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ZHIFEI XU University of California, Berkeley B.A.

Portfolio for Graduate School


TIMELESS Academic Work 2017

Instructor: Rene Davids Arch 100C

University of California, Berkeley


Arch 100D

Instructor: Mete Sonmez University of California, Berkeley


Arch 100A

Instructor: Patrick Tierney University of California, Berkeley

GO OD FO OD Academic Work 2016

Instructor: Dominique Price Arch 100A

University of California, Berkeley


Instructor: Dominique Price

Arch 100A

University of California, Berkeley


Collaborator: Tiange Wang


University of California, Berkeley



The site is located in an abandoned quarry in Rockridge, Oakland, and I intend to explore a poetic alternative to the current careless abandonment of quarries in Oakland. The project incorporates a Planetarium and a Geological Exploratorium and captures Genius loci, celebrating the timeless quality of the stone, sky and water, while relinks surrounding urban fabric that are currently disconnected.



Solid Outside Solid / Void inside Void

Artificial Stone Cracking Stone Cracking, caused by the long term crustal movement underneath the earth surface. With architecture, we can symbolize the force of nature “In an era where humans are described as Geological Agents, architecture is both a background and a measure against which the world might be read.”

Abstracted Nature Abstract, a way to simplify complex information existing among the nature. The architecture here may become part of the landscape.

Diagrams The series diagrams show the relationship between the project and the site, the way programs are organized, the conceptual thinking behind the project and how the exhibits are perceived by visitors. Solid Outside Solid / Void inside Void No matter mountains or quarries, they are all parts of the long nature process Considering the length of time, there’s not that big difference between nature and artifical So maybe we can celebrate this and try to be part of the process? by digging void inside the void and adding solid outside the solid?

In Between


From Public to Private / From Noisy to Quiet From Light to Dark / From Urban to Nature

The fisrt layer of the museum complex form a plaza with the existing fabrics

Two Kinds of Zoo

Considering different kind of visiting experience and exhibition method, there are two different kind of way Just like wildlife zoo and domestic zoo, when there’s a lot of nature, people enjoy it in a glass box. If there’’s few nature, people put it in a glass box. In a similar way, we should display stones from elsewhere in glass boxes, while let ourself going into the stone inside the quarry.

A Square Earth and Spherical Heavens

Floating What’s the attitude toward nature? What’s the attitude towards material? Floating in the air, the stones diffuses the borders between nature and artificial. The ambiguity between the massiveness and the weightlessness of the stones is reinforced by the openness of the space.

There was a theory about universe in the old time: the earth is a square and the heaven is a sphere. The theory is very interesting. Does the heaven have to be in the sky? So I place a spherical heaven underneath a square earth.

Sky, Water and Stone




The three layers of the project resemble and celebrate the timeless quality of sky, water and stone.

The walking corridor of the musuem is designed in the cycle of geological period

How to connect isolated space around the site with a single structure? Bridge, symbol of connection.

How can one possibly respond to both the celestial and surroundings on the ground? Maybe a pathway like a star orbiting around the site, going down and up, in and out.

Conceptual Montage With the existing photographs of the Bilger quarry and the artificial stone exercise. These Montages House of Stone A diagram shows how the house of stones works. The stones are hosts and people are guests.

Offline Exhibiton in an Online World

Waving Waving landscape created by tubes in different length resembles Oakland Topography

Stepping Landscape

provided a quick version and a conceptual foundation for the project to be further developed.

Conceptual Site Model

Attitude This project is not trying to flaunt its form, propagandize its content or nest over the site. It accepts the constructed nature , transform the force of nature into architecture language, and it humbly submerges its monumentality underneath the water, only giving a few hints by the popping out skylights. It quietly waits underneath the surface like a silent stone, for Site Model

the visitors to come through the cycle and explore the deep sensation in the heart intrigued by the light and space and the timelessness of the content.ÂŹ

Process Model


Site Analysis The series of 4 maps of the assigned site in relation to larger Oakland study conditions including existing connections (bridges and tunnels),crustal movement, regional hydrology and star orbiting. These studies transform directly or indirectly into the museum project: The outside walkway connects surrounding city fabrics as a bridge, featured in Bay area; The skylights shoot through the roof into the light and become a waving landscape coming in and out of the water, resembling Oakland’s topographical condition; People can experience the water from different layers, from top looking down, from the gallery on the same level, inside lagoon and touch the water and underneath the water in the stone musem; The project’s three layers of rings in plan resembles the orbiting of the planets, echoing the theme of timelessness.

Site Plan The project site is at the intersection between the Oakland hills and the flats, College and Piedmont shopping areas, and below the Oakland and Saint Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, the Country club and CCA but there is a little if any connection between these areas. The walkway outside the museum establishes a connection between these isolated fabrics, forms a plaza with the existing shopping center while also acts as a buffer zone, offering a smooth transition between the hustle-bustle of Safeway and the Earth Observatory and Planetarium, between the artificial and nature. The circular shape of the inside circular gallery helps directing attention to the lagoon.


Plan 2F Connection

Plan 1F Orbit

The project’s primary geometry in plan resembles the orbiting of the planets and the order of the universe, echoing the theme of timelessness. In section, the geometry is deconstructed in order to fit the local geological condition and celebrate the fact of transient of the building itself.

Plan 1/2F Sea-Level Rise

Plan B1F Space for Stones


Illuminated, or illumates. Walking through the different layers of the museum, people can visit the Stone Exploratorium while enjoying the rich scenic environment the lagoon provides, sense the change of both space and time.

One is brought to awareness regarding the reality of water - it is an active part of the architecture. Rising and Falling between seasons, showing or hiding the museum, the water intrigue poeple's sense of time.

Section Model


Explode Axon

Unroll Narrative


ARCH 100D VERNACULAR SPECTACULAR UC Berkeley Spring 2017 Instructor: Mete Sonmez Collaboration with Anthony Lam

Roof typology, here is the dome, is used and manipulated in our design. Historically speaking, the dome was an intensely hierarchical and centrally form. Unlike other traditional roof typologies, such as pitched roofs or flat roofs, which usually have uniformed space underneath, or barrel vaults, which create linear space, domes typically create centralized and static space, forcing people to look up and create a sense of monumentality through both people’s reaction and the scale of the structure. It usually symbolizes serenity and power, seen on churches or palaces. Architecturally speaking, it was used as a shape making tool in the sense that the form of the structure is exactly how people sense the interior space. Due to its unique formal quality and standing in architecture history, the dome has become a symbol of classical order and rarely appears in modern or contemporary architecture. What if we reconsider archetypes, here specifically roof, be treated as purely form cleansed of its associative surplus (function, context, iconographic definition), which offers the opportunity for its transformation. Here we ask, What are the qualities of architecture in perpetuity? Can we associate architectural flexibility as a typological problem of elongated permanence rather than ephemerality? Can the typology be redefined here with the counterintuitive proposition, that “type” is indeed dynamic, fluid, and evolving entities? Our design proposal can be considered a response to these questions in its specific context. A grid was generated from the surrounding urban fabric while being rotated to challenge the grid and strength the boundary condition. (指向diagram) Artists’ oddness were expressed through the rotating grid, which challenges the banal normative grid around. The concept of living is deconstructed and represented diagrammatically in our project. The social space is extracted from each living unit and becomes a common living room on the third floor while leaving the private bedrooms and bathrooms in each separate unit (which are accessed by separate stairs for each one of them).


Elevation The design reaches complexity and contradiction through playing with classical architecture language and typology. For example, all the u n i t s a re s i m i l a r, w h i l e c ro p p e d b y t h e s i t e b o u n d a r y, d i f f e r e n t profiles were shown. The sectional quality is also expressed through the elevation, which blurs the boundar y between these two. All the archetypes used in this building a r e s y m m e t r y, w h i l e d u e t o t h e rotation and the asymmetry of the site, it gives a sense of unbalanced while appear ordered at first. The feeling of unbalance can be sensed most through the bifurcated stair at the front, where it seems symmetrical by structural elements cutting in the middle, while actually n o t w h e n s o m e o n e l o o k i n g at i t closer. The design incorporates a re l e nt l e s s gr i d a s a b a c k gro u n d, while none of the design moves is either modernists or classicists.

Stacking Typology Each individual unit is composed of a dome as a shape mak ing tool on the top, a dome as a space -making tool inser ted as a void, and arches supporting beneath as structure tool. Some units were connected together to form a larger space while other in-between spaces become sk ylights penetrating through the building. Because of the changing of poche figure with each unit, four different spatial types were stacked within a single building. Thus, the idea of flexibility was investigated based on the overlay of the relentless rotated grid and the variation of certain plan typologies through different manipulation of the dome as archetypes.

Concept Model showing the stacking typology condition


Plan changes from a open plan, to a multiple corridor plan, to a multiple room plan, to individual room plan


Site Grid


Cropped by Site Boundary

Connect Units

Thicken arches and poche

Rotate Grid


Dome as Shape

Dome as Space

Taking out Units

Gaps as Light Wells

Subdivide grid

Structure and service space

Inverted arches

Main Stairs


Arches as Structure

Inform Section on Elevation


Individual Stairs

The building is designed as a collection of individual masses aggregated serially through the grid, while trimmed by the site boundary, creating opening and showing the section condition even on the elevation. The relationship between

artist and visitors are also expressed. The juxtaposition of gallery and studio space re-conceptualizes on how art is consumed and experienced. Those inverted arches allow visual connection without physical access. Gallery becomes a theater and studio space becomes a stage, where artists work as actors, fluctuate and advertise their artworks through displaying their working process and making up beautiful stories. Here again, the flexibility of the floor plan enables the studio space also be able to turn into gallery space when there is a larger exhibition. 10


Watch the Full Vide

eo: https://goo.gl/BMbtko


ARCH 100A LIBRARY: SPIRITUAL SPACE UC Berkeley Fall 2015 Instructor: Patrick Tierney The meaning of the existence of the library is questioned and investigated in this project. The project focus on solid void operation, negative and poche program space, form and envelope in a constrained site and their inherent meaning beyond merely operations. With the proliferation of digital media, it may seem paradoxical to design a library program. Thus a question was raised: Since we can get infinite information anywhere in the world in a few second simply by going online, why still go to a library? 13

Lightwell was found as a local strategy in the surrounding neighbourhood to respond to the restricted site condition, thus, three main lightwells (while also bookshelves), were strategically inserted into the building. They disperse on the top while merge at the buttom. They are read as solids on the outside of the building, while read as voids when people get inside. 14

Programs according to activites

Inserting Voids as book-shelf creating the spiritual space

Program from Noisy to Quiet / Public to Private

Rotate Clipping planes to create openings

The double negative space created by shelves and spiral become floating reading and meeting space


Longtitude Section

Cross Section

Action / Changing Voids Light, introduced into the central atrium as voids, changes the solid void condition of the library based on the action of picking a book. Once someone takes off a book from the shelf, the light will go through the shelf and lighten up either the regular programs around the central atrium during the daytime or the central atrium itself during the night. It's interesting to see how the light and dark changes because of the human action, which also become a metaphor that the more knowledge one gains, the lighter it will be.


Fast, Open, Social / Slow, Closed, Spirtual

Unrolled Section

The atrium and incline are fused, turning the outide reading space into a single continuous promenade. Spiral, the most dynamic form, is used to symbolized the modern society and as a space, for the quick circulation and public program. People wandering around and spiral up like what is described in Jorge Luis Borges's novel "Library of Babel" The concept of spirtuality was materialized as architectural space surrounded by structral bookshelves, placed in the center of the sprial as the core of the project. Thus, the library exceed merely a reading room, a reading machine, or a storehouse of information, and trancend as a sancturay of books, a place to worship human knowledge. While dividing the space, the bookshlef also symbiotically divide the library into a light, modern, open social space and a quiet, closed, lonely spiritual space. The contrast and tension between this two contrast spatial typology was explored and celebrated in this project.

Unrolled Perspective


Library, not merely a reading room


ARCH 100B GOOD FOOD UC Berkeley Spring 2016 Instructor: Dominique Price Good Food is a hypothetical project in South San Francisco area. It's supposed to be a multi-functional building including food hall, rental kitchens, lecture hall, research space, classrooms, offices, teaching gardens and vertical farm. There haven't been an existing case. In this case, Good food project, is a building about future of our food industry, and its symbolic and educational meaning is as important as its daily function, if not more important. It need to be a narrator from inside out. It should convey multilayers of information in this media age. 19

GOOD FOOD = CABBAGE? If McDonald is a representative of JUNK FOOD, then maybe we can say cabbage is an example of GOOD FOOD. It's not in anyway logically sound, but I feel it's proper and fun here to turn GOOD FOOD cabbage into the GOOD FOOD building. In this case, I used this cabbage I found in my refrigerator to explore the layering effect, the ambiguous boundary, the circulation from periphery to core, and all the other spatial quality brought by the curly leaves. The conceptual cut on the right describes the project's spatial, structural and performative premise. Different spatial quality created by a structural-skin system was explored. Layers of skin with parametric openings blurs the boundary, create a gradium between public to private.


Determine the placement of programs based on the direction of flow and unique one-way street site condition.

Split the volume based on existing fabric and show a welcoming gesture.

Modify the form to respond to the solar path.

Large Stair and front glass curtain wall respond to the city fabric and form the main entrance.

Workers circulations are different from the visitor circulation.

Facade is divided to calculate the net solar gain by grasshopper.

Split the volume based on prevailing wind direction for natural ventilation. Vertical organizing the programs based on the program need.

Major Visitor circulation

Parametric Openings respond to the solar gain and the program need.

Layering Effect Layers of perforated skin create different level of lighting condition and different level of privacy to accomadate each programs. It also helps to establish a visual connection without connecting each program.


People come in from either the front door or the food hall, and invited by the center stair and start their journey of exploring the good food building and the future of the food industry. They will pass by the auditorium, the working and education space, the kitchen, and then the gallery, where they eventually see the core of the building, the vertical farm, a kind of man-made future. The scene that the latest technology with scientists working in where carefully exhibited in the gallery, which strength the visitor’s understanding towards the meaning of this good food building.


SKIN / SCREEN Layers of Information in Media Age The architecture can be perceived in three different layers The first layer, people walking inside the screens to perceive the changing of space and the content directly. The second layer, people passing the neighbourhood, being attracted by the screen and trying to imagine what's inside. The third layer, people see the architecture as an image on the screen. Through the screens, the content inside could be spread out of the architectural screens and reach out to the wide public.


Precedent Model expressing the dematerialization of the building

Facade and Performance



The precedent study investigates how space, structure, skin, and performance come in together in the project, and serve the same purpose, in the case of Sendai Mediatheque, is the effect of dematerialization to express the quality of information age.

DEMATERIALIZATION There are a lot of unique qualities in this building: the iconic seaweed like twisting structure in this building, the floating

Lighting Situation and Space

floorplans, the layers of transparency from different angles, the inside outside relationship, etc These unique features of its structure, space and performance, all served the same purpose, which is creating the feeling of lightness and floating, leading to the effect of dematerialization of this building. The quality of dematerialization was expressed in both the analytical model and drawing. About the material of my model: To correspond with the building’s idea of dematerialization, I chose to use the single transparent material throughout the model. The same material

Structure and Space

of the structure and façade can also correspond to Toyo Ito’s idea of the same hierarchy of structure and skin, which be seen through his career life and act as a criticism towards modernism architecture. On the drawing, all the components are layered them in the way from the material to dematerial, which eventually reached the state of dematerialization.

Tubular Steel Frame

Structure: Steel-ribbed Slabs


MONUMENT of WASTE Summer 2017 Submission for Competition NUCLEAR Collaborate with Tiange Wang Nuclear waste is of relatively small volume yet far greater harm to human beings compared to other types of waste. To serve as a stark reminder of the grave danger buried deep down, we designed four colossal primary geometric volumes, each comprised of a category of human waste, sitting atop the site. These monuments of waste set up various pairs of contrast: the amount of human waste (everyday, industrial, construction, hazardous) and that of nuclear waste, the fast degradation of the former and the endurance of the later, the primary geometric forms as symbols of human intelligence and the waste - the by-product of intelligence - that makes up the forms. With their magnificent and formidable presence across massive spatial and temporal scales as well as their symbolic meanings, the monuments of waste stand as a stern admonition against the self-destructive force of human civilization.



Work in NEMESTUDIO As Built - As Lived Souvenirs: New New York Icons Exhibition, Storefront Art and Architecture Summer 2017 Supervisor: Neyran Turan Project Team: Keenan Gravier, Isabella Warren-Mohr, Zhifei Xu, Katherine Role: Digital and Physical Model Making



Profile for XUZHIFEi

Zhifei xu portfolio  

Portfolio for Graduate School Application / Admitted by Harvard GSD, Yale, MIT, Princeton, UC Berkeley

Zhifei xu portfolio  

Portfolio for Graduate School Application / Admitted by Harvard GSD, Yale, MIT, Princeton, UC Berkeley

Profile for zhifeixu

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