PLAN 64: Article
A Sampling Of Masters' Work In Architecture

A Mini-Review of the Thesis Review

Nineteen students received the Master of Architecture in February after an unusually elaborate thesis review held here in November. (Because of the structure of the program, most MArch students graduate from MIT in February.)

In a departure from previous years, the November review was held in a central public space at MIT, the well-traveled lobby of Building 13, so the larger MIT community was made aware of the work. In previous years, the reviews have been held in the halls of SA+P and, for lack of space, the work was never shown all at once. But this year a special exhibit was designed by the masters students – with the help of facilities manager Jim Harrington, who pulled off its beautiful execution – and the show was on display all day and all night.

Nineteen students presented their work, which was reviewed by more than a dozen advisors and twice as many readers, along with eight distinguished critics – Kenneth Frampton and Michael Bell from Columbia; Nader Tehrani and Margaret Crawford from Harvard; Mario Gandelsonas from Princeton; Walter Hood from UC Berkeley; Kent Kleinman from SUNY Buffalo; and practitioners Andrea Leers and Sanford Kwinter.

The graduating students and their thesis projects were:

Luis Rafael Berrios Negron

The Turtle: An American School of Architecture: A Radical Mediocracy

Supervisors: Adele Naude Santos, Krzysztof Wodiczko

Lilly Donohue

Sites of Friction: Borders of the Banal

Supervisor: Ann Pendleton-Jullian

Talia Dorsey

Swell: A Proposition for Coastal Metropolises in the Age of Rising Seas and Distributed Centralization

Supervisor: Alexander d’Hooghe

Ahmed Elhusseiny

Bridge: An Unraveled Architecture

Supervisors: Shun Kanda, Nasser Rabbat

Elliot Douglas Felix

The Subway Libraries

Supervisor: J. Meejin Yoon

Daniel James Fouad

Of Airports and Architecture: Exercises in Public Form and Formlessness

Advisor: Alexander d’Hooghe

Katice Helinski

Redefining Identity in the Altered Rural Landscape

Advisor: Fernando Domeyko

Marco Marraccini

Radical Reuse: From the Superfluous to the Exquisite

Supervisor: Ann Pendleton-Jullian

Marie Lynne Law

Domesticating Sprawl: Dearborn Michigan and the Green Moat

Advisor: Ann Pendleton-Jullian

Jelena Pejkovic

Awakening Perast: Interconnecting Past and Present Architecture in a Baroque Town

Supervisor: J. Meejin Yoon

Michael Powell

Contemporary Urban Frontiers

Advisor: Ann Pendleton-Jullian

Nicolas Rader

Design [Fabrication] Build

Advisor: Mark Goulthorpe

Michael Ramage

Catalan Vaulting in Advanced Material: New Approaches to Contemporary Compressive Form

Supervisors: Fernando Domeyko, John Fernandez and John Ochsendorf

James Smith

Architecture of Uncertainty

Advisor: J. Meejin Yoon

Suzumori Shuji

Formwork as Design Tool

Advisor: J. Meejin Yoon

Midori Taki

Intermediacy: Extracting Vitality from Intersecting Borderlines

Advisor: Alexander d’Hooghe

Nicole Vlado

(Re)collection: Surfaces, Bodies and the Dispersed Home

Advisor: J. Meejin Yoon

Pablo Daniel Wenceslao

Kinetic Index: An Exploration of Site and Program in Flux

Advisor: Mark Jarzombek

Nathalie Marie Westervelt

East of Liberty: Reclaiming Main Street

Advisor: John de Monchaux

Pictured above, and described below, a sampling of their work:

The Subway Libraries

Created by Elliot Douglas Felix (Supervisor: J. Meejin Yoon).

As New York’s subway has adapted to changes in population, routing and technology numerous platforms have been abandoned, left as vestigial spaces within functioning stations. This project couples two circulatory infrastructures in the city – public libraries and public transit – to reclaim three such platforms as sites for a new institution, the Open Library.

Located on abandoned platforms at Columbus Circle, Canal Street and Brooklyn Bridge stations, each library is an open linear space between walls which function as reinvented stacks – sometimes only wide enough for books and acoustic baffling while at other times bulging to accommodate an entire room or a sky-lit planter. The result is a series of interventions that provides places of interaction, fosters participatory culture and instigates a physical and intellectual renovation of both subway and library.

Radical Reuse: From the Superfluous to the Exquisite

By Marco Marraccini (Supervisor: Ann Pendleton-Jullian).

This thesis focuses on systematic possibilities for the architectural reuse and reconfiguration of the radial tire and the PET plastic bottle. Both waste products demonstrate significant structural and phenomenological potential and are abundantly available at the global scale. Through the specific exploration of these systems, reuse will be introduced to America’s high-end architectural client base.

Work in this well-established field has been typically associated with squatter settlements, ecological housing and low-income developments. The objective here is to demonstrate the elegance and sophistication that this strategy can yield. It is through the attention to the detail and the specific aggregation of waste materials that the exquisite and desirable can be created out of the unwanted, thus demonstrating the possibilities for future reuse in the larger construction market.

Awakening Perast: Interconnecting Past and Present Architecture in a Baroque Town

By Jelena Pejkovic (Supervisor: J. Meejin Yoon).

Perast, a baroque town on the Montenegrin coast, and a UNESCO protected site, is an amalgam of nearly 300 buildings that capture the region’s unique history. A vibrant regional center in the 17th and 18th centuries, Perast today is a dormant town in danger of suffocating under the burden of its own past.

This architectural intervention – a conservation school dispersed in five locations around selected ruins in Perast – seeks to reconcile the competing claims of preservation and development, offering heritage-related vocational training as an economic and cultural benefit to the local population. In its ambition to connect historic architecture with contemporary addition in an innovative way, the conservation school becomes a criticism of the overly sentimental approaches to building in protected historic cities in favor of more invigorating ones.

Catalan Vaulting in Advanced Material: New Approaches to Contemporary Compressive Form

By Michael Ramage (Supervisors: Fernando Domeyko, John Fernandez and John Ochsendorf).

The translation of traditional building methods to modern construction techniques offers unexplored opportunities for material and form in architecture. The Catalan masonry technique – also referred to as timbrel or Guastavino vaulting – allows thin structural spans to be built without the use of supporting formwork. Once widely used in American construction, the technique is now little known.

This thesis documents the recent construction of two 37-foot domes in England and structural research into building timbrel vaults with aerated autoclaved concrete tile. The techniques used to design and build structural masonry spans show that merging modern materials with traditional craft capitalizes on the significant strengths of each. These new buildings demonstrate the economic efficiency and formal viability of timbrel vaulting in contemporary architecture.

June 2006