M.Arch Thesis – 2015

A second life for ArchKiosk! In an effort to make student work, theses in particular, more accessible we’ve gathered abstracts and links to the full thesis on DSpace below and on the department’s website, architecture.mit.edu. MIT requires all students to upload a PDF of the thesis document to the Institute’s depository, DSpace. Though this has created some issues for doctoral dissertations and publishing, it is also an amazing resource of student work. DSpace is a “service of the MIT Libraries to provide MIT faculty, researchers and their supporting communities stable, long-term storage for their digital research and teaching output and to maximize exposure of their content to a world audience. This collection of more than 60,000 high-quality works is recognized as among the world’s premier scholarly repositories and receives, on average, more than 1 million downloads per month.”

Browse architecture theses back to the 1970s here: dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/7749.

The MArch program at MIT culminates in a thesis project. Under the guidance of their thesis advisors MArch students conduct independent research and architectural design over the course of the Thesis Prep and Thesis semesters. Having been launched through an intense and often obsessive consideration of internal disciplinary concerns or, more often through the consideration of architecture’s effects in the contemporary world, or its possible effects in some near future world, each MArch thesis ultimately delimits an area of architectural thinking and practice. By their final presentation most projects strike a specific conversation between these two poles of architectural discourse: disciplinary history on one end and the contemporary world on the other, producing thus a highly varied collection of inquiries, proposals and even genres of project. The primary objective of all MIT MArch thesis projects is to refine and expand the fields of architectural discourse and practice… and to seed, or at a minimum, to test, a possible trajectory both for architecture and for a generation of young architects who with their theses projects cross over into their professional careers as architects.

Collected thesis abstracts are available here.

Full theses are available on MIT’s DSpace, individual project links follow below:

Barry Beagen, Public Figures: Town Hall for the New Interior

The thesis examines the formal figuration of public space for a new agonistic public sphere within the contemporary condition of the late capitalist city where the space of massive interiors is a given. In 2047, Hong Kong may very well see the end of the “One Party, Two Systems” set out after the return to China at the end of the British lease. With the increasing decline in the city-state’s autonomy, Hong Kong’s citizens are becoming increasingly aware of its struggles for democracy. At the same time, Hong Kong is transitioning towards an economy driven by retail and real estate powered by a new private public regime of supplying mobility through its integrated rail property regime. This new formula for urbanization generates generic forms of residential towers upon interconnected retail podiums, replacing the street with controlled spaces of efficient consumption. In these new towns, public life exists within these interiors. The civic centers and town hall plazas of the late modernist era in Hong Kong’s new towns are no longer relevant in constituting the political public. The cuter, more comfortable, and more fragmented leisure gardens and al fresco patios of privately owned public spaces can no longer hold an antagonistic and political public imagination. The thesis proposes a series of monumental civic spaces as a new threshold to the interior across the new towns along parallel to the border of Mainland China and Hong Kong. It is a new town hall that needs to imagine a new form of agonistic public figures that can hold new formats for the political.

Claudia Bode: Postcards from the Blue Heart: Landscape Change in the Dutch Lowlands

The Green Heart is an agricultural area situated in the center of the Randstad, a metropolis in the Western Netherlands. Like the rest of Holland, it is a constructed landscape. The region is facing twin challenges: the need to make room for water as a strategy to deal with climate change, and the fact that the liberalization of the European dairy industry will make it exceedingly difficult for small family farms to compete in the global market. Certain places retain a historical, urban or cultural significance that transcends their physical or ecological properties; in its embodiment of the Dutch pastoral, the Green Heart has become such a landscape. The pastoral myth has very real ramifications for the identity of the Randstad, and must be carefully negotiated in any intervention that attempts to change the image or form of the Green Heart. This thesis investigates how new natures can be constructed within the myth of the pastoral, through a study of this Dutch lowland landscape and a design proposal that encompasses the landscape and the architectural scales. The “Blue Heart” is both a strategic intervention that reinterprets additional water as an economic boon, as well as a building typology that enables farmers to capitalize on this new nature.

Tyler CrainDisturbance Grounds: An Inquiry into Non-Equilibrium Architectural States

This project asks how destructive forces can be used for constructive purposes. It seeks out latent potentials in aggregate materials and forces, situating itself within a dialogue of new landscape methodologies, aggregate material formations, and alternative develop- ment strategies. From a geological perspective, mass material movements are a method of simultaneous deconstruction and reformation. They are a continuous phase-changing process. While we might view landslides as hazards, this project sees them as opportunities for actuation of a hillside, forming a field or scattering of spatial instruments. Drawing from many professional disciplines to synthesize a mulit-purpose geoprosthetic architecture, this thesis investigates a geo-technical solution in the form of an architectural strategy and the potentials of aggregate materials in the context of environmental turmoil.

Jasmine Kwak, Living Large: An Alternative Model for Urban Living 

A house once symbolized the American dream-frequently clustered in tight rows and cul-de-sacs, the single-family dwelling not only represented financial success but stability and hope for the future. However, as recent generations have come to face more and more economic difficulties, a house has, for many, become more of a liability than a dream. Lack of home ownership in New York City has reached an extreme-more than 75% of residents rent rather than own. In light of this trend, this thesis seeks to imagine, through architecture, a new kind of American dream: housing for nomads where no one owns anything and people are free to roam around the city. This proposal suggests that rather than continuing to downsize the micro houses that constitute today’s solution to the home ownership problem, Americans can once again live large-together.

Beomki Lee: MEmorial

Challenging an archetypal relationship between collective memory and a multitude of traditional memorials, “[ME]morial” presents a new concept in memorial architecture based on the reinterpretation of Freud’s and Bergson’s ideas of memory. [ME]morial emphasizes a new relationship between individual memory and the individual to offer a new way of experiencing memorial space. Contemporary architecture’s focus on communal memory has led to the primacy of a single image or rendering. Thus memorial architecture tends to miss opportunities for deeper exploration and individualized experiences beyond simplistic representations of memorialized events or figures. This thesis project proposes a memorial architecture for victims of the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan. Three spatially different [ME]morials are the starting point for this open-ended project. The goal of the project is to create a new relationship between individual memory and the individuals, such that each individual will have personalized experiences in each [ME]morial. [ME]morial will serve as a space not only for soothing victims’ wounded hearts, but also for letting people memorialize their individual memories. The project seeks to challenge and extend traditional architectural definitions of memorial architecture.

Suk Lee, MIT i2: Idea Incubator

This thesis propose a flexible public space for both the MIT community and the city of Boston in response to the unknown future of the university campus, questioned by the rapid growth of online learning. Despite the various opinions on the future campus, the value of physical social interaction remains the primary method of incubating ideas. MIT i2 is an architectural solution to this issue, and is situated on the Charles River along the Harvard Bridge, the point of greatest pedestrian activity compared to the other parts of the waterfront. This project ultimately changes the Charles River from a barrier to a new urban destination where various social and intellectual activities can occur. Two radical interventions address completely different relationships with the water: spaces above and below the water. These typologies create different spatial experiences for different programs, but remain flexible for the unknown.

Chris Martin, In Pursuit of Sound

Architectural tools are built around visualizing our environment, however it is sound that paints the most accurate picture of our experiences. A glass wall feels more constricting than a opaque sheet, because when sound can reach our ears, our worlds are opened up. It is time that we leverage the technology that gives us so much insight into the science of sound, and start designing architectural experiences that can communicate visually what we understand sonically. Historically we have relied on a known quantity of sound in order to generate space. Pythagoras unifies specific rules of harmony and proportion from sound in order to determine guidelines for pleasant spaces. Years later, Xenakis composes a musical score that informs the constructed surface of the Philips pavilion. Both pioneers of sonic architecture, and both pushing the technology of sound design. This thesis advances the theory of sound architecture by focusing on the smallest component of sound -the frequency- and translating that into the smallest component of form, -the gradient. Frequencies layer on one another to create an entire sonic composition, so must the gradients blend together to bring architecture into being. The invitation to explore sonic movements as architectural experiences comes from the success of these gradients to convey imagined spaces among a flat image. It is through the production and implementation of this image that the architect can seek new control over visual forms that capture the ears as well as the eyes.

David Miranowski, unCommon Ground

Brooklyn’s urban fabric is a redundant array of perimeter residential blocks, built out over the last 200 years as a layered accretion. Within each block is a core that is spatially unified yet distinct from the public front of the street. These spaces are defined by their enclosure yet this barrier is not entirely impenetrable. Each block possesses a few unique moments of slippage in which the perimeter mass opens up to reveal a slivered view into the depths, and potentials, of this internalized world. To the vast majority, including residents, these slivers and cores remain a visual phenomenon. The near-universal practice of extruding backyard parcel lines has created an architecture of division, namely the fence, closing off the yard from the block and the block from the neighborhood. This thesis proposes an alternative scenario, in which rear fences are removed and a thin line of public space is inserted into the mosaic of existing yards. The line, activated through a set of calibrated relationships with the ground and floating infrastructure, stitches together people within the open core and works against the detritus of old divisions. Through this intervention, a new grain emerges which connects Brooklyn’s blocks and transforms the residual slivers into a network of spaces that open to an engaging, and unexpected, rendering of the pre-existing.

David Moses, The Williston Time Capsule

This project is a time capsule of the oil economy, created by entombing everyday objects made from and powered by petroleum into a landscape that spatially recreates the processes of drilling and fracking a contemporary oil well. It consists of two interrelated landscape systems. The first is a giant landform, a marker on the earth’s surface commensurate with the scale of the second, a labyrinth of chambers carved out of a subterranean strata of rock. The site is an existing two square mile drill spacing unit on the edge of Williston, North Dakota, in the middle of one of the largest contemporary shale oil booms in the world. This thesis aspires to be a counter monument to the processes that create massive change on a territorial scale yet somehow remain hidden from the end consumers of those processes. By placing the objects of oil back underground in their place of origin, they become future sites of meditation on the ways that everyday consumption drives the economies of extraction. Their entombment takes place over a long period of future time: as objects and processes of the oil economy become obsolete, they are buried one by one, a long slow motion fracking of the site. Like most monuments, this one has been designed for a future public, hopefully one that wonders at the strangeness of us and our economies of frenzied extraction and consumption. The thesis is a way of saying that we as a culture at least contended with fracking and its innumerable consequences in way that was more substantial than simply worrying about the price of gas at the pump.

Julian Ocampo-Salazar, Scale: The Next Jump in Architectural Production

As a result of macro-economic trends as well as extensive support from the Chinese central government and its ‘Go West’ initiative Chongqing has become the fastest growing large city in the world, with annual GDP growth of 15% and a continued economic expansion that has facilitated the conditions for unprecedented urban development both in terms of size and speed. In the year 2013 half an Empire State building was constructed in the city every day, an equivalent of 182 Empire State buildings in one year, a massive amount of architectural production for a single city. Chongqing has followed the default growth paradigm of isolated multi – tower – in – the – park developments located at the periphery of the city that are, by default, conceived in isolation; this paradigm fails to envision the concurrent architectural production within the city as a possible force that can be focused and utilized to shape the urban experience, reduce overall transportation time, reduce energy consumption and make evident the reality of the scale at which the city is growing. Scale, The next jump in architectural production proposes an alternative development model that capitalizes on the opportunities embedded within the unprecedented scale of concurrent development taking place in Chongqing. By understanding this development as a confluent force Scale proposes a system through which buildings previously thought of as single use become multi – use infrastructural parts of a much larger architectural object, a single “building made of buildings”. Typical generically designed housing and office towers become the columns supporting city blocks turned elevated beams that assemble to form a new infrastructural object. Such an object fulfills the immediate programmatic requirements of the city below; education, housing, offices and public space as well as transportation are embedded within, giving the new architectural object the ability to intensify the gravitational pull of the city towards itself and serves as a marker showcasing the unparalleled scale of architectural production that the city of Chongqing is currently able to generate.

Sayjel Patel, 3-DJ: Sampling as Design

3D Sampling is introduced as a new spatial craft that can be applied to architectural design, akin to how sampling is applied in the field of electronic music. Through the development of 3-DJ, a prototype design software, I propose a design methodology that enables a designer to evaluate, remix, and implement qualities identified from 3D scans to generate architectural features that would otherwise be impossible using conventional computer modeling methods. I demonstrate, through the production of physical prototypes and empirical testing, that material qualities derived from the geometry of the 3D scan can be isolated and enhanced. Finally, I show how 3D Sampling can be applied in the design process through three case studies, involving the design of optical, haptic, and camouflage material qualities and performances, suggestive of applications at landscape, architectural, and product design scales.

Susanna Pho, Kipple Kaboodle : Reincarnating California City

California City is a superlative shrinking suburb. Situated deep in the Mojave Desert, the conditions that typically spur suburban shrinkage are exaggerated here. As such, the city provides a singular opportunity to comment on the decline of the road-centric, single family house dominated town typology within a specific context. This thesis examines the decaying suburban condition and proposes an architectural intervention that embraces a city’s collapse as analogous to death and imagines a reincarnated future. It addresses the notion that shrinkage must be either reversed or ameliorated and instead proposes that it be amplified and radicalized. The architectural proposal is activated at two scales: that of the landscape (or kaboodle) and that of the individual belonging (or kipple). As the town grapples with death on a suburban scale, it encounters deeply personal questions as an entire community. What does it mean when a city dies? How do those who must remain grieve, come to terms with their loss, and move on? What becomes of the corpse? The stuff of the suburb is examined in depth as the psyche of California City and given architectural agency as the means by which the town is destroyed, reconstituted and rebirthed anew. As it is abandoned, salvaged, catalogued, and transformed, this suburban discharge slowly transforms the reincarnated city into an archival catalog of a previous being: an enclavic representation of what was lost.

Laura Schmitz, The Reconsidered River: Strategies for Connections in Post-industrial Buffalo

This thesis sets out to connect two isolated neighborhoods within the post-industrial city of Buffalo, NY. The design strategy capitalizes on existing opportunities in Silo City, a neighborhood of abandoned grain elevators that attracts visitors with intermittent activities and seasonal events; and the Old First Ward, a river side residential neighborhood once home to grain elevator laborers. The two are separated by the Buffalo River, a barrier that once linked the two economically. There are three strategies within the Master Plan – River, Rail Spine and Ward Plan, each of which could be further developed and work together simultaneously. This thesis develops the River Plan and the urban elements within it. Each urban element within the plan can either repurpose, construct or deconstruct features along the river. One of these proposed elements is the Ice Boom Room which both repurposes a site and constructs a new building by using a seasonal and industrial process of the controlled melting of the ice on Lake Erie each winter as an opportunity to connect two neighborhoods year-round. This thesis asks how post-industrial cities like Buffalo can harness existing industrial and natural processes to promote growth and change.

Tyler Stevermer, Preposthuman: An Architectural Propaedeutic for the Digitally-Enhanced 

For users to become posthuman the architectural environment must become a training apparatus, a type of propaedeutic, where our built developments simultaneously develop us. This project fashions waste, ingestion, lounging, and bathing environments as components of our posthuman training grounds. Theorists in the humanities and technology sciences envisioned this next stage in our development as becoming a type of cybernetic organism-a cyborg-in which physical and intelligence-based modifications are co-produced with machines. The recent near-ubiquity of personal internet devices and oncoming wearable technologies bring the posthuman closer, and less like science-fiction. Yet despite our advanced technology, our bodies remain legitimate. Spaces remain legitimate. Within posthumanism, singularity does not occur-we do not transcend our anatomy into some type of digital non-space. As posthumans we will use our environment and our bodies as medium, mediator, and modifier to filter, flavor, and fashion our information. Boundaries blur, consciousness becomes augmented, and architecture and the body act as symbiotic prosthetics not only for each other, but socially and ecologically. Here is a land where telepresence meshes with corporeality-where the digital is also sensorial. Automation and autonomy are no longer antonyms-and our sentience is allowed to flicker between the various realities to which it is tethered. Here, architecture serves as the suture between our digital and physical lives, creating a truly networked body from the scale of the global to the microbial. Buildings can no longer be the wire mothers of Harry F. Harlow’s psychological experiments on attachment. Rather than attempting to chill occupants into humanist superiority, architecture must become the cloth mother, which we posthumans nuzzle, in order to truly connect.

Maya Taketani, SuperFun Site: Mining for Play in the Anthropocene

Today we live in a new geological era, the Anthropocene, where human intervention has taken over the entire globe. This accelerating manipulation of the landscape means that the divide between the bucolic and the manmade is going to dissolve. In 20 years, children will be the ones inheriting this condition that they cannot ignore. However, industrialized societies are still over-protective and paranoid about what children experience. They are shielded away from anything adults perceive as dangerous or polluted. Instead, children are only allowed to have an idealized version of play, which exists in mass-produced plastic playgrounds and in cyberspace. These are just the byproducts of industry, and they disengage children from the more fundamental way the world is changing. This thesis proposes to bring the realities of our world – its manufactured and manipulated landscapes – into view, and to accept this as the world that we have to face in the future. This landscape is not a marginalized region in the outskirts of the city that we cannot see, but is a new type of Theme Park, that people can play in. This Park, although it seems dangerous and uncomfortable, brings people together through its playful character. Children are the ones who initially find the place as an attraction, then the adults follow. This project faces the realities of the world today, but at the same time is optimistic about the future.

Evelyn Ting, Plain Objects

Given the renewed status of the object in contemporary architectural discourse, this thesis explores the object’s potential to participate in urban-scale field conditions despite its singularity and perceived autonomy from surrounding context. It proposes a strategy of object-making that privileges two faces as a means to highlight the parallel opposition that exists between the perimeter and core of a typical city block, and the binary conditions that occur as a result of this divide. The emphasis on two faces also creates the effect of flatness, challenging the three-dimensional quality of objects by defining them with twodimensional figures. The scenario of an expanding urban university campus, specifically the expansion of New York University in lower Manhattan, is used as the case study. The thesis accepts the theory that the knowledge economy has replaced industry in driving the socioeconomic and urban development of 21st-century cities, and that universities, a key player, must grow to stay competitive. The academic campus often functions like a city in microcosm, requiring its own services and infrastructure, and having to balance individual identity with a collective sense of place. At the same time, its growth inevitably conflicts with the communities that occupy the property in question. The two-faced formal device seeks to call out this simultaneous parallel and opposition, and argues for the object’s potential to participate both in semiotics and abstract field conditions.

Trygve Wastvedt, Heliocentric Architecture : Materializing Solar Cadences

There is a long tradition of architecture creating atmospheric, awe-inspiring experiences by shaping and making visible natural light. Another similarly long-established approach to daylighting optimizes lighting conditions through the use of computational tools which provide precise numerical and geometric models of solar rhythms. This thesis applies the quantitative control of computational methods to the creation of atmospherically daylit architecture, making possible spaces whose form, tuned to the rhythms of changing daylight, reveals latent celestial cycles. Traditional printed media afford limited potential for experiencing atmosphere. Thus, the thesis explores the use of video media and virtual reality to present an immersive experience of the architecture.

Shiyu Wei, Let’s Meet at the Civic Center!

The town halt as a type of architecture has become so prevalent that the term has been used to describe the activities that go on inside – namely, social gatherings of the public for purposes of discussion, question, and feedback to the governing body. The archetypes of the town hall, in the 12th century Italy, or 17th century New England, functioned not only as the municipal headquarters with offices and courts, but also in some cases included markets, church, warehouse, museum, pub, etc. Most importantly, it functioned as a meeting place for the public. However, as an architecture typology, the town hall does not scale as the municipality expands. The administrative parts of the town hall can grow or multiply proportionally with the population, but the public functions that were originally embedded in the architecture were either pushed out into the large plaza outside of the city hall, or disappeared entirely. This thesis project seeks to re-establish the ideologies of democracy manifested through the architectural typology of the town hall in New York City’s Civic Center through creating small spaces for social discourse.

Robert White, Courtroom Characters, Architectural Actors: A Play in Several Acts

This thesis takes aim at several agendas within architectural discourse. On one hand it is a demonstration of the architectural understanding of mask. The mask, as both an object of formal and figural qualities as well as a participant in performative rituals, becomes the source material with which to resituate the current practice of architecture along the lines of narrative performance. Through the study of specific works of architecture, such as Adolf Loos’ houses and the development of theater form throughout history, the project defines several qualities of an architectural mask. Primary to this work lies in the mask’s ability to reveal and conceal, and to do so both formally and psycho-socially. The proposal begins with a courthouse, a courthouse framed not as programmatic desire but as a site to develop complexity from the canonical instruments of architecture: hierarchy, sequence, and narrative. These instruments, coupled with tools present in both architectural history and masks of traditional societies such as symmetry and anthropomorphism, are used to simultaneously construct and question both the institutions of society and its architectural objects.

Rena Yang, Atmospheric Interventions 

Humans have been sheltering themselves from the harsh elements of their surroundings to maintain comfort since the discovery of the hearth. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution came innovations that made mitigating external conditions convenient and easy. The standard 70 degree Fahrenheit, with 30-candle-feet of illumination, 30-50% humidity, and ventilation became the norm and is replicated and placed regardless of existing conditions, creating homogeneous environments. Our conventional conception of the relationship between architecture and the environment is based on false assumptions that we reside comfortably in the standard air-conditioned 70 degrees, effectively producing desensitizing spaces. For a body to understand and experience space, it is important for these environments to have an atmospheric affect that is absorbed through the senses. Architecture is then seen as a stimulus by provoking and challenging the body and creating a consciousness of body and environment. This thesis states that the sensorial appreciation in architecture can be explored through sequenced and curated experiences of architecture to use, amplify and appease the senses. This creates new atmospheric conditions conceived of relative sequencing and juxtapositions, rather than appeasing and mediating the existing environment. This idea is explored through three interventions on the Harvard Bridge in Boston, Massachusetts that seeks to engage the hostile environmental conditions.

Jie Zhang, Diplomatic: Letter from the Architectural Enclave

Seeing Architecture as a political art, this thesis concerns itself with boundaries: those of regimes, of culture, of law, and of social strata. In a silent crisis where sustained inscription of physical and social boundaries evacuate urban space into archipelagos of enclaves, Architecture with only ambiguous claims of public space is rendered both accomplice and victim, impotent against forces of capital and concerns of security. Exposing the absurdities in urban geopolitics and persistent spatial logics of exclusivity is as important as proposing to hack into them. Critical of the innocence of so-called public space and the underlying architectural impasse, the thesis offers an investigative commentary on the state of urban enclaves, while speculating on alternative strategies by designing an embassy, a bounded pseudo-extraterritory and the epitome of an enclave. Through absurd couplings and blatant image-making, a seemingly open US embassy is proposed for Beijing as an imploded fragment of a boundary, its incompleteness buttressed by territories of privilege and its disparate barriers articulated as a mechanism of filtration. Away from popular strategies of conceptual and spatial blurring, the thesis defines an architectural porosity to orchestrate spaces of varying openness, as a nuanced response to both the embassy’s double identities and schizophrenic agendas of city building. With an architecture that is diplomatic by function and diplomatic by disposition, one experiments with an agency beyond the single pursuit of public-ness and an escape from the ideological enclave of positivism. Ultimately, the goal is to suggest and develop a methodology of designing with oppositions, irony and latency.


One comment

  1. Fantastic! and inspiring

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