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design portfolio Sh a wn M ei nd l


Welcome to my portfolio. some things you should look out for:

1. I look for ways to merge the imaginativeness of academic work with real-world constraints. I think of any concept as a potential reality. Rather than looking to school as a time to design free of constraints, I look for ideas that translate to the practice of building. As a result, my projects are design projects, but they also encompass and overlap with policy suggestions, new economic models, socioeconomic research, and even the politics and technology of the building process itself.

2. I am interested in systems that can “design” themselves.

I am more interested in patterns and rules rather than singular objects - I am fascinated by how vernacular architecture is adapted by its inhabitants to best suit the needs of diverse climates and contexts. Many of the projects in my portfolio are intended not as final design solutions but as templates that can be scaled, applied to a variety of sites in their respective cities, and adapted and evolved by their inhabitants.

2. I want to explore new ways of living together.

A broader question lying behind my work is, “how do seven billion humans live together on a tiny rock without killing each other or enduring devastating inequalities?” The projects in this portfolio question the upper limits of urban density (pg 04), evaluate new models of co-ownership (pg 22), examine how public amenities can interface with layered infrastructures (pg 12, 34), and explore perhaps the next frontier of urban living hyperdense, vertically stacked public realms (pg 16, 46).

I hope you enjoy getting to know me! - Shawn


maximising density without destroying culture, Shanghai

a public library that leverages a highway vent, Chinatown

a 3-dimensional academic village of interior “courtyards�




bringing a, crowdfunded housing model to Charlestown

layering public amenities over infrastructure, Roxbury

creating a stacked vertical public realm, Hong Kong




two early professional projects, NJ and NYC

work done at Handel Architects, NYC

work done at Perkins + Will, Boston





How can a fast growing megacity increase housing density without compromising culture or quality of life? Entry to 2015 CTBUH Student Competition Site: Central Shanghai, People’s Republic of China

Shanghai is in the midst of an unprecedented

upheaval. The alleyways and brick rowhouses of the 19th-century lilong that once comprised 90% of the city’s built area are rapidly disappearing, and being replaced by gated complexes and concrete slabs. Shanghai’s urban core has an astonishing density of 46,100 people/km2 (roughly double the density of Manhattan). While the lilong have immense social, historic, and architectural value, the majority are severely overcrowded. Many have serious structural, safety, and sanitation problems which make it extraordinarily challenging for developers to preserve them. Thus, most new development in the city takes a slash-and-burn approach, leveling entire blocks at a time and starting from scratch. My project began with the question of how to bridge the rift between these two paradigms: How can unprecedented density coexist with history, culture, nature, and user experience?


site evolution


(people per m²)


lilong developments house 90% of Shanghai’s population fusion of western rowhouse and Chinese courtyard house provides privacy for large extended families and tight communities


(urban grain+ equitable access)


(m² green space per person)


lilong are drastically overcrowded, and lack basic infrastructure, sanitation, and emergency vehicle access ad-hoc additions have swallowed up all outdoor spaces + block sunlight












(flexible, subdivisible, configurable)


(condition of the built fabric)


all traces of historic city demolished existing communities are disrupted human scale is ignored, contributing to a bleak cityscape of repetitive tower slabs and gated compounds



new housing eases pressure on the original lilong houses, preventing displacement of existing residents new emergency + service vehicle access public and private green spaces created












Design approach: the lilong is treated as a sensitive natural ecosystem - the design seeks to minimize its impact above all else.

A series of extremely thin towers slip into the existing grid of laneways. The towers are stitched with intimately scaled green spaces reminiscent of the front patio of a traditional shikumen house.

step 1: organization

step 2: demolition + pathways

community groups partner with developers

urban strategy begins with new pathways for emergency vehicle access + infrastructure

demolition areas targeted to cut pathways for emergency vehicle access 70% of neighborhood remains intact

slim footprints of new towers do not disrupt the alley circulation network

step 3: construction

step 4: occupation

new pathways become staging areas for phased tower construction

the lilong is now three dimensional; density above eases pressure on the older buildings

towers are assembled using a prefabricated “kitof-parts�system, minimizing assembly time and disruption to the site

staging areas become new public spaces direct access to quality outdoor space for every resident


Prefabricated kit of parts easily shipped to site and quickly assembled with minimally skilled labor force. Integrated Vierendeel truss provides lateral strength. Open, inviting circulation with views to skyline and inner courtyards promotes neighborly interaction and physical health Range of unit types around semipublic courtyards accomodates a wide variety of family structures and allows large extended families to live close to one another

Bamboo planters filter sunlight and act as windbreaks for south-facing courtyards. Courtyards and shallow units maximize opportunities for cross-ventilation

base of tower provides much-needed amenities accessible to entire lilong community


How can a new public library leverage a 50’ tall highway vent cutting through the middle of the site? NEU Spring 2012 - Urban Institutions Studio Professor: Andrew Grote Site: Chinatown, Boston

The Vent in question forms the somewhat

anticlimactic end point to Boston’s Greenway,

serving the highway running beneath (the current aesthetic strategy is to conceal the vent behind a massive poster of the Great Wall). Rather than ignoring this white elephant, my design embraces it as a focal point for both the park and the library interior. Two volumes are cleaved in half by the vent, creating a dramatic atrium. At an urban scale, the library acts like a lantern, where light and views spill out into the park. The design also preserves the current use of one of Boston’s most vital public spaces, where residents gather every day to play checkers, socialize, and take in the weather.


Public-private gradient is defined by ease of access - the lift deposits visitors into the right hand tower containing noisier programs, while the shorter tower accessed by bridges across the atrium contains quieter reading areas.


public space




A “creative village� of flexible courtyard clusters is adapted to a cold-climate, dense urban environment. Northeastern Fall 2013 - Housing Studio Professor: Andrew Grote Site: South End, Boston

The program given for this assignment - a performing

arts high school for dance, theater, visual arts, and music - was provided before the site was, and students were asked to create a prototype for how these disciplines might interact. My prototype looks to higher education for inspiration, and seeks to provide students with the flexible space to experiment and take ownership of the space. In Boston’s long winters, these flex courtyards become 3-dimensional interior voids that bring natural light and nature indoors to give these spaces a public, even civic effect, encouraging students and faculty to adapt them to their activities. A series of brick shear walls containing services and stairs divide the discipline clusters, and break down the length of the building to help it blend into the South End’s streets of stately brick rowhouses.



Four disciplines - visual art, theater, dance, and music plus an auditorium are the building blocks - each discipline is focused on a central courtyard.


To create a compact form, the courtyards become interior voids, with classrooms branching off from each void.


The disciplines are organized along a public spine, and a primary entrance and dining “quad” are defined between them.


Thickened shear walls house services + circulation, and break down the building’s length to relate to its brick rowhouse neighbors.







r, vi s






, ca









this page: a dramatic 3-story space nestled between shear walls, the cafe looks overlooks an outdoor performance space and features a glazed operable wall that can extend the space outdoors and create an enlarged stage seating area. opp. page: the central spine of the school, a 3-dimensional public “street�. The street is intentionally wider than a typical hallway; like the rest of the school, it has extra space for displaying artworks.


How can housing in Boston be rethought to give people better choices about how and with whom they want to live? Northeastern Spring 2015 - Housing Studio Professor: Paxton Sheldahl Site: Chelsea River docks, Charlestown, Boston

This project began as an examination of urban isolation. The average household size

is now lower than ever before, single living is more acceptable, and the physical size of the contemporary city has put most people farther than ever before from their jobs, family, friends, and hobbies. For most of us, where we live is an economic choice above all else. But - is there a better paradigm? My research into the idea of “intentional living� brought me back to an innovative model I had learned about while studying in Berlin the year before...


Baugruppen -“building groups� are an innovative housing model in which a group of families, often united by a common interest, pools their finances to purchase a plot of land and construct their own tailormade housing.

the new living paradigms...

eco-friendly living (co-ownership increases incentives to conserve and pool resources)

communal childcare (small communities of families who know one another)

live / work artists or entrepeneurs can collaborate in shared studio spaces

senior housing (healthcare services and amenities, and a new community after retirement)

community-oriented retail (break the monotony of endless nail salons and fast food outlets!)

shared values for strong communities (give people space to be themselves, together)



Eight phased Baugruppe plots share a central spine of parking and infrastructure - this economy of scale makes the small plot sizes possible.


2. A flexible “template” can accommodate a variety of typologies over a podium of communal uses (chosen by each plot’s tenant).


Towers are rotated for improved privacy and to create views of the central green space.


The rotation opens up ground floor courtyards bringing light and nature down to public spaces.


A midblock pedestrian laneway connects the main road to the waterfront.


Finally, each unit is occupied by an individual community, bringing unique style and configuration to each tower.



ground floor

typical floor


My project shown here within a masterplan created by

my studio. My primary urban goal was to bring a sense

of neighborhood scale to this virgin site in Charlestown.


A train line creates a defacto cultural divide between NEU and Roxbury. Can building across it help stitch them back together? Senior Capstone, 2016 Partner: Christina Dadona Professor: Silvia Illia Recipient of 2016 Excellence in Design Award Site: Ruggles Street, Boston

The site of this project is at the intersection of

four Boston neighborhoods of diverse character. It straddles land owned by Northeastern University and the Ruggles MBTA and bus station. The brief is for a building that will increase the University’s space dedicated to design-related fields. Our challenge was to create a building which could bridge the existing infrastructure - currently a major obstacle to pedestrians - without disrupting the existing transit systems in place. Furthermore, we felt that to advance as a university, Northeastern needed to A. improve it’s relationship with its

neighbors by improving the neighborhood, and B. create opportunities for new outdoor space on one of the most densely packed college campuses in Boston.


Urban strategy: Reroute the bus line to open up the site, and repurpose existing bus overpass to reconnect the Southwest Corridor Park to Roxbury

bus routes: existing

bus routes: proposed

A bridge and rooftop garden make physical connections across the tracks

A mesh skin shades from the sun and creates a canvas for the inhabitants...


A new transit plaza layered with public amenities creates a place for interaction between students and families.




bookstore exhibition space

makerspace + fabrication shop

studio spaces


lobby + lifts

new Ruggles Station South entrance roof lawn - outdoor cinema and performing space focus work areas core studio area flexible lecture seating

kitchen + copy center conference + private work pods W/C

cafe space outdoor seating

daycare center


green roof

concrete slab, steel decking + beams thermal insulation waterproof membrane sheet barrier drainage system filter fabric plants + soil

mesh skin concrete

continuous flashing thermal insulation waterproof membrane

structural system

primary structure is a regular steel diagrid system fabricated offsite diagrid creates a truss which allows the building to bridge over the underground tracks steel beams span width of building, no interior columns

comfort systems

chilled beams between primary structure provide cooling

radiant heating at perimeter ground floor slab embedded with radiant tubing


slab on grade with radiant tubing thermal barrier pile foundations



My team is asked to redesign a skyscraper’s podium to create a seamlessly

connected vertical public realm. Work done at Bates Smart, fall 2016 Confidential client - Hong Kong

This project began with an unusual brief after losing a competition for a 50-story flagship

office tower in Hong Kong, the client approached us and asked us to design the interiors. Our client had appreciated the vertical connectivity of our competition submission and asked us to replicate that fluidity within the confines of a still-developing building by a different architect. The brief for this tower building reads like a Hong Kong version of the Downtown Athletic Club: multiple public entries from ground as well as elevated pedestrian walkways, 5 floors of food and beverage outlets, a gym and spa, conferencing center, coworking studio, and a flexible art and performing space open to the public are stacked each on top of the other - creating a legible identity for circulation became our biggest challenge.



core as highly legible sculptural object within the interior

Artistree Mezzanine

Artistree Mezzanine



Coworking Studio + Conference

Coworking Studio + C

F&B / Wellness

F&B / Wellness

Lobby / F&B

Lobby / F&B

Lobby / F&B

Lobby / F&B


- Object within a object - Objects as sculpture - Interior as landscaping

circulation organized into two connected voids

Collaboration, and my contribution to this project I joined on Day 1 as a full-time “architect” on a team of primarily interior designers. I collaborated with colleagues for early space-planning and circulation decisions (arriving at our concept for a central void and staircase), I met with our client, created the BIM model used as the basis for the design, and was responsible for the proposal’s architectural elements (ceilings, core, circulation elements, and even the fake sculptures hanging throughout!) All diagrams shown here were created by me. Renderings were created by others using my 3D modelling in Revit, Rhino, and Grasshopper (with moveable furniture, plants, and - F&B lighting effects added by others.) - Gym or F&B

- Coworking Space - Conference Facility - F&B

- Artistree

- Gym or F&B - Coworking Space - Conference Facility - Artistree

- Up - Down



stairs, sculpture, and green become wayfinding elements

Artistree Mezzanine

Artistree Mezzanine



Coworking Studio + Conference

Coworking Studio + C

F&B / Wellness

F&B / Wellness

Lobby / F&B

Lobby / F&B

Lobby / F&B

Lobby / F&B

- Vertical placemaking

- Seating opportunities

- Sculptural Stair

- Light penetration

- Planting

- Activation & Connectivity


- Suspended sculpture

ceilings “ripple� from core to the edge of slabs

- Sculptual contouring

- Foca

- Defining principle circulation

- Natu


Ceiling After discussing several ceiling concepts, our team

liked the idea of something resembling a ripple. I set out designing and visualizing this idea in Revit - the expanding and contracting steps allow flexibility in dealing with a changing slab edge and ceiling height requirements (for example, the ripples tighten where needed to conceal escalator pits)


1 : 200 11 August 2016

@ A3


Core I worked in Rhino and Grasshopper to test several

options for core cladding, including options inspired by bamboo forests, ceramic sculpture, and woven baskets. The ribbed lower right option shows our final proposal.


earlier professional work - samples Brennan House, NJ

Work done at Callahan Architecture, 2012 At my first internship, I created almost all the drawings used to construct this home addition in Harrington Park, NJ. Working from images of homes the family had seen and liked, the addition nearly doubled the size of their home and created possibilities for future extensions of their space.



La Bodega Negra, NYC Work done at WQB Architects, 2013

The Dream Hotel (renovated in 2011 by Handel Architects) has become an iconic Chelsea building, with it’s shimmering facade and porthole windows. At WQB I delved into this complex detailing to renovate the ground floor 15th St facade, designing signage for two new restaurants and participating in documentation for the project.

opp. page: all work by me this page: renders + signage design by me, elevation by me, below render by Handel Architects with new facade render by me inserted


Work done at Handel Architects, 2014

Millennium Tower, Boston Millennium Tower is a 1.1 million square foot mixed-use residential tower located in downtown Boston. I joined Handel during CDs and worked on design of the roof detailing and interiors. During CA, I worked as an organizer for the Handel team, coordinating submittal and RFI review between our team and the CM and consultants, leading weekly meetings, and making site visits.

Cornell Tech Dorm, NYC Cornell is currently building a new techfocused campus on Roosevelt Island, featuring a 26-story dorm expected to be the world’s largest Passivhaus-certified building. I worked extensively on the project during concept design and DD, testing massing and facade options and creating materials for public presentations.

opp. top: roof details drawn by me opp. bottom: render by others this page: prefab facade studies and elevations presented to Public Design Commission, all by me


Living Learning Dorm, NH This student residence project sets ambitious goals in both sustainability and student living. Wings are connected by a central hub where linked double height volumes create a three-dimensional social space. I was an integral part of the KSC team for over a year, from early DD through the CA process. I took responsibility for most interior architecture work in the final CD set, and worked extensively on the submittal review process.

1. walkability

8. efďŹ cient LED lighting

design strengthens pedestrian axis bus stop in front of building

energy efficient, long lasting fixtures

9. low-VOC materials

2. bike storage

used throughout building for healthier environment

outdoor and lockable indoor storage available

3. high-performance envelope

10. shower drain heat recovery

4. efďŹ cient glazing

11. radiant heated ground oor

5. PV-ready rooftop

12. rain garden aquifer recharge

6. air-to-air heating and cooling

13. geothermal heating

7. operable windows

14. native landscaping

wall R-value: 28 roof R-value: 38

preheats domestic hot water to save energy

low-e coating, argon gas insulated: maintains occupant comfort while preserving views

maintains occupant comfort while minimizing energy use

roof stormwater diverted to a rain garden reduces piping + lets water naturally filter back to aquifer

could potentially generate a percentage of building energy

highly efficient units heat + cool residential floors, and allow individual temperature control for each unit

25 geothermal wells harvest earth temperature for radiant floor and preheating of domestic hot water

uses regional + adaptive species

provide natural ventilation - room HVAC automatically shuts off when window is opened




1. 10. 2.




4. 12. 8. 11.

opp. top: GF plan by me and others


opp. bottom: overview render by others 13.


this page: sustainability strategies diagram by me 14.

Keene State College: Photos by others showing the culmination of a project which I worked on as a full member of the design team from early DD through construction.


Design Portfolio  

Academic and professional works done while studying at Northeastern University, 2011-2016.

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