Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

I graduated in 2013, but still blog here once in a while.

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    final work...finally!

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Jan 21, '12 5:42 PM EST

    Oh hello there, Archinect!

    Finals were a blur and vacation was the best, and here we are back in the trays yet again. Oh, I have so many things to tell you. But first, my project from last semester!

    A twelve lane highway runs under the entire site. I was building on air-rights over this highway, so exhausting the air from the highway, filtering it, and returning to the city was a necessary task. My aim was to do this in a way that was, well, architectural, making this mechanism apparent in different ways and creating a variety of spatial opportunities.

    The premise was to combine existing technologies to filter air first through compost, then through planted media. Thermal chimneys would then provide the necessary suction instead of fans. The requirement to provide thermal chimneys throughout the site (which require some combination of horizontal area and vertical height, and benefit from south-facing exposure); as well as enclosed, south-facing exposures for the planted filtration; posed constraints and opportunities in terms of form and orientation.

    The site was treated as four sub-sites, each using the same combination of compost filter, plant filter, and thermal chimney, together with some residential units, but deployed with different formal and urban effects. Each site also had a different kind of more public program in addition to residences.

    Model. I loved working on this but it ended up taking way too much time. (Thanks to Anya and Drew for helping! Heart heart heart.)

    Oh, and you can kind of see this spray-painted green mesh that runs in a long strip at the edge of the street (a planted corridor). I had quite an adventure with that. At first, I didn't shake the spray can enough, so it got totally clogged. And clever as I am, I used a pin to try to clear up the nozzle, periodically shaking and unsuccessfully trying to spray. Several minutes into this procedure, the paint exploded up out of the can, and my face got entirely sprayed green. If I weren't wearing glasses I probably would have had to go to the hospital or something, as it would have coated my eyeballs pretty thickly.

    If I weren't so dismayed, I would have taken a picture to share with you.

    The moral of the story is that you should always shake the can well before spraying, then spray upside down to clean the nozzle when you're done. (And facing the can away from your face while you mess with it isn't a solution either. The next day, the green paint exploded again, this time sending a thick stream of green ninety degrees to the side. At least this time, the nozzle got unclogged!)

    Diagrams of the strategies for each of the four sub-sites. They were named, from west to east: hill, greenhouse, courtyard, and tower. The "hill" mediated between the upper level of the Nervi-designed bus terminal, allowing people to go from street level to the bus terminal level on a zig-zag path on the roof of a south-facing atrium space. The "greenhouse" and "tower" each spanned between two of the existing towers, in different ways. The "tower" didn't have any existing buildings on its part of the site to contend with. So in this space, I added a fifth tower and a flat (but "thick and productive") park.

    Sections through the four sites. From top to bottom: hill, greenhouse, courtyard, and tower. The left column highlights program, and the right column shows how the air filtering system is deployed.

    Bigger view of the section through the courtyard.

    The 'courtyard' space is an urban plaza where paths weave between the glassed-in spaces of the planted filters. The aim was for this to be an urban interpretation of an orchard, with the gabled greenhouse-type roofs like giant furrows on a farm. The paths ramp up to a slightly higher position in the center of the plaza, so you can see over the roofs, but closer to the edges you'd be lower down, walking between them.

    If I were better at rendering and collage, this would probably be more apparent! But please squint and imagine the

    Anyways, here is that same space from above. I think my residential blocks (in color, spanning between the existing towers in white) should have been a bit lower. As it is, the plaza would probably be shady for much of the time.

    The southern residential block of the "courtyard" from the south, street-facing side. The thermal chimneys and apartments both want south-facing space on the facade, so there's a kind of weaving that allows each residential unit type to have some space on the facade and a balcony.

    The northern residential block and north-facing facade. These blocks are single-loaded with exterior corridors to access the units. This gives more exterior exposures and to keep these slabs thin to facilitate access to the courtyard, since it is accessed from these streets by walking under the building.

    Bigger view of the section through the tower. You can (just barely) see the highway at the bottom, then the compost filters and plenum for collecting air, which then gets pulled up past an underground parking garage, through thermal chimneys and (on the right, or south-facing facade) through a tall planted space that also functions as a vertical atrium.

    View of the tower from the park. The people are several times too big, but let's say we don't notice that. On this facade, units and thermal chimneys are again jockeying for space. Different unit types (each with a different color), when aggregated, create different kinds of balcony spaces with some privacy.

    That's about it. I learned a great deal in this studio, and really enjoyed my project, though I wish I had the time and dexterity to show the spaces in more detail through drawings. I ended up focusing more on showing how the system could be deployed (always the same system, different forms and effects) across the site at a larger scale. But there were a number of smaller-scale architectural questions that I studied in Rhino models and in the physical model that I didn't end up showing in the drawings, and that was the main thing I got called out for at the final review.

    Nader Tehrani said I should "hire an MIT student" to do my diagrams for me next time, so that I can work more on my drawings. Not sure how his students would feel about that.

    Anyways, let's close with a couple of photos from our final review:

    Here, Marion explains some things about Brandon's most excellent project to the critics. From left to right: Paul Lewis, Felipe Correa, Hashim Sarkis, Marion Weiss, Keller Easterling, Brandon Cuffy.

    Scott Cohen was really (really) enthusiastic about Ceri Edmunds' most excellent project, but took exception to the way it took its rhetorical nature so seriously, down to its details.

    The work across the studio was really diverse. Most of the projects were driven much more than mine by a unified formal approach, and took on very different urban and environmental agendas. We'll have a sampling of this work by all my classmates posted at the BMW Guggenheim Lab's website soon, and I'll post the link when we have it!

    Thanks for reading!




    • Nice Lian. I like the note of color. And your plaza reminds of the bins in a record store (obviously not the same scale).

      Jan 23, 12 4:28 pm  · 
      Lian Chikako Chang

      Thanks, Andrew! The plaza also reminded me of my favorite game on Facebook, called Triple Town... :P

      Jan 23, 12 7:06 pm  · 

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About this Blog

This blog was most active from 2009-2013. Writing about my experiences and life at Harvard GSD started out as a way for me to process my experiences as an M.Arch.I student, and evolved into a record of the intellectual and cultural life of the Cambridge architecture (and to a lesser extent, design/technology) community, through live-blogs. These days, I work as a data storyteller (and blogger at in San Francisco, and still post here once in a while.

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