

thank you to all my family and friends for their love and support, especially to Michael Lucas and the rest of the lucasMONKEYS, of whom i wish all the happiness and success in their post-college careers. the lifetime of friendships will never be forgotten, as i hope that someday soon our paths will cross again.


_50 _60 _72 _78 _82 _84


01 kiro-san observatory [kengo kuma] 02 north duisburg landscape park [latz & partners] 03 photography_burtynsky 04 three gorges dam 05 heilmann’s salvage yard, atascadero 06 grotto entrance, cave painting museum [massamiliano fuksas]


winter07 01 study model 01 massing models design01: cantilever + vertical shaft

_106 _112

_90 _96

02 massing models micro_man vs. form


spring07 design02: geo-research facility design 03: form + light

_128 _130 _134 _136 _142




02 1/8� light model 03 1/16� shaft section model 04 1:100 topo model 05 1:20 model 06 the mOdel: plexi

ntents . . .

_24 _42 _44 _48

abstract history paso robles mercury [Hg] phenomenal grounds 01 setting video 02 population 03 transformation


_6 _10 _12 _20


our technology to remediate our

The affects of industrialization have been succumbed by the inability of

landscape. Throughout history, we have continued to extract every resource from the earth, leaving behind scars as a constant reminder of our devastation upon the landscape and our loss. T h e b a s i s o f e x p l o r a t I o n l i e s w i t h i n t h e s i t e. Using the site as a trigger, the project will develop a sense of “presence” by exposing the history and conflicts between man, technology and nature. Heidegger reveals this relationship between man and nature through the connection of a bridge….connecting the site, locale and space. The bridge is a metaphor which creates the locale of the site, in which the locale then creates the space [Heidegger; Building, Dwelling, Thinking]. It is through the site that the project is created. The space becomes the destination, integrated through both the site and its population.

right: River, Beyond Edward

Three Gorges Dam, Yangtze China. Burtynsky, Edward. the Flood: Photographs by Burtynsky. 2003.

This thesis will explore the ideas of alternative forms of remediation, research and physical interaction – the internal relationship between the visitor and the scientist – which is further contrasted by the externalities of the site. In 2006, EPA launched efforts to remove contaminated soil and the last remaining mercury processing plants from the Klau Mine in Paso Robles. Although the surface has been altered, the scar still remains through the underground tunnels that are still present. By altering the landscape, it doesn’t change what has already been done. The shafts, the history and the people still exist….and still remains.



“architecture can separate us from the land...or reconnect us�

-david abram, the spell of the sensuous


1868_operations at the Klau and Buena Vista Mine begin.

1850_660 Chinese immigrants in California. approx. 50,000 mining population


California admitted to the Union as the 31st state.

1846_population of California_6,900 Californios, 700 foreigners (mostly American) and at least 300,000 Native Americans. 1851_quantities of surface gold diminishes. Miners invent new ways to mine gold, such as quartz mining. 1849_population of California_100,000 non-natives, approx. 40,000 people mining in California. influx of Chinese immigrants to California. 116,000 by 1876.

By 1849, the California Gold Rush was in full swing; leaving an irreversible impression upon the state of California. Mining towns developed as a result of the rapid increase of population. Many towns were solely created to support the new mines and their families. As the rush for gold increased, so did the expanse of these new mining towns. The acquisition of California left much of the lands unexplored and uninhabited. With no social order, many of these mining towns became areas of crime and injustice. The mining town of Bodie [bodie, california] was notorious for killings, robberies and street fights that occurred regularly. The term “Badman from Bodie� was widely known for the type of people that came from Bodie. By the end of the gold rush, the population of these mining towns dropped, just as quickly as the population had increased. The great influx of immigrants also created social turmoil as the gold rush came to an end. Although many Mexicans, Native Americans and Latin Americans had immigrated to California in search of gold, it was the Chinese that incurred many racial prejudices. Once the gold started to run out, many Anglo-Americans turned to the Chinese for their oppression and frustrations. Many laborers claimed that the Chinese were robbing them of their jobs. As surface gold began to diminish in 1851, a new wave of mining emerged. It was here that underground mining and open pits

developed; as people began to look underground in search for new elements.

2000_120,000 cubic yards of contaminated materials [drainage channel] removed. EPA

2002_ Site stabilization efforts by EPA. 2006_ april; Klau and Buena Vista Mines added to EPA’s National Priorities List [aka Superfund Site].

1970_ Klau and Buena Vista Mine stop productions.

2006_ EPA removed mercury processing building.

1999_substantial site stabilization work on-site began by the California Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) and EPA Region 9.

Environmental Protection Agency. newsletter. [2006 August]. image: Krotz, Dan. Summer Newsletter, vol.6 no.4.

The people of these mining towns embody its rich history, presenting an important basis for exploration. The project is sensitive to these stories, as well as to the history of the landscape. The proposed project will incorporate these stories, conforming to the site as well as to the people who lived these lives.


The Abandoned Mine Lands Unit (AMLU) has located an estimated 46,900 abandoned mine sites, of which 84 percent impose physical safety hazards (11 percent inflicting environmental hazards). Among the National Priorities List (NPL), these sites contain high levels of chemicals, such as mercury, sulfur, cadmium, lead, arsenic, zinc and asbestos. As a NPL [superfund] site, these sites are managed, supervised and stabiliazed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Furthermore, NPL sites can use federal funds for remediation, which typically includes waste clean-up and closures of these sites. The high costs involved with total remediation of abandoned mine sites prevents many of these sites from ever being fully restored.

Department of Conservation of Abandoned Mine Lands Unit. May 2006. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. August 2006. Klau/Buena Vista Mines Superfund Site Final Report, Region 9 Newsletter. San Francisco, California.

AML Remediations AML Program Inventoried Feature Potential Mine Feature Cities


san antonio lake nacimiento reservoir klau/buena vista mine

city of paso robles highway 101


buena vista mine

klau mine

Unfortunately, many of these mining sites are located within watershed areas, directly impacting neighboring creeks and reservoirs. The Klau and Buena Vista Mines are adjacent mining sites in Paso Robles, California. Neglected for over 30 years, these mines have been the cause for most of the mercury pollution that has been found in local waterways and reservoirs. Situated along the Santa Lucia Range, both Buena Vista and Klau Mines have a direct impact on the Upper and Lower Las Tablas Creek watersheds. The watersheds drain directly into Lake Nacimiento, which serves various uses to the residents of Paso Robles [50% grazing, 47% open space, 1% housing, 1% camping, and 1% inactive mines; California Regional Water Quality Control Board, 2002].

California Regional Water Quality Control Board. Central Coast Region. September 2002. Las Tablas Creek and Lake Nacimiento: Total Maximum Daily Load For Mercury. Figures 2 and 3.




road density Department of Fish and Game. Central Coast Region. Map 6. Coastal Watershed Impacts. Septemeber 2005.



80p 121n Mercury [quicksilver] is a chemical element usually found in cinnabar ore. Mined in several countries around the world, the cinnabar ore is placed through extreme heat and evaporation to produce mercury. Unique among other chemical elements, mercury is one of six elements that is a liquid at room temperature —which is where mercury gets its nickname ‘quicksilver’. Used by the ancient Chinese, Indians and Egyptians, mercury was thought as a healing remedy until the discovery of its hazardous properties. Today, mercury can be found in the manufacture of industrial chemicals and electrical applications. More commonly, mercury is used in thermometers, the manufacture of mascara [cosemetics], the lenses of old lighthouses and as a coolant for nuclear reactors— just to name a few. Mercury was also used in the mining of gold. Used in hydraulic mining, mercury ‘helped the gold sink through the flowing water-gravel mixture’; increasing the overall production of gold [wikipedia]. Distinctive of mercury, this element cannot be created or destroyed by man.

Wikipedia. April 2008. Mercury [element]. Wikipedia. April 2008. Cinnabar.

Breakdown of mercury emissions by man&technology [wikipedia 2000]: 65% coal combustion, power plants 11% gold production 6.8% non-ferrous metal production; smelters 6.4% cement production 3.0% waste disposal 3.0% caustic soda [sodium hydroxide]* 1.4% pig iron and steel production 1.1% mercury production; batteries 2.0% other sources * sodium hydroxide: is a strong chemical base used in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents, and drain cleaners. The other half of mercury emissions are caused by volcanoes [only natural source].

The recent discovery of mercury’s toxic qualities has lead to the widespread reformation of its use. Mercury pollution is caused by tailings which are left behind from mining processes. As a result of water run-off, it enters waterways and local reservoirs. Microorganisms then convert the mercury to methylmercury [it’s highly toxic form]; which is typically found in fish and shellfish. This leads to mercury poisoning in animals, as well as humans. However, it has been found that human consumption of fish does not result in high enough levels to cause serious health concerns. Mercury poisoning can also be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, which at high levels can cause damage to the central nervous system. High levels of mercury can cause tremors, delirium, hallucinaitons and suididal tendancies; amongst harm to the brain, heart, kidneys, lung and immune systems. Long term, low-exposures [miners] has been found to cause symptoms of fatigue, irritability, loss of memory, vivid dreams and depression [wikipedia,2008]. left: #37 nickel tailings; sudbury, ontario 1996 Edward Burtynsky. website. 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [2006 August]. Klau/Buena Vista Mines Superfund Site Final Report. Wikipedia. [2008 April]. Mercury [element].


setting phenomenal ground_


[adjacent site]

buena vista mine

location: [paso robles, california] approx_ 12 miles west of paso robles

35° 37’ 28.26” N 120° 53’ 39.62” W

With the amount of useable lands diminishing, the concept of remediating brownfield sites are now becoming reality. From 1868 to 1970, the Klau/Buena Vista Mines mined and processed mercuric sulfide ore. Located in Paso Robles, these mines present a danger to local residents of San Luis Obispo County, as well as to nearby waterways. The Klau/Buena Vista Mine site is composed of two adjacent mining properties on the northwest and southeast ridge of Santa Lucia Range. The site consists of underground mine workings, abandoned mining facilities and equipment, as well as an open pit. For the past 36 years, these mine sites have been abandoned, leaving behind the harsh reality of these processes. Located on the Las Tablas Watershed, mercury pollution to Lake Nacimiento, acid mine drainage along North County Creek and mine tailings have all had a direct impact to the local area. A great concern has been the extent of mercury pollution in the soil and water. Throughout the years, significant amounts of mercury pollution have settled to the bottom sediments of Lake Nacimiento, where any disturbance of sediment will further contaminate the lake. In response, the California Department of Fish and Game have warned residents of high mercury levels in the fish from Lake Nacimiento, encouraging the community to ban fish consumption.

10.05.05 existing: condenser gallery [] [2007]. Environmental Investigations Branch. Klau/Buena Vista Mine. Environmental Protection Agency. newsletter. [2006 August].



view along klau mine road of buena vista mine




[b] main access road onto buena vista mine [west]









35° 37’ 18.24” N 120° 54’ 06.56” W location: [paso robles, california] approx_ 12 miles west of paso robles For the purpose of this project, the main focus will be specifically on the Klau Mine. This is the primary location of the geo-research facility. Further developments will include connections from the Klau Mine to Buena Vista Mine.

01primary location_

klau mine


01acid mine drainage

pictures taken 06.11.06_ klau mine



phenomenal ground_


Video Sequence: Paso Robles, Ca. Taken 29.11.06

Video Sequence: Huntington Beach, Ca. Taken 25.11.06



phenomenal ground



The inter-relationship between the youth– visitor–researcher will be the main focus of the program. Until today, steps towards a remediation of the site and the residents have been minimal. My thesis strives to look into the influences and catalysts that has formed the site as we know it today. The geo-research facility is based on a collaboration between the visitor and the researcher; toward a greater remediation of the site—through sustainability and remediation techniques, against the irreversible affects of man and technology.

Each group contains different backgrounds‌.different levels of knowledge‌. and different sources of motivation, but the basis of interest [goals] is the same. They all have the same curiosity and desire for renovation/ innovation. It is through education and remediation that the knowledge of its adverse affects upon the landscape will be known. It is with this hope that we can someday regain what we lost.

images [l to r]: White County Chamber of Commerce. History. website. Masters of Photography. W. Eugene Smith. Three Generations of Welsh Miners 1950. website. Ian Gallagher Home Page. Mining Experience. [2000]. Shiel, Tom. Mayo Gold Rush. The Irish Times. [December 2007]. Montana State University. Impacts of Resource Development on Native American Lands. [June 2007]. University of Washington Library. Klondike Gold Rush: The Perilous Journey North 1867. [1997].


“the implication is that phenomena can be hidden not just within the past or the future, but also within the very thickness of the present itself...� -martin heidegger, basic writings .222


Time: [1a] the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues [1b] a nonspatial c o n t i n u u m that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future [3a] an appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, begin, or end [10] finite as contrasted with infinite duration (Merriam-Webster, 2006)


phenomenal ground_


ransformation The landscape transforms with time, as does the building in response to the site. It is through this coalescence that one becomes the other, in which time becomes tangible and even spatial. Time is the landscape and the landscape is time. It becomes the experience, as much as the story. Through the years, the rich qualities of the land are exposed. The site develops as the land moves. The connection with time — the site and the building are entwined, setting a relationship between the building, the site, the landscape and the people. Each affecting the other‌.altering it‌.and connecting within it.




kiro-san obervatory

The Kiro-San Observatory is situated on the top of Mount Kiro-San on the island of Oshima, Japan. The design incorporates two large reinforced concrete slabs, each 1.20m thick and expanding 6m in height. These massive concrete slabs cut into the landscape, creating a sequence of observation platforms framing the views of the site. These platforms are connected via bridges and stairways, intwined between the two retaining walls. Although the spaces created are open to the site, visitors are captivated as they progress through the Kiro-San Observatory. Kuma conquers the “artificial in the natural”; going ‘beyond the building as an isolated object. He achieves the connection between architecture and environment; allowing the “architecture to disappear into the landscape”. Cut into the landscape, the Kengo Kuma and Associates Yoshiumichou, Ochigun, Iichi 1991.1994 observatory

architecture becomes a ‘place’ in the present –as well as the past and future.

right: panorama view [bridge B].

Alini, Luigi. [2005]. Kengo Kuma: works and projects. Milan: Electa Architecture. Kengo Kuma & Associates. Website.

Kengo Kuma’s design is unique to the landscape as well as to its function. Erasing the boundaries between the built and the unbuilt, Kuma achieves a design that corresponds to its visitors; c o n n e c t i n g them to the landscape and the architecture - further preserving its spectacular views. It is this that separates Kuma’s design from others.

above: overall site plan. left: stairs to terrace.

I wanted to study this precedent because of its relation to the site. Similar to Kuma’s Observatory, the geo-research facility in Paso Robles is also site-specific. The landscape is unique to its geographical location, as well as its history that surrounds it. The exploitation of the site and its resources has made the site what it is today. Defiled for its commodity during America’s quest for gold, the landscape remains exposed; bearing humanity’s deepest sin. The design of the geo-research facility engages the site on multiple levels, exposing the visitor to its historical background as well as the implementation of bioremediation techniques to preserve the landscape.

The program is intwined within the landscape, whether it is hovering above, sunken into the ground or touching upon –the s p a c e becomes apart of the landscape. Unlike the typical program, architecture lies within the negative space. [spaces created between the built environment and the natural]. Kuma’s design was not to build architecture, but to embrace it by accepting the landscape and the architecture as one e x i s t e n c e. Kuma plays with verticality to create dynamic architecture. It is not just the relationship to the built floor, but ‘to’ [and/ ‘within’] the ground plane.


phases of construction

left: longitudinal section and plan legend: site plan 1 bridge A 2 bridge B 3 platform A 4 platform B 5 platform C 6 platform D 7 platform E 8 open space

above [left to right]: bottom: view of platform

entry stairs to bridge A, view of platform A from below. B from below.




north duisburg landscape park Latz & Partners Ruhr Valley, Germany [Thyssen-Meiderich] 1990.2001 former blast furnace 230_hectacre images by Brian Friel

thumbnails: existing architecture images by Naomi Szto & Noa Younse

Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord. Website. Latz and Partner. 2002. Landscape Park Duisburg-Nord. Website.




The product of the blast furnace. The molten iron is run into channels which have moulds led off them, fancifully likened to pigs in a litter. This cast-iron has a high proportion of carbon (c.4%) which has to be reduced to under 1% to form steel.

The Duisburg-Nord landscape park is a long-term decontamination and re-colonization project in Ruhr Valley, Germany. Built in response to the Industrial Revolution, the plant was in operation for 82 years; processing pig iron which was used in the production of steel. The former blast furnace closed in 1985 after a long period of decline.

site plan [latz].

European Route of Industrial Heritage: Anchor Points Germany. Website. Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord. Duisburg Marketing. Website. Latz and Partner. [2002]. Landscape Park Duisburg-Nord. Website.

Expanding across 230 hectacres, the park has become a revitalization anchor bringing forth a new use and community center. The blast furnace, engine house, blower house complex, cast house, and a series of troughs remain on-site today. Latz’s used these existing structures as the basis of his design; transforming the existing industrial landscape, while respecting its scale and form. By recycling its elements, Latz found new uses to complement the space; reintroducing its function as a community space. Today the space has become an attraction, as well as a catalyst for the surrounding communities. During the warmer months, the park hosts concerts, festivals, mountain climbing, hiking, diving, and playgrounds for younger visitors. The ore bunkers were converted to provide for a different range of uses. Currently, the ore bunkers house a climbing wall, gardens and jungle gyms. To accommodate recreational diving, Latz converted the gasholder to a diving tank.


left to right [latz]: ore bunkers, center of blast furnace, detail of metal plates in central plaza, ore bunker conversion, plaza

images by Brian Friel


fall 2005. [DIS] study tour. we arrived at the duisburg-nord landscape park late that night. coincidently, the hostel was a converted office building, established as part of the old processing plant. located adjacent to the park, the view is amazing and unforgettable. among the darkness of the ruhr valley, the landscape park is all that stands. the shadows seem to disappear, the old awakens, bringing life to the once abandoned park. the lights add a dynamic quality to the site. at the beginning, it feels eerie and rejected, but as we walk through the park, i begin to feel part of the site. eyes begin to adjust and i can see everything. we approach a slide. however, its not your typical elementaryschool-yard slide. it’s a curving, high-speed, towering slide...keep in mind that its pitch the visual to the ground is minimal. i can hear the dis kids below and i begin thinking, ‘i really don’t want to do this’. as i climb into the slide, my heart is pounding. i can’t see in front of me, so i have no idea where i am going or when the ground is going to hit.

European Route of Industrial Heritage: Anchor Points Germany. Website. Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord. Duisburg Marketing. Website. Latz and Partner. [2002]. Landscape Park Duisburg-Nord. Website.

image by Naomi Szto

“In my projects, I am always interested in the ‘genius of the place’ rather than the genius of my office. Even motorways or industrial wetlands can be filled with a new spirit and can be worth living by keeping visible the spirit of the existing site… the challenge is to make the right selection, to

liberate our senses and to be open to new impressions”. -Peter Latz

right: image by Noa Younse


“Burtynsky leaves nothing to the imagination. It is all given, and in doing so, he achieves

a sublime of

a n o t h e r o r d e r: a representation of a subject that is more explicit than it could ever be in life�.

-Roland Barthes



edward burtynsky

“His various series….reflect the dilemma between society’s desire for prosperity and the suffering it exacts upon the environment”.

-Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco

left: #10 abandoned granite quarry; barre, vermont 1991 right: #38 shipbreaking; chittagong, bangladesh 2001 Pauli, Lori. [2003]. Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky. Robert Koch Gallery. [2006]. Website.


left [pauli]: #7 active granite section, wells-lamson quarry; barry, vermont 1991 right: #19, westar open pit coal mine; sparwood, british columbia 1985

Edward Burtynsky: photographic works. [2008]. website. Pauli, Lori. [2003]. Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky.


I decided to use Burtynsky’s images as a precedent— for its truth and raw qualities. The photographic images are powerful within themselves; allowing the viewer to see the ‘real’. The subject of his photographs are typically industrial landscapes in which have been drained as an affect to man and technology. In many of these images, nature is beaten by man and its technology; leaving the landscape exploited of it’s rich minerals and qualities. It is this truth that Burtynsky captures in his images; taken from all over the world. Not only does it awaken the common man to the harsh realities of what we have done, there is also an ironic sense of beauty and rage within these images. The reason I say ‘rage’ has much to do with excessive exploitation. The fact that these oil pumps extend as far as the eye can see is one thing. However, the fact that this is one of a hundred sites within the area is another. The NIMBYotic mentality of many Americans holds true. Many of these sites are located far away from the ‘suburban dream’, causing many to be oblivious to the ‘real’. Within these images, Burtynsky provides a c l a r i t y to the affects of man vs. technology on the landscape.

right [pauli]: oil pumps; belridge, california 2002

Pauli, Lori. [2003]. Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky.


Today, the world’s longest hydroelectric dam is Itaipu, which spans between Brazil and Paraguay on the Paraná River. However, the Three Gorges Dam Project will be twice the length of Itaipu. Spanning across the Yangtze River, the dam is 1.5 miles wide and as tall as 600 feet high; consisting of 26 turbine generators producing as much electricity as 18 nuclear power plants. First proposed in 1919 by Sun Yat-Sen, site preparation and first-stage construction began in 1997; its completion is scheduled for 2009. Besides national pride and economic expansion, the project has received a great deal of international scrutiny. Constructed for the purpose of electricity, flood control and inland shipping, the Three Gorges Dam also has a number of consequences. With the installment of the dam and redirection of canal ways and rivers, as many as 1.2 million residents have to resettle to other cities, as a result of the reservoir. By 2009: 13 major cities, 140 towns, 1,300 villages and 1,600 factories, mines and an unknown number of farms will be lost [e.b. website]. The Yangtze River is the third longest river in the world, behind the Nile and Amazon.

“The ‘Chinese People’ respect it, fear it, welcome it,

run from it, hate it and love it.”



three gorges dam

Yangtze River, China 1997.2009 hydroelectric dam 1.5 miles wide_ 600 feet tall 26 turbine generators 84 billion killowatts/hour of electricity

-Simon Winchester The River at the Center of the World

Burtynsky, Edward. Beyond the Flood. Robert Koch Gallery. 2003 Edward Burtynsky: photographic works. website. 2008 Wikipedia. Itaipu. website. 2008

above: #6 three gorges dam; yangtze river 2005


The Three Gorges Dam project is a great example of how man has altered the landscape. Although it is still early, the r e p e r c u s s i o n s of our actions are already clear. Despite having previously highlighted Edward Burtynsky’s work, it was through his work that I discovered this project. Throughout history, China’s economic and political prowess has been significant and notable in the battle between nations. In the quest for monetary and political power, and most importantly technological advancements, China has been a predominant front-runner. However, it is through man’s quest for supremacy that has led to the destruction of our landscapes. Our houses, cities and highways have all been for our own profit. The Three Gorges Dam is a creator [and destructor] of the topography. The evolution of technology has allowed for this alteration of the landscape. More than just another example of man’s construction, it is an irreversible modification on the neighboring provinces, as well as the country as a whole. Burtynsky, Edward. Beyond the Flood. Robert Koch Gallery. 2003 Edward Burtynsky: photographic works. website. 2008

feng jie [2002] wan zhou



personal photographs: 30.11.06

Atascadero, California [approx_19.0 miles north of San Luis Obispo, Ca.] Heilmann’s Salvage Yard became a personal playground; a breeding ground for ideas and creativity. Although a convienient pit-stop before ‘In-n-Out’, it became a natural birthplace for our projects, as well as our own personal well-being. Unique as a place, Heilmann’s is always changing in it’s content and form. The pieces of scrap metal and debris become its matter and generate its organic landscape. Although it is not a permanent defilement, it generates a mark among the ever-changing terrain.



heilmann’s salvage


[left to right]: entry photographs, detail of exterior structure, corten steel Massimiliano Fuksas. website. images: Fuksas, Massimiliano. Contemporary World Architects. Massimiliano Fuksas. [1998]

grotto entrance

Although not designed to imitate the landscape, the ‘grotto entrance’ adds an expressive quality to the site. Fuksas’ design approach is unique in materials, as well as the way that he integrates the project to the existing form. The notion of an elevated walkway gives a hightened sense of entry, as well as a consciousness of preservation.


Musée Des Graffitis 1988-1993 Niaux, Ariège France

Constructed of Corten steel, the material’s inherent qualities add to the rustic finish of the site. Mimicking the existing geological fault, the wings add another dimension to the circulation. The main walkway, constructed of wood, is raised above the ground carrying the visitors from the outside to the museum within.


Massimiliano Fuksas’ entrance to the Musée des Graffitis is not timid in its gestures. Symbolic of an archaeological discovery, his entrance protrudes from the cave, providing entrance to the grotto.


images: entry photographs images: Fuksas, Massimiliano. Contemporary World Architects. Massimiliano Fuksas. [1998]



floor plan




topographic model existing underground tunnels []

crit#1: study model existing underground tunnels [plexi, copper/brass pipe and solder]


plexi +


crit#1: study model existing underground tunnels [plexi, copper/brass pipe and solder]


crit#1: study model exploration of existing tunnel patterns [plexi + form]



circulation concept1: 3 nodes. Visitor/Research Center, Living and Mine Shaft. The research facility and living quarters are connected by main circulation via tunnels. The mine shaft is connected by a bridge, which connects the living quarters at the north end of the site [highest elevation]. Living quarters and mine shaft are more isolated and away from visitor access. Extreme separation between visitor and scientist. Buildings become part of the landscape, blurring the division between architecture and landscape.



concept3: The bridge is the main feature between the research facility and the living quarters. The ‘living’ quarters are broken up, wrapping itself along the cliffside. The research facility [at the lowest point of the site] digs itself into the topography; growing out of the landscape. The procession at this main entrance is elongated and arranged along a central corridor.

concept2: The bridge is centered between the research facility and the living quarters. The ‘built’ is no longer a part of the landscape, but stand as an addition to the site.



crit#1: [phase01]programmatic study models 3 individual case studies



as previously mentioned, the programmatic scheme embodies the separation between the visitor and the geologist [concept01: circulation]. The integration and adaptation of programmatic spaces developed as a core concept, as well as a functional aesthetic.

d e s i g n: the primary design was never about the ‘building’, but embracing the design of the site as a whole. The blurring of architecture and landscape was very significant with this site, as an old abandoned mining site and remediation project. The adjacent Paso Robles countrysides remain open and unbuilt, so it was important to continue that same landscape. The historical significance of the site adds to the inherent qualities of the landscape. With this in mind, the implementation of a geo-research facility and visitor center will allow for the site’s history to continue as the awareness of these sites spread and the remediation of the site is carried out. The overall layout of the site is a direct response to the function of the geo-research facility and visitor center. Given the toxic qualities of the site, it was important to impose a degree of separation between the two groups, yet still allowing the visitor to see the underground workings of the mine without the dangers of the site. The site is divided into three areas: visitor center, research [geologist] and living [geologist]. The bridge is the main circulation between these areas and acts as an intermediary between these two groups. The bridge is also the main entry to the shaft, which then leads to the underground tunnels.

right: [01]circulation& diagram sketch


cantilever + vertical shaft. The ‘cantilever’ idea materialized after studying industrial cranes for its structural characteristics. Suspended 200’ft. above the entry of the shaft, this bridgeway spans the highest point of the research facility; overlooking the abandoned landscape. The crevice is retained by concrete walls which are embedded into the outer walls of the shaft; providing structural support against the organic form of the shaft.

r i g h t: sketches detailing viewer’s perspective at different levels of the descent.

sketchbook 06.02.07

sketchbook 27.02.07


sketchbook 09.04.07





sketchbook 09.04.07

research towers


research towers


crit#1: [phase02]programmatic study models 3 individual case studies



concept4: By preserving the existing processing plant, the architecture embraces the old and the new; leaving the exposed piping to signify its past. Enclosed in concrete panels and a dominant retaining wall, the architecture adds structure to the wasted reminants of the past. The ‘built’ becomes a part of the site; emerging as a natural artifact.



concept6: Pods. The ‘pod’ concept for the living quarters at the top of the site favors the intimacy of the on-site researchers/ residents; allowing for a more privatization of use. The processing plant also becomes more inward-focused, as most of the program is underground. By endorsing a primarily underground building, the processing plant reconnects to the underground use of the site [similarly to the use of underground tunnels that already exist on site].



concept5: The retaining wall becomes the main driving force for the architecture and the organization of its program. Allowing the architecture to dig into the site and become part of the landscape. The design opens outward from the site, allowing for the sun to impede the building from the south-west. Also, this axis lends itself towards a favorable entrance for visitors.



With the majority of the building underground, the design of the above structure is integrated with the existing structure left onsite. Incorporating old and new materials, the spaces are placed off an open spine; allowing light to flow through to the main corridor and to the functions undergound. Old timber construction and corten steel mingle together, adding a new life to the existing structure— and a corresponding form to the landscape.

[phase03]spatial studies. visitor center.


[phase03]spatial studies. visitor center.


the framework for a corresponding architecture became the next form of exploration; a design that preserves the existing senses of the site, while adding a new dynamism that stays true to its function. I felt it important to add a different function to the site [visitor/ research facility], as a means of perserving and restoring the historical function of the site.


m i c r o _ the spatial relationship of the visitor is an important quality and a basis for exploration. When dealing with an industrial structure, the qualities of space versus the human senses tends to be cold and of a greater scale than the human figure. This is usually a product of materialistic qualities and extensive voids. The basis of study began within the processing plant on the southside of the site. The existing processing plant was left intact, but dilapidated. Therefore a new enclosure will be integrated. The concept introduces a new function while integrating dynamic architecture with the landscape. By reusing materials of the old structure, the site’s history is left intact.

l e f t: preliminary beginnings of spaces within the processing plant [visitor center]. This design concept favors a vertical arrangement of spaces. Keeping to the original underground function of the site, the visitor center plunges into the ground allowing for the connection and intermediary between the ground and existing tunnels. crit#1: [phase03]spatial studies left to right_ beginning stages of processing plant and entry to elevator shaft.

r i g h t: main entry to visitor center. Unlike the typical entry, the main entrance of the visitor center follows a similar mining orientation— entry begins in an intermediary space linked directly to an elevator shaft, which takes you to the coordinating spaces within the research/ visitor center.


_ e x p e r i e n c e.

Changing, developing, encompassing. As each human emotion is dynamic, the perception of space is also dynamic. With this in mind, one’s progression through the geo-research facility changes through space; through suspension, controlled, or introspective movements. Throughout this project, the visitor perceives a different experience with each movement. bridge: sits 200’ above the ground. The visitor is suspended above the landscape. Views are not obstructed. elevator shaft: As the user descends into the shaft, the viewer’s perception of space is minimized. Depending on the position of the elevator as it descends, the user’s ability to see is highly controlled in terms of its location as well as the amount of light entering the shaft. visitor center/ tunnels: At the terminus of the elevator shaft, spatial perceptions become secluded. These introspective spaces, as metaphors for the solidity of the ground plane, reflect their functions and hierarchy.




crit#2: gallery space [photo by Nicholas Kasimatis]


geo_research facility [gallery, classrooms, laboratories, observation decks] The main building [visitor center] is located on the southern part of the site. As the main programmatic space, this structure serves as the only entry into the site. axis. The angle of the building coincides with the same axes as the existing underground tunnel[s]. Placed alongside one of the main tunnels, the visitor center provides access to the tunnels below. Submerged into the site, the building becomes part of the landscape. Situated on the lowest point of elevation, the building is composed of two substantial retaining walls through which the program resides. These retaining walls lead the visitor through a gradual progression into the primary spine. 01: gallery spaces 02: an open laboratory space and classrooms 03: observatory decks

02 second

01 first

00 ground





organic forms + light. The idea of organic light emerged as the dynamic shape of the shaft progressed. The concept of the vertical shaft was to create a common connection between the existing subterranean tunnels [past] and the ground [present]. On site, the existing access tunnels have since been poured with concrete and sealed. By adding a different level of approach, the perceptions of the user [geologist] and the visitor change as they move across the site. These dynamic movements of the site continue as the building’s relation to the ground plane changes; through suspension, controlled or introspective movements. Although the progression down the elevator shaft is strictly controlled, the organic form of the shaft and refracting sunlight create the change of perceptions through the viewers eyes. The feeling of dynamism is the architecture in its truest form.








vertical shaft [light study model]


sketchbook 22.02.07

sketchbook 04.03.07


1/8� light study model mine shaft [chipboard,gray spray paint]


1/16� section model_base [chipboard,corr. cardboard, basswood]


1/16� section model_shaft [chipboard,corr. cardboard, basswood]


1:100 topo model existing landscape [chipboard]



crit#3: 1:20model


crit#3: 1:20model

themOdel materials:

plexi acrylic [1] 1/4” thread rod [2] 1/8” thread rod 1/4” & 1/8” galvanized bolts 1/4” & 1/8” washers blue light paint [2] blue lights This installation piece was a 1/8” scale topography model of the site. Formed out of 50 sheets of plexi, they are placed 1inch. on center [along the threaded rods] to vertically represent the topography of the site. The transparency of the model was very important since I wanted to visually expose the existing underground tunnels, as well as show their connection to the shaft. By inverting the figure ground, the site is left vulnerable and exposes the site to its toxic qualities.

the[mOdel]: detail of construction


the[mOdel]: tunnel connection to shaft




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ac[i]d miN[e]d  

Design Thesis, 5th Year Architecture