Liya Zhu

Liya Zhu

Saint Louis, MO, US



The studio will explore the conceptual implications of surveillance systems and develop design strategies influenced by these technologies. Then students will investigate representation strategies to explore the spatial implications of dynamic systems in relationship to site issues.


Research on NSA

(1) NSA is usually located in the middle of nowhere hidden from public because of the communications security. An official once said about the "never-existing" puzzle place, "The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it."

(2) NSA is good at electronic eavesdropping, but is it good at making proper use of information they get? There are a lot of intelligence failures. The aura of respectability makes them pay more attention to secrets and less to eloquent arguments and evidences that lie under their noses. After going through many failures they begin to get confused about what is true, the apparent or the secret. NSAer is listening and finally he gets deaf, which means, the better u are at collection, the harder it will be to do good production.

(3) Privacy on the line is a very sensitive topic. Some say security is bigger than privacy most of the time. We have nothing to hide, so why should we worry about privacy? "Think of insects, and you will start to itch; research signits, you'll become a little paranoid. The discomfort is more instinctive than intellectual."

(4) Schizophrenia is usual for some NSAers. The cause is that, on the institutional level, secrecy can corrupt bureaucracies and mask mismanagement and incompetence, and on the individual level it can corrupt identities, creating a profusion of secret lives and leaving nothing free of its taint. Once an official said that "The more I read about classification and security at the NSA, the more it seemed that the life of an individual working in signals intelligence is of necessity, a fractured one, a life split into discrete parts."
I really like the "Frost Wedging" theory: Most rocks have tiny wracks and fissures running through them, and when it rains, water seeps into these joints. As the temperature cools, the water freezes and expands and ruptures the rock from within. Similarly, secrecy can filter into a life and harden into routine, eroding a coherent identity and resulting in a profusion of different and discrete personae.

We collected so much about NSA from books, but NSA is still like a central void. It’s too difficult to get close enough to see clearly, although we know that it’s definitely connected to our daily life.



I begin to think about creating my NSA from discrete parts. The fractured whole would be a membrane structure enclosing a huge void.

Firstly basic modular unit is hollowed then mirrored to have multi- directional development potential. Then a single wire is used to study the performative logic of possiblities, which include scalar transformation, extention, bifurcation, twist, squeezing, and looping. As this technic unfolds, open and enclosed spaces are created and modified from unit to unit, producing an adaptive and morphologically flexible structural membrane field.

This field begins to suggest a reading of my NSA as an equally adaptive surveilance infrastructure in which building units respond to the huge amount of mystic ever-changing information they collect. Architectures’ role in this scenario is to provide a transitive ground upon which exchanges and understanding of NSAers can play themselves out, producing a dynamic system of the background. This system is the performance of a highly intelligent tectonic one without a definition of its own. Linkages and voids conserve and sustain the balance of the system, which would otherwise disappear into the existing fabric of our daily life.




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Status: School Project
Location: St. Louis