Harvard University - GSD (Quilian)



Sep '06 - Dec '09

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    GROUNDED: Ecology as Frame for an Informal Community in Tijuana

    Quilian Riano
    May 16, '09 6:57 PM EST

    All the Images Below can be found at a better resolution in my thesis blog and Flickr Set. (you can also click on some of them to see them larger).

    First of all, I want to thank everyone that helped me in the final push of the project, many staying with me until the wee hours of the morning for several days.

    Big heartfelt thanks to:
    Izabela (MLA), Joaquim Mendoza (Architect), Stephanie Tam (MArch), Simon Bussiere (MLA), Melissa Guerrero (MLA), Jonathan Evans (MArch), Neil Freeman (MUP), Pedro Santa-Rivera (MArchII, MAUD), Ilana Cohen (MLA), Darwin Marrero (MAUD), and Linda Chamorro (MLA). I also want to thank Eric Howeler, Teddy Cruz, Shauna Gilles-Smith, Christian Werthmann, and Margaret Crawford for listening and working with me.

    This would have been both harder and not as fun without all of you.


    Strategies to improve the social condition and clean the water of the Los Laureles Canyon (Haven't really changed since Midterm).

    The Following Masterplan is a prototype for the new communities with commercial and social services I am proposing above (All together diagram).

    The main issue the Masterplan deals with is WATER. How to control it, channel it, and how to make it a part of daily life. This means you need to be able to see it, your buildings need to react to it, and at times you need to be able to play with it.
    Larger Version of this Axo

    The masterplan uses a series of terraces to direct water into public landscape areas that run in the opposite direction. This water is channeled into six cisterns that in turn help shape the roofs and ground planes of two community sheds. Houses then plug into the community sheds for their utilities.

    The Housing is comprised of a cheap and interchangeable system. As with the rest of the elements of the thesis the main purpose is to collect water. The house if self is comprised of an aggregatable 3mx6m module. One is enough for a studio apartment, two are good for a single family housing, and then they can be aggregated into row housing and other typologies.

    I began with the argument that frames and infills (see the poster) are the best way in which architects can operate in informal contexts. However, often these systems, trying to let anything happen anywhere, have been generic, siteless, and universalist to a fault. My thesis was trying to develop frame and infill systems that are grounded and tied to the natural systems in their site while still allowing for flexibility and change overtime.

    This took me out of my comfort zone many times forcing me to understand landscape and urban planning better. I am glad that this happened as I feel that these type of projects need to happen in a holistic, interdisciplinary way. I was happy to have four MLAs, four MArchs, two MAUDs, and one MUP helping me at the end of the semester. This is something I hope to do more of as I transition into professional life.

    The final review generally went well. The jurors seemed to buy the project and its premise. The major question that came up is ownership and how it is dealt in this project. My answer is that I want to continue to develop the concept, but right now I am thinking that people would not own their lot. They would instead buy into the large public infrastructure and own the pieces that make up their house. Afterall, this is a community of migrants into Mexico many of them who are there for only some time. When you leave you can sell pieces of your house to other people in the network of new communities using similar systems all over the Los Laureles Canyon.

    Another aspect that the jury seemed to like is that this is a real need and a real project. I, with Teddy Cruz's support, will begin working with Oscar Romo (the non-profit client) soon. What I designed here may not be 100% what gets built but it will influence that final outcome.


    • b3tadine[sutures]

      Q, i have always enjoyed yours, and Smokes work, so congrats on a wonderful project.

      What I find interesting about this thesis is that the shed/collector seems to be the "real" architecture, that whatever the migrants in Mexico build, the shed is the integral that binds the spaces and the architecture. I almost don't care what the housing looks like, as it is completely subsumed by the shed/collector.

      May 17, 09 8:47 am  · 

      Go Q,

      I to like the "metaphor" of the shed/collector as the connective tissue(?) or infrastructure/system/structural bones of whatever else may get built on site.
      In terms of continuing the project seems like that might be the part to try and focus on getting built. It would seem to have the post immediate and direct impact on lives of clients....

      Good luck my man

      May 17, 09 10:52 am  · 

      this is a great project and I particularly enjoy how the architecture is born out of the need for water for macro/micro needs. My criticism would be how to integrate other systems of collection - namely energy

      otherwise an awesome project... is it time to celebrate?

      May 17, 09 7:03 pm  · 

      congrats, quilian! i agree that it's a pretty compelling project. makes me start thinking about possibilities: the sign of a good provocation!

      so take the following as evidence of the project getting my juices flowing, not a direct crit:

      what if the roof were the primary collector, moreso than any shaping of the ground plane, so that no shaping of the ground plane itself was necessary? along the lines of murcutt's 'tread lightly' methodology. that way the existing grade - which has presumably stabilized over the years - doesn't erode because of disturbance, no loss of topsoil, etc.

      of course, in both your and my solutions, getting rain/moisture down to the soil, so that it doesn't become a dustbowl, is also a potential consideration.

      another thought - instead of what appears to be a steel structure/roof, what if the shed was also a thermal mass, shading the housing in the day (which yours already does) but then delivering that heat in the night (assuming that's an issue, if tijuana has similar conditions to our own southwest)?

      'plugging in' to the roof is a great way of providing infrastructure. could that same infrastructure also be a collector/storer/deliverer of amenities? like via funneling of prevailing winds? pv collecting/storage? solar hot water?

      sorry, i'm sure that a myriad of possibilities came up when you were developing your project. there are just so many things that this roof could do... and it's a beautiful thing, too!

      i love that the shed suggests that public space = any/every non-house-interior space under the shed that people can find and use. probably a collection of varied levels of enclosure/openness, shade/sun, large/small, depending on what's desired for any given use: large group gathering to single person lounging in quiet.


      great stuff. simple and thoughtful and open-ended.

      May 17, 09 8:20 pm  · 

      Q! well done, I'm impressed by the originality and synthesis of all the bits of your 4(?) years at the GSD into your thesis. I'd love to hear more about it when we next cross paths.

      so what's next? is Izabela finished too?

      May 17, 09 9:12 pm  · 

      q congratulations!!!! i'm bookmarking this and coming back to look at it when i have more time [finishing final papers right now]

      May 18, 09 10:17 am  · 

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