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Ryan Otterson 5 Line Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 Phone: 314-800-7829 E-mail:


M.Arch II Candidate Harvard University Graduate School of Design August 2012 - present Master of Architecture with Distinction University of Kansas 2007-2012 Danish Institute for Study Abroad Copenhagen, Denmark Fall 2010


Behnisch Architekten / Stuttgart, Germany Junior Architect June 2013 - May 2014 Facade development and detailing, Parametric shading optimization in Grasshopper and Diva, competition renderings and drawings Cannon Design / St. Louis, MO Architectural Intern May - August 2012 Master-plan Documents, Rhino / Grasshopper modeling, rendering University of Kansas / Lawrence, KS Studio Assistant and Software Instructor Oct 2011 - May 2012 SAIC Facilities and Designbuild / St. Louis, MO Architectural Intern May - Aug 2010, May - Aug 2011 Worked with Construction Documents, shop drawing reviews, specifications



2012 Thayer Medal 2011 AIA St. Louis Ranft Scholarship 2010 AIA St. Louis Ranft Scholarship 2009 Donald P. Ewart Memorial Scholarship 2009 H. Roy Mock Scholarship 2007 Freshman Honors Scholarship Christopher C.M. Lee Studio Instructor at Harvard GSD Principal at Serie Architects, London, UK Shannon Criss Studio Instructor at University of Kansas Connie Wust Architect at Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart, DE



Adobe Design Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, After Effects) Autodesk (AutoCAD, Revit) Rhinoceros Grasshopper Sketchup Microsoft Office “Common Frameworks: Rethinking the Developmental City in China : Part 1” print / 2012 First of three publications in the Harvard GSD AECOM project on China, a three-year research and design study on the future of the Chinese city. Edited by Christopher C.M. Lee. Contributions from Fall semester students in the “Common Frameworks” studio. “This is Modern! German Werkbund Exhibition Venice 2014” print / 2014 A printed summary / presentation of the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition in Venice during the 2014 Biennale, focusing on the last 100 years of architectural development. Contributions: Drawings for the Behnisch Architekten proposal

“Mind, Body, Machine” Exhibition / 2011 An Experimental Provocation about the screens we use every day; presented by The Commons (partnership with the Biodiversity Institute, the Hall Center for the Humanities, and Spencer Museum of Art)



This project (in collaboration with Michael Leef) explores a new relationship between landscape and architecture within the context of the Chinese Mega-Plot. Mega-Plots are tools of economic growth in China, where giant plots of government owned land are leased to developers with minimal infrastructure. Developers rapidly develop their own miniature cities, complete with roads and community facilities, typically in an array of duplicate towers. In this project, a series of “City Rooms” are proposed as a new mechanism of space-making to resist the dissolution of city space in rapidly urbanizing cities. Xiamen is one such rapidly urbanizing city. In this project, we define the space of urbanization separately from the space of the city. The unbounded space of urbanization is meant to facilitate economic growth through the provision of housing and infrastructure. Mega-plot housing projects and mega-plot business developments are two sides of the same coin; They are mechanisms of speculative capital. The space of a City, on the other hand is a negotiation between the space of the home and the public. Cities are spaces of voluntary gathering, communication, collaboration, commonality and difference. Urbanization has lost the qualities of the City. Public spaces of urbanization are often too large or too infrequent to serve inhabitants. City activity in Xiamen also has a unique relationship to the outdoors, as its outdoor spaces are continuously appropriated in rich and diverse ways. We propose to counteract the type of space produced by urbanization by reorganizing the traditional CBD of


dispersed vertical cores, and using City Rooms to capture the ‘continuous flow’ of the city (Maki). The chosen site is a future CBD in Xiamen. This planned CBD is what Koolhaas would call “an articulation of momentary financial legitimacy”. This is not a city, but a space of urbanization where city life is liable to disappear as it has in existing mega-plot developments. We chose to insert a proposal into the center of the planned CBD; an intervention in contrast to the surrounding high-rise towers. Fuhimiko Maki states that a City Room is a ‘momentary capture’ of the continuous flow of the city. A new CBD in Xiamen must not take on the existing role of mega-plot development where towers in a park become isolated nodes. The ground plane is structured as a series of rooms defined by canopy and wall, injected with program, within an even field of landscape; a field condition that is only given meaning by its spatial overlap with the umbrella above. Points of contact with the ground are shared between the housing units above and the programmatic components below, creating a figure ground as a negotiated plane, where lawn is either playground, schoolyard, meeting room or park. Because work and living space boundaries have blurred in today’s modes of work, the city room as outdoor space is meaningful in Xiamen. Here, nature that is typically a suburban or rural condition, can be seen as an urban condition. In a typical mega-plot, the definition between landscape and building is oppositional; in the City-Room diagram, it is relational. The landscape is seen as a field of infrastructural potential that can be appropriated in these momentary captures.

The “Mega-Plot” planning principles used by the Chinese planning authorities first consider a desired F.A.R for a plot, which is then divided to achieve the proper height and offset regulations, before being diffused across a green site. The spaces produced are left-over; highly manicured yet neglected as “city” space. The proposal alters the figureground distribution of a city by making a series of outdoor rooms out of the “ground”, through the design of the “figure” (architectural plans and urban forms). An isolated “Mega-Plot” City

Typical Mega-Plot Desired F.A.R

Setbacks and Access



The City of Modernism: A punctured field; Corbusier’s “Radiant City” or similar, in Colin Rowe’s “Collage City”

Displaced Density: Density displaced by nature e.g. Central Park in Manhattan.

The City Room: Thin figures enclose nature, making possible the idea of “Urban Nature” that characterizes Xiamen.

Small Office / School

Market / Communal

CBD office unit

Cultural / Institutional

Commercial / Office


Upper level housing plan

2 Single-family configuration

4 Studio-unit configuration


Chinese Courtyard / Wall house

The overlap of the housing “umbrella” creates a series of outdoor rooms with dappled light, and a high degree of transparency through offices and various programs.

Inter-locking unit types create a series of courtyards and varying scales of the “outdoor room”. Circulation cores that serve both housing and the walls of program are evenly scattered through a field of latent “city” space.





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ROVANIEMI, FINLAND The Northern Lights Observatory is designed to immerse visitors and users in the phenomena of Finnish lapland. A large concrete bridge-like structure projects horizontally out from a hill in a spruce-forest just outside the center of Rovaniemi. Various facilities are attached along this datum, that measures the horizon and allows users of the site to gradually engage and disengage the ground plane. This creates a gradual sense of containment and release from the forest to a dramatic view over Finnish Lapland to the North and Rovaniemi to the West, as well as the surrounding Aurora.

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(left) Exploded Program Sequence 1) Visitor’s Center / Planetarium 2) Lodging 3) Sauna / Pond 4) Chapel / Residence 5) Observatory Tower / Telescope 6) Observation Deck

(right) gradual emergence from the forest out over the landscape, measured by the relationship of the visitor to the treeline.

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Section B

Section A

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The site experience is conceived through a dialogue between the user and his horizon. The visitors’ center contains a restaurant and check-in at the ground floor, with exhibition space and a planetarium above. The central staircase is carved through the North-South axis of the site, leading straight to the observation deck.

The sauna ritual; The body experiences extremes, moving back and forth between the freezing water and the heat of the sauna (lĂśyly)

The pedestrian path reaches straight out towards the horizon, a sensation of flight created by the steady drop of the treeline. At the endpoint, visitors are suspended between the landscape forms and the forms of the Aurora.

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The East Boston Greenway is a dilapidated linear park that has replaced the old rail lines that once cut through East Boston, carrying items to industrial sites on the waterfront which have since been demolished. The path weaves under small bridges, through neighborhoods and terminates at a chain link fence through which cyclists and pedestrians can view the Boston skyline. Given the task of creating a waterfront market on this brownfield site, the function of the greenway is put in jeopardy. Centers of market retail and storage typically resist the demands of a waterfront site: specifically, transparency and permeability. To satisfy the desire for the natural continuation of the Greenway to the water’s edge, and to preserve the view of the city for the residents of the adjacent neighborhood, the

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market is lifted and parking is pushed below grade. The market sits above a perforated surface that disrupts both the floor plate and the roof of the market. The relationship between the market activity and the park below is altered by these punctures, as a series of light wells that create views into the park and offer direct natural light to the park. Elevators and stairs bring visitors from the parking level below up to the market level, while stairs and escalators bring visitors at ground level up to the market. The surface is defined by a series of catenary curves, lofted together in intervals that produce developable surfaces. These are supported by a series of linear beams spaced along steel catenary arches. A system of vertical struts distributes the floor loads evenly across the arches, which are supported at each end by tapered columns that carry loads into the concrete parking structure.

(above) Site and diagrammatic sections (below) Perspective NE facade

(above) Geometric construction of catenary shells

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Site Plan (with skylights indicated)

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Detail of catenary structures

Floor structure / struts (evenly distributed)

Market columns (at catenary midpoints and endpoints)

Level 0 columns (Greenway level)

Catenary arches (primary span)

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Floor Plan (market level)

Interior perspective

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BOLOGNA, ITALY This competition project is a collaboration with Yewon Ji and Saori Yamane. The layout of Bologna, like other Italian cities, generates a series of ‘urban containers’ . We are interested in this type, and its ability to impact the dispersed figure-ground of an industrial site. Our design proposal focused on two ‘containers’ of urban activity:

The reuse of the factory is seen as an opportunity to foster growth of the artistic communities of Bologna. Large floor to floor heights and skylights are sought after for galleries, artist studios and work spaces alike. We chose to emphasize these qualities in the existing structure by applying a semitransparent mesh material to the ceilings and walls of the old structure, as a veil that simultaneously reveals the beautiful old structure, and neutralizes it for the display and creation of art.

1) The first is an outdoor courtyard that has been loosely defined by transparent mesh structures that give a permeable, but enclosed quality to the exterior space, functioning as an outdoor room. This outdoor room serves both as garden, and an extension of the theater performance space. The theater space is activated at all times by its relationship to the courtyard, administrative activities, and artist living units, all of which look into the theater. The theater becomes part of the garden when not in use.

The bridge that hovers over the courtyard contains a long library and reading space, and it has been retrofitted with a skylight like the void on the middle of the larger structure. Underneath, it has been fitted with lights behind the steel mesh to create a lively outdoor space at night. Supporting this bridge at one end is a tower that sits in the middle of the courtyard, with a café that spills into the outdoor space in all directions. The floors above contain reading spaces, a media archive, and a book shop.

2) The second is a void that was cut through the middle of the building in an effort to create a large open space for art display, a social focal point, and a large light well that would display the circulation and movements of visitors between the various activities.

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New voids; Demolition of a single glazed wall, and portions of floor plates at level 2.

A figure-ground plan of the central part of Bologna shows a porous city plan, a city as a series of containers, each concealing an outdoor room. Buildings are read as solid mass from the narrow streets, which periodically open into larger piazzas.

New skylights, amphitheater, and perforated screens create an outdoor room, and an indoor courtyard

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The Graduation Pavilion plays on the notion of “path� as a graduation theme, as well as a prominent condition on the University of Kansas campus. The pavilion for the School of Architecture Design and Planning consists of a datum display system, fragmented and dispersed through the university paths, gradually gathering and densifying behind Marvin Hall, creating a gallery for student work and a ceremony space. The structure is intended as a temporary structure to be assembled each May. 1) Steel columns and pre-drilled holes 2) fragmented display datum 3) cross bracing and roof structure 4) Roof membrane

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(left) Plan and circulation / display diagram (right) Fragments and interior perspective

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RESEARCH The project in collaboration with Parsa Kamali, Adam Novack, Mary Stuckert and Chana Chaozi takes the Eames side chair as a starting point, to investigate the use of computational corrugation as a core material in composite constructions. The original chair surface was modeled in Solidworks, and a series of corrugations were tested and adapted to respond to von Mises stress criteria. The adapted shape was CNC milled as a mold for resin infusion with fiberglass mat. The sandwich construction includes a corrugated surface bonded between two smooth surfaces, where the deepest corrugations create the strongest resistance to shear forces.

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OBJECTS The Sejl Lamp was designed for the Annual IF product design competition. A series of thin mylar shells are cut, folded and bonded together as a semi-translucent shade for an LED bulb. The lamp is inspired by Poul Henningsen’s PH5 lamp, and the spherical shell constructions of Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House.

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Ryan Otterson 2014 Portfolio  

Portfolio of Graduate / Undergraduate works from Harvard University GSD and the University of Kansas

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