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Projected Living

GSAPP Core III Studio - Housing - Bronx, NY

curating visual queues in urban housing forms

2018

in collaboration with…. Jake Gulinson

 

A complex housing project located in the Bronx, projected living began in an exploration of housing forms centered around the perspective viewpoints of occupants located both inside and outside the potential dwellings. The pivotal relationship between interior and exterior led to the driving question of what it means to see and be seen in an urban setting, and - more importantly - how does one live in such unique situations.

To further advance the larger mass of the multi-use development, forms were established first by means of designing in perspective. In this approach, formal architectural moves in plan and section were subjugated to the perception of space in real-time instances, from both inside the unit to the views of passersby along adjacent streets. Large scale moves were further influenced by vistas and viewpoints of direct relationship with urban site.

The project plays host to approximately 225 units following a modular taxonomy of 8 unit modules interspersed between the two largest vista masses, the north and south towers. Both towers rely on an intricate interplay between units and their larger truss structures, seamlessly creating impressive architectural moves that canopy the flatter portions of the site. Community programs such as a neighborhood YMCA, a fresh-foods grocers market, and day-care centers occupy these undulating sidewalk facades, ultimately pushing and pulling the perspectives of the streetscape.

 
 
 

Process Work….

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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Memory House

GSAPP Core II Studio - Library - Brooklyn, NY

library for mental illiteracy

2018

 

An illiteracy of the mind – of knowledge, memory, emotion, and life; of all these things and more that meet at the crossroads of what it means to live – is an unavoidable truth. We are all illiterate in this regard.

In order to establish a library devoted to the collection and representation of the intricacies of mental passageways and the human condition to remember, the proposed site, just off of the East River in DUMBO, Brooklyn, was continuously toyed with in a playful manner. Stepping back as a designer and recognizing the existence of a local memory via the contexts of the site allowed for a flexible amalgamation of nearby facade, window, ornamental, and structural systems that could be reinterpreted into a block-mass building capable of skewing the perceptions of visitors who may or may not have memories associated with the site.

Formally, the interconnecting block system allows for spaces to coexist in multiplicity. Exterior walls break up interior spaces; common windows are adapted to act as ceilings and floors, and reading levels twist and break apart as the library breaks above the skyline.

Memory house is also integrated with the adjacent building, inserting a new floor that houses the program’s collection of books and other stimuli centered around subjects of human mentality.

 
 
 
 

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Greenpoint Theater

GSAPP Technology Systems Studio - Theater - Brooklyn, NY

developing sophisticated systems integration

2018

in collaboration with…. Adina Bauman, Lena Pfeiffer, & James Piacentini

 

A 3 month intensive architectural project complete with fully articulated SD, DD, and CD submission sets, the theater at greenpoint, aimed to fully integrate a newly programmed site on the Brooklyn waterfront with both adjacent parks and urban contexts. The project relies heavily on an open air plaza thoroughfare that bisects the building longitudinally as well as laterally. The public space activates further activates nearby Transmitter Park, as well as currently existing industrial-styled retail that composes much of this rapidly developing NYC neighborhood. Moreover, by lifting the building, the site finesses necessary flood plain precautions whilst utilizing the environment for better passive system integration and bioswale landscaping.

Formally, the lifted program heightens the dramatic experience of partaking in arts. The main auditorium theater situated on the topmost level is strikingly hung by dramatic industrial trusses that, in combination with the re-purposed warehouse brick facade, calls back to the site’s previous architectural history.

The additional smaller venue blackbox theater intertwines the programs above and below, delicately suspended beneath the base of the auditorium and protruding into the open air plaza. The blackbox’s marvelous reinforced glass floor allows the implication of interaction between city passersby and its unique program.

standout drawings & images…

 
 
 
 
 

 

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Advanced Architectural Design

GSAPP AD+R Studios - Assorted Projects + Drawings - New York, NY

in erinnerung an die klassiker, das neue

2017 - 2018

 

In memory of the classics... the new.

Highlighting the apparent return of post-modern styling in the 21st century, this collection of drawings, models, and mixed media animations addresses the rising popularity of post-digital modes and methods of representation. The focus of the work, James Stirling’s neue staatsgalerie, becomes a fitting symbol for reinterpretation. The vibrant colors and post-modern spatial effects surrounding an inherently classically inspired open-aired atrium heralded Stirling’s memory and reinterpretation of past art and architecture with present. In this likeness, neue staatsgalerie may once again be neue, its spatial and ornamental affects reinterpreted with the representations of today.

The drawing, kaleidoscopic (top left), envisions the original worm’s eye axonometric sketches by Stirling with the finesse and dexterity of advanced computer modeling, but with an ultimately flattened, crowded, and distracted visual complexity.

The additional “portable post-modern museum” model pushes the kaleidoscopic nature of a museum’s curation in tandem with its kitsch, consumerist undertone. And ultimately, the supplemental short animation, stirling’s dream sequence, ties together modern visual media and popular television motifs with Stirling’s atrium, the post-modern decor, and the classical artwork residing within.

 

additional work…

 
 

 

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Echo Box

GSAPP Acoustics Studio - Installation - Flatiron District, Manhattan, NY

a pop-up acoustic installation

2017

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Simple Pier

GSAPP Core I Studio - Pier - East River, NY

a reconstructed wetland initiative & urban exhibit

2017

 

Located just off 6th St., simple pier is a low-floating boardwalk pier along the East River that intersects the various growth stages of a long-term reconstructed wetlands plan. The pier exhibits close environmental encounters via apertures in the floor along the walk.

Additionally, the bank of the pier operates in tandem with the walk. Whereas the pier prominently puts the brackish flora on display, isolated aquarium tanks organized within an open urban plaza by the pier’s entrance would exhibit the fish and fauna species that thrive in the local tidal marsh.

The aquatic tanks are envisioned as recycled water cisterns, an immediate icon of the relationship between New York City and water. Moreover, the display aquariums would similarly be connected to the wetlands wastewater pipeline infrastructure, thus keeping with an adaptable and re-usable cycle.

Lastly, because of the projected long-term growth for the wetlands’ wildlife, the pier and its plaza would only exhibit local nature as it becomes prevalent. Throughout the first phases of development, the pier and plaza is displayed barren or empty, an evocative call to passersby + citizens that there is much sustainable work to be done to achieve space worth propagating and aesthetics worth displaying.

 
 

 

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14th St. Subway Station

GSAPP Core I STudio - L-Train, NYC Subway - 14th St., Manhattan, NY

inverting urban weight in infrastructure

2017

 

Subway stations, in their purest practicality, work. There are many measures architects may take to assert a design, or a style, or an idea, towards the public, and with great success; however, one must accept that such interventions are fundamentally assertions of artistic representation, ultimately tacked onto a fleeting spatial hideaway beneath the city. The true room for spatial improvement in these spaces are: ingress, egress, and seating.

Because of this realization, the final design of the 14th St. Subway Station narrows its focus directly into a large culmination space - the atrium - partially set back from the immediate line of the subway. Think Grand Central Station. The space is voluminous, and open from the epicenter outwards. Its highlight is the ceiling, a massive, 70x25 foot cement rock, seeming upheld by an array of randomized curtain windows separating the border of the space from the excavated earth two feet set back. The weightless rock, my single, artistic addition tacked above this spatial space, consolidates the metaphor of life beneath a city resting on earth, and the construction processes necessary to achieve such feats.

The construction process would be as follows. First, the negative of the overhead cement for the atrium is excavated. Then, pylons and foundations are drilled deep into the rock of the island of Manhattan. The concrete is poured directly into the hole, held together by rebar and the tops of the drilled pylons. Once cured, the excavation of the atrium and it’s subtly descending ramps from the East + West begins. As the earth is excavated beneath the cast rock, it remains supported by the foundation drilling and pylons, which are then used as complex mullions and filled in with glass, creating the effect that the surrounding curtain wall - a metaphor for the existence of the city above - is supporting the earth.

Two additional stairwells are added on either end to facilitate better flow and traffic..

a fleeting moment on the afternoon express ::

When my smile had crept upon her face,

my eyes diverted but our speed grew great.

Flying fast towards that place

where size knew not yet massive weight

draws the best from anxious grace

into a world of troubled fate

at which stop she departed and I kept pace

towards nowhere.


 
 

 

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Corner House

GSAPP Core I Studio - Adaptable Preservation - 14th St., Manhattan, NY

transforming urban infrastructures

2017

 

At the intersection of 14th St. and 2nd Ave. is a simple apartment building, corner house. 7 flights, pre-war, + just about similar to every other walk-up within Manhattan. In an effort to maintain the efficacy of this building’s simplicity, similar simple rotation movements of folding hinges and pivot rotations were added and caressed into the existing facade. Windows, bays, channels that define the ornament of the building shift and rotate so that over the course of a 24 hour day, various public + private spaces are activated within and beyond the realm of the building. The iterations, in their complete ensemble, cater towards 1 of 3 time periods :: morning, midday, + evening.

As the corner of 14th + 2nd slowly begins it’s alterations, the existing facade folds upwards, practically doubling the verticality of the building + revealing an activated athletic space properly situated within the realms of the geometries formed by the original ornament of the building. What’s left behind on the remaining sliver of exterior walls below is a sleek curtain wall, very much modeled as the ghost of the original building whilst it takes on a transformed ‘extra-ordinary’ state for a select few hours in a day.

With this project, the corner is allocated room to breathe. It may be experienced either in it’s original state, or in a new + invigorating state, both of which are just as exciting + beautiful as the other.

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Flying Machines

GSAPP Core I Studio // WashU Core Studio II

interacting with air and light

2014 / 2017

 

RotoKite 02 | GSAPP, Core I Studio | 2017….

The form and subsequent floating function of RotoKite, 02 began with the inspiring drawings of mushroom spore prints. Performed by fungi enthusiasts, a mushroom left atop paper or glass in appropriate conditions releases it’s reproductive spores into visually appealing 2-dimensional patterns. This flowering image, coupled with the cyclical life nature found in select mushroom species, spawned the initial concepts for a folding form that could float wistfully atop any viewers below.

Originally conceived to ascend into space, modules of folded bristol were assembled in an overlapping conic form that could expand and contract in a blossoming fashion to receive heat from a flame source suspended beneath it. Logically, the paper rosette would rise with the heat and ascend gracefully. The modules were later re-analyzed into different media, assembled out of watercolored parchment paper and bass wood for a sturdier structure at a similar weight. Upon realization that the heat necessary to lift the object into the air was unattainable without drastic measures, the rosette was re-approached in its expanded state, wherein the later anticipated path of descent yielded a graceful spin downward that emphasized the points of the geometries. The rosette was clearly better suited for a floated fall rather than a simple rise. To better stabilize the flight path, a smaller, similarly defined rosette was connected concentrically just inches above the larger spiral. The new addition also featured a decorated fabric to act as chute for further air resistance.

Lastly, decorative LEDs were intertwined within the open space of the rosette, hailing back to the cyclical, inspiring nature of the spores released from mushrooms that ultimately inspired the shapes.

 

RotoKite 01 | WashU, Core II Studio | 2014….

An exploration in the merging of functional necessities and aesthetic forms, the RotoKite, v1  is a rotating form capable of achieving suspended flight in mild-to-moderate wind conditions via its creation of wind vortexes. the kite’s design pulls inspiration from numerous precedent studies of various wind-induced forms, namely the archaeological remains of prehistoric pterodactyl wing structures

 
 

 

URBN plex

WashU Adv. Studio IV - Housing - Delmar Loop, St. Louis, MO

nostalgic luxury living

2017

 

Located on the northwest corner of the intersection of the Delmar and Skinker boulevards in St. Louis, MO, this housing project aims to situate a medium-rise residential building into a niche real-estate and developer market. Once named one of the 10 best streets in America, the Delmar Blvd. Loop is an eccentric, kitsch-driven atmosphere that profits from visiting outsiders and demarcates a clear socio-economic divide between its north / south neighborhoods.

Ultimately, the goal of this multi-use housing venture - playfully coined as urbn-plex - was to meet the demands of ambitious real estate developers all the while successfully integrating mixed-unit housing typologies to better integrate the stark divide between the site’s north and south borders. The formal attributes and ornament that detail the exterior of the complex cater towards the nostalgic aesthetic developers have embraced in storefronts along the street in recent decades. These moments are then re-evaluated and adapted to generate a successful merging of housing types that create internalized communities with access points to all the surrounding neighborhoods.

The living spaces include a homely collection of townhouses that connect directly with the street, all the while linking to a private elevated courtyard that connects the low-rise residences with a tower of 1-3 bedroom units.

 
 

 

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Tiered Reflections

WashU Adv. Studio III - Landscape Architecture - Elephant Rocks State Park, MO

communal retreat center

2016

 

Located within the confines of the unique Elephant Rocks State Park in rural Missouri, tiered reflections began as an intensely concentrated study of the natural environment within the expansive site. The main feature of the park is a monolithic granite tor that climbs above the forest, prominently displaying large granite boulders resembling an imaginary herd of elephants.

The site also has a rich history as privately owned granite quarries prior to their abandonment and acquisition by the state. The remnants of these quarries are two self-contained water reservoirs that attract environmentalists and will serve as the focal point for the design of an educational retreat center.

The retreat center comprises a set of 4 unique residences dispersed around a central hub. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the site, reflect, produce, and ultimately share their work with other occupants.

Four terraced water features are additionally landscaped to follow the geological topography of the two rock tors and quarries. The terraces are constructed with relation to the site’s hydrology, accumulating thin spans of stagnant water that reflect the scene of the sky above, becoming a path-like source of inspiration for the retreating community of 1 geologist, 1 artist, 1 academic, and 1 lay person.

 
 
 
 
 

 

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Graffiti House

WashU Adv. Studio I - Observatory - Chain of Rocks Bridge, MO

curating art + residency

2015

 

A project centered around the site of the Mississippi River, graffiti house uniquely situates itself above the river by attaching itself to the underbelly of the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge. This single person residence doubly functions as both home and museum, integrating itself vis-a-vis program with the bridge that supports it.

The intent of the structure is to house an urban art historian, one in charge of operating the coexisting gallery spaces that collect and project the incredible collection of graffiti present on aged urban infrastructures such as the bridge above.

Moreover, the particular formal attributes of planes and faceted faces that make up both the house and it’s elongated access ramp are intended to provide increased surface area and public accessibility to an otherwise private institution. This allows the continuation of such graffiti to ebb onto the structure itself, ultimately demarcating the residency’s program to visitor’s of the historic site overtime and thereby continuing the public conversation regarding graffiti’s role in the art world. Should it be promoted and preserved, or does that take away from the scandalous nature it seemingly yearns for? This question is further exemplified via the project’s delineation between public and private spaces, using the monolithic cement pylon of the bridge as a stark dividing line accessible to artists.

 

initial phenomena studies…

 
 
 

 

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Vertical Greenhouse

WashU Core Studio III - Greenhouse - Soulard, St. Louis, MO

preserving urban ecology

2015

 

In learning to interact with ecology, climate, & other natural phenomena as inspiration for a systematic building, the project began at the scale of an isolated seedling. The sub-project, plant terrarium, saw a continuous development of form and systems integration during the maturing stages of the given plant, cyclamen persicum. The result is a fully functioning and self-sustaining enclosure, moderately scaled and assembled to adorn a desk, coffee table, or counter. The integrated systems include water collection, drip irrigation, cooling ventilation, and adaptive shading that all contribute towards the plant’s growth.

In jumping scale to that of a building, an urban, vertical greenhouse was designed to doubly function as both an urban garden and a local community center. The selected site is located adjacent to an I-44 W exit within the historic Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis, MO.

Quite simply, green house is a twisting vertical composition whose form emphasizes: 1) the inversion of height & growth, 2) the interplay between functional construction & design aesthetics, and 3) the interaction between nature and urban development. The triangulated facade is structurally relevant in this regard, narrowing in its contact with the earth and expanding upwards to encapsulate the necessary living systems for the ecological flora the structure houses.

 

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inthecity

WashU Adv. Studio II - Urban Design - Florence, Italy

digital urban design theories, pt. 01

2016

 

Framing a view for the city of Florence, Italy via the lens of social media, inthecity explores how people, tourists and inhabitants alike, experience and share perceptions of their surrounding urban contexts. We see that as users upload photos to a greater global communications network, the interstitial spaces within city are broken down, abstracted, and adapted into new ideas of understanding and participation for all.

 
 

 

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The New Social Life

WashU Adv. Studio II - Urban Design - Florence, Italy

digital urban design theories, pt. 02

2015 - 2016

Consider a bench. How do you sit? Why do you sit? What do you do while you’re there, and for how long? Do you even sit at all? Surprising as it may sound, the questions are far from as silly as they sound. A person and a bench have a rich, complicated history, one that fluctuates in functional use and usage rate over any given number of factors. Consider a more specific example: the bench outside of a high-trafficking library. Actually, more ledge than bench; a dividing partition, extended exactly thirty-two inches off the ground, grass on one side, walkway on the other. In the time spent observing this public ledge-bench outside of Olin Library’s front entrance on Washing University in St. Louis’s campus, a place where social interaction between young learning individuals is supposed to thrive in support of the educational environment, scores of individuals – students, professors, and adults alike – were performing the exact opposite of their social expectations. At 3:00 in the afternoon – the public area’s peak hours – occupants sit and remain both isolated and fixated on their own technological devise (current devices for most; designed within the last 5 years). Of the approximately eighteen persons occupying the space for longer than five minute stretches of time, there are at most 3 observable social exchanges. In this space, the technological devices are in control.

This ledge-bench and its surrounding area outside of Olin Library is exactly the type of space William H. Whyte would have loved to study for his published work and accompanying film documentary titled The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980). In this in-depth series of studies, Whyte and his team, The Street Life Project est. 1971, dutifully investigated “the behavior of ordinary people on city streets – their rituals in street encounters, for example, the regularity of chance meetings, the tendency to reciprocal gestures in street conferences, [and] the rhythms of the three-phase goodbye” (Whyte 8). In the process of determining what spaces work, what spaces don’t, and the respective reasons why, Whyte ultimately came to the implied conclusion that the social interaction phenomena surrounding public spaces were inherent and human courses of action that have rarely changed over time despite architectural and design evolution. Just look at the widely successful public plazas in older European cities that have withstood the test of time and social evolution, like Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy or Place des Vosges in Paris, France. “The best used plazas are sociable places” (17), “people reading, people eating, people talking, playing games… what attracts people most, it would appear, is other people” (18-19) and this sociability, Whyte seemed to believe, would never change.

It’s a bold statement, unfortunately, one could easily argue that the social and cultural patterns have seen an unprecedented deviation from this “inherent norm,” the result of a massive burst in technological change rather than architectural or design evolution. The Olin ledge-bench is the most successful public space within a two-three mile radius, yet from the time spent observing it, sociability seemed at a low and people seemed only marginally attracted to other people. If Whyte had the opportunity to observe this public space today, in 2015, then perhaps Whyte’s conclusion might have an addendum to account for technology, as it exists now rather than thirty-five years ago. That is, technology as an application of new social phenomena – both the objects upon which people are fixated and the social conditions the objects establish via their use. Discovering this addendum is the overarching goal of this investigative paper.


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In the simplest of terms, Whyte believed that people are attracted to other people, but is this truly the case? Or, at the very least, has this belief become outdated in recent years because of prominent effects on sociability from technological evolution? Spatial attention and sociological theory are core principles that can relate back to an individual seated, say, on a ledge outside of Olin library. An article by researchers Kaitlin E. W. Laidlaw, Tom Foulsham, Gustav Kuhn, Alan Kingstone, and Dale Purves titled “Potential Social Interactions are Important to Social Attention” (2011) delves into sociological theory with an experiment that measured participants looking behaviors sitting in a waiting room, either in the presence of another person (a confederate in the study) or in the presence of the same person in a backdrop recording on a display screen. The study found that participants frequently looked at the screen of the videotaped person and seldom turned toward or looked directly at the live person. They documented both overt and covert gaze inclinations, with overt being defined as direct social gazes – focused, it should be noted, on the face, not the body – and covert being defined as peripheral gazes minimally acknowledging the other subject’s presence. In short, the study defines that “the potential (or lack thereof) for a social interaction to emerge may cause either 1) an increase in looking behavior when one knows that the other person cannot return their gaze or 2) a decrease in looking behavior when mutual gaze is possible… the simple act of introducing the potential for social interaction influences many measurable behaviors” (Laidlaw et al.).

The research indicates a number of things. First, people seem to not be, as Whyte would like to believe, attracted to other people; however, it can be concluded that, at the very least, people are interested in other people. With both the live and videotaped confederate, covert glances were recorded to occur much more often than overt gazes or baseline gazes at selected baseline objects in the waiting room. The high proportion of covert looks indicates that the second individual in the room does, indeed, interest the participants. Yet the fact that the recorded confederate on the screen attracted more attention than the live one cannot be ignored, and raises the question of whether or not people are more attracted to the presence of a screen – a application of technology present in almost all current forms of technology as an object – than the presence of a person.

Professors Anabela Mesquita and Chia-Wen Tsai wholeheartedly agree that yes, people are very much attracted to screens more so than people in their published text, Human Behavior, Psychology, and Social Interaction in the Digital Era (2015). Moreover, it’s not what’s necessarily on the screen that’s important either, but rather, the size of the screen that attracts the interest of the users. Inspired by former research claiming that, “different display characteristics may significantly affect the psychological importance of information displayed,” Mesquita and Tsai ultimately rebuked the correlation of larger screen space and user attraction, claiming instead that “user response to media information is usually preferred using screens of the average size” (131). The average size screen in devices as of 2015? Approximately six inches, weighed to such a short diagonal measurement due to the surplus of smartphone screens that dominate the technological market. And they are, indeed, favored, since more than a majority of the occupants in the Olin ledge-bench space were using smartphones rather than other devices.

So consider the smartphone. A research done by Tali Hatuka has found that smart phone users have regarded the public space differently as compared to normal mobile users – wherein “normal mobile users” refers to people using outdated phone technologies (i.e. non-smartphones; flip-phones). “These users are walking around the mall or to the train stations in their little bubble, thinking that they have their own privacy by detaching themselves from the real world” (Badger). Also stated, “it has caused people to be unaware of their surroundings, easily forgetting things they have walked past 10 minutes ago.” Moreover, smart phone users are more likely to run through their phone for directions instead of asking from strangers, promoting the device as the immediate associate for socialization rather than the surrounding society. This implied “detachment” infers the individuals’ own establishment of private space in an otherwise public setting. Hatuka and Badger, who writes on him, are led to believe that these issues will ultimately lead to a loss of human touch and a downgraded sense of awareness of the surrounding space – both the social space and the literal, existing designed space. If Hatuka’s statements hold true, then one could argue that people aren’t even at the very least interested in other people, completely refuting Whyte’s original postulate.

This poses the question of whether or not technology itself is at fault for the apparent withdrawal of social interaction among the individuals occupying the Olin ledge-bench. If technology does indeed play a factor in sociological theory, then how could it be studied? Sociologist Katrina C. Hoop published an article in 2012 called “Comte Unplugged: Using a ‘Technological Fast’ to Teach Sociological Theory” that delved into the cause-and-effect relationship between a student and his ready-at-hand technological devise. Hoop’s research can develop many parallels to the Olin ledge-bench, especially since the research primarily focuses on students form the current, technologically advanced generation. Ultimately, Hoop discovered that by embarking on “technology fast” (withdrawal from recurring technological usage), students were more engaged with social theory lessons and ideas in the educational setting than before. Of course, this only proves that an abandonment of technology is capable of fostering educational interest; however, the result can be extrapolated to prove that a removal of technology is capable of fostering any type of interest, including a social one.

In this investigation, technology exists both as the object and a social condition, and the primary use of the average device is social media. So if fifteen of the eighteen occupants in the Olin ledge-bench space where using devices, an assumed half of whom were in one form or another partaking in the use of social media, then there still exists a type of socialization in the public space. Technological social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, etc. spark new forms of interactions hidden behind the veil of the screen, in a relationship highly similar to Laidlaw et al.’s studies with the live and videotaped confederate. What’s more intriguing is the primary difference these digital social networks have to offer compared to the living social network of the small urban space the technological objects are being used in. Digitally, the user is allotted a sense of choice. He or she may upload a photo of their own selection, may share a link they deem appropriate, may post a status they find fitting. The appeal of choice is enormous in the digital database technology has access to, and this presents the idea that technological social conditions present occupants with a selection pool that far outweighs the selection pool the literal space they’re occupying offers. Why should a person talk to one of the other seventeen Olin ledge-bench occupants when he or she can talk to one of their six hundred and twelve friends on Facebook? Why bother observing one of the three couples walking by when they can observe the latest gossip of the hundreds of celebrity couples via Buzzfeed? This suggests another addendum. People aren’t attracted to other people, but rather people are attracted to what interests them.

If the social actions of these small urban space occupants – the rituals, as defined by Whyte in Spaces (26) – can be re-illustrated into technology use – again, both in object and social condition – then the same might be said of the small urban space as well. Or, more precisely, perhaps the “new evolution” of socialization present in technology deserves its own, new small public space: small digital spaces we might define it. A space visually similar to Dennis Crompton’s Computer City drawing (ca. 1964) which portrays an urban metropolis as a programmable network that responds and adapts to the activities of the city’s space. (Figure 1) It’s all hypothetical, as were most of Archigram’s self-imposed projects; however, Crompton’s visual display of the city is evocative of diode circuits and electrical substation design elements. Archigram was heavily inspired by the birth of the widely accessible technology we now have today for their designs, and this is obviously apparent in the abstract alternative to Peter Cook’s Plug-In City (ca. 1964) that is Computer City. Since Computer City is a diagram of system design in abstract space, the illustration can be appropriated to diagram technological social conditions in existing, concrete small urban spaces – a mapping of the larger, digital selection pool for occupants in the smaller selection pool of small urban spaces. It would be in this abstract realm of data systems that occupants are partaking in social activity – people seemingly attracted to other people – whereas in the physical realm of small urban spaces, socialization can be seen as dead, replaced with the notion of people attracted to what interests them rather than other people.

The small digital space is both similar and distant from Whyte’s original small urban space. The activities that occur remain the same, “people reading, people talking, playing games…” (Whyte 18), just translated differently, in the medium of a different space. This does either one of two things: 1) it upholds Whyte’s ultimate conclusion that social interaction phenomena surrounding public space (wherein public space is the digital space of technological social conventions) is inherent and a human course of action that has rarely changed over time, or 2) it disregards Whyte’s ultimate conclusion because the public space no longer exists in the physical form, with the concrete, small urban spaces showing a complete lack of socialization beyond the device. It becomes a matter of perspective. Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer write in their book, The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior (2015), that despite the serious effects smartphones have had on society, “human nature [has] evolved over millions of years; it’s unlikely to be transformed in a decade or two” (34). While they spend the course of the novel acknowledging that “the medium of information and decision making has changed [as have our interventions with such]” (7) they see the effects of technology as nothing more than new translations of the same inherent human values – including Whyte’s social ones. People are attracted to other people; people still occupy the small urban space; ergo, Whyte’s conclusion is valid, and no addendum is ultimately necessary.

But if one were obliged to believe otherwise, to fall in line with option two where the small digital space does not stand for Whyte’s small urban space, then could Whyte’s conclusion still be an acceptable interpretation? Perhaps using Karen A. Cerulo’s published article, “Nonhumans in Social Interaction,” it can be deduced that the occupants of the small urban space are just as, if not more, socially active in the physical space than the digital one. “Nonhumans” looks at sociological theory in a new lens, claiming that social interaction extends beyond the human level. “If developments in the field suggest that nonhumans – including animals, objects, images, and both memories and projections of the self and others – enter our analytical frame,” then are we not actively involving ourselves in a form of social activity?

Picture this. While walking by the Olin Library, I feel my handheld device vibrate with an alert, so I alter course and rest on the nearby ledge-bench. The handheld device soon becomes distracting, and I begin scrolling through Facebook and other “social media” applications – all the while keenly aware of the ledge upon which I am sitting. I show no physical signs of socially involving myself with the score of students, adults, and professors walking by, yet despite the attention to my phone and my immersion in the small digital space it provides, my peripheral vision, covert senses (Laidlaw et al.), and innate sociological sense (Whyte) makes me aware of every person that stops or hesitates near or around my seated area of occupancy. The implicit, possible potential of social interaction is present, expressed through inanimate objects such as the ledge on which I rest, the device on which I use, the walkway on which people pass, and the grass on which people sit. If Cerulo’s theories are valid, then social interaction still exists in the small urban space despite the outweighed socialization occurring in the small digital space overlaid on top; the primary difference is that this social interaction is implicit, channeled through inanimate objects including technology. It suggests yet another alternative addendum to Whyte’s belief: people attracted to other people via things [that interest them] rather than people simply attracted to other people.

While there has undoubtedly been a change in the individual’s perception of these small urban spaces, and alterations to what people are ultimately attracted to, the necessary comfort and need for social interaction – by any mean of its definition – still attracts people. This suggests a final reinterpretation of the design intent surrounding small urban spaces. Whereas before successful plazas and small urban spaces were designed around the concept of social congestion via open seating that appealed to draw people in for social interaction (on the premise of people attracted to other people), now spaces should be designed around the concept of social comfort via open seating that appeals to draw people in for implicit social comfort around the technological bubble (on the premise of people attracted to what interests them). The actual design of the small urban spaces remains the same in both scenarios, with the addendums proposed only establishing a shift in the causes for the final designs. In a way, Whyte addresses this shift as a simple fact – back before the technological bubble came to be. “The busiest places tend to be the places where one desires to be alone…” he narrates in his accompanying film documentary over footage of a man idly sitting alone and visibly talking to himself in a public space.

Because the final designs in both scenarios remain the same, with marginal readjustment in their causal interpretations, the design of urban spaces may continue to perform their one and only goal of being appropriately occupiable, nothing more, nothing less. “It is difficult to design a space that does not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished” (Whyte, film). There’s no need to over-complexify occupiable space, like John Portman’s design of the micro-urban space in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, which seeks to confuse and disrupt the cognitive processes of its occupants so as make them submissive to the design and forced to act fully within the space (i.e. it can be extrapolated that the design encourages interaction with the physical space rather than, say, the small digital space of technology abstractly overlaid on top of it [see Computer City]). (Figures 2, 3) The better solution remains in the simple – in what works – like the Seagram Plaza, which Whyte himself spent a majority of his time studying for Spaces. (Figures 4, 5) The subtlety of its open design and available seating continues to attract people to occupy the space, despite the occupants’ new trends in technological use when in the space.

Lastly, public spaces should avoid being designed as large public spaces. There’s a reason small urban spaces are deemed more successful, because of their more attune attraction factor, as dictated by Whyte. Though designers today may argue that larger public spaces offer the ability to promote even higher sociability via the use of programmable space in the larger area plazas, this ultimately neglects several key factors in social theory. By spreading out occupants, the desire for detachment from society (Badger) into handheld devices is reduced since there is little to detach from. Moreover, the larger area results in minimal nonhuman objects with which occupants can form implicit social interactions. The results are feelings of uncertainty and discomfort among occupants that lead them to seek out the comfort of smaller public spaces, again reinforcing the notion that while addendums to Whyte’s principle that people are attracted to other people may have come about, his ultimate conclusion that the social interaction phenomena surrounding public spaces is inherent and unchangeable remains valid.



Works Cited


Badger, Emily. "How Smart Phones Are Turning Our Public Places Into Private Ones." CityLab. The Atlantic, 16 May 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Benartzi, Shlomo, and Jonah Lehrer. The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior. New York City: PORTFOLIO, 2015. Print.

Cerulo, Karen A.. “Nonhumans in Social Interaction.” Annual Review of Sociology 35 (2009): 531-552. Web.

Francine K. Schlosser. “So, How Do People Really Use Their Handheld Devices? An Interactive Study of Wireless Technology Use.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 23.4 (2002): 401-423. Web.

Hoop, Katrina C.. “Comte Unplugged: Using a “Technology Fast” to Teach Sociological Theory.” Teaching Sociology 40.2 (2012): 158-165. Web.

Laidlaw, Kaitlin E. W. et al.. “Potential Social Interactions Are Important to Social Attention.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 108:14 (2011): 5548-5553. Web.

Mesquita, Anabela, and Chia-Wen Tsai. "Human Behavior, Psychology, and Social Interaction in the Digital Era." IGI Global, 2015. Print.

Whyte, William H. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Washington, D.C.: Conservation Foundation, 1980. Print.

Whyte, William H.. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Conservation Foundation, 1980. Film.

 
 

 

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Chapel House

WashU Core III Studio - Non-denominational Chapel - Clayton, MO

experiencing space and light

2014

In learning to interact with light, shadows, and other natural phenomena as inspiration for spatial organization, the project began with a single module. Strips of paper interwoven into one another created unique curvatures that allowed for diffused light to creep past any screen assembled.

As the modules began to aggregate, they could be manipulated to act as partitions between spaces. By doubling the strips and creating alternating patterns, the boundary between the partitions denoting one side, the other, and the space between began to blur as well. Ultimately, this blurred boundary would be used as the parameters defining a non-denominational, programmatic chapel - for individual or collective worship - in the urban setting of Clayton, MO’s Concordia Seminary Park.

The result, chapel house, is a juncture of two dichotomous forms that reflect on both separation as well as unification. In the chapel’s form, there is a stark divide between the functional necessities of usable space and the primary area of worship and occupant experience. The sacred space follows the module light studies from before, while the allotted program spaces reflect the opposite in stark contrast, literally intersecting with its counterpart at the entrance. Between the two, the exterior urban setting is shut out from the private interior spaces.

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Forest Park Pavilion

WashU Core I Studio - Observational Pavilion - Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

an observational space

2013

 

In an introduction to the methodology of design processes, this observational pavilion ideally set in St. Louis, MO's Forest Park pulls inspiration from the decomposing qualities found in local birch trees and numerous topographical and modular design forms.

 
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