John Soane Museum

John Soane Museum
Project By: Austin Samson
Instructor: Hernan Diaz Alonso
TA: Ivan Bernal

This project attempts to look at the manipulation of geometry through the use of butchery (in the context of carving meat) as a technique applied to architecture. The creating of space is done through the layering of geometry and understanding the implications of carving into a thing that is not a solid mass and instead a thing that appears solid on the outside but is actually one continuous surface that is inflated within itself to create volumes within volumes that can be carved into.

The location and program is the John Soane Museum in London. The program remains the same, a museum/house where artwork is uniquely stored throughout. The task was to remove the artwork, create a new interior space and facade within the existing museum’s footprint, and put the artwork back inside.

The notion of creating space through the layering of things is not new, we can look at Aldo Van Eyck as a way to understand what it means to create space though different techniques of layering with surfaces and volumes to create courtyards, outer space, and inner space. This project aims to re-think the way in which Van Eyck creates his space by using different methods such as carving.

Hierarchy is achieved through the use of a Jungle as a frame for understanding how many things inter – relate to one another. At first glance, a jungle appears chaotic, messy, and uncontrolled. However, when one takes a much closer look, a Jungle is a system of many things that are intertwined and highly organized in order to create a very strict relationship between all things that occupy the space. This project aims to do the same. Hierarchy begins with the 6 large chunks that have been carved from the original primitive. They have a hierarchy in themselves as the volumes within volumes become smaller and larger depending on how each chunk is carved out. Secondary and tertiary elements are then added that account for structure and circulation that mitigates between the larger chunks. Solid mass is then added to take up leftover space, and a shell is added to enclose the space. To complete the hierarchy, architectural elements such as floor plates and stairs are added.

It is important to note that each element is its own thing and carries its own set of characteristics, scale, and textural quality. As equally important, elements do not blend into other elements. Floor plates are separate objects that are not grafted into walls or other things, for example. This is done in order to maintain the Jungle – like effect. It also forces one to consider how two separate things react with one another and how one thing can force another to evolve or change rather than to simply overtake it.

Corruption of the project can be found in multiple instances. It began with the decision to create volumes within volumes rather than a solid mass, thus dramatically changing the effect carving would have. It can be found in the details, where edges of the carved chunks begin to puff out like a bruised lip. Strange seems begin to appear where different things are forced to interact with one another. Corruption can also be found in the moment of second carving. After the space was filled with things, a second round of carving was used to create occupiable space within the dense jungle. Here, the insides of the chunks are ripped out, leaving behind a messy, torn version of what it once was.

Program is dictated by breaking each chunk into multiple levels of space, where the top floor of each chunk is used as residential space and each subsequent floor is used for museum program. Occupiable space is found both within the chunks and on the outside of the chunk. This allows one to become fully immersed within the carved spaces, but still be allowed to view the carved pieces as things within a space.


Carving for Space and Texturing

The next step was to begin carving into the packed geometry as a way to create interior space that can be occupied. There are five chunks that are oriented onto the site. Each chunk has its insides ripped out so that floor plates may be placed inside. Secondary and tertiary geometry is created to mitigate between and provide structure for the chunks which appear to float in the space. There are two moments of occupation within the space. The first is inside a carved chunk, where most of the program resides. The second is outside of the chunks but still inside the spcae, which is primarily used for circulation along with other, smaller portions of program. This separation allows the inhabitant to both experience the chunks as a space but still be able to view them as things within a space.

Final Geometries and Envelopes

Here, the final geometries are finished, as the entire volume of program has been packed with different layers of surfaces and volumes that sit inside and bridge between one another. It is a jungle-like effect, where upon first glance, the composition appears messy and uncontrolled, yet when one pays close enough attention to the detail, there is a high level of organization found within the layering, folding, and overlapping of geometry. Self intersection is non-existent.


Thickness, Massing, and Secondary Geometry

The next step in the process is to choose carved pieces that will become mass. After giving the carved pieces thickness, it became apparent that there is a play between what is inside and what is outside. Currently, there really is so inside (or enclosed space) only volume that is dictated by the overlapping and layering of geometry. A second system of geometry was added to begin looking at possibilities of structure and circulation as well as a system that could connect multiple massing together in different arrangements.


This series of posts will focus on work done during my studio with Hernan Diaz-Alonso ( The studio revolves around the concept of meat butchery in terms of how we understand ways of manipulating 3D forms. I am interested in the simulated tearing affect provided by Maya and how it can be used to manipulate geometry. We begin by working on massing forms with the notion that later on, we will begin to carve into these forms in order to create and manipulate the form into architecture.

After moving through a series of simulated tearing processes in Maya I was left with open surface membranes. I then began to stitch the open surfaces back together in order to create massing that has volume. The new massing studies are then further modified and stitched to one another to create new forms. I also began giving thickness to the open torn surfaces and then stitching those together to create a different type of form that I believe held on to the language of the original torn surfaces.