ARCHITECTURE EXHIBITION: 2021-22 BRANNER, STUMP & BECKERMAN PROPOSALS
February 10-17, 2021
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
The 2021-22 Branner, Stump & Beckerman Proposals Exhibition is an online presentation of anonymous proposals submitted for the 2021-22 Travel Fellowships.
Fellowship recipients will be announced soon, and, upon returning from their travels, they will present their findings to the CED community in the form of a lecture and exhibition during the Architecture Spring 2022 Lecture Series (dates TBD).
ABOUT THE AWARDS
The John K. Branner Traveling Fellowship, Harold Stump Memorial Traveling Fellowship, and Andrew Beckerman Travel Fellowship offer $10,000-$20,000 prizes for international travel and research, awarded annually to Option 2 or 3 Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) students in the College of Environmental Design. The fellowships support independent travel in exploration of a particular architectural question or issue. Although the topic of research may optionally be expanded as a thesis, it is expected that the experience of travel will enrich the fellow’s design studies. Upon returning from their travels, Fellows present their findings to the CED community in the form of a lecture and exhibition during the Architecture Spring Semester Lecture Series.
The John K. Branner Fellowship was established in 1969 for the purpose of maintaining and providing traveling fellowships to outstanding students of architecture at the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. Since the fund was established, there have been over 200 Branner Fellows. The fellowship fund is named for John Kennedy Branner, a prominent Bay Area architect of the early 20th century and the elder son of Stanford University’s second president, John Casper Branner. After completing his degree in architecture at Columbia University, Branner pursued travel and study in Europe, which he believed was formative to his development as a designer. Upon returning to San Francisco, Branner maintained a successful practice specializing in residential architectural design for 46 years. His principal works include Stanford Stadium, numerous residences in Hillsborough, Palo Alto, and Woodside, several fraternity houses at Stanford, and the Mein Estate in Woodside.
The Harold Stump Memorial Traveling Fellowship enables an outstanding architectural graduate to spend up to four months exploring significant architectural monuments in Europe and other parts of the world. The student is encouraged, through independent travel, to achieve a greater understanding and appreciation of the art and architecture that has influenced the architectural profession throughout history. The fellowship fund was established in 2016 by Lester Wertheimer (M.Arch ’52). The fund is named for Professor Harold Stump (B.A. Architecture ‘26), who taught Wertheimer and encouraged him to apply for the Le Conte Memorial Fellowship, which he received while a student at CED. It permitted him to travel for one year visiting important historic and modern works of architecture and had a significant impact on his life and career in architecture.
The Andrew Beckerman Travel Fellowship provides support to an outstanding architectural graduate student to spend up to four months exploring significant architectural monuments in Europe and other parts of the world. The student is encouraged, through independent travel, to achieve a greater understanding and appreciation of the art and architecture that has influenced the architectural profession throughout history. The fellowship fund was established in 2018 by Andrew Beckerman. Andrew Beckerman graduated from UC Berkeley in 1973 with a Master’s in Architecture. He received the John K. Branner Travelling Fellowship in 1974. His time at UC Berkeley, coupled with that Branner Fellowship, formed the foundation of a successful career in community based architecture and planning.
This exhibition is sponsored by the John K. Branner Endowment, Harold Stump Endowment, and Andrew Beckerman Endowment.
Hybrid Facades in Decolonized Cities
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
The built environment has been used by imperial powers to spatially organize people – establish hierarchies of power based on race, gender, etc. In the United States, low‐income communities of color face disproportionate racial and social injustice today due to redlining in the 1930s under the New Deal. Jim Crow Laws created exclusionary and racialized architecture to separate black people from white people. Throughout history, colonial expansion and capital relied on the violence and oppressive hierarchies against the “other”. In addition to aggressive social and cultural change, the colonizer brought new architecture styles to native communities. After colonized cities gained their independence, they decolonized to reclaim national identity. Buildings and spaces in the colonial style —government, commercial, and residential— symbolized the cruel legacies of the metropole. These structures were either destroyed, memorialized, or repurposed. However, many felt that these responses were inadequate. In 1995, the South Korean government demolished the former Japanese Government‐General Building (GGB) in Seoul, a symbolic act against the vestiges of Japanese colonial rule. However, some believed that demolishing GGB was denying a legitimate part of South Korea’s national history.1 Memorializing or re‐using these sites can be unwelcoming for colonized or post‐colonized people. For example, in post‐colonial India, Gandhi was against using British colonial buildings.
This project will examine how hybrid facades serve as an alternative response to demolition and memorialization of colonial structures. Hybridity in the decolonizing process is important because effects of colonial power are reversed by removing its dominance without eradicating it from history2. This hybridity is evident in facades of post‐colonial cities. Designed to be seen, facades carry meaning, most always of social standing and prestige3. A decolonized hybrid facade is the result of when the Other appropriates the European logic of architectural symbolism and changes a colonial building’s façade to have a new meaning. The façade now represents the Other’s contemporary‐cultural values. However, it is important that the form itself is not devoid of the colonial period, because the alteration critiques imperial practices.
Architectural space can be altered but facades can show the discourse of that alteration. I will be studying four post‐colonial cities where hybrid facades reflect narratives of their decolonization. In addition, I will visit their colonial metropole to understand the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. Off‐site I will be researching specific histories, colonial attitudes, systemic oppression, and local culture. My analysis will be informed by colonial and post‐colonial theorists, such as Henri Lefebvre and Homi K. Bhabha.
Today’s social unrest around racial injustice reminds us that we still operate within an imperial landscape. The study of hybrid facades in decolonial cities explores the following questions: How can “other”‐ed communities use architecture to dismantle structures of oppression? How can the built environment change when we include the knowledge and culture of communities that have been historically excluded from the process? How can architecture and architects advocate for the Other? Facades have been used to display power and wealth; how can it do the opposite?
Cyclical Destruction: A study of human destruction and the architectural response through façade, entry, and envelope
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
Human destruction is cyclical. Architects create, war destroys, people recover and then build again. “The leveling of buildings and cities has always been an inevitable part of conducting hostilities and has worsened as weaponry has become heavier and more destructive...Continents rather than cities can be devastated,” (Bevan 2016, p. 5-6). My primary interest lies in the field of cyclical human destruction, in which I will explore building response through façade, envelope, and entry/threshold along with maintenance of cultural values and its tie to monumentality.
This phenomenon is most clearly seen through the war-torn countries of the 1900s. Beirut, Lebanon, the city my family originates from, presents an inherently unique condition that sparks this study. A civil war, set in motion by corrupt governance and religion, left Lebanon pockmarked with bullet holes the same way a body is after fighting off a virus. Years later, French architects and planners created new buildings that inherently ignored the existing culture of the area and started rebuilding just to be hit by another man-made result of corruption: an explosion in their port that flattened much of the port area and created damage to the historic area which included many of these new buildings. In between these major events, humans caused damage through car bombs and other attacks that left the city not only physically scarred but left humans emotionally scarred by living in a state of terror that they see as the new normal.
Facade, entry, and envelope are the primary components of study due to their inherent role in determining what is considered inside and what is considered outside. They can provide a sense of enclosure, safety and isolation, or they can provide a connection to the outside and the existing culture. What the architect chooses to emphasize in the building, and how effective the method used is, helps define the building and its role in war-torn countries. This will be the primary focus of study.
This study is integral to conduct for several reasons. The first being that the fear and islamophobia people possess have limited the number of studies in the area where there is much to learn from, historically and architecturally. Moreover, war is unlikely to go away any time soon. As people and cultures continue to clash, resources dwindle along with environmental conditions, overpopulation runs rampant and corruption continues to reign, war-torn conditions will continue to be the norm. How architects respond to this through façade, envelope, and entry conditions can positively or negatively contribute to the lives of millions of people both physically and emotionally and deserves to be significantly studied. On a smaller scale, this can further be applied to conditions also experienced in non-war-ravaged countries, such as the United States of America, as domestic terrorism continues to be an on-going issue in places such as schools and public gathering spaces. Furthermore, while much research has been done on ecological resilience, less research has been done on resilience to cyclical destruction. I have contacted potential supervisor Maria Paz Gutierrez, who has shown interest in the project and its implications.
In conclusion, cyclical destruction begs the question: how can envelope and entry assist in helping this phenomenon while maintaining the existing culture of the area? While Lebanon sparked my curiosity, this human-caused cyclical destruction is not unique to Beirut. This study aims to analyze entry and façade in buildings in Lebanon, Turkey, Bosnia, Italy and France to understand how the Mediterranean countries have responded and addressed cyclical destruction. It then will expand to compare this to how East Timor, El Salvador, and Mexico have responded to either civil war or the war on drugs that leaves the countries in similar states but with much different cultures. Overall, this study will further understanding of how architects respond to violence and the threat of violence within society through the architectural components of façade, entry and envelope.
Paved Landscapes: An Examination of Surface across Seventeen Airfields
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
Throughout the era of Carbon Modernity, the Earth’s topography has been radically transformed by a robust network of paved surface. Although pavement is everywhere, it is largely invisible. Pavement’s ubiquity coupled with its smoothness, grayness, seamlessness, and efficiency has rendered it invisible. However, this invisible topographical form is the spatial embodiment of our current carbon energy paradigm. It is a carbon form—spatially facilitating energy-intensive ways of life. Elisa Iturbe, in her essay on “Architecture and the Death of Carbon Modernity”, insists that carbon form must be confronted before it can be overcome. Through examination of seventeen decomissioned airfields across continents, this research seeks to identify architectural interventions that render paved landscapes visible.
As vast, monofunctional landscapes defined by paved terrain and a carbon-intensive premise, the airfield presents a useful typology for this research. Each of the decommissioned airfields of study have been converted into public space, however, they vary in their degree of intervention. Approaches to these obsolete airfields range from publicly accessible runways, to nature preserves, to sculptural terrain, to highly designed public parks. Traversing each airfield landscape, I seek to identify and document moments of friction, unpredictability, discontinuity, thickness, permeability, nonfunctionality, and multifunctionality in the pavement. On-site exploration will allow me to identify subtle, yet perceivable interventions in the pavement, observe human interaction with such interventions, and understand how pavement at the landscape scale—often understood aerially—can be read from the ground level at human scale.
As carbon form continues to quietly dictate our built environment on a global scale, it is critical that we recognize how its spatial expressions configure our carbon-dependent lifestyles amidst the backdrop of a growing ecological crisis. It is the goal of this research to identify strategies for making pavement—a boundless instance of carbon form—visible, as a means for us to register, confront, and ultimately overcome the ways that carbon form spatially dictates our lives.
Beyond the Pandemic, A New Future for Public Libraries
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
With the introduction of new media, the collections of public libraries have expanded to vari-ous formats including anything digital and virtual. During the pandemic, it seems that public libraries had globally adapted faster than many companies and public institutions because of this twenty-year investment in various types of technologies and media. However, the expansion of digital resources did accommodate the crisis that we are facing now, while it also invisibly exaggerated the disparities in equal access to the resource.1 In early January 2021, the US Census Bureau published the updat-ed result of their Household Pulse Survey, which addresses the impact of the COVID-19 on online learning. Of the 66 million households with children present in America, 4.8 million households with students still lack consistent access to a computer, and 3.3 million lack internet access.2 Facing the challenge of the serious resource disparities, how does the public library as a welcoming and equi-table infrastructure for communities adapt to the changes? This research aims to concentrate on the comparisons of public libraries at clarified regional/cultural locations to better classify the public libraries and study how well they can adapt further to the changes.
Furthermore, there is also a current crisis in having too much information and conflicting versions of “knowledge” and “truth”. In a study by Pew Research, 74% of the respondents believed that public libraries are helping people decide what information they can trust.3 During the pandemic, we have seen a proliferation of conflicting information from our daily applications like Facebook and WhatsApp. These conflicting information shared by people covers everything from the causes of COVID-19 to how to prevent the virus. It has also largely led to a continuing increase in the number of infected people, and even expands to the cause of the division of the society. A more serious ex-ample is the recent attack on the US Congress. How does the public library, an information store that people tend to trust, respond to both pandemic constrained physical access, and conflicting versions of knowledge and truth?
Looking back to the history, 19C to late 20C revolutionized library design in making them rad-ically accessible to the public. Late 20C to now, libraries were transformed by the need to deal with radically new media and inequitable access to new media, as well as a breadth of other new pro-grams, as “public living rooms”, and as social services providers. With the urgent issues raised today, I firmly believe this will result in a "third epoch" for libraries. The selected libraries will mainly focus on Western North America in comparison with Eastern North America, Post-war Japan in comparison with China, and Scandinavia in comparison with Central/Southern Europe (France, Germany, Italy). In this way, my visiting will involve making comparative judgments about which best represent their time and cultural moment, which do not succeed, and which perform better today. This research study and my projecting thesis design will consider to carry out what this change of epochs may mean for library architecture, comparing this to previous historical/cultural changes, and to propose better design ideas for the public library and propose a new relationship between it and people.
Cyber-tecture: future and futurism
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
At the end of last year, the game Cyberpunk 2077, an RPG game with the future cyberpunk world as the background, was launched. It instantly swept all over the world. In addition to the compact storyline and fascinating game sense, the conception of the future city and the high-density buildings (megastructures) in Cyberpunk 2077 triggered a series of thinking about the future and futurism architecture. I call them 'cyber-tecture'.
The background of cyberpunk is based on the combination of high tech and low life. Since the 1960s, the idea of cyberpunk has gradually become a kind of culture. The urban vision under the cyberpunk context also has iconic characteristics. Through the contrast between high-tech urban construction and the dark corners of the bottom of lives, it demonstrates a huge gap between rich and poor.
This kind of urban perspective is exactly the opposite of the utopia in human ideology. As far as utopia is concerned, it is a living environment that has been constantly tried and constructed by various philosophers, thinkers, and architects. From the Garden of Eden in the Bible to the hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy; from Plato’s Dreamland to Thomas Moore’s Utopia. Whatever in the virtual world or the real world, they all prove that Utopia represented a typical classical science fiction at the time.
The pursuit of utopia is a pursuit of an ideal world, or expressing satire and criticism of reality, or indulging in the depth of nothingness. And under the trend of overcorrection, it will even fall into a dystopian state. Dystopia is also a symbol of cyberpunk.
As early as 1927, the movie Metropolis portrayed a scene of a future city. In the film, a jungle of high-rise buildings appeared, sky roads between the buildings, and cars shuttled through them. The city and architects in the movie are similar as the Radiant City proposed by Le Corbusier. The city driven by the automobile and the construction of the freeway, showing the high efficiency, simplicity, and order of machine aesthetics. Peter Cook put forward a bold idea: Plug-In City, like Lego, combines residential, office buildings, supporting facilities, and other units to form a city. And Ron Herron proposed the concept of Walking Cites, making the entire city a moving megastructure. Therefore, the idea of the future city derived from the topic of urban development and population explosion is a major issue faced by architects and urban designers.
The development of modernist cities from CIAM to Team10 then to Archigram and Superstudio is a series of iterations of ideas. Most of the ideas about cities became the theoretical guidance for modern urbanism development, but many buildings under this background have been constructed in reality.
The architectures in cyberpunk are like huge straight square boxes, lacking decorations and curves, but with high-tech technologies. In reality, 'high-tech' buildings refer to buildings that use Complex construction techniques, such as The Centre Pompidou which focuses on the power of industrial technology and its predecessor Fun Palace.
Or it may be the buildings displayed through thick lines, exaggerated scales, and hard-core concrete materials in futuristic architecture, such as the Georgia bank in the capital of Georgia, Casa Sperimentale (Experimental House) in Freking Italy. Lycée Sainte Marie-Lyon (Lycée Sainte Marie-Lyon) in Laverville France.
Just like the return of cyberpunk to the early form of visual realization, black-and-white movies. these buildings built fifty to sixty years ago have become more interesting under the wash of time. Due to the flow of time, the 'future' of that era becomes the current 'present', then the future of today should develop in and direction.
Therefore, I hope to use this opportunity of fellowship to explore the different meanings of cyber-tecture under the different backgrounds of the present and the future, as well as the real world and the virtual world, with time as the axis.
Grounding the Highrise Dwelling
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
We talk of finding ‘ground’ and feeling ‘grounded’ as shorthands to express our rootedness to a certain place, a sentiment central to the concept of ‘home.’ It is in this regard that highrise housing, as a typology of ‘home’ which detaches the dweller from ground, presents a curious dilemma. Architects have arrived at a height-driven housing formula which increases the number of houses but decreases easy connections to ground like sidewalks, stoops, and porches, which modulate the relationship between the individual and the world at large. Instead these spaces are reduced to barren hallways and elevator boxes, made just wide enough for occupants to retreat into their own cells. Contemporary highrise housing functions to anonymize its occupants from each other and sever relationships between them and the greater urban context.
As cities remain strategic nodes in the global economy, demand for housing will continue to mount in these specific geographic locales with limited vacant land. The resulting push toward density puts pressure on architects to build dwelling units upwards, away from the urban commons on ‘natural ground.’ Though highrise living comes with its unique benefits in the urban core — such as better access to light and air and securement of individual privacy away from the streets — the tenants lie susceptible to social isolation as they lose connection with each other and with the broader community immediately adjacent to the building. This loss of neighborliness and what political scientist Robert Putnam terms “social capital” implicate significant consequences on society, especially during times like the current COVID-19 pandemic. As demonstrated in the UN’s 2020 World Happiness Report, inculcating higher levels of social trust builds community resilience against natural disasters and economic crises, allowing for mutual support and collective action to arise in times of need. Developing a better spatial strategy for highrise housing is key to finding solutions toward the current housing crisis and the urban loneliness epidemic.
What methods and articulations exist to reconnect the dwelling unit to ‘ground,’ both natural (as found) and artificial (as constructed)? The so-called ‘streets in the sky’ have been part of the architectural language at least since Alison and Peter Smithsons’ famed Golden Land Project -- what can we learn from this legacy that will help designers encourage public life and connectivity within contemporary highrise housing? Which attempts have ‘succeeded’ or ‘failed’ and why? What about the already existing urban datums in Singapore make parks and community spaces at various heights possible, as in WOHA’s Skyville? What new and different relationships of ‘publicness’ are afforded when ‘natural ground’ slopes to interact with the highrise housing at different points in height, as in Affonso Eduardo Reidy’s Pedrogulho? In what ways could existing urban context influence the creation of ‘artificial grounds’ within the highrise itself, such as in Parkhill? This travel research proposal aims to assemble a taxonomy of such spatial negotiations by studying the relationship between a selection of highrise housing developments and their grounds as defined by their contexts.
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
Much of architecture is designed to face in-wards. We shape interior spaces in which people can live out their lives, sheltered from the unpre-dictable elements of weather and society. The con-cept of “outside” takes its meaning primarily from its contrast to what is “inside,” where we spend the vast majority of our time. But there is a subset of ar-chitecture that is outward-facing. This architecture is tied intrinsically to its natural site, and even when one is inside, it is impossible to forget the expansive landscape only a few feet away. The landscapes that sustain such structures are not of the kind where the people are the soul of the place—rather, the place is the soul of the people. Around the world, there are places where a landscape identity is deeply woven into the fabric of society through centuries of survival, myths, and everyday exposure to ex-treme natural environments.
The concept of a landscape identity is common in landscape planning and policy. Stobbelar and Pedroli define it as “the perceived uniqueness of a place” and differentiate aspects of the definition along two axes.1 One axis follows the spectrum from the physically spatial to the philosophical-ly existential, while the other stretches from the individual and personal to a cultural identity. This proposal builds from this conceptual structure to position the architectural typology of the outpost within landscape identities around the world.
In remote areas across the globe, outposts have different names. In the United Kingdom, they are bothies. In Iceland, sæluhús. In the Alps, bivouacs and refuges, and in Norway, hytter. This global tradition of remote lodgings has sheltered travelers and locals alike for centuries, providing stepping stones of human intervention in untamed wilder-ness.
Outward facing architecture both confronts and is representative of a complex flow of natural resourc-es. Each structure is a manifestation of resource etworks of energy, water, and light that, through small interventions, have become suited to human habitation. Outposts are part of a past largely with-out electricity, central heating, and robust trans-portation networks. In remote landscapes, where survival may be at the whim of the weather, shelters must be brutally efficient and ruthlessly clever in their use of available resources. Minimalist dwell-ings must respond directly to the constraints of material availability, climate, geological and weath-er events, and programmatic purpose.
This proposal seeks to explore the role of these outposts in the larger cultural and physical systems that define the relationship between humans and the natural environment. This focus ranges from the practical scale of materials, construction, and survival, to the societal scale of how people position themselves in relation to the natural world around them. How did each shelter come to be built, where did the resources come from, and how are they maintained? How does this extreme architecture situate humans and their environment, whether in conflict, coexistence, or omission? What can we learn from survival and shelter in extreme natural environments, more akin to the human experience of the previous several million years than the last hundred?
For millennia, we lived as guests in the natural world. In the last few centuries, we have taken own-ership over the land and our place in it, but as the effects of climate change become more pronounced, we may be forced to come to terms with the natu-ral environment playing a greater role in our lives. What can hundreds of years of simple shelters teach us to be able to survive and thrive in a changing future?
Sites of Reflection: Caustics in Changing Urban Environments
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
The fields of architecture and urbanism seem to have rejected a serious consideration of the indescribable, the inconsistent, and the fleeting, affective events that take place across the surface of modern cities. Though suggesting close study of the intangible presents a blunt oxymoron, moments of joy and allure are important to understand as they relate to architecture, a discipline traditionally committed to permanence and mastery. As a less obvious relationship between buildings and the urban environment, fields of caustic reflection dramatically animate and connect sites across city space through contorted reflections of afternoon sun. In a more literal evaluation of the potential of video projection and multimedia on the surfaces of architecture, theorist Sylvia Lavin describes the ‘kiss’ of such interaction as offering the discipline “a set of qualities that architecture has long resisted: ephemerality and consilience.”1 My interest in studying caustics as an unconsidered urban condition looks to better understand the interplay of things that don’t necessarily belong together, and an idea of the present where uncertainty and change in cities can move beyond inducing angst, and towards opportunities for awareness and interrelation in city spaces.
Since the proliferating use of double-glazed window assemblies first installed en-masse during the 1970s energy crisis, the reflections of seemingly ordinary windows have the hidden capacity to occupy the seams of rapidly changing urban fabrics. Aldo Rossi’s idea of ‘locus’ as the fundamental study of both singular and universal relationships between a specific location and the buildings in it provides a useful approach to studying this urban phenomenon. Often, context is understood as a fixed state. Necessary current debates have revealed the privileging of certain ideas of context against the city that changes faster than we do as communities. As a re-evaluation of present conditions, this proposal aims to map, understand, and experiment with a universal and growing phenomenon whose potential existence is nevertheless dependent on specific moments of contrast, economy, morphology, and geometries in both the plan and section of contemporary cities.
Studies of sunlight in architecture tend to focus inward on performance managed within a building, or at times the shadows they cast. This project will follow a thread away from inward studies of the building (and a general insular attitude) to learn to recognize and understand the ephemeral and unexpected in everyday interaction between sunlight and the constructed form and material of the city. A comprehensive study would trace different lines of latitude and examine related solar and urban conditions across rational grids, Soviet microdistricts, and the accretion of ancient and modern street geometries. Such a geographically diverse study can only be made possible by a travel fellowship.
This will not be a study of exuberant curved facades or oversight of focused reflections capable of melting the hoods of nearby cars, such as London’s infamous Walkie Talkie building. The slight double curvature introduced to standard double-pane windows by differentials of pressure shows the surreal beauty and experience possible through certain understanding of the mundane. The proposed research will record and analyze multiple conditions to further consider how subtle tweaks to the urban world that already exists – the geometry of the city and footprints of buildings – or how novel use of material might introduce strategies for design to contribute to and amplify such experiences. My previous work has focused on a balance between precise calibration of geometry and ideas of looseness and the inexact in art and architecture, which I hope to carry into the proposed research.
This is admittedly a deeply superficial yet inherently public phenomenon. In this sense, it represents a relevant inroad to fraying the line between imposed exactness and joyful chance in the architecture of the city. Where the spatial intrusion of the familiar and strange typically produces an unease associated with the uncanny, immersive reflections of everyday components of architecture can invoke attentiveness, not anxiety. Studying this phenomenon in its mundanity and universality will contribute to a wider more layered idea of relationships in the built environment.
Back to the Future: Can Mass Timber Revitalize Traditional Wood Construction?
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
Can modern mass timber rethink and revive traditional timber construction, thereby continuing unique cultural legacies of craft in the built environment?
We currently stand at the cusp of a paradigm shift in building materials, away from steel and concrete towards mass timber. Mass timber engineered wood products, such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Dowel Laminated Timber (DLT), Glulam, Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), and Parallel Strand Lumber (PSL) are rapidly gaining trac-tion as sustainable and potentially carbon neutral alternatives to steel and concrete construction. Though mass timber will not obviate the need for steel and concrete in certain applications, it stands to drastically reduce the carbon footprint of the building industry by sequestering carbon and promising sustainable harvesting and production practices.
Timber is one of the oldest forms of construction and the cultures revolving around its use are myriad. The ad-vent of the industrial revolution and modern advances in building technology, as well as deforestation, reduced the viability of timber construction starting in the 19th century. Furthermore, industrial construction practices have eroded the workforce of skilled carpenters. Since then, traditional carpentry methods and timber construc-tions have seen a stark decline.
As a cabinetmaker I came to appreciate the unique properties of different wood species and engineered prod-ucts. Every species and product is unique in its properties, whether hard or softwood. Texture, smell, strength, patterning, malleability, and stability vary throughout. When one cuts or shapes a board or rips a piece of plywood, the wood reacts depending on grain structure, moisture content and much more. Ultimately wood is an anisotropic material, fickle and inherently natural, even when engineered. Mass timber products negate the less desirable qualities of wood as a building material, such as shrinkage, expansion, combustibility, and the limitations of tree size (i.e., maximum harvestable dimensions) through the reconstitution of timbers, primarily through cross-lamination and joining into stable panels (CLT, DLT), or beams (Glulam). Even what are typically considered waste products or otherwise undesirable logs can be repurposed into high performance elements (PSL). It stands to reason that based on the wood species used in the production of mass timber, mass timber products will have unique properties, particularly in how they are experienced by carpenters and end users of buildings.
Since wood burns and rots, most ancient timber structures no longer exist in their complete form, if they do at all. That said the historical timber constructions are deeply varied across cultures and several iconic structures remain. These are adapted to different climatic needs and uses and could serve as the framework for a new era of uniquely local woodcraft and construction thereby both preserving and expanding cultural heritage.
Mass timber has amazing potential for large scale constructions, by enabling spans and heights that would otherwise be impossible with traditional lumber. Simultaneously, it has the potential to reshape the way we approach residential and small-scale construction by allowing a return to traditional building methods with a modern twist. This poses a unique opportunity for the discipline of architecture to revisit and re-envision vernac-ular building techniques around the world, while creating a more sustainable and efficient built environment.
This project proposes an exploration of historical timber constructions, mass timber factories, and contempo-rary mass timber projects in the Pacific Northwest, Europe, and Japan to trace the possibilities for the use of modern mass timber products in vernacular architecture and craft. Ideally this will serve as a leitmotif through-out my career, the ways that mass timber can be used to create a sustainable architecture that is both contex-tual and innovative.
STATEMENT OF INTEREST
As some of the most common and least considered spaces, lavatories present fertile ground for both architectural analysis and development. While we all visit daily, in nearly every case, the restroom is experienced as a detour, not a destination. Our sanitation systems are foundational to healthy, livable urban environments. But, as a rule, the bathroom architectures and objects which comprise these infrastructures are forgotten - out of sight and out of mind.
Public restrooms are infrastructure as much as architecture, and, as architecture, they’re often mundane, shaped by the realities of inherited spaces, limited budgets, standardized designs, and ingrained cultural conventions. As the cliche goes, bathrooms are frequently drawn up by those lowest on the design food chain, and resultant spaces can seem like afterthoughts, wholly determined by plumbing, building, and legal codes’ dicta. Generic templates, slotted into place, engender familiar choreographies of ritual abjection and ablution.1 These spaces manifest as standardized continuations of the plumbing systems they enable. However, at the same time, the toilet is often the only place in a building designed to be directly touched, intimately occupied by the user, hooking them up to hidden systems of the clean and the obscene.
Simultaneously “emblems of civility and containers of social threat,” in contemporary society, public restrooms are more regulated than almost any other typology. These places uphold and enforce society’s “cherished classiﬁ cations;” 2 they are spaces of discipline, not only through segregation, surveillance, and policing, but equally through the systems of social discipline which users have internalized.3 Far from being standardized pieces of technology, bathrooms are culturally and historically speciﬁ c, reﬂ ecting the normative politics of their contexts. From the colonial period to today, the idea that certain groups of people are dirty or “excrementally uncontrolled” has been used to denigrate and exclude.4 Gender, race, class, religion, and ability all factor in. From the introduction of gendered restrooms, to the elimination of racially segregated bathrooms to the Americans with Disabilities Act to the ongoing campaign for gender-inclusive lavatories, public restrooms have long been at the head of civil rights movements. The bathroom’s issues are society’s issues.
From segregated value signaling to intimate ergonomics to the sometimes violent enforcement of racial, sexual, and gender policing, both the environments and behaviors of bathrooms carry heavy symbolic loads, reﬂecting ideas of purity and pollution, sacred and profane.
This study will seek to interrogate both the systems of ﬂ owing resources (energy, water, people, power) and the lived realities of individual experiences shaped by public toilets. Due to the nature of interactions with the typology, interiors are of primary interest, but exterior forms will be noted, particularly for how they signal values and norms, direct behaviors, and (dis)allow various forms of access and use. In many ways, toilet architecture is a quintessential architecture: it facilitates the fulfullment of basic human needs; it is often mundane, systematized, or simply poorly executed; and yet it is, occasionally, sublime.
Public restrooms tend to reveal the realities that other architectures hide. In these spaces, budget shorfalls reveal themselves, lapses in maintanence and care are most conspicuous, and, more than in any other public space, we are faced immedately with the organic realities of ourselves and others. Indeed, bathrooms and shit dissolve the delusive boundaries between pure and impure, subject and object, inside and outside.5 Within architecture, the traditionally assumed and still overwhelmingly present divisions of public/private and inside/outside are often shored up by masculine/feminine and nature/culture binaries.6 In the bathroom, we see that all of these dualities are suspect, and ripe for, perhaps not dissolution, but reinterpretation. In contrast to (or maybe more accurately: in reaction to) both the ﬂ uidity of the actions they coneal and the ranging realities of sex and gender embodiments are the rigid, architecturally imposed gender divisions common to lavatories. As public toilets are the primary architectural means through which gender is disciplined, they are also ideal sites for deconstructing these divides and fostering cultural change.