Y Nhi Tran

MArch I

HYPHEN AMERICAN: The Making of Hybrid Identities      

Advised by Elizabeth Whittaker and Grace La


We seek to feel “in place.” However, one cannot feel a sense of belonging if there is nowhere to belong. In the 21st century, globalization has increased the mobility of people, information, and goods, ultimately destabilizing the spatial permanence associated with identity. The mass displacement of people contributes to a conflicted sense of self—a crisis of belonging. 

Waves of immigration in America established pocket enclaves throughout the country. Born out of systemic oppression and discrimination, these ethnic enclaves historically served as an entry-port, generating forms of collectivity around the basis of shared culture and identity. They were a recreation of a remembered past home, providing a sense of belonging in the context of displacement. 


The nostalgic memory of a space emerges from a dislocation in place. It is a sentiment of loss and longing for a past identification with a specific time and place. Originally thought of as a psychological disease, nostalgia is dismissed as an unproductive engagement with the past, consistently paired as the opposite to progress. However, nostalgia and progress are two sides of the same coin.  

If remembering the past and imagining a future are parallel processes, what can the contemporary overlay of two cultures, the “American” and the ”other,” look like? This thesis explores the grafting of a personal past cultural-scape with the present American urban-scape to reimagine a dying enclave and generate an architecture that encapsulates the condition of hybrid identities within an immigrant nation. 

View of new entrance to strip mall civic center.

View of interior atrium connecting residential and civic spaces.

View of back alley courtyard and commercial activity on ground floor.

View of expanded occupied landing area in residential units, showing chairs and tables near stairways going up and down.

Perspective view of Strip Mall Hyphen Atrium.