This thesis is a proposal for a counter-memorial to victims of police brutality. The counter-memorial addresses scale by being both local and national, addresses materiality by privileging black aesthetics over politeness, addresses presence/absence by being more transient than permanent, and lastly, addresses site by being collective rather than singular. The result is an architecture that plays itself out over 18,000 police stations across America and the Washington Monument at the National Mall, two sites that are intrinsically linked through the architecture itself: negative “voids” at police stations whose positive counterparts aggregate at the Mall.
The critical question here is whether or not the system in which police brutality takes place can be reformed from within, or if people of color need to seek their utopia outside of these too-ironclad structures. This counter-memorial, when understood as an instrument of accountability (and therefore a real-time beacon that measures America’s capacity to either change or otherwise repeat the same violent patterns), ultimately provides us with an eventual answer.
The city of Leipzig has gone by many names—’Messestadt’, ‘Reichsmessestadt’, ‘Heldenstadt’, ‘Boomtown vom Osten’, ‘Schrumpfendestadt’, and more recently the hyphenated ‘Hypezig’. These pet-names serve as an index of the city’s successive civic identities. Since Leipzig’s bombing in 1943, political regimes and architects have utilized these identities as a means through which to direct construction. Individual sites are marked by a frenetic churn of destruction, construction, and re-construction.
These interrupted civic identities leave the context of Leipzig indeterminate—with unraveling, overlapping, and competing projections of past and future. Each interrupted version has sought to produce a resolute clarity to Leipzig’s urban legibility, with building elevations serving as the primary registration of each attempt at identity resolution.
Equivocal Elevations proposes a Super Civic Service Center—building on the existing city-government institution of the Bürgerzentrum which provides public—to address the intersection of individual identity, city bureaucracy, and civic identity. Born out of the intense archival study of Leipzig, the elevations unearthed from site provide the architectural foundation for this new center. Elevations here do not propose a finite or shallow representation but instead equivocal relationships between histories and building, allowing elevation to both figure and be figured by the exterior and interior. By developing this method, the intent is to project a continued, open-ended irresolution to Leipzig’s identity while reflecting on the specificity of Leipzig’s numerous histories.
CLT is a large (9’ x 50’), and thick (up to 9in), sheet material. It is also a manufactured material, assembling layers of cross-laminated timber into a precisely machined rectangle via CNC technology. This gives CLT two unique properties as a building material: through its mass and scale it can be used simultaneously as a structural and spatial system, and the available thickness of the material presents opportunities for volumetric expression. The aim of the project was to investigate fully CLT’s capacity to be both an off-the shelf material, which can be used with minimal alteration to produce space, as well as customization of a CLT part to produce precisely machined geometries which express the tectonic and aesthetic possibilities of CLT.
The hollowing out of the most generic solid allows for an extension of traditionally internal office spaces outdoors: the exterior courtyard itself is treated as a workspace. The facade initially appears uniform, but upon close examination responds actively to its programmatic constituents. Columns with a prismic section are inherently directional and point towards either side to respond to the corresponding interior program. From afar the building appears as a solid carved out to reveal exterior courtyards; from up close, the courtyard facade takes on the materiality of the interior, and the hollowing out begins to appear as planes extending outwards from the core. Recessed fluted panels mirror the softness of curtains and the lintel-cum-balustrade forms a unifying element that wraps itself around the building envelope.
The tartan grid produces four distinct volumes and courtyards at its upper levels. Core elements are placed in the narrow north-south bands, and the predominant east-west corridor links together typified programmatic zones, producing an alternating sequence of layered surfaces that oscillate in materiality and transparency in correspondence to program.
Asignifications: Destabilizing the Colonial Imaginary
In Hong Kong, a city caught between two colonialities, historical preservation has become a politics of the image: in which the excesses of capitalism are conflated with a deep-set desire for a unified cultural framework, and where the prosthetic seeing of singular fictive identities has become a tool for the severing of history and memory. Part kitsch, part simulacra, these images—static and monumental—collapse all critical distance between observer and observed, becoming representations that absorb themselves into a system of signification of the colonial imaginary.
This thesis attempts to bring forth an asignification through the rewriting of the city’s oldest remaining colonial building and its immediate context. The ideological undoing of this building’s symbolism and the creation of interludes and digressions within its simulacra produces an urban ensemble that occupies and solidifies the space in between its two neighboring, and opposing, institutions: that of I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower and the High Court of Hong Kong. In considering the complex network of mutations and permutations of nationalism, colonialism, and capitalism so embedded in the city’s built environment, the resultant programmatic entanglement seeks to restore a multivalence in architecture that destabilizes the privileged perspectival space within, which the colonial gaze is cast in place. The constant appearance and disappearance of historical image, typology, and symbolism may perhaps begin to restore a critical distance—a gap, a void—within which a new postcolonial subject might be invented, subsequently encouraging an embracing of the in-between.
What does architecture designed for a completely different archetype of body look like? The thesis reimagines an architectural world so tailored to native use by the wheelchairing body—to the point where it might make the able-bodied feel discomfort, despite their being technically able to “access” it—that issues far beyond the limited purview of code come to the fore. Architectural form, motivated by the ramp, becomes a tool: for empathy, for liberation, for dialogue, for wonder. Located in a heart of respectable residential London, the thesis includes a range of public to private programs that deal with experiential equality, the inherent coloniality embedded in “universality,” urban context and inclusion that neither segregates nor subsumes, the right to beauty, the politicization of form, and a refusal to engage with the intellectual poverty of the adaptation mindset—rejecting “access” altogether, and instead creating a cripped architecture for us by us.