Excessively Interior : SciARC Graduate Thesis 2014 : Austin Samson

Through the layering, carving, and manipulation of interior space, a new coherency between architectural conditions can be explored where space is created through the excessive layering of mass and volume and the envelope is a bi-product of the hyper-articulation of those elements.

The use of an envelope as an initiator of the design process has been constantly in flux, always trying to blur the line of inside and outside in order to produce certain levels of ambiguity, moving from the deep column forests of Roman architecture to the intertwining of courtyards and massing, to single surface architecture brought forth by Alejandro Zaera-Polo. This thesis pulls from the likes of Aldo Van-Eyck, more specifically, his pavilion and its ability to continuously transition from inside to outside while at the same time maintaining a clear distinction of space and hierarchy.

The site, Boston City Hall, provides a basis of comparison between the successes of the Van-Eyck pavilion and the apparent failure of Boston City Hall’s ability to activate the surrounding plaza through its ambiguous lower facade.

The program, a typical office tower of varying purposes, allows for the exploration of using an inverted approach to design, by forming space from the inside out, to disrupt the typical pancake floor typology that exists in almost every tower created. This will result in a multitude of spatial typologies within a single tower rather than the same floor being repeated over and over.

Bulge, De-laminate, and Inflate: There are three towers, and each tower has three wall systems employed to create space (an articulate surface, a corrupted surface, and a paneled surface). Each tower explores a different technique to create spatial conditions within the systems as they come in contact with one another. The result is varying degrees of openness or seclusion within each tower. There is then a glass curtain wall employed to further the ambiguity of interior and exterior space within each tower. For example, one tower is fully wrapped but inverts itself on the inside where a second tower utilizes glass to enclose specific volumes throughout.

Carving: Carving, in the form of butchery, as seen in the diagrammatic book “Whole Beast Butchery” is used as a technique to open up the massing in specific areas. As the layering becomes ever more excessive, it becomes more difficult to distinguish between thick massing and thin skin and the volumes they create. Carving is used here as a tool of precision to open the massing back up to those volumes so they do not become lost in the complex surface structure. By doing so, architectural elements such as floor slabs, stair cores, and elevator cores are exposed to the outside. It also allows for pockets of outdoor space to creep into the very center of each tower.

Columns to Volumes: Working without an envelope also allows for new coherency between architectural elements to be explored. Columns can be inflated or de-laminated into volumes seamlessly resulting in a new type of relationship between inside and outside. Central cores can be carved away or bulged out in order create spatial conditions that further integrate the more standard from of design (such as a core) with more unique conditions without having to create separation between the two.

Staggering Floor Plates: The tower typology also gives the opportunity to disrupt the typical stacked floor plates that almost every tower built utilizes. Designing interior first allows for not only differentiating program vertically but horizontally as well while maintaining hierarchy between spaces. Staggering floor plates also allows for outside rethinking of the typical balcony in that exterior tower space is no longer required to hang on the exterior of the building but nestle itself within the tower as well while the use of carving ensures that those spaces remain exterior rather than being buried and lost inside the tower.

Inverting Lobby: Finally, the lobby typology has been completely inverted where one is not inside the tower until they enter the elevator. This is meant to exaggerate the existing government center that almost does the same thing. The use of stilts to elevate the upper floors of the government center allows for movement under the building without ever entering the structure. The same goes for each tower. On the ground floor, a forest of columns reaches upward and eventually translates into volumes that create the lowest inner spaces high off the ground.

Animation: Animated sectioning is used as a design tool during the process in order to discover and capitalize on specific moments within the complexity of each tower.

This project looks to explore the use of unconventional tools as a way to produce new hyper-articulated form.

Three Skins

Each tower begins as a mass made of three skins layered on top of each other and each skin has a different form of articulation (clean, corrupted, and paneled). Working without an envelope also allows for a new coherency between architectural elements to be explored. Columns can be inflated or de-laminated into volumes seamlessly resulting in a new type of relationship between inside and outside. Central cores can be carved away or bulged out in order create spatial conditions that further integrate the more standard from of design (such as a core) with more unique conditions without having to create separation between the two.

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.

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.