Archive for December, 2010

Strawberry Fields

December 21, 2010

As Steinbeck wrote: “How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him- he has known a fear beyond every other.” -Grapes of Wrath (and as quoted in this week’s Economist article about migrant farm workers)

What I do need to deal with are people. Regardless of the systems that might regulate the places in which they live, the stories of the people themselves are important, and also somewhat common at borders. In vibrantly crossed borders, there exists a difference in opportunity. That yearning for change is a matter to consider. This begins to question the neutrality of the crossing environment and how that can affect the change…

(also, I must remember to address the point of entry. although not a formal LPOE, I must deal with this issue of a gateway- or as ADuncan so terribly puts it “welcome center.” is it possible to reconfigure LOPEs to fit in my framework?)

Infrastructural Parametrics

December 16, 2010

The bridge has been constructed from an innovative combination of insitu and precast reinforced concrete, using formwork milled from high density expanded polystyrene coated in resin for a smooth surface finish. Fabricating directly from our 3D parametric models provided a high degree of control over the geometry. This innovative use of CNC cut polystyrene is to date the largest application of the material to be used in this way.

via Spencer Dock Bridge / Amanda Levete Architects | ArchDaily.

San Ysidro Intermodal Transit Center

December 15, 2010

San Ysidro Intermodal | Flickr – Photo Sharing

not that this applies directly to my thesis now, but i’m just shocked that people believed this was a good makeover. 2003, i thought the project was much older than that!? do people really not care about it that much or are the people running the show really that antiquated?

Pattern and Tectonics

December 14, 2010

Thesis Reviews

December 14, 2010

So yesterday we had thesis reviews. It was incredible to see such an interest and engagement at a crit. As one of my friends said, ‘this is what i’ve been waiting for for 2 years.’ There was such a large jury, so much attention paid to each project and really such enthusiasm in general. Chris (Genik) was present for part of the time and he was harsh in some cases but it was incredible to have someone there who kept pushing things further, questioning, and really taking it to another level.

Attached is my presentation and I’ve included my narrative below, and comments.

Presentation Proposal

This thesis is titled from LINE to ZONE and is a perspective on Borders as Collaborative Space

For the purposes of this thesis, border conditions are defined as having 2 differing components juxtaposed, a boundary line/zone, and often some type of break in that boundary to allow transition. Ultimately, a border is a [DIS]JUNCTION but also a place where the most CROSS-CULTURAL mixing occurs.

So, this begins to touch on why we need to push for COLLABORATIVE space at borders…

After 9/11, there became a such an impetus for homeland security. In 2006, the US government implemented the Secure Fence Act essentially funding a border wall between the US and Mexico. Yet it is widely understood that the US and Mexico are increasingly dependent on each other- illustrated by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. This thesis’ basis is that this proposed solution to border conditions is not suitable in light of increasingly DEMOCRATIC and GLOBALIZED factors.

Research shows that an increase in trade openness brings increased stability, efficiency, and faster economic growth. So if there is already an acceptance of economic value of OPENNESS, and communicative openness, then the border itself is solely about its PHYSICALITY and no longer about its ABSTRACTION. As we come a more COLLECTIVE world, we need more COLLECTIVE physicalities, (hence the focus on collaborative space.)

So more importantly (for this thesis) than the political and economic issues of barriers are the SPATIAL CONDITIONS that occur at boundaries. The conditions exist for a multitude of reasons. but this thesis is looking at the SPATIAL QUALITIES in border conditions.

So instead of conceiving the border line as a SINGULAR divider, the [U.S.-Mexico] borderland, presents a border REGION and has even been referred to as a THIRD NATION (Michael Dear.) This thesis focuses on recognizing the THICKNESS of the border zone.

And looks at spatial qualities to create ZONAL TRANS-BOUNDARY COLLABORATION.

The research on this thesis stems from cognitive science literature on NOVELTY SEEKING, and also on architectural theory of CRITCAL REGIONALISM. The research portion will aim to produce a CATALOGUE OF DESIGN COMPONENTS or a FRAMEWORK OF SPATIAL ELEMENTS that can help to inform design (of border regions) to reinforce the transformation of a boundary line to a collaborative zone.

The idea is that novelty seeking research will help to identify necessary spatial organization needed for EXPLORATION (which is inherently tied to trans-boundary collaboration.)

What’s interesting about NS is that you need a certain level of ENVIRONMENTAL STIMULATION to increase likelihood of exploration- so for design, this can mean using patterns and repetition. There is an optimal level of stimulation required for interest/investigation/inquiry of a space. (This has been measured mostly with testing rats and using mazes to increase their INQUIZITION in a new space, or with visual patterns to provoke CURIOSITY.)

Critical Regionalism is related in that it calls for taking universal qualities and then relying on geography and tectonics to inform design.

In principle, this is similar to looking at qualities of GLOBALIZATION and then by focusing on the TECTONICS of a zone, the project will expand upon existing geographies of border regions and in that sense it doesn’t respond to existing scenography or relating culture (which would assume culture is a constant) but rather to the conditions of the border-scape.

Also, critical regionalism is tied to Modernism’s architectural design ideals. I think these are applicable in its minimalism, monotonality, and muteness.

Since culture is so connected to its physical environment, maybe the only way to exhaust those differences between bordering communities it is to create an entirely NEUTRAL SCAPE. Critical Regionalism helps to DEFAMILIARIZE a space, (which then sparks an interest in exploratory behavior which increases likelihood of integration and therefore collaboration.)


So originally I wanted to start with analyzing border conditions as outlined in my proposal: looking at natural/synthetic borders and also some historic examples to define their main characteristics and use so that would serve as a background of different spatial conditions at border zones.

I’ve done a decent amount of research on CR and NS and also other architectural theory. I now need to produce an analysis of the research.

SO THE PROPOSED RESULTS ARE 2 FOLD: (and I don’t think I have time for both done thoroughly)

1. A catalogue of spatial elements to aid collaboration.

2. Project implementation at the US/Mexico border.


Although the discussion resolves around border zones and boundaries, the catalogue could ideally apply to any collaborative space. (In this sense, the aim of the project is collaborative space and the chosen site is a border region- I would start with my site analysis, of border conditions, and then the project is the collaborative space implemented in those shared territories.) Most research now on collaborative space is for office environment only so therefore has limited application. By dealing with the most stringent conditions of a border line, the resolution shall be expected to prove applicable to any less stringent situation.


So as far as feedback there was a huge issue with disregarding politics and economics. It is really hard to distance yourself from those factors, especially if you’re personally involved in the matter. I expected that response but I think it also is a poignant example of existing biases versus my objectivity. In fact, Gil Cook came up to me afterwards and said, “it’s hard for people to think differently…” (He was extremely excited about the project and offered to be on my board of advisors.)  I addressed the well but what I do think comes out of that discussion was the fact that the spatial conditions happen because of political and economic issues: so I have to create a zone that has its own political and economic systems, so that they wouldn’t be dependent on the existing system. In this sense, I guess it would be a DMZ of sorts, (but for collaborative space.) I think part of my assumption about collaboration is that it has to be neutral space as well.

I am dealing with political and economic factors by exclusion. I don’t think to work with the existing system is appropriate because it would assume that the present conditions are a constant. Instead, (and most especially with borders,) the surrounding communities, cultures, politics, economics surrounding the border constantly change. So to respond to the existing system are to ground it in today’s situation. What Philip brought up was that you can get a sense for or speculate on predictions for the future but I don’t think this is a futuristic project either. It is more-so a site-less project in terms of politics and economics. (but he did suggest to look at Scenario Planning: STEEP and SWAT, the art of the Longview, which I will do.)

In this case, it shouldn’t only focus on the US/Mexico border. The idea arose to pick pairing cities along the border. Or of picking 3 border sites e.g. 1. SD/TJ, 2. Israel/Palestine, 3. Cyprus(Turkey/Greece) and implementing the project at each one. Ideally, it would be the same project but the spatial analysis would respond to different border conditions. This is actually in-line with my existing idea about a year ago, and existing proposal to focus on the three boundary sites of my site in Lima (the area of transition from the rural to urban,) site in Johannesburg (CBD is the boundary zone between the Northern suburbs and the Southern townships,) and SD/TJ…maybe I should go back to this idea instead of only dealing with international borders. This also speaks to the application to any boundary condition, or collaborative space at any less stringent condition. But, then I’m no longer dealing with the LINE as the condition.

Also, how am I dealing with the physical forms of the chosen areas?

What I do need to define are the users/players that I’m catering to:

(artist- TED speaker- Marian Bantjes defined this as:)

Who is it for?

What does it say?

What does it do?

…Who are the collaborators?

Something to point out is that there isn’t a shortage of cultural exchange. What is needed is collaborative space. This is space where the participant is no longer identified as being from one culture or another. The space has to be clearly separate from the existing bordering communities/cultures. It is for people to feel like they have left the space where they are insiders. It is where they are not citizens anymore but not visitors/tourists.


Where are successful areas or models of collaboration?

As far as the ‘catalogue’ goes: this could take a lifetime. I’m willing to cut myself short on the research analysis and do an abridged version of the catalogue. The rest of the focus will be the project implementation. So it should be called a catalogue but rather a framework or collection of (20) spatial elements/design components. What exactly is the point of the collection and how does it affect collaboration? The goal is:

  1. In promoting collaborative actions between players.
  2. In my definition of collaboration between building elements (e.g. Each building element must speak to another. The list will outline how I think these components relate to each other.)

It should range from the largest level to the smallest: How/what site conditions are more ‘collaborative’ all the way down to wall thickness.


There seem to be 2 ultimate goals now:

  1. to change the physical boundary
  2. to change perception towards collaboration

The first step to change the boundary seems to be to just change the ONE LINE condition. Even if it creates 2 lines surrounding an intermediate zone, this is the first step. If I can go further, that would be good but at least this is a starting point.


In terms of novelty seeking, I’m assuming that some level of inquiry is needed in order to bring attention to the space. The users of the collaborative zone, will be people from the surrounding cultures/communities to the border. The users must be someone with some level of interest, (so maybe already having some part of novelty seeking in them,) but the push to investigate/enter the space must be sparked by the proposed environment.


I’m playing with the idea of labyrinths, 1. to produce the optimal stimulation for NS and 2. to help the dissimilation from the surrounding cultures. (also, it’s a totally fun thing to throw out as a solution, and the fact that it kind of makes sense is really appealing. I definitely need to find and work through the holes in that argument.) The procession helps to completely remove the user from any familiar elements or anything relating to their culture. It disengages the participant from their existing conceptions so that they become more accepting and neutral. It also can do the opposite by making someone so uncomfortable that they are defensive…not good.


My biggest issue with the project is programming the space.



¡Super nafta land!

December 11, 2010

¡Super nafta land! – a set on Flickr.

I don’t know if I should even post this because of how discouraging, yet incredibly encouraging, this is.

…pretty much the same thesis idea as me… except not only has he stated and refined it better but also unbelievably better implementation on every level. simply amazing. if i could do an eighth of this i’d be happy.

¡SuperNAFTALand!  Land State Final Board


December 6, 2010

In light of the changes, and because of the time limitation (relative loss of 10 weeks) I see that I can take my project in 2 directions.

Thesis Statement: A reinterpretation of border territories from limitative frontiers to collaborative transitional environments: to promote trans-boundary exploration.

1. Research Hypothesis: The analysis of cognitive science literature on novelty seeking, and the use of critical regionalist architecture can inform design of border-crossing structures to reinforce the transformation of a boundary line to a collaborative zone.

2. Design Hypothesis: Enforcing zones and de-emphasizing lines can create a more collaborative space.

The research hypothesis would result in an framework of spatial elements to promote collaboration and exploration. The analysis would be of 1. spatial conditions at existing borders (and which of them inhibit or promote collaboration and exploration) 2. novelty seeking and what spatial conditions are essential for exploration 3. critical regionalism and what design elements could provide a more neutral space for democratic/collaborative space.

The design hypothesis should ideally use the spatial elements necessary found in the research component and apply them in a new typological structure at the border.

Ultimately the one should inform the other. The research component inform the design, but no time at this point.

Graduate Thesis_NEW


I’m thinking to quickly throw together speculative spatial elements and design strategies that promote collaboration and exploration and start on design now. I will have a brief summary of my research by the beginning of next quarter. Unfortunately, it won’t be a graphic analysis or an in-depth analysis and framework of spatial elements resulting from my research. But it will be an outline of those things so that I can move on now.

I’m focusing rather on a new typology at the border, I will put together a proposal for a couple different programs: one shopping oriented, one transportation infrastructure, one as is.

Now That’s A Ven Diagram

December 1, 2010

Theoretical Framwork…

information aesthetics – Information Visualization & Visual Communication.