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VARIANT SCALES OF DWELLING


in memoriam sara wojciechowski


VARIANT SCALES OF DWELLING by rodrigo meira | undergraduate thesis

Virginia Polytechnic Institute + State University College of Architecture + Urban Studies School of Architecture + Design


00. CONTENTS

01. 02. 03. 04. 05.

THE PROBLEM(S) CREATING SEEDS THE KING ST. PATH PROGRAMING THE SITE(S) PERENNIAL RESIDENCE + WINE SHOP 06. URBAN NOMAD 07. REFLECTION 08. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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01. THE PROBLEM(S) UNDERSTANDING THE REGIONAL SCALE No one can deny the importance of the automobile in the evolution of our society and how it has had a fundamental role in the progress of modern life. It is, however, its overuse and daily dependence that has aided, more than any other factor, in the fragmentation of the contemporary city in the U.S. The same tool that has allowed the average citizen to be part of the “best of both worlds” American standard of working by day in the great metropolis, and going home to the modern version of a colonial farmhouse - the suburban home - by night, is contributing to the scarceness of the true urban dwelling experience. The region of Northern Virginia is a classic example of this urban progression. Part of the large agglomeration of counties and independent cities forming the greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area, Northern Virginia, or NoVA, as it is commonly known, has as its main core the “duty” of housing commuters who spend their day working in Washington DC. In sharp contrast to the density of the nation’s capital, cities and neighborhoods in NoVA are sparse and completely dependent on the automobile.

Average automobile occupancy = 5 people

limit

of

Percentage of car required to be considered “High Occupancy” in the majority of today’s highways = 40%

<< LEVITTOWN, NY, 1948 : ONE OF THE FIRST MASS-PRODUCED SUBURB COMMUNITIES IN THE U.S., INTENDED TO HOUSE SOLDIERS RETURNING FROM WORLD WAR II


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UNDERSTANDING THE SCALE OF THE CITY

The automobile, by its own nature, is an isolator. One uses the car to, alone, cover great distances that would be inconvenient to travel through more traditional or public methods such as walking or mass transit. With the daily use of the automobile to travel long distances to cover the sprawling city as an accepted standard, local, small scale neighborhood institutions like “mom-and-pop” stores have been substituted by regional, more lucrative, “big box” superstores. This means that the once consistent, numerous, pedestrian trips between home and the local neighborhood businesses – opportunities to, in a slow fashion, appreciate and interact with the urban environment and fellow neighborhood dwellers in a human scale – have been substituted by hours inside a fast moving vehicle, traditionally by oneself, listening to the radio. Human interaction at the city level occurs in the shared spaces where common individual interests or daily life necessities take place. Once diverse series of urban daily tasks such as buying bread at the bakery or going to the newsstand to buy the day’s paper, are now substituted by the once-a-month car trip to the regional superstore and the free of charge, home delivery of the plastic wrapped New York Times. Walking to the local coffee shop before catching the bus to go to work, an opportunity for some morning exercise and a chance to interact with neighbors while discussing the news of the day, is now restricted to a paper cup with a plastic lid in a cup holder, after several minutes idling in a drive thru. As a consumer, the direct interaction with the local shop owner - a person with an invested interest in neighborhood where the shop is located, and knowledgeable point of reference regarding the quality and source of its products – is substituted by the scripted “did you find everything you we looking for?” conversation with the cashier at Walmart. Independent single use stores, like butchers, bakeries, photo and camera, newsstands, pharmacies, etc., are practically extinct. And, with them, goes the many layers of interaction they used to provide to our urban fabric.

>> Contemporary rituals of social isolation | Typical morning rush hour traffic in the greater Washington DC area


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UNDERSTANDING THE SCALE OF THE HOUSE SIZE IS AN INVENTION A good house is a big house. The prevalence of this misconception in contemporary American culture has a direct correlation between the consumer based, bigger is better society that surrounds us and the commonly accepted measurement of “success” - where the more important one is (or wishes to be recognized as) the more square footage one owns. Rather than a complementary aid in the mental visualization of a residence which is yet to be experienced, the square footage of a house or apartment acquires an enormous, overly inflated value. The bigger it is, the better it is automatically perceived.

>> By today’s popular standards, two examples of “good houses”

This homogenized approach of one single, predominant driving force in “what is good” in a residence fuels the current trend of the standardization of where one dwells. In a general sense, discarding the ever present cosmetic additives, a three bedroom house is the same no matter in what neighborhood it is located or what the dweller’s daily activities are. Concurrently, a two bedroom house is the same as the three bedroom house, only with a smaller square footage, and so on. The character of a home, its compatibility to the daily flow of its inhabitant’s activities or how it integrates to the immediate neighborhood’s necessities and attributes, are factors simply neglected when commonly discussing a home purchase or a rental agreement. CASTING NO SHADOWS The technological advances the world has experienced in the past few centuries have undoubtedly changed the core of how we experience our surroundings, and therefore, how our lives are lived inside the spaces we create. One can arguably state that today, technology, due to its omnipresence in our lives, is becoming our new nature. But, with the accumulation over time of all these significantly positive advances – electric light, automated heating and


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cooling systems, the automobile, etc. â&#x20AC;&#x201C; they have become expected commodities, and, in the process, have been overused to the point of de-sensitizing our daily living. Take as an example, our ability to control the temperature around us. From our precise climate controlled homes (closed doors and windows) we move into our climate controlled cars (windows up, have to use the purchased dual climate control), then to our climate controlled offices (air conditioning turned on year-round due to the excessive heat produced by computers). Unless oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s job requires them to be outdoors on a constant basis, practically all of our daily activities take place in controlled environments. Nature does not do more work than it has to, and our bodies have been thermally conditioned to an extreme where, if it is not 68 degrees Fahrenheit, we feel uncomfortable. Certainly, if were not constantly suppressing our bodies natural capability to adapt to fluctuating temperatures, our thermal comfort range would be considerably larger than what is today. The same type of progressive de-sensitization is present in our daily interaction with light, be it from solar or electric sources. The overuse of electric light as a commodity has led to the expectation that, at any time of day or night, there is the capability to turn on an array of 100 watt light bulbs in any room of a house. This constant propensity to have high levels of luminosity at any given time has created an unconscious aversion to shadows and the experiences they provide. It is a common constant for any person when entering a space, or at slightest sign of sunset, to turn all the available lights on. Our desired interaction with light is always the same: bright, intense, at all times, for all tasks. Shadows, just like small square footages, have an acquired a bad connotation: a dark space is a bad space.

>> Tadao Ando : Koshino House Ashiya | Kobe : Japan, 1981

>> Tadao Ando : Vitra Seminar House Weil am Rhein | Germany, 1993


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>> Light, shadows and pedestrians on a cold winter’s night in Old Town’s Prince St. | Alexandria, VA


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02. CREATING SEEDS

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IMPLEMENTING THE SOLUTION’S SEED Without considering the economically unfeasible approach of bulldozing entire city sections in order to design denser, compact, less car dependent communities, it is not possible at this time to rapidly convert regions with excessive urban sprawl - such as Northern Virginia - into neighborhoods where daily rituals of human interaction can be established. However, one of the first steps into the process of re-civilizing our damaged urban environment is to identify which urban settings are more susceptible to accept and support this developmental reversal, and appropriately inject urban planning and architectural projects which advocate for this change. Once these catalyst areas take root and the cultural and human benefits of such urban re-organization become a real state option for individuals and families within the region, they will certainly become sough after commodities which will in turn influence new and existing developments. This progressive transition, in conjunction with the already existing movement of residential re-occupation of city centers in several U.S. metropolises, will undoubtedly improve the American urban landscape and allow for more humane neighborhoods and cities.

PLACING THE SEED

<< BUSINESS ENTRY FOR A FRANCHISE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY IN OLD TOWN

Old Town, the historic neighborhood of the city of Alexandria, VA, is an urban setting susceptible to supporting the creation and nourishment of such “seed” architectural projects. Standing in complete contrast to the established Northern Virginia norm of sprawling subdivisions and strip malls, Old Town, due to its pre-automobile development and historic preservation, still retains a great level of urban density and cultural richness. Unlike the numerous surrounding subdivisions and cul-de-sacs, Old Town’s streets, sidewalks


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and ground floor shops, restaurants and bars are in a position to encourage pedestrian activity. However, the great majority of these establishments, capable of generating daily rituals of interaction for the neighborhoodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s inhabitants, are focused towards the tourists who come to experience the historic sites and waterfront. This heavy investment on the neighborhood transitory occupants, although partially unavoidable due to the areaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s historic significance and overall commercial profit, unevenly divides the neighborhood resources and diminishes the relationship between the local commerce and residents. The current extent of this division is unnecessary, and could be diminished to strengthen the relationship between the local commerce and neighborhood dwellers. To arrive at an appropriate architectural seed project, we need to further understand and analyze the neighborhoodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s intricacies and interactions.


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>> The statue â&#x20AC;&#x153;Appomattoxâ&#x20AC;? (left of image) by M. Casper Buberl (1889), marks the spot from which Confederate soldiers marched south when Virginia seceded from the Union and was occupied by federal troops on May 24, 1861 | Intersection of Washington St. + Prince St., Old Town, Alexandria, VA


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03. THE KING ST. PATH UNDERSTANDING THE SITE’S FLOW Visitors arrive in Old Town either via car, the norm in the region’s surrounding suburban context, or via public transit. However, the lack of an adequate amount of street parking and the excessive cost of the scarce, limited, privately owned parking lots heavily promotes the use of nearby Washington Metropolitan Area Transit subway station and bus lines. Located in Old Town’s northwest edge, the King St. metro station - the neighborhood’s only metro station and fulcrum point to the great majority of available bus lines - is Old Town’s gateway to visitors and temporary inhabitants. This concentration of arrivals has become the starting point of the neighborhood’s principal urban characteristic, a 1.3 mile pedestrian path formed between the metro station, Old Town’s main commercial street and the Potomac River waterfront – a point of departure for boat tours and Washington DC excursions. >> King St. on a weekday night | Old Town, Alexandria, VA

The path follows the last segment of King St. as it enters Old Town. As it becomes part of the historic district, what is just another arterial street in suburban Northern Virginia transforms into a dense, pedestrian friendly, commercial corridor. It is hard to find a commercial venue outside of the King St. Path, which allows the residences located one or two block outside the Path to be in an environment as quiet and calm as those deeper into the neighborhood. Old Town residents adhere to the neighborhood flow in a segmented fashion, utilizing the available businesses and attractions without traversing the entire Path. One gathers the impression of an unwritten accord between residents and visitors, where local residents accept the excessive focus on tourists as long as it is contained to King St.

<< PARTAKING IN THE KING ST PROCESSION: TOURISTS STAND IN FRONT OF “THE SCOOP GRILL & HOMEMADE ICE CREAM” SHOP WHILE WALKING DOWN THE PATH


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OLD TO

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A

RY LA

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V IR G IN IA WA S H IN G TO N DC

POTOMAC RIVER ALEXANDRIA CITY LIMITS

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KING S

TREET

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1. SITE AT REGIONAL + CITY SCALES: NORTHERN VIRGINIA + CITY OF ALEXANDRIA + POTOMAC RIVER 2. SITE AT NEIGHBORHOOD SCALE : OLD TOWN + KING ST. PATH A. LANDMARK: GEORGE WASHINGTON MASONIC MEMORIAL B. START: KING ST METRO STATION C. DESTINATION: POTOMAC WATERFRONT


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KING S T

C

ST

LEE ST

PRINCE

3. SITE AT BLOCK SCALE: CORNER OF PRINCE ST + LEE ST

3


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GEORGE WASHINGTON MASONIC NATIONAL MEMORIAL: OLD TOWN’S LANDMARK AND VISUAL MARKER OF THE PATH’S START

MISHA’S COFEE HOUSE: BEST COFFEE YOU WILL EVER HAVE

UNION STATION (AMTRAK) + KING ST STATION (METRO): THE PATH’S WALKABLE STARTING POINT

ALEXANDRIA COURTHOUSE

WASHINGTON-ALEXANDRIA ARCHITECTURE CENTER (VIRGINIA TECH)


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ALEXANDRIA CITY HALL + MARKET SQUARE: CIVIC HEART OF ALEXANDRIA AND HOME OF THE OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY OPERATING FARMER’S MARKET IN THE U.S.

TORPEDO FACTORY ART CENTER

WATERFRONT: END OF KING ST PATH AND POINT OF DEPARTURE OF BOAT TOURS

SITE:

FRIENDSHIP FIREHOUSE: HISTORIC FIREHOUSE AND MUSEUM

LYCEUM: ALEXANDRIA’S HISTORY MUSEUM AND FORMER CIVIL WAR HOSPITAL

ATHENAEUM: ART MUSEUM AND HOME OF THE ALEXANDRIA BALLET


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04. PROGRAMING THE SITE(S) UNDERSTANDING THE NEIGHBORHOOD DWELLERS Even though Old Town is mostly constituted of upper class family dwellings - due to the neighborhood’s high cost of real state and high standard of living - there is a significant amount of young, low income residents who help diversify the local population. In contrast to the permanent, family dwellers, these young inhabitants, although not visitors, are transitory dwellers such as students (from local educational institutions such as Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center) and resident artists (from local art organizations such as the Torpedo Factory Art Center). In many cases, the students and young professional supplement their income by working in the King St. Path’s tourist shops.

>> Household entry off of the King St. Path | Old Town, Alexandria, VA

<< SMELLING THE SITE: GROUND SURFACE TEXTURES IN OLD TOWN

The mixture and contrast between the Perennial residents and transitory, Urban Nomads, enriches and diversifies Old Town, creating unexpected interactions usually not seen in the incredibly socially segregated areas of Northern Virginia.


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In order to contribute in maintaining Old Townâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s character, the building site, located one block south from the King St. Path, was chosen primarily because it does not contain any historic structures or significant buildings to the local urban fabric. The eastern 1/3 of the site is currently vacant, while the remaining 2/3 include two recently constructed contemporary residences.

LEE ST

Even though these vinyl siding houses have not been in the block for an extended amount of time, they already exhibit signs of decay and faulty construction. Therefore, the compact, densely developed neighborhood of Old Town would not be impaired with the demolition of these two structures.

PRINCE

ST


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>> Programatic massing study

THE PROGRAM The client is a wine merchant and his/her family. The project includes a wine shop for the merchant, a residence for the family and two small residential units to be rented by the merchant for supplemental income. WINE SHOP: Commercial space owned and operated by the perennial dweller. The store must be flexible enough to allow for future different functions in case of change of ownership | Retail Floor Space for 1200 Wine Bottles, Tasting Area, Bathroom, Storage (200 sq ft) PERENNIAL DWELLING: Single family house | Kitchen, Living area, 3 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms, Studio, Utilities URBAN NOMAD DWELLING: Two living units for transitory dwellers, such as academic students, visiting artists and adjunct professors | Bedroom, Bathroom, Kitchen, Living, Study, Utilities

>> Preliminary study model


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THE RIGHT SEED FOR THE SITE To counter the established Northern Virginia norm of a segregated local commerce disconnected from the area’s residents, Old Town’s architectural seed project focuses on strengthening the relationship between neighborhood residents and business owner. Purchasing wine is not a commodity sought by visitors and tourists, so it is likely to remain an activity exclusive to local residents. The shop is located one block off of King St., which preserves the neighborhood commercial nucleus while at the same time providing an opportunity for local residents to reach the store without having to meander through street mobs during the busy tourist season. The store and owner residence, although physically separated, are located in the same building. Besides being a practical asset for the shop owner, it deepens the relationship between the business and the neighborhood. The person at the counter is not only an owner, but also a resident, who is providing a service intended for other fellow residents. This convergence of local relationships establish and environment susceptible to the creation of daily rituals of interaction.

PRESERVING THE EXISTING FABRIC >> Two examples of commercial establishments located on the King St. Path | Old Town, Alexandria, VA

The rental units, besides providing additional income to the client, establish a relationship to the existing connection between Old Town and Urban Nomads. This piece of the program creates an architectural seed that feeds the existing neighborhood characteristic without being exclusively dedicated to it – the residences could just as easily be inhabited by non-temporary residents, as long as they do not have a need for large amounts of space.


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PUBLIC SPACES

SUMMER SOLSTICE SUN PATH STUDY

WINTER EQUINOX SUN PATH STUDY

TO W ATER F

URBAN VEGETATION

FOOT TRAFFIC PATTERN

RONT

ENTRY PATH

FROM

KING S

T

PRIVATE SPACES


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PRIN

WINE SHOP

CE S TREE T

LEE S TREET

SHOP OWNERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S RESIDENCE

ENTRY

COURT

YARD

RENTAL UNITS PROGRAM DISTRIBUTION

SHOP ENTRANCE

DELIVERY ENTRANCE

PRIVATE ENTRANCE

Residential entries in Old Town are traditionally directly connected to sidewalk without any buffers or protection from the street. In contrast to that approach, the path of entry for the Perennial and Urban Nomad dwellings takes advantage of a small alley located between the project site and the eastern neighboring building to create an entry courtyard where the primary building entrances are located. The entry courtyard allows for a slow process of transition between the public, semi-private, and private spaces and encourages the shared ownership of the common outdoor area. This area also serves as a point of interaction between the residents without the influence of the public street. The Wine Shop, however, depends on the direct proximity to the street corner to facilitate customer accessibility and public recognition - its main entrance is located at the corner of Lee St.


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05. PERENNIAL RESIDENCE + WINE SHOP

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WINE SHOP

LIVE WORK

>> (A) Pre-suburban live-work relationship

LIVE

Attached to the Perennial Residence - but with no direct access to it so as not to blend the merchant and dwelling aspects of the building - the Wine Shop is envisioned as a concrete cube which connects Lee St. to the outdoor tasting area in the entry courtyard. Support spaces are adjacent to the retail area, but do not have a visual presence in the cube. Carefully placed openings provide selected views of the courtyard and allow indirect light to enter the space. The concrete cube also conceals the four skylights and roof drainage system from street view, which adds to customers the sense of discovery as they descend the entry stairway connecting Lee St. to the retail area.

WORK

>> (B) Suburban live-work relationship

LIVE WORK

>> (C) Proposed integrated live-work relationship

PERENNIAL RESIDENCE Rejecting the established norm that dictates square footage is the most important quality in a home, and therefore its main architectural generator, the Perennial Residence


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follows the guiding philosophy that the amount of sunlight and shadows a space requires dictates its function. The closer to the sun a space is, the more essential sunlight is to its function.

LEVEL 3 : LIGHT : Elevated Platforms >> Library, Study and Outdoor Patio LEVEL 2 : LIGHT + SHADOWS : Prince St. and Courtyard >> Living, Kitchen and Dining LEVEL 1 : DARKNESS + SHADE : Half Basement >> Sleeping and Resting

The Residence’s structure follows a similar organizational method, where more complex assemblies, composed of diverse materials, are supported by a heavy, massive foundation. In the half basement level, retaining walls - with few, selected openings - create a concrete base enclosing the home’s most private spaces. The second and third levels are wrapped by a wood, glass and metal skin assembly, which regulates the exposure to sunlight and shadows to the home’s more active spaces.


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>> Perennial Residence + Entry Courtyard rendering

>> Design process sketches


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ENTRY

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SEE PAGE 38

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1. BED CELL 2. SHARED CLOSETS 3. TOILET, SINK + LAUNDRY 4. SHOWER + SINK 5. OUTDOOR GARDEN 6. STAIR 7. LIVING 8. KITCHEN 9. STORAGE

10. OFFICE 11. LIBRARY 12. OUTDOOR PATIO 13. WINE SHOP 14. MECHANICAL 15. STOCK ROOM 16. SERVICE ELEVATOR 17. DELIVERY ENTRANCE 18. WINE TASTING COURTYARD

SEE PAGE 38

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The constant shadows in the living space are not propitious to certain daily tasks, such as studying and reading. To provide the adequate light for these tasks, the office is an enclosed room suspended within the living space â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a box within a box â&#x20AC;&#x201C; with three exclusive skylights.

Shaped as an open corridor, the outdoor patio provides a semi-private, exterior gathering space with a visual connection to both the interior courtyard and Prince St. A horizontal sliding door, which doubles as the Wine Shop signage, opens during business hours to reveal the entry staircase to the sales area located below street level. As the customer enters, a slim, vertical window provides a view to the wine tasting courtyard and its cherry tree.

Selected openings facing the courtyard and street, in addition to the four roof skylights, provide the Wine Shop with sunlight and selected views to its surroundings. A basic floor plan for the sales area, adjacent to supporting spaces, ensures the building can adapt to other commercial endeavors in case the Wine Shop closes in the future.

A

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The Perennial Residence’s second and third levels exterior walls are encompassed by an envelope composed of an inner glazing wall with an exterior skin of equally spaced wooden slats. These environments, dedicated to the daily active tasks of working, cooking, eating, conversation, etc., are bathed throughout the day with a constant mix of shadows and light. The constant presence of shadows created by the sun during the day hours provides a constant connection to the inhabitants with the time of day and the weather outside. At night, the process is reversed. The interior lights are projected to the street, allowing the passers-by – and the neighborhood, in the larger scale – to recognize the ongoing life within the building.

LEE ST. GROUND LEVEL

At the end of the entry courtyard, against the Lee St. retaining wall, a cherry tree softens the hardscape. Cherry was chosen to relate to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in nearby Washington DC. The blossoming of the courtyard cherry serves as a method of indicating when the Washington DC’s cherries are also blossoming. Partially underground, the first level of the Perennial Residence is dedicated exclusively to the family’s sleeping quarters. Small, compact, bedroom cells – almost completely encompassed by beds at floor level – are designed to be dark spaces dedicated exclusively for rest and sleeping. Closets for all family members are located next to each other in the shared hallway to encourage family interaction during times of common usage, such as the morning hours. The shower and toilet are located in separate rooms to allow family members to use a bathroom facility while the shower is in use.

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CONTEXTUALIZING LIGHT IN CINEMA The Big Combo (1995) Director: Joseph H. Lewis Cinematographer: John Alton

Objects and beings in the world are naturally perceived, in the overwhelming majority of cases, in the manner sunlight reaches them: from above and at an angle. Not surprisingly, man-made light in everyday life follows the same approach. In The Big Combo (1955), in addition to the sharp contrast between dark and white, shadows and light, typical of Noir films, cinematographer John Alton uses this notion of how light is naturally perceived to accentuate the roll of characters and scenes presented in the story. Characters considered good are lit in the “natural” way, while characters considered evil follow the reverse, “unnatural” approach: they’re lit from below, giving them a monster-like appearance.


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>> (ABOVE) Rendering of the Perennial Residence’s 2nd + 3rd levels. The shading screen provides the active spaces with a combination of shadows and light. >> (BELOW) Building’s South façade showing the extend of the Southern shading screen


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>> (ABOVE) Section of the familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shared closet. << (LEFT) Typical bedroom cell and shared hallway exploded perspective.


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EAST CORNER

SOUTHEAST CORNER


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NORTH FAÇADE

NORTHWEST CORNER


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SKYLIGHTS

GUTTER

CORRUGATED METAL ROOF

2x10 RAFTERS

STEEL SUPPORT STRUCTURE CEILING

SKYLIGHT FABRIC SHADE


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>> (ABOVE): LIGHT STUDY : Preliminary light study rendering of the Wine Shop’s retail area. << (LEFT) : ROOF COMPONENTS : Detailed exploded perspective of the Wine Shop’s roof assembly. Although access to sunlight is an essential aspect of any healthy working environment, when dealing with light sensitive merchandise such as wine, this becomes a challenge rather than an opportunity. Controlling fabric shades are added to the four skylights in the retail area in order to regulate the wine’s exposure to natural light. This allows for the space to have access to indirect light and adequately preserve the wine bottles on display.


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>> (BELOW) : Model studies of the Wine Shopâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s skylight layout without the use of the fabric shade feature. Future store owners whose products are not light sensitive have the option of removing the fabric shades to allow direct sunlight to enter the retail area.


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05

URBAN NOMAD


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06. URBAN NOMAD APPLYING CONCEPTS TO DIFFERENT SCALES The essence of the concepts for living is the same whether you are an Urban Nomad or a Perennial Resident. However, in the Urban Nomad case, they need to be applied to a different building type and a smaller square footage. The home adapts to the concept, and not the concept to the home. Urban Nomad residents are usually single individuals or young couples who traditionally do not own a large quantity of material possessions and do not have the same spatial needs as a single-family home. The residences respond to this condition by providing built-in furniture and storage – such as dining table and benches, study desks and closets - to minimize the need for the temporary residents to have to purchase these items to feel at home. The bedroom cells follow the same concept of being small, dark spaces exclusively dedicated to sleeping and resting. The unit’s more private spaces are located on the second floor, while the more semi-private spaces are on the first. Structurally, the building is composed of a concrete core – where the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms and mechanical spaces are located – and a steel structure wrapped by a


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corten steel skin. Corten was chosen because of how its color ages and changes through time, with its final color iteration being close to the color of brick, the main material used throughout Old Town. Each unit has as its main source of sunlight a large window located on the unit’s end opposite to the concrete core. For the tenant with lower privacy needs, the west unit’s large window faces Lee St., while the east unit’s large window faces the more private, interior entry courtyard.

PREVIOUS PROJECTS: EXAMPLES OF A COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL BUILDING WHERE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SUNLIGHT AND DARKNESS WAS USED TO DETERMINE FUNCTION. >> (RIGHT ABOVE) : COFFEE SHOP IN BLACKSBURG, VA | 2ND YEAR OF ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL >> (RIGHT BELOW) : ALLEY RESIDENCE IN CHICAGO, IL | 4TH YEAR OF ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL


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Located outside of the shower/ toilet chamber, the sink can be used for both bathroom and other daily necessities as well

Following the same concepts found in the Perennial Residence, the bedroom cell is a small, compact space dedicated exclusively for the daily necessities of resting and sleeping

With the reduced necessity of privacy for an Urban Nomad living quarters, the shower/ toilet room is a door-less, semienclosed, open floor space. The same flooring system used throughout the second floor, wooden boards, continues through the shower/toilet chamber, only, in this instance, with small gaps between them to allow for the water to flow to an under floor drainage system

Access exclusively through the exterior, the mechanical room can be serviced without disturbing any of the two Urban Nomad residents

1. LIVING 2. DINING TABLE 3. KITCHEN 4. HALF BATHROOM 5. MECHANICAL 6. STAIR 7. BEDROOM + STUDIO 8. BED CELL 9. BUILT-IN DESK 10. BUILT-IN CLOSET 11. SINK 12. TOILET/SHOWER

A

B

C Skylights above the shower/ toilet chamber provide sunlight to the only semi-enclosed space in the second floor

D


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>> (ABOVE): Exploded perspective showing the corten skin, steel frame and concrete core. << (LEFT) : Section and enlarged bathroom detail of the east Urban Nomad residence.


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07. REFLECTION

Cities, neighborhoods, streets, buildings and societies are living organisms, and as architects, it should be one of our top priorities to learn how to read these ever changing elements and understand their complex interactions. This thesis project is a sincere effort – infused with all my biases developed over five years of Architecture school - to asses all possible scales of design and offer a solution for a mixed use project located on the intersection of Lee and Prince Streets, in the neighborhood of Old Town, in the city of Alexandria, Virginia, in the United States of America, in the year of 2004. As Architecture students, from our very first class until the day we graduate, we are continuously bombarded by fundamental, unanswerable architectural questions – one of them being the classic gem: “what is Architecture?” I am not sure if, even at a personal level, I’ll ever be able to produce a valid answer for this daunting question. However, after five years soaked in Architecture school, I feel I have begun the process of seeing a fragment of the answer; at least, my own answer: If I am an architect, then Architecture is everything.


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08. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS MY SINCERE GRATITUDE TO: Meus eternos pilares: Pai, Mãe e Ricardo, sem vocês eu não seria o homem que sou hoje. My lab professors: Shelley Martin, Scott Poole, Hunter Pittman and Kathryn Albright. My unofficial professors: all my architecture friends, colleagues, classmates, lecturers and fellow Cowgill inhabitants. Blacksburg.



UNDERGRADUATE THESIS