because all of my site documentation was 50% site and 50% fall foliage, i went back this weekend to take some more pictures. as expected, the bare winter trees allowed for more unobstructed views of the existing buildings. however, i was surprised how different the square felt without leafy trees. the space was less broken up and there was more of a sense of unity, like maybe it could actually be an activated urban space.

view from the hill behind the community center. you can see the school and church in one shot.


this image looks tiny, but it represents a rigorous investigation of how additions respond to their respective existing buildings. the two extremes of the spectrum are the BSA headquartes in boston by howeler + yoon and the military museum in dresden by daniel libeskind. 

i have a corner and an interior condition to work with. for the corner, i conducted some studies and made some models to test out what this corner should be. in the end, i decided that it is okay to make something dramatic. the juxtaposition of the 1890s romanesque revival church with this new mass allows them to be understood separately as coming from different times and having different intents.


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there are two extreme types of additions: the lightly-touching addition with similar language and proportion, and then there is the parasite.

this diagram shows a few precedents (the list is growing) that i am looking at in an addition study. the first review of the semester was last thursday, and the big question for my project was what is this addition? is it something that blends in and continues the church? is it a distinct, autonomous object? or is it a parasite that cuts into the existing structure(s) and lives off of them?

one architect whose work with existing structures caught my eye is daniel libeskind. i have been to two of his buildings: the jewish museum in berlin and the jewish museum in san francisco. both of these projects involve extensive renovation and addition to an existing historic building. the museum in san francisco has a more invasive addition; this modified cube protrudes from one end, but is also more subtly present throughout the building. the jewish museum in berlin is expressed as an old building unto itself with a closely adjacent new addition.

what is very interesting about both of these situations is the way entrance is dealt with; it does not change. you still enter the san francisco museum via the old brick building, and circulate through the new addition to go to the upper levels. in the berlin museum, you also enter through the old building and go through an underground passage to get to the new part. it’s interesting to consider the implications of moving an entrance or maintaing the original.

this past week i went to the recently-opened and much anticipated renzo piano addition of the isabella stwewart garner museum. i place this addition on the more congruous end of the spectrum. being such an amazing object unto itself, it was important that this addition only touch the museum delicately; the only link between them is a narrow glass passageway. however, this addition still completely changed the way i experience the original museum because it changes the way you enter. rather than being on axis to the center of the courtyard, you now enter the new addition from evans way, walk through a glass hallway, and end up on the southeast corner of the courtyard. im not sure if the old entrance is under construction and this is only a temporary situation, but i rather think the old entrance sequence was more striking.

so what does this mean for my thesis? do i cut through the church to make some provocative expression? no, but i also don’t want to be so delicate as to only extend a small appendage to connect the church with some new program. the third way to unite old and new is to create a buffer. this buffer is important because it also expressive of my concept of reverberation. in this buffer, you should be able to hear the muted sounds eminnating from the church as well as those coming from the band rehearsal rooms. this will be a space for the public to wander in. is leaves me with an important question: what will happen to the entrance?

i was originally thinking about changing the entrance to the church. since the church is the monumental piece of my site, i don’t want to alter it too much, but some minor surgery might be okay. i was thinking about creating sloped seating by raising the ground floor level to the bottom of the windows, and allowing it to slope down to the current level at the apse. that way, the first window can become a door, and the others can be windows that are at a level one can look down into the church from. does changing the entrance completely change the space though? this is something that i will be focusing on this week by continuing my addition study, as well as looking at alternative solutions.

the persistence of sound in a particular space after the original sound is removed.

88 days until this thesis is due. Exactly one month has elapsed since the end of the last semester, and although my thesis continually occupies my mind, it has been some time since I formally talked about it. Therefore, I think it is necessary to take some time to reflect on what it actually is. In two days, I will need to have prepared an idea map and a road map that plans my process over the next 88 days. In addition, I will be making my first three conceptual models of overall ideas as well as specific moments that I want my project to encompass.

My thesis is my claim that architectural forms which transcend time, people, and societal ideals need to be dealt with in a way that neither preserves them in a state of frozen history, nor presupposes their obsolescence and subsequent demolition. As time passes, the purpose for which a building was originally designed and used for might turn into something different. When this happens, different waves of people will occupy the building and their engagement with it will create individual experiences, which will in turn be embedded in these people’s collective memory. Old buildings that have changed in program over time develop a mystical quality, which is the result of understanding that they have been a part of so many other people’s lives. They can shape the identity of a place and its people, at leas the history of the people. This is not a history that needs to be frozen and preserved. By taking an old building whose original function is no longer needed and turning it into something that is necessary for the needs of society today, it is possible to acknowledge the origins of the building and the site, and adapt it for current needs. This layering of history is what makes architecture and cities so complex, and I believe it should be embraced.

To prove this, I am using an example of a building that was more vital to the societal ideals of 110 years ago when it was built: a church. setting aside the issue of our society becoming more secular than religious, there is also a shift from the parochial to the global. back when this church was built, it was more than a place for religious worship; it was the center of a microneighborhood. back then, particularly in a city, people did not move around as much. today, people live here for a few years, then they can live in another state for a few years. they drive more, and can even participate in a virtual community. although it is evident that we are becoming more global, i feel that the need for human interaction and a sense of neighborhood is something people will continue to want no matter where they are and how long they are there for. the church is obviously not the center for this for many people anymore, so i want to implement a program that is one example of how to continue the function of an old building by adapting it for current needs.

what needs did a church fullfill that are still valid today? well, i already talked about the center for community activities. but what can that be? a music school is an ideal program because it not only attracts new people to this site, but it allows for the people who are currently living in that part of charlestown, in whose collective memory this church is embedded, to have a place to either learn a musical craft or watch a performance. there are two overlapping issues that can be fixed with the same problem. One issue is that a music school is noisy. The other is that it is a public space in a residential neighborhood. The solution? Well, looking at a figure ground of this area, it is evident that it is a patchwork of urban change:

the yellow part was not there when the church was built. it might seem strange today to have a school so closely adjacent to a residential complex, but back when the church was built, it probably stood alone. rather than allowing the yellow blob to swallow it up (heavens forbid a church be divided into condos!) the church complex must be fortified. not too literally as to say STAY OUT to nearby residents, but enough to muffle the noise and express it as an autonomous site that is more special than the surrounding residences. also, there will be a courtyard in the center that the rooms will face, leaving more solid walls exposed to the outside. this map not only shows the yellow/purple dynamic, but demonstrates the idea of layering that i was talking about earlier. the pink represents those old, densely built houses that are iconic to charlestown. the blue is the charlestown navy yard. the yellow is projects. the orange is more projects? the green in a highschool complex, and the purple is a group of misfits. aside from the old parish, there is a hideous community center, a liquor store, and a police station, which is separated from the navy yard by the heavy presence of the tobin bridge overhead.

okay… i ended up writing a little more than a paragraph. i guess it’s hard to have a quick informal reflection on a semestersworth of work.

prospectus: written, assembled, printed, adhesive-d, bound, velcro-d, inserted into old book shell. complete.

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yale bound. new book inside old book.

front cover

the new book is held in the old shell by velcro. the velcro strip could use a dab of zap-a-gap.

As time passes, built forms manifest the ephemerality of functions and people. Most forms will outlive the purpose for which they were originally designed, leaving them up to the interpretation of following generations of users. The process of leaving behind a shell severs the relationship between form and function. When a shell persists through multiple cycles of inhabitants, it becomes an artifact—a physical expression of a past era that has transcended time. Our engagement with this artifact is more complex than our experiences of new structures because a new level of interpretation, the collective memory, is involved. The collective memory is not the same as the history of a place. The existence of a particular group of people and function within a form is history; history shifts to memory once this group leaves the form behind. The history of the place progresses as new waves of human presence take over. These people leave their own traces on the form, and over time, these traces become the matter that embodies the collective memory.

this is why i haven’t been working on thesis for the past two weeks. studio crunch time was very cruchy this semester.

that trip i took with studio back in september was to kickoff (and find a site for) this project, and here it is, complete.

the project is an artists’ co-op in pioneer square, the historic district of seattle. the concept is creating disparate studio spaces for different types of crafts (mainly glass-blowing, metal working, ceramics, painting, and textiles) in a relatively small building that can have some sort of relationship with each other through a series of solids and voids, which also serve to pull one bay into another.

they are there. they are 2000+ years old. what do they mean to us today? in my research, i’ve read a lot on the idea of monuments. there are monuments that are built to me monuments, such as war memorials, and that kind of thing. then there are monuments that are monuments because they are just old. then there is monumental architecture…which is something else. what is the difference between a monument and a memorial?

once again, let me consult the oxford english dictionary.

monument, n. 

a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event.

a statue or other structure placed over a grave in memory of the dead

a building, structure, or site that is of historical importance or interest

an enduring and memorable example of something


okay, so it appears that a monument has a broader definition than “memorial”; it does not have to be in memory of something or someone, but can also be expressive of a civilization or idea.

architects louis kahn and aldo rossi were around during the same time, sometime after the height of modernism and before postmodernism. they both spent time studying ruins and the layering of history within cities. this is evident in both of their work. it is apparent that they rejected the lightness, transparency (and ultimately transience) of modernism, and strove to create heavy, pure forms that will survive as monuments of their generation.