Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Final Presentation

Well, the last month has been a blur of work and excessive coffee, but I gave my final thesis review yesterday afternoon. The blog has been pretty sad during this production intensive period, so in an attempt to quickly summarize that work I am putting up some of the final images and my project summary:

This thesis project is a housing complex for migrant workers in Shanghai. The objective of the design is to translate the traditional housing typologies of Shanghai’s early 20th century into a mid-density model as a reaction to the effects of the modernization effort in the city’s more recent past. As key players in the modern transformation of the China, rural to urban migrants are the main focus of the design’s program and intentions and the overall objective is to develop a project capable of creating vibrant urban spaces within the monotonous fabric of the city and to aid in the urban integration of these new residents. 

These objectives are achieved through the circulation and program distribution on multiple scales and attempts were made at all times to blur the distinction between public and private realms in an effort to encourage community development and overlapping functionality. This can be seen in the overall design which utilizes an integrated street network and circulation paths to draw the street in while also fuctioning as the primary residential public spaces and access points. At the block scale, the design uses a hybrid circulation and service space to achieve the same results and in the facades, the idea is materialized in the form of a louver system capable of hanging laundry. In this way the street is brought inside and the private activies are displayed on the interior facing service lanes and even more blatantly through an endless rotation of residents clothing that will blanket the facade.

Ultimately this design is a new typology into the way an urban environment can be shaped to retain the characteristics of early modern row houses while also being efficient enough for the density of the largest city in China. It presuposes that the Chinese Government’s attitude toward its newest and currently illegal residents will change. It focuses on programmatic objectives over structural or financial considerations. It is a suggestion of what public space and housing complexes can be rather than a packaged solution. And in a city of endless, economically constructed, identical high rises, this type of exploration is vital to retaining the life of this culturally rich community.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back from Shanghai!

Well, I just got back from China and I now have access to my google blog again. The trip was incredible and eye opening. I went to Shanghai, Beijing and Xi'an over the course of 20 days. Overall, the pace of construction and growth in China is absolutely staggering, and the quality of construction was below even my low expectations. But a trip to the site I selected at the beginning of my thesis project was truly amazing. The street life of the small Fuxing Cun is very active and sits in almost comical paradox to the high skyscrapers across the street.

The street in the area feels more alive than in many other parts of Shanghai that I traveled through. People are constantly cooking, selling, playing games, talking and moving around. There were even outdoor pool tables with young Chinese men playing in the middle of the day.


One surprising thing was the incredible disparity in incomes that seem to live in this area. On one side of the street is the village, with ramshackle housing constructed out of scraps. On the other are tall glassy residential towers that are set back from the street in a way that seems almost suburban. The park on the southern end of the site is rather plain, but was utilized fairly heavily by a wide assortment of people biking, flying kites, strolling, or just laying in the sun. Next door is the poorest neighborhood I saw in Shanghai. Here, the quality of the buildings deteriorated dramatically and the market stalls to the north completely disappeared.

Overall, the juxtaposition of the site was the most dramatic revelation upon visiting the site in person. This is likely one of the driving reasons that the plans by the government are for the demolition of the neighborhood. Their plans, from what I can derive from the Urban Planning Model are to construct several more residential towers on the site, even taller than those adjacent to the site. After having seen Shanghai, I can only hope this doesn't come to pass. The last thing this city needs is more replicated apartment blocks shadowing the incredible vibrancy of the Shanghainese people.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Complex Design Continued

I am still struggling with the overall design of the complex at this point, so I decided to look more closely at one section (the actual site and program are about 4 times larger than even this area). In doing so I chose to focus on developing a strong internal lane network which can contain important program elements and vertically link the horizontal lanes that run internally. In this way the street network retains the hierarchy of the Lilong blocks, retains the visual connection to the street and still provides a necessary efficiency.
Complex Strategy
 Here is an early sketch of what one of these vertical lanes might look like, the space on the front is currently slotted to be an internet cafe which will sit between two dormitory blocks of program.
Vertical Lane
 While I am still very early in the development of the horizontal lane network that will connect all of the units themselves, I made this early rendering showing the relative size of the program elements, in this case an internal terrace with theater seating and in the background is the internet cafe shown in the previous image.
Lane Network Rendering

Unit Design Continued

Over the past few weeks, I have continued to refine the unit design for the housing complex by examining the 2 bedroom unit for migrant families. The overall strategy is based on adapting the layout and spaces of the Shikumen housing for a multi-story context. The diagram below breaks down how these spaces are organized generally.
Shikumen to Unit Design
I am also interested in playing with the material of the exterior of the unit in order to increase its functionality and also as an aesthetic move. Because so many people in Shanghai rely on air-drying of laundry, this facade employs movable louvers on the exterior to provide additional hanging spaces and as a way to increase shading over windows.

Unit Section

Program Development

At this point, I am beginning to develop the program for my thesis. To develop a list, my method was to approach the issue of integrating rural migrants into the urban context through program aimed at improving the human and social capital of migrants. Human capital program in this sense is aimed at increasing the earning potential of the migrants through legal aid, education, career services, etc. Social capital program, on the other hand, is primarily for increasing the networking potential of migrants in a more ad hoc fashion through internet cafes, restaurants, theaters, libraries, and other sources of communal socializing that can bring migrants more closely in contact with the local residents and each other. Below is a preliminary breakdown of spaces as I have currently conceived them.

Precedent Study

As I have mentioned before, I am looking at the Shikumen houses in Shanghai as a precedent for its capacity to create community in a low-density housing block. Specifically, I am interested in the way the lanes operate as both public spaces and private space extensions in the Lilong blocks. Below is a diagram that explains the way these housing blocks operate and dissects some of the most effective design strategies that I am hoping to bring to the mid-to-high-density blocks for migrant housing.
Shikumen Study
Looking at the Shikumen, which is a low-density model, and translating this into higher density is reminiscent of the way that MVRDV handles the suburban 6-story blocks of Madrid in the Mirador. Here they employ a network of "alleys" which provide circulation and have platforms for public activity. Similarly, a wide range of apartment types are brought together in chunks that form around this circulation system.
Mirador Study

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Unit Design Strategy

Alongside developing a complex strategy, I have been working on the design of the units themselves. These are similarly influenced by the precedent research of the shikumen housing. Looking at the spaces that exist and the orientation of those elements, the current unit design uses similar spacing and circulation flows,modified for a multistory apartment complex.
Section Perspective of the Unit
Shikumen Unit Adaptation

Once the form was more defined, the interior walls and locations of specific spaces became more finalized. The current strategy implements passive cooling techniques, specifically it allows for ventilation and shading. The current facade of the unit employs perforated brick for shading a privacy, but it is my intention to continue working through this and experimenting with additional materials and assemblies.


Like the complex design, there are several additional programmatic considerations that arose during the design process. Shown below are some of those that became important parts of the design.