Inhabiting Infrastructure

The goal of the studio is to explore the implications, challenges and opportunities of architectural scale in large urban infrastructures. The capacity to merge urban and architectural scales through radical exploration of the ambiguity between superstructure (above ground) and infrastructure (below) creates an opportunity to escape the plan-based tradition of urbanism and explore sectional strategies. The notion of inhabited infrastructures is a way to move beyond the traditional understanding of cityscape (street, urban block, lot, building) and explore inversions and mutations of these four scales of urban fabric, not as a way to erase the city but as a way to invent different strategies to intervene in metropolitan contexts that are incredibly layered, complex, and intertwined. These explorations are especially relevant in contexts where the city fabric is interrupted by geographical barriers that create edge conditions (e.g., the Seine in Paris). There is a very long tradition of inhabited infrastructures; historically, inhabited bridges created a continuity of the urban fabric in discontinuous situations (the bridge is literally a street within). With the emergence of urbanism as an independent discipline, this tradition has disappeared. Attempts at reviving this trajectory emerged in the 60’s and 70’s with the utilization of overblown architectural scales as a territorial device. From Superstudio to Rem Koolhaas, these strategies were mostly critical projects and apparatuses, pretexts for a new architectural discourse. While addressing issues of scale and ‘bigness,’ this studio will aim to develop plausible, buildable structures that react to site conditions, program, and technical realities. In this case, size matters and it will be the driving force to explore the threshold between architectural practice and urban discourse.

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