Reverse Archaeology: Middle School in Blackwelder

Precedents_Mosque de Cordoba, Engineering Building at Leicester University_James Sterling

It is worth the while to ponder if architectural ambitions can be realized with a minimal amount of physical effort but interesting iconography, and this project is intended to explore the possibility. Located in Culver City Los Angeles, a group of obsolete buildings are repurposed not for the sake of preservation, but to give birth to a middle school. Repurposing can be a hard puzzle, but if we are willing break the conventional definition of “inside” and “outside”, and consider a building as a city, interesting spatial scenarios become possible.

03042015 class (1)_Page_01.jpg

The set. A bird’s eye view depicts how new architectural elements–courtyards, glazed roofs, sports courts) are always butting, sitting or confined by existing buildings. This intentional and direct confrontation between the existing and the imposed is always at play.

031912 final axo [Converted]

Traffic. Borrowing concepts from city planning, the school adopt a systems of paths classified as freeway, arterials, collectors and distributors and locals. On roof level, a network of flyways connect four sports fields through a central hub.

03042015 class (1)_Page_08

Land use and phasing. In the beginning, the school moves into the group of existing buildings found on site, while construction activities take place on the street, in the alleys and between these buildings. In the end, the school expands its footprint to connect these otherwise discrete buildings.03042015 class (1)_Page_03

Programming. Functioning very much like a human heart, the school has a central corridor which leads to a series of chambers. Just like valves, 3 critical points of access serve to activate and deactivate these chambers according between academic, lunch and weekend sessions.

03042015 class (1)_Page_07

Spatial order. Planning of the interior and exterior resembles a checker board–navigators are designed to switch between covered and exposed spaces every time they pass through a door. This breaks the conventional one-to-one relationship between indoor/outdoor and figure/residual spaces.

03042015 class (1)_Page_05Texture. While the street (grey) extends fluidly into libraries and classrooms, skateboard ramps, grassland and hardscape fill existing buildings. A rich palette of pavement will take navigators by surprise.

03042015 class (1)_Page_0603042015 class (1)_Page_10

Icon. A thin layer of buildings doesn’t lend themselves towards an icon, therefore,  “pink clouds”–chain links around the roof top sports courts serves as the identifier of the school from afar. (Eye level view from the Culver City Expo Line station)03042015 class (1)_Page_12

Parametric Design: Expo Line Terminal in Santa Monica

Precedent_Santa Caterina Market |  Enric Miralles Benedetta Tagliabue (EMBT)

The MTA’s Exposition light rail line will extend to Santa Monica in 2015 and the agency intends to build a maintenance facility near the terminus, and has recently completed negotiations for land on Olympic Boulevard. With this context, the design problem was a Light Rail Maintenance Facility with a paint booth, a maintenance area with trenches, three heavy hoist bays and shop areas as program requirements. The project aimed to integrate structure, surface and building form, with the extensive application of steel plate welding technique


The process started by looking into two-dimensional line patterns and developing a three-dimensional tile out of it.  Each line from the pattern was given a specific “depth” when they behave structurally in the tile, some taking up tensile stress, the others for compression. Two types of tiles are developed, one from line work of a cable net ,the others from a double layered grid (space frame).


All the surfaces of the tiles are resolved into two dimensional surfaces, modeled with card board and glued, which correspond to water-jet steel plate cutting and welding techniques in actual construction realm.


It soon became an exercise of populating the two different type of tiles onto a manipulated roof grid, which is based on the arrangement of the programs underneath and the size of grids change gradually according to the natural illumination needed. The roof has an undulating profile and the overall topography can be understood as nine adjacent but structurally independent surfaces, behaving alternatively as space frame and cable net structures.


Steel plate welded columns with stiffeners receive loads from the roof tiles and transmit to the ground , and they are placed with considerations of the tributary areas of the roof.


The roof has another layer of glazing clad, and the four sides are enclosed by glass walls independent from the major steel structure.

plan lines-no roof pattern [Converted]

red mark roof plan