900-square-foot, two-story addition and renovation to suit an intergenerational living arrangement.
Columbus, Ohio. 2015-16
A bold composition of volumes constitutes this rear-yard addition to an existing 1940s home in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. The articulated rooflines break down the scale of the addition’s massing while skylights bring natural light into both the upper and lower levels. The daughter, a landscape architect, commissioned the project to allow her mother to move in with her following a life-changing injury. A small addition is appended to the rear of the home to accommodate the mother’s need for an accessible bedroom, bathroom, and caretaker’s suite. The existing shared public spaces are retained on the main level, and a new screen porch opens onto a backyard landscape of prairie grasses. A new bedroom and writing studio for the daughter occupy the second-level spaces. A vaulted ceiling and dramatic skylight in the upstairs bedroom direct the daughter’s views upward into the sheltering canopy of a mature oak tree.
80-story landmark office tower
Hanoi, Vietnam. 2010-11
EVN Tower comprises lush gardens, passive environmental features, office spaces, amenities, and public programs that interlock to generate a vibrant, vertical urbanism. The building is designed to rise 80 stories above the sprawling southwestern edge of Hanoi, Vietnam. A spare totemic presence in the skyline, the tower is composed of eight vertically stacked ten-story office blocks, featuring dramatic vertical atria and sky gardens at elevator transfer levels. Alternating vertical slots in the building mass provide natural ventilation and deep light penetration to the lease spaces, as well as views outward from the central core, which is split into four parts. Three-story garden atria provide passive environmental cooling and filtration by way of an operable facade system, and bring occupants into close contact with an array of densely-planted tropical landscapes. Together the atria and ventilation slots form an interconnected vertical air column, designed to cool the building by means of a stack-effect inducing botanical greenhouse at the top of the tower.
Forest House II
1800-square-foot, single-family residence.
Nederland, Colorado. 2015-16
Forest House II was designed during an extended period of warm, dry weather and acute fire hazard in Colorado, worsened by a pine-beetle epidemic that resulted in wide swaths of dead forest. Fire consumed 600 acres of local forest in 2016, and came within one mile of the project site.
In this scheme, reclaimed boards of silver-grey pine are used first as concrete formwork and then carefully stripped and blackened for reapplication as a naturally fire-resistant rainscreen cladding. A compact linear composition further minimizes fire exposure and site grading while simultaneously maximizing forest views and winter sun exposure. A stepped pathway approaches the main entry through a small grove of aspen trees, strategically gathering the wettest landscapes near the home as additional fire defense.
Analogous to the manner in which the design addresses a changing environmental landscape, the house also fulfills its owners' present and future needs. The main entry provides direct access to a second-floor home office, and a private stair leads to a convertible bedroom suite in anticipation of a boomerang child's imminent return home. Meanwhile, the ground-floor layout takes account of the clients' desire for single-story daily living in retirement years. At the heart of the scheme is a double-height social space opening on to a generous south-facing terrace.
Forest House I
2000-square-foot, single-family residence.
Nederland, Colorado. 2008-12
Forest House I is the first of two projects designed for a professional couple looking to trade their existing family home for a smaller, economical ‘empty nest’ with a lighter environmental footprint. Designed at the height of an unfolding ecological crisis—the western mountain pine-beetle epidemic—the home’s architecture is subtly inflected to register the shifting ecological dynamics wrought by climate change. Clad in vertical boards of beetle-kill pine—whose natural, mottled blue color is the result of an interaction between pine-beetle larvae and blue-stain fungi—the home exhibits a quiet presence in sympathy with the forest, and becomes a material record of a changing landscape.
A dynamic composition of simple, intersecting building volumes establishes nuanced relationships between spaces for living and working, intimacy and entertainment, outdoors and in. A strategic ‘multiplication of the box’ builds an intimate connection to the surrounding forest for each interior space, and facilitates late-stage design adjustments to the orientation of outdoor spaces and interior views as pine beetles actively reshape the landscape. At the heart of the scheme is a small garden of aspen trees that draws the landscape into the center of the home and heightens its residents’ experience of the Rocky Mountains' dramatically shifting seasons.
Building Resilient Social & Urban Armatures in Hackney Wick and Fish Island
Finalists: London Thames Gateway Development Corporation: Permanent Art Commission in Hackney Wick, 2010
Ruderal (Sarah Cowles), in collaboration with Bureau for Open Culture (James Voorhies) and Open Set (Brian Holland), proposed a three-part project for the "Park to Park" connection along Wallis Road. Our approach included a series of street-level landscape works to enhance pedestrian experience, a boat-house along the canal that will host a series of public discussions, and a specially-outfitted small barge used for tours, research and special events. Each element is a means to frame and interpret the dynamic nature of the neighborhood within the investigative platform we call Parallel Ruderals. The ruderal is a species of plant life that colonizes and thrives in urban, war-damaged, or post-industrial environments otherwise considered hostile to life. Along with the plant life, this area of East London has long been in transition from the original home of major London industries to burgeoning creative communities and sites of urban transportation infrastructure. The overall goal is to reframe those social, ecological and physical elements of this precarious place—this ruderal—to create experiences that encourage an understanding of the conditions today and possibilities tomorrow for the “Park to Park” connection along Wallis Road.
(text by Sarah Cowles)
On Spatial Entrepreneurship in Urban Agriculture
An investigation of commercial rooftop farming in the Northeast as evidence of an emerging approach to urban agriculture and green infrastructures. Comparison with historical forms of urban agriculture to identify and evaluate the project’s aims, objectives, and future prospects.
This research argues for urban agriculture’s relevance as a civic project. Historically, community farms and gardens have been instrumental in catalyzing public action on social justice, urban and environmental health, and ecological sustainability. Meanwhile, efforts at establishing agricultural economies of scale in urban areas, whether through utopian planning or by novel technological means, have usually failed, despite the best intentions of those who advocate for local resilience. I will claim that economies of scope – a strategy I call piggybacking – are necessary for both the viability and longevity of this project.
In seeking to leverage public interest in agriculture toward robust civic action, the contrast between two recent ventures in New York City is instructive. Emerging in response to a growing appetite for fresh local foods and a burgeoning culture of urban farming, Gotham Greens and Brooklyn Grange represent a new breed of urban agriculture. They have demonstrated the viability of commercial urban agriculture by taking to the rooftops. By piggybacking atop existing land-uses, these farms have overcome one of agriculture’s biggest economic disadvantages in competitive urban real estate markets – the high price of land. However, a detailed comparison reveals that beyond their use of the rooftop, these two farms have little in common—a difference essential to the quality and longevity of urban agriculture as a civic undertaking.
LeFevre Fellowship for Emerging Practitioners, Ohio State University
Over the last half-century, changes in American farming practices and urban development patterns have achieved near total territorial and cultural segregation between the activities of food production and consumption. In particular, the agricultural regions of the Midwest are often characterized by dense monocultures of commodity crops and fragmented communities of part-time farmers who often must sell their land to pay the bills, or commute to nearby towns and cities to seek additional work. Meanwhile, urban dwellers often possess little understanding of where their food comes from or how it is produced. Now, in the search for more sustainable modes of practice, architects, landscape architects, and planners have begun to see urban agriculture as one possible means of bold urban infrastructural transformation. If urban agriculture is to play an increasingly important role in the future of the American city, what sorts of spaces might it occupy, what form might it take, and how might it be practiced? How might our buildings, landscapes, and the nature of urban culture change as a result?
This research—conducted in coordination with two graduate-level design studios at the Knowlton School of Architecture—explores a framework for urban agriculture that addresses the condition of low-density sprawl typified by American cities like Columbus, Ohio. The project identifies spatial, social, and ecological opportunities within the "dross" of the city’s existing urban landscapes, and puts forth a number of strategic agricultural "piggybackings" to intensify the material and economic productivity of these sites while building new cultural constituencies around transformative landscapes of urban food production.
Research assistant: Bradley Blumensheid
Faculty collaborations: Katherine Bennett and Jacob Boswell
Student team: Derek Boogaard, Andrew Brooks, Adam Chizmar, Susan Earp, Kyle Green, Jonathan Grubb, Matthew Hagen, Jake Haggmark, Alex Middleton, Mark Oswanski, Erin Reilly-Sanders, Marcos Rodriguez, Miles Suer, Joseph Twelemeyer, Adam Welker
Outdoor interfaith meditation space to be built atop an existing stone foundation.
New Lebanon, New York. 2007-08
Several archetypal forms of sacred architecture are cross-pollinated and reinterpreted in this open-air meditation retreat for a branch of Universal Sufism. As a metaphorical world tree, or tree of life, the structure embodies sacred cosmological principles in form, space, and geometry. The historically inward-looking microcosmology of the dome is unfolded and opened outward to seamlessly connect the space of ritual to its densely wooded site. A central axis mundi anchors the structure to its site and to an existing stone plinth, and becomes simultaneously an object of meditation and a symbol of enlightenment and transcendence. The new structure is cnc-milled directly from local wood and placed atop the existing stone foundation, which serves as the subterranean inner sanctuary.
Urban design proposal.
Rome, Italy. 2005-06
The City of Rome is host to a trio of international humanitarian aid organizations. The FAO, the IFAD, and the WFP administer a program of agricultural development, financial assistance, and food aid to the developing world and to regions that suffer from political or ecological distress. Despite the flow of resources from Rome to the adjacent aid-dependent subregions of Northern Africa and Eastern Europe, several hundred refugees and asylum seekers from these regions are presently squatting at the Tiburtina rail station in eastern Rome. With access to neither work nor food aid, these refugees confront a critical gap in the operational flow of UN assistance. This proposal asserts that mending this gap will be the first step toward the establishment of a new “bottom-up” agricultural enterprise in Rome, one which seeks also to harness the dynamic processes of decentralization and self-organization to redirect the coming redevelopment of the Tiburtina Rail Station district.
Work in progress...
Proposal for a public art installation.
Grand Central Terminal, 2005
The widespread use of mobile communications devices in our daily lives has enabled us to operate beyond traditional limitations of space and place. Increasingly, the spaces that occupy our attention are geographically remote, and our ability to coordinate simultaneous activities across disparate regions of the physical landscape has become commonplace. A radical re-conceptualization of geographic space is called for. Consequently, this project proposes an interactive visualization of the ephemeral connections within the mobile communications network.
In this proposal, a map of a particular geographical area is represented on an interactive floor surface, and positioned in a public space such as an airport terminal or train station. Using sensors to track the remote area code of a passerby’s cellular phone call, the geographical location of an active call’s target destination is projected onto the surface of the map in real-time. Additionally, motion-tracking technologies register the passerby’s position in space and a line is connected between the two points. The direction of this vector updates continually while the call remains active, and as the passerby moves across the floor surface.
Examining Evolutionary Design Strategies in Architecture
Paper published in: Nexus Network Journal, volume 12, no 3: Geometries of Rhetoric; Ed. Robert Kirkbride; Basel: Birkhauser, 2010
Many architects today appeal to some notion of evolutionary thinking as a strategy for architectural design. Recent scientific discoveries concerning the computational mechanisms underlying evolutionary biology, paired with ever-increasing sophistication of digital design software, have inspired and enabled architects to experiment with such tools as genetic algorithms and environmental morphogenetic simulation. The resulting proliferation of formal variety represents a temporal becoming that is neither metaphorical nor symbolic, but operative and literally creative. Such a conception of form rejects the recognition of final or ultimate forms in favor of a continuum of evolutionary forms that are continually renewed, either by the influence of external dynamical forces, or through the unfolding of endogenous processes of growth and mutation. This paper investigates the lineage of evolutionary thought in architectural design, paying particular attention to the current trend towards experimentation with generative algorithmic procedures and the theorization of an evolutionary architecture. The motivations for these projects are interrogated through the writings of their proponents. To what extent are they practical—striving for an iterative design optimization through the power of computational variability—and to what extent might they belie an underlying philosophical project, seeking to model a theory of architectural design after the generative processes of nature?