2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase - Part XXVIII

In Part XXVIII of the 2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase, each project focuses on the construction and architecture fields’ roles in climate change. The presented student theses and designs present a tangible solution to address climate change with proposals ranging from using materials including mass timber and “Hempbrick” to systematic changes such as incorporating decay into the designs and introducing sustainable product life cycles. Overall, the projects advocate for reducing waste to support long-term sustainable practices.

Reconstituting Rubble by Andrew Griffin, M.Arch ‘23
University at Buffalo | Advisors: Christopher Romano & Miguel Guitart

Five hundred and thirty-four million tons of construction and demolition debris are generated by the United States every year. This debris is anonymously moved away, invisible to most, to distant landfills far removed from its origin to lie dormant at the presumed end of its life. This demolition is a natural and necessary part of our current economic cycle, the permanence of the buildings we design is too often overstated. In a time when environmental issues plague the industry, simply discarding material is no longer a reasonable long-term option. Perhaps the scope of an architect’s involvement should extend into a building’s afterlife. Reconstituting Rubble proposes an adjustment to the material flow of building debris after demolition, advocating ways of transforming architectural rubble to develop building procedures that integrate waste-bound materials into new architecture. Drawing from new innovations and old technology, the project strives to lay out building end-of-life processes to divert would-be discarded material into new building assemblies.

This research looks at demolition rubble as a continuous stream of usable material in need of transformation. The proposed process steps involve demolishing, cataloging, refining, assembling, and reconstituting. The eventual result of this process examines the qualities of rubble, the roughness, the irregularity of its texture, shape and size. These are all traces of its past and show the immense effort it took to become reconfigured remains. 

Instagram: @arc_andrewgriffin

Banished Into Existence: Agritecture at The Intersection of Architecture and Agriculture by Yan Ferris Konan, M.Arch & M.Red ‘23
University of Maryland, College Park | Advisor: Michael T. Ezban

Building operating emissions account for 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions while building components account for 11%. To mitigate these effects, we must reduce the carbon footprints of construction activities, building materials, and sequestering carbon dioxide in forests and farmland. Industrial hemp is a solution to all these challenges. Hemp is a carbon-negative crop, absorbing more carbon dioxide than trees, and thus represents a unique sequestration opportunity. By using hemp as a construction material, we can improve the thermal efficiency of our buildings, therefore reducing operational carbon. Finally, by substituting Hempbrick, a mixture of hemp and various binders, for more carbon-intensive materials, we can reduce the embodied carbon of the built environment. This thesis proposes a productive hemp landscape that will be open to the public as an agritourism destination. The project will raise public awareness about hemp cultivation as an agricultural opportunity and demonstrate the potential of hemp as a construction material, highlighting its multiple possible contributions to tackling the climate crisis.

The Intersection, located in Beltsville, Maryland, is a Productive Hybrid Hemp Farm with a visitor center, a manufacturing facility, a multipurpose Classroom, and office seating on two floors to serve as a demonstration and educational hub for Prince George’s County. This proposal aims to educate the public on the opportunities of this insulating material known as “Hempbrick.”

The site is divided into Three Parcels totaling 77 Acres. Parcel 1: Baltimore Avenue (15.5 Acres). Parcel 2: Baltimore Avenue (50 Acres). Parcel 3: Rhode Island Avenue (11.5 Acres). The Farm’s primary goal is cultivating and harvesting Hemp for industrial applications. There will also be a manufacturing facility where the hemp will be decorticated into bast and hurd fibers required to produce Hempbrick. In addition, there will be a Visitor Center where the public will learn about the benefits and processes of hemp. Tenants from The University of Maryland extensions have already expressed an interest in leasing office spaces to further their research on hemp and its advantages.

This project received The Architecture Thesis Award – 2023 University of Maryland, College Park 

Forest to Framework by Eleanor Selzer, M.Arch ‘23
University of Southern California | Advisor: Sascha Delz

With the construction industry accounting for roughly 40% of all global carbon emissions, a clear and vast opportunity exists within the Architectural and Construction industry to enact real change in fighting the climate crisis. This change, as seen from a top-down perspective within the supply chain, could include material substitutions, technology innovation and implementation, and independence from non-renewable energy sources. These initiatives geared up in practice in recent years, but the industry is lagging behind if we are to make any real impact on our emissions and meet global climate goals. 

The UN projects that there will be roughly 2.3 billion new urban dwellers by 2050. All of these new residents will require an enormous amount of infrastructure to sustain this influx, most importantly housing. Most low-to-medium-rise housing buildings are constructed using timber products, and so there is a profound opportunity to exploit this demand for new development as a means to mitigate the climate crisis and create a carbon sink within our cities. 

When designers consider viable substitutions that are readily available, mass timber products are the top contenders. The opportunity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere while also providing a structurally sound, lightweight, and aesthetic material makes wood a clear solution for fighting climate change. 

It is vital for timber products used in the construction industry to be sourced from sustainable-certified forest lands to ensure that deforestation of green reserves is mitigated and there is a guarantee of a true renewable resource. The existing supply chain, however, is not vertically integrated, and it follows the cradle-to-grave pipeline, where building materials will most likely end up in landfills following demolition. As a solution to climate impacts, the industry must introduce a closed-loop product life cycle system following the cradle-to-cradle ideology. 

This sustainable wood products cycle requires all players across the supply chain to redefine how they purchase, distribute, design and use mass timber products. The main priorities within this sustainability product cycle are ensuring the increase in sustainable land management practices, growing the demand for sustainably harvested and produced mass timber products, updates to the building codes to mandate the use of these products and creation of deconstruction and reusable toolkits that can be adopted into standard design and construction practices.   

This project seeks to re-frame the framework of sustainably harvested mass timber products and show how they can be utilized in design practices to maximize flexibility, incremental growth, reuse and adaptability. Specifically this framework is applied to an affordable housing cooperative model located in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, comprising of flexible and deconstructable mass timber modules. 

This project received the USC Master of Architecture Social & Environmental Dimensions in Directed Design Research Award – In recognition of the most outstanding graduate final degree project exploring social, cultural, and environmental concerns.

Instagram: @ellie_selzer, @coop_urbanism

Heteromorph by Grégoire Gaudreault, M.Arch ‘23
University of Montreal | Advisor: Andrei Nejur

On a global scale, more than one billion people live in precarious housing situations, many construction materials are regularly sent to landfill sites or, worse, burned. However, these rejected materials represent a richness whose reallocation would lead to a significant economy of resources. Therefore, reusing materials from the construction industry could be part of the solution. This thesis project attempts to establish an architectural response to these challenges. Specifically, the proposed solution involves a constructive system for assembling temporary shelters using a diverse range of reclaimed and heterogeneous materials. The research focus of this thesis primarily revolves around utilizing digital technologies to discover new solutions to social and urban problems, while promoting the development of innovative construction methods that aim to reduce the environmental impact of architecture.

In a conventional architectural project, the materials used are directly linked to the envisioned form conceived during the design process and are typically integrated toward the end of the project. The proposed workflow seeks to invert this logic: reclaimed materials are used as inputs to imagine the shape of a shelter. Available resources dictate the morphology and composition of the projected form. More specifically, the proposed digital solution is based on an algorithm created using visual programming software, which enables the revalorization of materials recovered from waste in the construction industry. Any shape obtained through this method is composed of a configuration of 10 typical triangles, resulting from a combination of three specific edge lengths. These triangles can be constructed using either three linear elements or a single planar element, thereby expanding the range of possible materials. Low-tech metal nodes are utilized to connect these elements, facilitating the assembly and disassembly of the system. This flexibility allows for several variations or even partial or complete reconfiguration of the initial shape. In addition, the proposed system’s evolutive character encourages its components’ re-employment to limit its environmental impact.

This project received “Prix de l’Observatoire Ivanhoé Cambridge Nomination au Prix d’excellence pour étudiants Canadian Architect”

Instagram: @greg_g, @fac_ame_umontreal, @architecture.udem

An Architecture of Decay: Addressing Building Waste Through Biologically Integrated Architecture by Carson Stickney, M.Arch ‘23
Lawrence Technological University | Advisors: Scott Shall (Chair), Dan Faoro (Member) & Sara Codarin (Member)

There is a dissonance within architectural practice between buildings designed to be permanent, and the inevitability of building impermanence. This produces unusable waste at the end of a building’s life cycle. Materials are designed to become obsolete and replaced over time, leading to additional waste during a building’s inhabitance. Construction conventions value the low-cost consumption of resources such as concrete and metals over their effect on the environment (McDonough, Braungart, 2002). The current model of construction, maintenance, and demolition that most buildings go through ignores the resources and materials that are used and discarded, creating by-products that can never be used again by humans or the natural environment.

In order to align programmatic lifecycles with building creation and material decay, architects must incorporate decay in design, allowing building materials to continuously support human and biological use when a building is abandoned or demolished (figure 0.1). All buildings must die, but their material by-products do not need to be wasted. Incorporating decay is an opportunity for the future growth of architectural spaces and realigns the buildings that we make with the natural cycles that affect them. Therefore, to explore this potential, and minimize the waste associated with a building’s decay or demolition, architects need to design buildings and urban landscapes with the eventual decay of products in mind, to eliminate wasted resources, and reinforce the existing natural cycles impacting our work.

To investigate this claim, this project will design a 2-story mixed-use structure, using fully biodegradable materials. This development type has a legacy in architectural practice and is a staple construction type of most major U.S. cities. It also acts as an advantageous operating system relative to this thesis due to its cyclical resiliency to programmatic cycles, and its need for continual replacement and maintenance of materials. This investigation is intended to relink human spaces with natural ones, fostering the perpetual growth and balance of both systems with each other.

Instagram: @cstickney02, @scott_shall

Passing Permanence: Reversible Building Practices in the U.S. by Aaron Baldwin, M.Arch ‘23
Lawrence Technological University | Advisors: Scott Shall, M.Arch/RA, Sara Cordarin, Ph.D & Daniel Faoro March/UD, RA

The construction and demolition industries generate abhorrent amounts of waste through the inefficient generation and unplanned removal of permanently intentioned buildings that cannot last forever. Current strategies of material construction often consume, permanently alter or degrade materials being used, resulting in the inability to wholly reuse valuable building components. As a result, existing unused structures will often become waste, or require resource-intensive recycling or remanufacturing to salvage portions of material (USEPA 2018).

Buildings are not permanent. The current lack of life-cycle design and expectation for buildings to last indefinitely leads to a loss of “technical nutrient” potential (Braungart 2002). The reduction of waste, the continued reuse of materials and designing for component longevity can achieve a fundamental level of sustainability, as the concept of waste is antithetical to the ability to maintain a process over time. To recapture the potential of a building and remove the ecologically harmful effects of permanence that occur after the building is no longer needed, the production, construction, use and demolition of architecture should ‘leave minimal trace’ on its building materials and site.

A current lack of reversible and circular practice in the U.S. exists due to many existing social, cultural and economic factors. The focus on tradition, risk aversion and bountiful space for new development allows the country to remain stagnant and reliant on existing building methodologies without the push for change. Initial reversible architecture located in the U.S. will not be made out of newly developed components, but primarily of existing standardized materials joined in newly reversible methods.

Architecture should not be destructive. An architecture that leaves minimal trace does not have to employ highly engineered componentry and new modular solutions that restrict design outcomes but rather can modify existing techniques and tectonic understandings to remove wasteful practices that intentionally degrade or destroy material resources. Minimal trace architecture simultaneously upholds the health of its materiality through the redefinition of connection types while supporting its site and larger context through the removal of systemic inefficiencies and unnecessary permanently intended change.

See you in the next installment of the Student Showcase!

2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase - Part XXVII

Welcome to Part XXVII of the Study Architecture Student Showcase! Today’s featured work focuses on the care of elderly populations. From dementia care centers to a multi-use facility that promotes multi-generational encounters, each design and thesis looks at various methodologies to promote optimal well-being for the elderly.

Design to Heal – Dementia Care Center in Goa, India by Surbhi Subhash Ghodke, M.Arch ‘23
University of Utah, School of Architecture | Advisor: Anne Mooney, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Dementia is a growing concern in India, affecting a significant number of older adults. To address this issue, a dementia care center is being designed in Goa, India. The center aims to provide a holistic environment that promotes the well-being and spiritual needs of individuals with dementia.

The design prioritizes wayfinding and natural light usage, acknowledging the challenges faced by patients transitioning from private homes to shared living spaces. The center creates a sense of belonging by incorporating familiar spaces and a friendly atmosphere.

Inspired by traditional Indian architectural elements, the campus design draws from the Wada architecture of Maharashtra. Verandahs, patios, jali (perforated screens), and multiple courtyards are utilized to enhance air circulation and maximize daylight. The design fosters a sense of community, resembling a close-knit village with rooms placed along courtyards.

The care center features multiple purposeful courtyards accessed through narrow paths, encouraging patients to explore and engage with their surroundings. Varying levels of visual access aid wayfinding and social engagement. Colors, textures, and patterns are used as visual cues to differentiate areas and rooms.

Given the tropical climate in Goa, the campus incorporates large overhangs, circular cutouts for plantations, and water bodies to provide shade and maintain a cool environment. Perforated brick facades offer privacy while allowing natural light and cool breezes to flow into the campus.

To add an element of playfulness, the roof design includes roofs of varying heights and shapes. Daylight integration through skylights and effective rainwater drainage systems are incorporated, with rainwater collected for lotus plantations and gardens on the campus.

The campus design utilizes local materials such as red laterite bricks and stone, aligning with the vernacular architecture of rural Goa and respecting the surrounding context.

Overall, the design of the dementia care center in Goa aims to create a people-centered environment that addresses the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of individuals with dementia. 

This project received the 2023 ARCC KING STUDENT MEDAL for innovation, integrity, and scholarship in architectural research.

Lending a Hand to Guryong Village: Agency, Community, and Shared Economies by Jonathan Chung, M.Arch ‘23
Carleton University | Advisor: Jerry Hacker

Using Guryong village (a self-built community in Seoul, South Korea) as the site of investigation, this thesis explores the spatial relationships and architectures of care between the state and the city’s ignored and most vulnerable citizens. Recognizing the residents’ progress in self-creation and self-provision, the question of interest is what degree of aid should be provided for the waste economy to further enhance community and quality of life for those in the village. To date, Guryong village has been subject to debate over land ownership and government provisions; however, this thesis endeavors to explore the role, active and creative users hold in lending a hand to normalizing waste collection and making it more accessible. Research methodologies include literature and media reviews, on-site experience, analytical drawing, and research through design. As a result, this thesis proposes a singular infrastructural framework of three agents of support at three different scales intended to further the agency and community of those in Guryong village: an agent for travel, for storage, and for collection and resource. Specifically, these infrastructures augment the existing self-created economy of waste transformation led by the elderly of the village and South Korea. Therefore, using architecture’s potential to create broader citizen and urban dialogue, this work strives to help build a better understanding of the value and state of self-actualized spaces and their communities, and to reflect on the impact of community on an individual, city, country, and the world. 

This project received the Boraks Prize.

Morgan State University, School of Architecture & Planning | Advisor: Carlos A. Reimers

The elderly are isolated in our American cities, and suffer depression and the looming thought of the endpoint of their lives drawing near. Conventional independent and assisted living facilities may be good buildings, but they usually serve only the function of housing, shelter, and health. Where is the life of it though? Residents interact with their care providers and others their age. The youth exuberates life and enjoyment, none of that is present in these facilities. The vision for this project is not only to integrate generations together, but to provide the elderly with the motivation to embrace life instead of feeling isolated and stressed about the end. A building that has multiple uses to integrate multi-generational encounters.

This project won the Best Thesis Award

Instagram: @reimerscarlos

Bedlam by Leka Mpigi, M.Arch ‘23
University of Southern California | Advisor: John Southern

Architecture can play a more vital role in the built environment that goes beyond urban organization and aesthetic value. Statistics show that as humans regardless of character, belief, and ability, are most affected by the spaces we inhabit in comparison to any other mortal factors. Exploring collage with the intent to explore design elements such as color, light and mass presents us with the potential to optimize the spaces we create, not just visually, but also functionally. Functionality is no longer defined only through the narrow lens of practicality and usefulness as humans have evolved, looking inward toward the importance of features that aid, not just physical ability, but also mental stability and growth. It is important that architecture in all sectors perseveres to not only try to follow but also lead this conversation. Designing to accommodate human behavior such as eating, bathing, and sleeping have been explored on thorough levels being that the focus group only includes a small percentage of people with all abilities intact. However, limiting ourselves to this scale of exploration sells us short not just as a profession but as members of the global community at large. Theories of the appropriate manipulation of color, light and mass have been studied to be able to produce the highest quality of space that not only guarantees overall wellness but also longevity and potentially by 2040 a greater population of people living more cognitively over 65 years old. 

The age group most affected by all concepts discussed above is the elderly 55+ population and to critically analyze the claims I have made above; I have decided to narrow down my research to members of this community with cognitive impairments such as dementia. This thesis will reevaluate the current living conditions on a local scale here in Los Angeles but will arguably be effective also in other cities and possibly countries, keeping in mind that culture and tradition do play a vital role in the connections people have to design elements such as color and light. The remodeling of a curated sample of already existing nursing homes will create room for critical evaluation showing how these spaces can be optimized for patients with certain formal architectural and interior design edits. I predict that this experiment will not only create care homes that are more visually and aesthetically pleasing but also potential optimal wellness environments proven to slow or in rare cases even reverse the decline of people with dementia over time. The ideal space in this experiment will have the following characteristics: negotiability (obstacle-free), familiarity and sensory stimulation (ways to trigger memory and recall). On this foundation, I will also introduce researched elements such as color coding, friendly mass (non-triggering forms) and light therapy to enhance set sample space. It is important to note that these experiments are amenable to and require implantation and validation. However these prototypes are based on research, many observations of case studies, and interviews with facility directors with their opinions occasionally taken into play due to their years of onsite hands-on experiences.

This project received a USC Master of Architecture Distinction in Directed Design Research

Instagram: @mii_beii, @urbanops

See you in the next installment of the Student Showcase!

2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase - Part XXVI

In Part XXVI of the Study Architecture Student Showcase, the featured projects support and serve marginalized populations – from a thesis that presents a series of fictional architectural scenarios to critically question ableism in architecture to multigenerational housing for minority groups to promote cross-generational solidarity. Each project confronts a systemic issue by offering tangible architecture-based solutions.

Towards an Anti-Ableist Architecture by Matthew Schrage, B.Arch ‘23
Virginia Tech School of Architecture | Advisor: Andrew Gipe-Lazarou

This thesis is a manifesto for Anti-Ableist architecture.

Towards an Anti-Ableist Architecture is uninterested in supporting or ascribing to dominant modes of thinking on the topic of disability in architecture. It is uninterested in furthering the endless search for more practical “solutions,” more checklists, or more “easy” answers to further obscure a deeply rooted political and historical problem.

This thesis presents a broad critique of the topic of disability and ableism in architecture. It aims to break architecture from the tired ways of thinking that it sparsely ever questions. It calls on the discipline to critically question and reconsider why it must address disabled bodies in the peculiar ways it does.

Towards an Anti-Ableist Architecture seeks to properly understand the topic of disability and ableism in architecture as a centuries-long political and historical project. It aims to reveal the ways in which architecture has relentlessly dehumanized, erased, patronized, and shut out disabled people while denying our bodies, experiences, cultures, communities, and histories any contribution to architecture itself. It seeks to retire prejudicial ways of thinking that see us as merely a set of functional aberrances, whose bodies are to be paternalistically “granted access” by a unanimously nondisabled profession.

Towards an Anti-Ableist Architecture addresses a discipline that designs its buildings for the mythical norm and views our perspectives as exterior to architecture entirely. It critiques a discipline that universally assumes its subjects to be able-bodied and to unquestioningly possess the qualities of able-bodied people. It attacks architectural histories and theories that aestheticize the able-bodied person as architecture’s definitive human, as “universal,” “pure,” “harmonious,” and “standard.” It critiques a discipline that normalizes our discrimination and nonchalantly allows the production of inaccessible buildings with little to no alarm.

Following the established legacy of “paper architecture” as a tool of ideological critique, this thesis’s main design project, The Ultimatum, formulates a satirical narrative about disability and architecture in a sequence of ten “Acts.” Through a series of fictional architectural scenarios, The Ultimatum parodies the discipline of architecture, calling on it to properly confront its ongoing complicity in the oppression of disabled people and other marginalized groups.

This project received the Undergraduate Thesis Prize for Critique of the Architectural Discipline.

Instagram: @mschrage99 

A STOP WORTH WAITING FOR: designing a better DART bus shelter by Sumayyah Abdullah, Bamluck Abera, Victor Almaraz, Sandra Calzadillas, Marvin Diaz, Maryam Hashim Jacqueline Hernandez, David Hine, Vanessa Huerta, Vanesa Lopez, Diandra Osorio, Kennett Rivera Ayesha Shaikh, Berenice Velasquez, Richa Verma & Tasfia Zahin, B.Arch ‘23
University of Texas at Arlington | Advisor: Julia Lindgren

Public transportation networks impact how our cities function, enhance the quality of life for their residents and stimulate economic development. A good bus shelter is an essential part of any successful urban mass transit system. What constitutes “good,” however, depends upon your point of view. This design-build project proposes a future Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) bus shelter that re-imagines the design of existing infrastructure to optimize public benefit.

DART currently services 13 cities through 6,800 bus stops that accommodate over 20 million riders annually. Under its new bus network plan, DART calculates that 75% of people located in DART’s service area live within walking distance of a bus stop. This offers an opportunity to expand resources to areas that are currently underserved by public amenities, parks, and artistic expression. “A Stop Worth Waiting For” showcases the work of the University of Texas at Arlington’s architecture students who worked in collaboration with DART and AIA Dallas to design and build a prototype to explore what the metroplex’s next-generation bus shelter could be.

UTA’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs design-build program works to engage students with communities to tackle our most challenging urban issues. By coupling direct public engagement with design and making, the new bus shelter enhances rider experience, responds to environmental conditions, and expands neighborhood amenities. The prototype and complimentary exhibition were developed during the fall 2022 semester with input from DART bus riders, front-line workers, advisors, and leadership. The prototype was shared publicly on social media to solicit additional public design input that will inform its next iteration. This project was generously supported by DART and AIA Dallas.

This project received the ASLA Texas Student Honor Award

INNER CITY by Sierra Grant, M.Arch ‘23
University of North Carolina at Charlotte | Advisor: Thomas Forget

Inner City creates a connection between neighborhoods. Typically American suburbs are split by socioeconomic segregation and ethnic lines. The original inhabitants of the American suburb have suffered not only from white flight in the 1950s but also from urban revitalization that’s led to our current state of mass gentrification. People are divided and communities are disconnected. Inner City aims to stitch these gaps by creating a suburban green loop throughout the city with a new typology of alternative flex-housing that inserts the city’s nontraditional and underserved occupants into the suburbs while also implementing an intense interplay of public space into private living.

This project was recognized as “Exploration Excellence in Critical”

Instagram: @_sierragrant_

Housing for Youth by Sara Serrano, B.A. in Architecture ‘23
University of Illinois at Chicago | Advisor: Alexander Eisenschmidt

Little Village is one of the densest neighborhoods in Chicago. It has an estimated population of 73,826 people with 17,000 living per square mile. The population is mostly made up of minority groups who co-live with relatives in increasingly dense conditions. Therefore, the proposal envisions collective multigenerational housing that gives each generation an apartment but also encourages interaction between the younger and elderly generations. By organizing their units across from each other and implementing large entrance doors that can swing open to connect to the opposite unit, an interface is created that at least facilitates social exchange and, at best, cross-generational solidarity. Each individual unit is conceived as a single space with alcoves for secondary rooms to sleep, cook, and bath. When the doors to the secondary rooms are closed, a single open space appears while opening the swing doors from one side of the unit transforms the apartment into an enfilade.

Instagram: @Eisenschmidt_a

American Conditions by Pedro Aguero, M. Arch ‘23
University of Nebraska–Lincoln | Advisor: Zeb Lund

In this representation of an American Foursquare house, each side represents different realities that too often simultaneously occupy the same space. 

The contrast between these two conditions raises questions about the impact of short-term rentals on the price and quality of housing for low-income families. When short-term rentals exceed the profitability of long-term rentals, there is an incentive for landlords to book their properties as homestays, reducing the supply of long-term rentals in a city. Furthermore, as the available affordable long-term rentals wane, overcrowding and subpar housing become the only alternatives for the most vulnerable segments of the population.

50/50 Co-op by Yufei Wang, M.Arch. ‘23
University of Southern California | Advisor: Sascha Delz

In response to the escalating housing prices and the evolving demands for living arrangements, 50/50 COOP presents an innovative housing model that facilitates adaptable interior spaces. The limitations imposed by conventional houses on people’s space requirements are now a thing of the past. In here, SPACE breaks into SPACE ELEMENT. Each element represents an essential living experience of housing. By offering a dynamic marketplace, 50/50 COOP simplifies the process of acquiring these space elements, likening it to purchasing a pre-owned car. This unique marketplace for space elements not only enables individuals to reduce their cost of living but also grants them unparalleled flexibility in choosing their desired living arrangements. 

The 50/50 Cooperative will gradually grow from VENICE in Los Angeles to a project that spans the United States. It has four main stakeholder entities, community land trust, 50/50 COOP, members and space elements market, and the COOP keeps the organization running by taking in government funds, community donations, dues and rental stores. All 50/50 COOP facilities adhere to a unified standard that facilitates the seamless movement of space elements within the organization. 

This design philosophy aims to liberate individuals from being bound to a specific house. With the support of 50/50 COOP’s widespread facilities across the country, people can effortlessly relocate their living spaces. This mobility empowers individuals to embrace a more flexible lifestyle, where they are not confined to a fixed location but can freely and easily move their homes within the network of 50/50 COOP facilities.

This project received the USC Master of Architecture Distinction in Directed Design Research

Instagram: @yufei__w, @coop_urbanism

See you in the next installment of the Student Showcase!

2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase - Part XVI

Welcome to Part XVI of the Study Architecture Student Showcase! Today, we explore the narrative of “othering” as it relates to architecture. The highlighted student work revisits norms by applying computational methodologies to the design process, positioning a tent city in an industrial zone, reimagining modernization without demanding the complete erasure of urban communities, and more. Read on for more information.

Alleviating Othering Spaces, AI Analysis, and Form in Negril, Jamaica by Caelyn Ford, Bachelor of Science in Architecture ‘23
Boston Architectural College | Advisor: Robert C. Anderson

Nothing will change until we acknowledge two truths about ourselves and the built environment; that architecture reflects, reaffirms, and legitimizes narratives of a society that ‘others’ and defines an individual’s role in society, begetting ‘othering spaces.’

That which can be physically confirmed is often prioritized over its cognitive counterpart. Design solely for the corporeal, neglecting the cognitive, is a lie of pretended humanism within the architecture profession. The thesis aims to develop a tool that expands the

capabilities of inclusive design to transform perceptual understandings of the self and ‘other’ by analyzing architecture through a neuro-phenomenological lens. This endeavor is two-fold: design for the mind and design for the other.

The thesis project investigates means of alleviating ‘spatial othering’ by quantitatively studying the building’s behavioral and emotional effect on its users to equalize the cognitive experience. Cognitive-Informed Design in architecture presents an opportunity to create paradigm shifts by applying computational methodologies to the design process. Recognizing the need for a system to connect with the end users efficiently during the design process, the potential of web-based VR, AI-generated eye tracking, brain mapping software, and biosensors was explored in this thesis to develop the design criteria.

This project was selected as the Best of Bachelor of Science degree project.

Urban Refuge: Assisting in the Development of Tent Communities Through Modular and Trauma Sensitive Design by Peter Hope, M. Arch ‘23
Academy of Art University School of Architecture | Advisor: Eric Reeder

Homelessness in the United States is a problem that disproportionately affects California. According to the World Population Review, the homeless population in California is 161.5 thousand; that is 16x more homeless people than the national average of 11.4 thousand. It is suffice to say that the issue of homelessness is not going away any time soon. Of all the cities in the United States, three of the cities with the highest homeless population exist in the Bay Area. San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco account for 10% of the homeless population of the entire state.

The objective of this thesis is to find ways to create better spaces of refuge for the unhoused residents of Oakland, who currently call tent cities home. Tent cities are one way that the unhoused communities organize themselves. Tent cities can pop up anywhere, from highway medians to the side of the road. The selected site for this project is inhabited by a fledgling tent city that has not quite found an organizational rhythm as others in Oakland have. It is also positioned in an industrial zone which presents opportunities for city sanctioning, should the project be successful.

Instagram: @ericreeder.architect, @_peterhope

Kalunitas by Alex Jauregui, Alex Lopez, Armando Torres, Ayah Milbes, Bailey Campbell, Chris Rosenbaum, Francisco Ramos, Hannah Gonzalez, Huda Shahid, Joshua Arriaga, Josue Garay, Justin Mai, Kavi Patel, Lucio Castro, Macey Mendoza, Sarah Trevino, Sophia Cruz, Valentin Torres, and Xavier Zamora, B.Arch ‘23
University of Texas at San Antonio | Advisor: Armando Araiza

An installation that illustrates the movement of people to San Antonio throughout the past 300 years and beyond. The word “kal” derives from the indigenous language of the Coahuiltecans meaning “come together” and “unitas” being the Latin word for “unity.” Kalunitas expresses the convergence between four of the founding cultures that have made the San Antonio region one of the most diverse in the United States.

Instagram: @conetic_studio

The Shar(e)d: Community Resilience Through Shared Spaces by Yiting Chen, M.Arch ‘23
University of Southern California | Advisor: Amy Murphy

Cities’ growth and evolution can pressure existing communities by changing the urban landscape, as seen in the Shard in London, where the construction of a glass skyscraper risks displacing the economically poor and working class. Such development doesn’t necessarily bring true social progress to the neighborhoods. A large area of glass introduced in the neighborhood almost put a death sentence on the community. This trend can be observed in many communities near central business districts.

Is there another way towards modernization without demanding complete erasure?

How can the elements of the Shard be recombined into the urban landscape in a more sensitive gesture?

How can the use of glass be more about the place and the people?

This project focuses on the development of public and shared spaces in GangxiaVillage. The synergy of public spaces can be infused into this super-dense neighborhood to ensure that the benefits of progress and development are shared fairly.

The glass will bring active changes and connections while preserving the special urban fabrics and characters of the neighborhood. A network and system of resources will be introduced to serve the residents, and this network is expected to expand and evolve when future needs arise.

This project received the USC Master of Architecture Distinction in Directed Design Research.

Instagram: @sallychenyt, @amy_murphy143

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USC Architecture Students Built This: The Carapace Pavilion

Written in partnership with Douglas E. Noble, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, School of Architecture University of Southern California

The CARAPACE PAVILION has been installed at Joshua Tree National Park.

The Carapace Pavilion is a project of the students and faculty of the University of Southern California School of Architecture. The project was supported by a generous grant from the PCI Foundation and was hosted during fabrication with considerable enthusiasm and support at the Clark Pacific precast facility. The project involved nearly 500 people and took almost four years from the initial sketches to the final installation. Hundreds of architecture students participated hands-on in the design and fabrication of the Carapace Pavilion, and each received tours of the precast facility with descriptions of the types of precast and the productions processes. With considerable help from the professionals at Clark Pacific, students and faculty participated in each step of the design and fabrication of the Carapace, from building the mold to the final installation.



The project was installed on June 20, 2022. A small group of volunteers arrived the day before to prepare the site. There was no construction yard allowed at Joshua Tree National Park, and installation time was limited to just one day. The Carapace was transported by Reeve Trucking on the two-hour trip form the precast yard to the site in the early morning. The large self-propelled Maxim crane and support truck arrived after dawn and completed the crane set-up prior to the arrival of the Carapace. To avoid damaging any potential native cultures artifacts, the site directly beneath the Carapace was raised approximately 14 inches by adding local fill dirt. Using a clever curved screed tool and curved side-rails, the volunteers dug out a double curved trench, matching the geometry of the foundation panel. The digging occurred only in the new raised soil that had been added to the site, and thus there was no foundations or trenching in the original undisturbed site conditions. The Carapace was quickly lifted from the truck and set onto the site with the help of rangers from the National Park Service, and several team members from Clark Pacific.

A time-lapse one-minute video of the last step of installation is on YouTube:



Students prepared a software tool to help them design this unique geometry, which is made of ultra-high-performance-concrete (UHPC). The students knew they only had one mold to work with, but wanted to create five panels of three different types. The software tool enabled the students to design the roof, walls, and floor to all be cast in the same mold, even though the panels were quite different from each other.


Carapace Pavilion

Photo credit: The University of Southern California School of Architecture



The mold was created by students from high density foam using their 3D computer design files and a CNC machine in the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California. The mold was composed of 16 foam panels. Each panel was about three feet wide and eight feet long. To create the deep arch of the mold, a plywood egg crate form was installed on the construction deck at Clark Pacific precast plant. This allowed the students to use relatively thin foam planks for the CNC step. High density foam is relatively expensive, and the egg crate strategy created substantial savings on the cost of the mold, while also reducing waste. The 16 panels were installed on the curved plywood egg crate mold, and then epoxy and fiberglass layers provided the smooth surface finish and hid the seams of the  panels. A gelcoat was added as a final coating, and students spent many hours standing the epoxy and gelcoat between coats. The final mold resembled something like a surfboard in its’ finished surface appearance.

Carapace Pavilion mold

Photo credit: The University of Southern California School of Architecture



The project uses Lafarge Holcim Ductal ultra-high-performance-concrete (UHPC). UHPC is quite different from standard concrete in the way it flows as it is cast. This required the mold to have well-sealed sides and a backpan or top mold. The backpan resulted in the project being cast blind through a funnel on the top of the mold. It was not possible to see what was happening inside the mold as the concrete was being poured through the funnel. UHPC is an especially strong structural material. While typical concrete might range from 4,000 to 6,000psi in compressive strength, the UHPC in the Carapace Pavilion was engineered at 17,000psi and the 28-day test of sample cubes revealed that the actual strength of the concrete was more than 25,000psi. Each of the five cast panels weighs between 7,000 and 9,000 pounds. At the thinnest and most critical section, the wall panels and roof panels are only two inches thick. To obtain tensile strength, tiny steel fibers, each less than one inch long and much thinner than sewing needles, are included as the UHPC is mixed in the batch plant. Millions of these tiny steel fibers were integrated throughout the mix of each of the panels. These steel fibers eliminated the need for standard rebar.

Photo credit: The University of Southern California School of Architecture



The foundation panel was cast first. This was done for two reasons. First, the foundation panel is the smallest and uses the least concrete. Secondly, the foundation panel was intended to be nearly completely buried under the dirt of the site, and thus any flaws resulting from a learning curve would be hidden. The down-facing concrete in the mold obtained an extremely smooth surface finish matching the smoothness of the completed mold. The down-facing surface composed the interior of the Pavilion. The upward facing part of each panel had a slightly more textured finish resulting from tiny air bubbles that rose through the UHPC. UHPC has critical guidelines on the use of vibration to help settle concrete into a mold. UHPC has an excellent ability to fill the mold, and extended vibration risks having the steel fiber settle towards the bottom of the panel rather than remaining dispersed in the material. After the panels were cast and extracted from the mold, students applied a skim coat to the outer surface of each of the finished panels.



The foundation panel is connected to the two wall panels using Lenton cups and high-strength grout. The wall panels are connected to the roof panels using JVI vector connectors. The JVI vector connectors are installed in a staggered configuration along the touching seams of each panel. The vector connectors are stainless steel, and the vectors are welded to each other to assemble the five panels. The project was fully assembled in the precast yard at Clark Pacific. Off-site prefabrication was critical to the project due to the limitations on site access and the extreme distance and harsh climate conditions of the project site.

Carapace Pavilion

Photo credit: The University of Southern California School of Architecture



The design team knew about the dimensions and weight tolerances for trucking, and the project is designed to exactly fit standard wide-load dimensions. The completed project weighs about 40,000 pounds, and is 42 feet long at the roof. The Carapace tapers from the 42-foot roof to only 12 feet long at the foundation. The small foundation dimension reduces impact on the site and makes it easier to fit on the truck trailer. The extended roof cantilevers to provide an expansive shade area, but also contribute to a critical high center of gravity. The high center of gravity contributed to special trucking engineering to avoid the potential for rollover or lateral loading during turns or windy conditions.

Carapace Pavilion Installed

Photo credit: The University of Southern California School of Architecture



With leadership from rangers of the National Park service, eight aluminum earth anchors were driven through the foundation panel to anchor the project to the site. Each earth anchor was just under four feet long, and each required a custom 5”x5” by half-inch-thick steel washer. After the earth anchors were installed, the group of volunteers back filled the interior of the Carapace Pavilion with local dirt, creating a natural dirt floor for the pavilion.


Carapace Pavilion

Photo credit: The University of Southern California School of Architecture


Eventually, native vegetation is expected to grow on the east and west sides of the Carapace, helping to integrate the pavilion into the natural landscape The Carapace points due north and south, and each end of the campus provides a framed view of Joshua Tree National Park. The north opening frames a long distance view across the desert floor at Queen Valley. The south end frames a local view of the large rock formations and natural landscape adjacent to the site. The National Park Service selected a site for the campus pavilion that will eventually become a VIP campground area. VIP means “Volunteers In Parks,” and describes groups of people who camp at the park and help the National Park Service with maintenance and improvements. At some point it is hoped that the site will also include a residential education facility that will allow high school and elementary school students to come to the park and spend three days and two nights in an exploratory science curriculum to learn about the park. The Park Service is in the early stages of schematic design for this residential facility that might host 120 students and 10 or 15 faculty members. The site location is well inside the wilderness area of the National Park, and there are no services at the site. There is no water, no electrical power, no waste, and no cellphone service. The site project cannot be seen from the main road as it is hidden behind a hill of boulders, thus creating a quiet and private location for the VIP campground.



The students and faculty of the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California are grateful to the PCI Foundation, PCI West, and the Precast / Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) for their enormous support. The project fabrications was hosted at Clark Pacific in Fontana, and received years of enthusiastic support and help from the gracious precast team at Clark Pacific. The Ductal ultra-high-performance-concrete (UHPC) was provided by Lafarge-Holcim. The engineers for the Carapace Pavilion were from Walter P. Moore. Crane services were provided by Maxim Crane. The project was transported to the site by Reeve Trucking. We are grateful for the support of JVI, INC. for the vector connectors and to Cresset Chemical Company for form release, The earth anchors were provided by American Earth Anchors, and the anchor washers were provided by Greg Swanson. Installation photography and video was by Mark Johnson, Art Brandt, and Joe Pingree. Nearly 500 people have worked on the project over the four years since the initial sketches were created in 2018.

Carapace Pavilion

Photo credit: The University of Southern California School of Architecture