How generous can a kiosk be? Rather than build a boutique ornament, we need to think bigger. Instead of providing a luxury for the few, the Chicago Horizon maximizes its reach. It emphasizes a proliferation of space over form or detail. In lieu of flash, it provides relief for the city. The design for the kiosk became a quest to create the largest wood roof possible—to demarcate a zone of the city for all to enjoy.
Inspired by two Chicago prototypes—Mies van der Rohe’s experiments in flatness and the Eames’ explorations of scale in Powers of Ten—we designed a 56’ square open roof with the largest clear spans possible.
Radical simplicity underlies a subtle and varied experience. The lateral reach of the roof recalibrates the experience of two extremes of the Chicago landscape: at ground level, the Lake Michigan horizon dominates, forming a line of symmetry between ground and canopy. From the viewing platform, the roof becomes a new artificial horizon, shutting out the foreground and emphasizing the vertical skyline above an abstract floating plane.
The materials used in the pavilion are inexpensive: just some structural grade wood and chain—link fencing. Minimizing the cost of materials maximizes space for the public, and provides the Biennial with a dedicated event space in Millennium Park. The roof is made from Cross—Laminated Timber, a new structural wood material that sequesters carbon in its fibers. The roof alone more than offsets the emissions generated by all the other materials used in the project combined.
Two programmatic volumes—a viewing platform and a vending kiosk—hang between the roof and the ground. Enclosed in chain link fencing used in tension, the volumes provide a subtle hierarchy within the otherwise open plan. Fin columns are distributed in a finely tuned radial pattern to respond to lateral loads and uplift; their orientation creates at once an intense focus on the space and activities central to the pavilion, as well as outwards towards the horizon.
At night, the chain link enclosures double as a lighting installation, attracting visitors to their mysterious glow. Each is outfitted with a plane of programmable LED lighting and glowing with a different color temperature: one warm (moonlight), one cool (daylight). The two pulsate in dialogue with each other throughout the night, alternating between the two poles of experience that the kiosk creates: floor and ceiling; day and night.
Project team: Will Gant, Hua Gao, Ronak Hingarh, Tida Osotsapa, Emily Yen
Design Engineer: Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson and Associates
Engineer of Record: Thornton Tomasetti
Architect of Record: Animate Architecture
Photographs by Naho Kubota
Chicago Horizon was the winner of the BP Prize in the Chicago Lakefront Kiosk Competition for the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial. Generous additional support for both design and construction were provided by Nordic Structures, reThink Wood, and the Rhode Island School of Design.
Chicago Architecture Biennial BP Prize, 2015
WoodWorks Award, Best Government Building, 2015
Architect R+D Awards, Citation, 2016
AIA Rhode Island Honor Award, 2017
SEAoNY Excellence in Structural Engineering Award, 2017
Much urban architecture is framed in terms of solid and void: how to maintain the semblance of a historic city in the face of the automobile, regardless of shifting patterns of growth and inhabitation. This project for a new public garden and performance venue sees the voids opened up in the city by the planning decisions of the 1960s as an opportunity both for public space and for a new form of East—coast urbanism: the urbanism of the extended boundary.
A new public space is conceived as a green band cutting through the vast asphalt parking lot behind an existing cultural center, which as part of recent zoning changes has sharply reduced parking requirements. The strip serves as a soft boundary between the parking lot, the surrounding city, and the existing cultural center, reconnecting adjacent streets and marking the lot as an integral piece of the public realm. The large lawn serves as a generous gathering space bookended by native perennials at either end.
The centerpiece of the green band is a three—season performance venue that expands the capacity of local performance groups. Built from a modified catalog greenhouse, the performance space serves as an intensification of the landscape and the programming activities of the cultural center. The monumental doors attached at every column form a new order that, when open, extend the pavilion from discrete, minimal object out into the city. Simultaneously, timed lighting elements integrated into pavilion, fence, and landscape, allow the project to serve as a beacon within the neighborhood as it transitions from day into night.
Design—build collaboration with RISD Architecture students and the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island
Design Leads: Aaron Forrest, Yasmin Vobis, Elettra Bordonaro (Light Follows Behaviour), Katy Foley PLA (RISD Landscape Architecture)
Design—Build Lead: Sina Almassi
Administrative Leads: Laura Briggs, Jonathan Knowles, Scheri Fultineer, Sara Sullivan, Sara Willett
Architect of Record: James Barnes
Structural Engineer: Wilbur Yoder
Photographs by Naho Kubota
2016 AIAri Merit Award, Educational/Institutional Category
2016 AIAri People's Choice Award
2017 dbXchange Awards, Honorable Mention
2018 ACSA Collaborative Practice Award
An oversize textile hangs within the industrial warehouse: a floating tabula rasa. The lightweight fabric hangs in a subtle catenary shape, creating new spaces and environments without the construction of a single wall. Monumental voids cut into the fabric lightly define rooms within the larger space, while a careful choreography allows the textile to animate between states twice during the night: from a low—lying plane that clears the space to floating overhead canopy—and back again.
Table's Clear was an installation for the Architectural League of New York's Beaux Arts Ball 2016.
Project team: Chris Beck
Engineering: Brett Schneider
Fabrication: Gerriets International
Lighting: Wild Dogs International
Installation team: Pamela Funes—Montaldo, Daejeong Kim, Trevor Knebel, Michael Perles, Noah Klersfeld, Brandon Wang
Photographs by Naho Kubota
The Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island is the cultural hub of the Southside neighborhood and is home to a number of partner groups whose activities range across many types of performance: including dance, theater, comedy and storytelling. Originally built as the sunday school for the adjacent church, this 24,400 square—foot building is in need of a renovation that can fully address its new use as a cultural center that fosters diverse voices.
Our proposed renovation aims to expand the cultural center’s capacity by making its four performance spaces more flexible and bringing them up to contemporary standards. The currently congested main floor will be reconfigured and opened up for better visitor flow, and will include a more generous entrance lobby and cafe that double function as a gallery and intimate performance space. A new accessible entrance facing the public garden and parking lot will welcome visitors and announce the activities housed within the building on an urban scale.
Project team: Charlie Cotton, Yunchao Le, Tiantian Lou, Jeff Yinong Tao
Four Corners reimagines the traditional timber bent as a three—dimensional construct, unfolding through space and developing unexpected forms and relationships. The design is composed of a series of Cross Laminated Timber "corners" of complementary proportion cut from a barn—shaped primitive and reassembled into a cantilevering column—assembly. Through recombination, arraying, and stacking, a varied and unexpected labyrinth arises.
Four Corners is composed of three interlocking column—assemblies forming a network of corridors, courtyards, and outward—facing apses. The central courtyard space serves as a micro—exhibition space featuring a rotating series of video works by artist Noah Klersfeld. The corridors and apses lead to the windows looking out to the city, creating a series of semi—private rooms in conjunction with the existing architecture.
Each column is assembled from four CLT bents cantilevering off of a central ‘column’, which is actually an extension of one of the bent walls down to the floor. Though each bent is structurally incomplete, when assembled into the four—corners column they become rigid. Likewise, once each column assembly is attached to its neighbors, they act together to become stable. CLT is used monolithically as both structure and skin, in keeping with the tradition of timber construction.
Structural Engineer: Chris Carbone, Bensonwood
Advisory Architect: Andrew Waugh, Waugh Thistleton Architects
Fabricator: Jean—Marc Dubois, Nordic Structures
Installation team: Jack Dinning, Jimmie Drummond, Pei—Ying Lin, Leo Henke, Neda Mostafavi, Matthew McMahon
A simple boundary is formed through the collusion between centuries of layered real estate transactions with a pure Euclidean geometry: an inscribed circle. This simple demarcation has profound consequences: different rules apply inside the circle than outside. Combining a fascination with enormous lightweight structures with the use of cheap industrial materials, we can begin to consider how little it might take to delineate a maximum space—to create an immense volume without mass. A clearing in the city. A space for recess.
The interior is a flexible space that encourages play in its many guises. In addition to allowing for daytime recreation and massive crowds during music events, its subtle order creates opportunities for new forms of games and performance. The volume rises to a height of fifty feet, shading the courtyard on hot summer days and screening the immediate context with a soft but porous veil, creating the necessary preconditions for fantasy and play.
The boundary is made up of two chain link layers: one left raw, the other brightly colored; one vertical, the other inclined. Together the layers create a boundary with depth, ripe for exploration.
Rather than fussy details or precious materials, the emphasis is on maximizing space for play. Two simple materials—chain link and wood—used in structural counterpoint allow us to define this boundary with incredible economy. Chain link is used to stabilize the form while revealing itself to be beautiful and sensuous: a fabric with an origin in urban grit. The timber frame—eleven shifting columns at a scale rarely seen—negotiates between structural demands and spatial richness. It stands away from the boundary to create a subtle order of its own within the volume.
A number of movable elements instigate play. Hula—hoops, frisbees, and jump—ropes are the minimal tools for rule—based movements: they are essentially lines in space. When not in use, this equipment is hung between the layers of chain link, forming a transparent display of possibilities for action. In addition, oversize balls made of tightened chainlink and giant model trees made of lumber and construction netting confound the scale of the space and its players. Suddenly, we are all children again…
MoMA PS1 Competition Finalist.
Project Team: Will Gant, Hua Gao, Tida Osotsapa
Structural Engineer: Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson & Associates. Chris Carbone, Bensonwood
Lighting Design: Elettra Bordonaro, Light Follows Behaviour
Our design for the Roger Williams Park Broad Street Visitor’s Center seeks to intensify the adjacent cultural and natural landscapes on site, creating physical and visual connections to both the city and the park. The building’s height and striking materiality create a visible, inhabitable landmark, and Broad Street’s bold colors are reinterpreted in a multilayered, diaphanous trellis, extending upwards and reflecting both the local architectural culture and the park’s greenery.
The trellis surrounds a public green roof terrace, planted with sedum and offering framed views towards the city and park. The terrace acts as a natural extension of the community plaza below, allowing additional space for programming, education, and fundraising.
The building’s design utilizes an innovative CLT structure which allows for long spans and large openings while folding down seamlessly to support the feature stair.
Competition Second Place
Project Team: Bob Mohr, Louna Bou Ghanem
The renovation of a former industrial space into our own office is structured by two elements: oversized, abstracted furniture and a large—scale, veil—like curtain. The furniture, defined by a pair of very large tables and a stack of deep storage shelves, is built using standard construction products yet detailed to be purposely abstract. Its oversized scale allows flexibility of use and is shaped in part by the prominence of model—building in our design process. The custom furniture elements are complemented by abstract IKEA storage cabinets.
The curtain pairs two layers of scrim—one black, one white— that can regulate a variety of lighting conditions while serving as a veil over wall cabinets and other equipment for times when a cleaner appearance—or a bit of dramatic flair—is demanded. Hooks along the wall alow the curtain to be stowed for quick access to storage. The space is lit by a trio of standard fluorescent tube fixtures modified so that the bulbs are simply suspended from the ceiling above.
Project Team: Jeff Yinong Tao, Tiantian Lou, Charlie Cotton, Gabriel Schmid
This project for the renovation of an exhibition gallery in an active art school required the resolution of competing demands: the need for a clean, neutral space for the display of professional artwork, and the demands of the students and faculty who regularly use the space for critique, debate, and large—scale fabrication. Our strategy for this renovation within a 19th—century factory building was to selectively reveal the working history evident in the building, and then to build up a new set of surfaces suitable for the exhibition of art. Working in concert, the historic and the new reinforce the concept of a gallery as a place for the creation and discursive exchange of artistic work in its many forms.
The first step included exposing original timber joists, heavy timber and steel framing, and cast iron columns. The second step manifested itself with the insertion of a plywood wrapper upon which two plaster display walls were hung, and which serve as the primary display surfaces. The plywood backing of the walls is expressed with an exaggerated thickness which contrasts with the lightness of the original cast iron columns while creating a cavity for the concealed routing of electrical cords required for exhibitions.
The project scope included the installation of a museum—quality LED lighting system, new built—in storage, and the creation of new building signage to announce the gallery’s presence to the street. Furniture pieces to complement the art display system were designed to allow visitors to rest in the storefront area.
AIA Rhode Island Design Awards, Citation, 2017
Rhode Island Monthly Design Awards, Gold Medal for Commercial Interiors, 2018
This conversion of a former VFW Hall into an artist’s house and studio is predicated on a dialogue between two vernacular forms: the brutalist concrete block and steel construction of the existing building and the residential neighborhood that surrounds it. The north façade retains the character of the original building, with vertical strip windows interspersed by split rib concrete masonry. The south façade, facing the garden, relaxes the window grid typical of masonry buildings to create a dialogue with nearby residential and industrial buildings with a set of large square openings. The steel lintels on the new window openings are exaggerated to add depth to the façade without unnecessary expression. The entire building is washed in a single color, evening out the tone while retaining the texture of past changes to the building.
The interior is split into two: a 3,200 SF loft—like space for the owner alongside a 1,600SF rental apartment. Editing the existing structure to a minimal state, the owner’s unit is characterized by a bridge—like living space floating between the two facades described above: one striated and vertical, the other a relaxed grid. The bridge creates double—height spaces along both principal facades, allowing substantial daylight into the below—grade bedroom and studio spaces and minimizing the need for artificial lighting.
Project Team: Charlie Cotton, Yunchao Le
Structural Engineer: Structures Workshop
Most architecture is made out of planes. Plywood, sheetrock, glass. This one is different. It’s a solid made out of lines. It races from the first dimension to the third without stopping to catch its breath. An array of triangular columns form a square plan with a circular void cut out. An architectural primitive in every sense of the word.
The devil is in the details. The grid appears normal, but falls in a quincunx pattern, creating a dialogue between triangle and square. The circular void forces slight deviations in the pattern: the square talks to the circle. This geometric game of telephone is juxtaposed with a rough materiality: knotty cedar posts, an aluminum mesh veil over the top. The experience is that of an abstract, diaphanous orchard with a clearing in the center where people can gather.
Pavilion for Design Biennial Boston.
Engineering: Brett Schneider
Project Team: David Amdie, Po Ming Chou, Karin Hostettler, Wilfred Rodriguez, Nil Shu Shang, Alice Zhen.
This prototype for a zero net energy affordable duplex proposes the combination of a unique organizational strategy with the use of cross—laminated timber to create a new model of affordable housing centered around ideas of ownership, generosity and sustainability. The layout places a highly flexible common living area above an efficiently planned first floor, allowing evolving family, living, and working arrangements to take advantage of the open layout as much as possible without sacrificing the privacy of individual inhabitants. The openness is made possible through the use of cross—laminated timber, which allows longer spans than traditional wood framing and creates a naturally efficient thermal enclosure.
The two units may be arranged in a variety of combinations depending on the available site. The arrangement shown here for a sloped site forms a shared courtyard between the two units that creates the opportunity for sociability between the two families and the neighborhood at large. An alternative configuration for a flat site places the two units side by side with a shared entry portal flanked by street—facing balconies on either side. Each configuration plays with subtly idiosyncratic symmetries that respond to the inherent constraints of the type.
Competition First Place
Project team: Po—Ming Chou
Structural Engineer: Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson and Associates
Energy Consulting: Jeff Geisinger
The brief for this project asked for a design of a souvenir that could represent present—day New York City. Born of a pragmatic compromise, fire escapes reconcile 19th century housing stock with 21st century safety standards. Every borough has them, and not one begrudges them. They’re even more universal than the Yankees.
When we lived in New York we had a fire escape. We never once needed to flee a fire, but we used it plenty, its prosaic architecture belying the experiences it made possible. We grew plants out there, ate dinner, and basked in the views and the late summer sun. It was an incredible escape from the confines of our apartment. In this regard, the humble fire escape seemed to open a world of possibilities when other aspects of city life appeared to close in on us. The fire escape became more than a code requirement: it was an aspiration.
Our proposal imagines a new life for the fire escape. No longer dependent on squat townhouses and tenements for support, it’s free to be itself. Its filigree architecture multiplies, it spirals upward, and it makes new friends. It even tries on a new look, the vertical form of a Manhattan skyscraper. Like most New Yorkers, it is happiest when trying to reinvent itself.
ESCAPE was commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture for the exhibition Souvenirs: New New York Icons.
Project Team: Po—Ming Chou
The work, inspired by Robert Venturi's "decorated shed" concept, surrounds the American Academy in Rome’s security shed in a pop textile. The new façade becomes a welcome beacon for the exhibition as well as an experiment in spatial color combination, conferring an alternative view of the pre—fabricated structure and of the Academy’s imposing street presence.
The design pairs a rotationally symmetrical structural frame with an ephemeral skin made of 11km of brightly colored acrylic cord. Taking apart the glowing orange tones of the surrounding buildings into six discrete hues, the colors are organized into two planes on each façade, to atomize and create depth in the recombined color.
Decorated Shed was a collaboration with Robert Hutchison Architecture for the 2017 Cinque Mostre exhibition at the American Academy in Rome.
Installation team: Hiba Karim, Alessio Alaimo
Note: the project text below was written in advance of the 2016 presidential primaries.
2024: Two terms of the Trump—Sanders administration have left global finance in disarray. Income inequality has skyrocketed, while ever more stringent emissions regulations have severely hamstrung the ultrarich in their unquenchable desire for the low—risk, high—return shares in uninhabited urban real estate. Simply put, emissions—adjusted construction costs now outpace investment returns in the most obscene high—rise developments. All the while, the pleasures of the city slip further from the grasp of its full—time residents.
Spekulatius is a solid timber tower in which the volume is subdivided into condo shares that double as carbon offsets. In contrast to the gleaming steel and glass constructions that we are accustomed to seeing, this tower functions as a carbon sink by virtue of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the trees that supply its structure. As long as the condos remain uninhabited (that is to say, solid), their status as investment vehicle remains intact. Three observatory levels are cut through the tower and interconnected by a double promenade of circulation cores through the solid mass, creating new urban public spaces that operate as twenty—first century plazas: zones of relief from the economic determinism of the contemporary metropolis.
Project team: Tida Osotsapa
Structural Engineer: Brett Schneider
Atalaya is a collaboration with the artist Paula Gaetano—Adi for a 12—meter tall sculpture made up of stacked artisanal bricks that creates a simple alternating pattern of an apparent disturbing fragility.
Specifically conceived to be constructed in one of the most seismically active regions in South America, this narrow rectangular “tower” subtly mixes modernist systemized processes with the haptic and customized nature of artisanal making. The minimalist structure is to be constructed in collaboration with a team of local brick artisans from Alto de Sierra in Santa Lucia, and arranged in a crib—stack pattern reminiscent of the temporary drying walls of the artisan brick fields.
Placed at the heart of San Juan city, no one sits at the top of this watchtower. Nonetheless, the tower acts as San Juan’s sentinel, constantly proving its structural sturdiness during zonda winds and seismic movements. An anemometer or a seismograph of sorts, the tower’s apparent instability will be an active witness of the city's society and history, symbolizing the possibility of its perpetual re—constitution.
Structural Concept: Brett Schneider
Project Team: Kunyue Qi