Architecture Theses and Dissertations

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    Power Stack
    (2023-04-21) Schneider, Michelle; Jiménez, Carlos; Friedman, Nathan
    This is an urban project that seeks to redesign the value of energy infrastructure. The obsolescence of oil and gas in Pasadena, Texas provides an opportunity to critically examine how energy infrastructure might be used as a net-positive urban agitator. How might we use infrastructure as a medium for progress? By considering not only what the infrastructure does as a precise utility, but what it means in urban space. The thesis integrates sustenance, with utility. In the future of energy production, consider not having one that supplies many, but nodes of power storage and supply that serve the local context. The thesis proposes a distributable architecture with an encoded ethical ideology within an urban scheme. A store of value for energy, but contrary to current industrial zones, also serving as a value to its proximity. Gravity-based energy storage, Power Stacks, store surplus energy, which is made available in times of supply fluctuations. The energy infrastructure is bolstered by floodable landscapes that also mitigate toxicity, remediating the ground upon which the energy infrastructure stands.
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    Perpetual Care
    (2023-04-21) Van Velden, Jane M; Utting, Brittany; Finley, Dawn
    Cemeteries are spaces where life and death are rendered materially. Despite death’s omnipresence, American burial customs are rooted in outdated traditions that push burial spaces to the outskirts of our cities and the grievers into spaces of isolation. Attitudes toward death have changed radically, and we need more democratic practices and new spaces for grief. This thesis imagines a new architectural typology and department within the Boston city government, the Department of Death, to provide an expanded set of death-related services.
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    Dirty Assemblies
    (2023-04-19) Cook, Anna; Castellon, Juan Jose; Finley, Dawn; Jimenez, Carlos
    This thesis is a critical analysis of the existing building culture in Houston, including the material choices and lifespans that make up the current conditions. Rather than accepting the anonymity of construction materials and practices, this project disrupts the seemingly inevitable inertia of these norms. This project speculates about an alternative future of building working within the framework of the seemingly banal existing construction assemblies through the exploration of a case study house as a lab of living building materials, capturing a testing ground in a moment of transition. This new understanding of assemblies, materials, and processes changes the relationship between the natural and built worlds. By creating a messy living situation, we are forced to consider our surroundings and the messiness of living in the world. As this system takes over the building, it will eventually compost the existing construction. In the same way, this system is eating away at existing practices to transition to a more holistic system of biomaterials. After testing these systems on the case study house, the vision is that these interventions are strategically deployed across many building types in order to slow down the damage of construction while building up a counter-reality. I want to acknowledge that this presentation essentially shows a moment in time probably a few months past the installation. The users of this Lab House record their experiences in many terms: experiential, thermal, and maintenance. They plan to start similar interventions on other local buildings using these studies to produce a strategic, targeted application of materiality. Although their built environment has been subsumed with the natural, not all buildings using these assembly processes will be quite as heavy in terms of application. Introducing the results of the case study house into the mainstream construction market creates new methods and systems that can be broadly applied and eventually replace our existing materials and assemblies. This exploration of a transitional mode of building revolutionizes the value systems and methods that designers and construction professionals use. As we rework this paradigm, it raises the issue of the continuous labor of care and the question of who and what else should be considered in the creation and maintenance of buildings . By treating soil, buildings, and humans as equal companions, the given paradigm is no longer valid, and the creation of a new system lends itself to an industry of building care. This thesis is a stance on individual and collective relationships with the environments in which we live. A key supporting document is the catalog of dirty assemblies which details building processes, experiences and metrics from the case study house, and insight into how to move forward. It shows how to tangibly confront pressing issues of environment, material, and existing building culture. The catalog offers an accessible framework that makes us deeply examine what it means to inhabit the world today.
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    Cultivating Commons Adaptive Reuse of a Parking Garage
    (2023-04-19) McGlone, Kim; Castellon, Juan Jose; Finley, Dawn; Jimenez, Carlos
    ABSTRACT Parking garages are part of the invisible infrastructure of urban centers. Tectonic masses that are relatively unnoticed until needed. Interest in alternate transportation and urban planning methods make them increasingly obsolete, leaving the skeletal remains to assume a new identity. They are situated on desirable real estate, provide an occupiable structure and opportunities to reduce the economic and environmental impact of demolition. Cultivating Commons transforms an underutilized parking garage into a hybrid condition, accommodating current parking needs and incorporating ecological programs to create a public center that promotes social and community interaction in a healthy and balanced building ecosystem.
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    Reflective Expansion
    (2020-04-22) Sha, Ling; Wamble, Mark; Finley, Dawn
    By putting the performance space between two service poché spaces, in front of a reflecting surface: Glass, and tuning light effect on both sides of the reflective surface, the definition of performance is expanded to include the daily behavior of the audience’s self, neighbors, and people on opposite side of the reflective surface. While the depth of space expands and contracts with the swinging light effect that oscillates visually between Opaque Division and Transparent Connection resulting from different levels of reflection.
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    (2021-01-26) Oetzel, Alexandra; Ng, Amelyn; Finley, Dawn; Geiser, Reto
    This thesis counters the existing model of fast-food franchising by addressing private property, real estate speculation, and the myth of trickle-down economics through a subversion of an existing architectural typology. The intent is to create something that is both local and global as a result of a typological change in spatial product which, at even the smallest scale, holds a significant impact on the character of the franchising system as a whole. It is through an implementation of a worker's cooperative business model that this typological shift is supported. By collapsing the physical, logistical, and bureaucratic distance between corporate ownership and individual stores/employees, the counter-franchise^tm becomes an equitable, self-determined, intergenerational system of food, work, and land. It is only with this systemic change that the suite of architectural products is able to respond and serve specific constituents and spaces, unencumbered by the top-down management of saleable product. An entirely new burgerscape, comprised of this diverse suite of products, will be imagined as a network for collective, co-operative action across vast physical space, unworking the legacy of franchises, empires, and other colonial practices.
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    Still Loops
    (2022-04-22) Najafpour Khadem, Pouya; Schaum, Troy
    An Inquiry through the ontological state of furniture
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    Black Bridge: Reclaiming the Public Ground
    (2022-04-22) Cui, Jianing; Utting, Brittany; Finlay, Dawn; Geiser, Reto
    The construction and the removal of big urban forms are operated by massive quantities of human labor and material movement, but their presence in the city has been mostly erased. The workers often live in these uncharted grey zones at the city’s periphery. In return for their labor and production, what the migrant workers get in their temporary shelter is urban debris - landfill, sand mining pit, or a makeshift coal yard. It is where the city dumps its dirt. Studying Black Bridge village, a “work-site” that has been removed, and following the trace of the dirt, might reveal an alternative imagination of what urban life could be. Taking inspiration from the communal experiment at Black Bridge, the project imagines a heterogeneous community consisting of layers of occupiable structures of different permanency that supports programs including permanent collective housing, workspace, and public space of various enclosures that would recognize the marginalized people’s unmovable place in the city and become a space of resistance.
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    Engagement with Aging
    (2022-04-19) Francis, Carolyn Mae; Finley, Dawn
    Both buildings and their intended uses have finite lifespans. Standard architectural practice typically favors a fragmented view of time, one that fails to acknowledge the unpredictability and tension that arises from the aging of materials due to neglect, weather or appropriation. Decay is often met with disposal or nostalgia-induced commodification, thereby affecting our social and cultural order by associating material decline with opportunities for further consumption. This project proposes an alternative approach to adaptation by considering the ways in which aging infrastructure can be a vibrant site of engagement with place through precise interventions that dialogue with rather than prevent entropy.
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    Paradise Waiting: Shaping Experiences of Wait via Piraeus Port of Athens
    (2022-04-21) Li, Carrie; Schaum, Troy; Finley, Dawn; Geiser, Reto
    Design of a multimodal transportation hub that engages with the phenomenon of waiting
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    Missing Middles
    (2022-04-18) Lopez, Sebastian A; Vassallo Fernandez, Jesus
    Toronto is a major city in Canada that displays many of the characteristics of global cities. In a context where many large cities around the world are experiencing affordable housing scarcity, this thesis develops a new methodology—using Toronto as a case study—for architecture to insert itself in dialogue with extra-disciplinary forces shaping cities such as policy and zoning. It begins from the scale of the city through the tools of zoning, zooms in to the scale of the neighborhood, and finally, to the scale of the block, the typology, and architecture.
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    (2022-04-21) Okimoto, Mai; Utting, Brittany; Finley, Dawn; Geiser, Reto
    This thesis explores what it means to address a space of lingering through a former industrial site and its surrounding neighborhood in Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward. Addressing the discomforting or unwanted lingerers as well as the innocuous and overlooked lingerers – ranging from the toxic industrial waste that persists in the groundwater to the residents who continue to live above the waste -- the lingering patch pays attention to and offers space for the things that have been shaped by but forgotten by a society driven by accumulation, speed, and instantaneity.
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    Better Pedestrian City
    (2022-04-20) Zhu, Beixi; Finley, Dawn; Colman, Scott
    The image of high-rise buildings sitting on an isolated island has become the desired format for new urban developments in Chinese cities. This thesis proposes a new kind of city, that by freeing the ground plane of traffic and commerce, permits the realization of urban qualities unexpected in the current metropolis. In the time of new media technologies, culture has undergone a radical transformation that has yet to be reflected in the realities of the city. The proposal, based on an existing site in the Hongkou district of Shanghai, assumes current urban trends in urban circulation, demography, and density. By reimagining the movements and uses of the contemporary city this thesis envisions a possible new urban reality.
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    Room(s) for Care
    (2022-04-20) Sollie, Lene-Mari; Vassallo Fernandez, Jesus
    Room(s) for Care explores an alternative housing model with a focus on two seemingly disparate Norwegian populations. Seniors (pensioners) and young individuals who came to Norway as unaccompanied minor refugees often face similar challenges of loneliness and isolation due to physical and cultural/social factors respectively. The project departs from the current housing stock and conditions for both populations - most often highly institutionalized or completely decentralized models, and considers the layers and complexities of intergenerational housing that honors the importance of both independence and collectivity. While collective housing has been an increasingly established typology in many parts of the world, this thesis addresses challenges and opportunities of designing for this type in a Nordic climate and culture.
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    Vaults in Deserts and Swamps
    (2022-04-22) Barajas, Estefania; Castellon, Juan Jose; Finley, Dawn; Geiser, Reto
    The project aims to promote urban agriculture and create new public spaces that introduce play, fresh produce, and entrepreneurial opportunities for historically disinvested communities. By developing a multiscalar structure that serves as a vertical farm, outdoor classroom, and distribution center / local store, the project aims to help introduce an alternative collective space within public schools.
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    Rites of Passage
    (2022-04-21) Harrienger, Jeremy; Colopy, Andrew
    This design for a material-focused culture center monumentalizes the use of timber, and catalyzes a change in the way forest resources are distributed while creating new ties between the local community and its resources.
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    Architecture Sans Commodity: Food, Construction, & Social Capital
    (2022-04-21) Davis, Rylie Elizabeth; Nichols, Sarah
    This project investigates the architecture and social implications of the modern grocery store. The design of a food cooperative in Houston's Fifth Ward considers site, context, and building obsolescence through building tectonics.
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    The Heart of the Texas Triangle: Strategies for Open-Landscape Preservation
    (2022-04-22) Phillips, Lauren Joseph; Colman, Scott
    The interurban landscape of Central Texas is undergoing a rapid transformation as metropolitan centers reach out to one another along the interstate highways of the Texas Triangle. Rural communities, farmland, and ranchland are quickly subsumed by low-density suburban development that is oriented toward the economic needs of Texas’s major cities. While targeted land conservation efforts led by private land trusts do exist in the state, their piecemeal acquisition of conservation easements is often unable to preserve the reading and experience of the landscape as a totality. This thesis considers the economic pressures driving development in the Texas Triangle, and the mechanisms of territorial allocation and control currently operating in the state, and proposes a local government “Special District,” the Caldwell County Conservation District, that would have the authority to regulate development and land use in a specific at-risk Texas county. In addition to determining a county-wide development envelope and conservation sub-districts within the county, the project considers both financial and amenity arrangements with nearby cities that are mutually beneficial and mutually supportive. The project proposes that facets of public policy, tax law, municipal ordinances, annexation strategies, and land use plans are not merely obstacles to be navigated, but design tools that can have a broad impact across a region—supporting smart development, advancing the cause of conservation generally, and creating value for residents and stakeholders.
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    Hydrosocial Spaces
    (2022-04-19) Chambers, Lindsey; Nichols, Sarah
    This project concerns the many forms of water in Houston. Existing in dual states—referencing Ivan Illich’s H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness—water is both life-giving and treacherous. Houston’s water exists as a resource for living and playing, in its parks, bayous, and public pools. Alternately, water threatens life and property, as the city has been developed too close to its waterways. This thesis reimagines Houston’s public relationship to water, considering the intersections of the cycles of water collection, purification, and use with infrastructures of recreation and water storage. Multiple kinds of water are dealt with across one site, offering an alternative to existing forms of retention and detention in Houston to create a new series of hydrosocial spaces that allow the public to enjoy water recreation and engage with many different points of the water cycle.
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    Something Natural
    (2022-04-20) Neuffer, Cole Pan Yenxi; Geiser, Reto; Finley, Dawn
    An investigation of the aesthetic and material potentials of wood