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  • 6AM (Sixth and Alameda)

    Andrea BAENA & Sophia NOWINA-KONOPKA, "Fragmented Monolith." Model.
    los angeles CALIFORNIA

    SCI-Arc
    critics: M Casey REHM.

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
    Joel WONG & Amanda GUNAWAN: This project is about the production of an Architecture in which two antithetical morphological systems are forced to dialogue in a tactical…

    … manner in order to create a contemporary mixed-use development. While these two morphological systems have their individual merits, the mediation of the two antagonistic tactics will inevitably result in multiple tensions that have architectural implications on a variety of scales.

    The process starts out with the proper identification and understanding of these two different entities. The discrete, is defined by its striated forms, combinatorial properties, repetitive nature and rapid assembly methods. On the other hand, its counterpart, the continuous, is regarded for its ability to produce poly-scalar spatial effects and its structural continuity that make long-spanning spatial configurations possible, sometimes taking on the role of flowing or soft form.

    We are quite simply, arguing that an Architecture that is an amalgamation of both entities, should be able to encompass all the programmatic needs of a city or a development.

    The site of this thesis is in the Arts District, a proposed development referred to as 6AM, which is an abbreviation of the street intersection at which it is located, Sixth St and Alameda. The project consists of 2.8 million square feet of program that includes residential, commercial, office spaces, a hotel, a school, exhibition spaces. To condense it, the site essentially constitutes every main programmatic space available- a city in a city, which is the perfect petri-dish for us to test our newly-invented hybrid morphological system. Our wish is for this mixed-use residential project to operate according to an urban model.

    We engaged both top-down and bottom-up approaches to design and assembly in attacking a project that is so large-scale, taking advantage of the strengths of both methods. Residential units remain strictly bottom-up assembly as well as design method while its amenities (pool, gym, etc) adopts a top-down method. Many other programmatic spaces incorporate the fusion of these two methods, the imposition of a gridded repetitive system and how these components encounter the singular continuous elements.

    A library is an example in which both methods have to be deployed. A library primarily calls for a singular space but also requires spaces in which the subdivision of it through the infection of the assemblage pieces, the discrete, is necessary. Although an overarching top-down view governs the design of a library, its programmatic requirements align with the strengths of a bottom-up assembly method. The library is a space in which repetition and rapid customization are often necessary. It can absolutely benefit from a rapid deployment method as well as contain excess space for continual expansion. The bottom-up method ensures this. The hierarchy allows the assembly to be done over time and for the space to continuously expand and grow.

    We studied two precedents in great detail that ended up heavily influencing this thesis. Kowloon walled city and Corbusier’s venice hospital. Both precedents are starkly different from one another with Kowloon Walled City being a much more of an informal Architectural project as compared to the extremely formal Venice Hospital. One is designed by an architect while the other is simply a settlement. Our aim for 6AM was that it should possess the systematic structure of Venice Hospital, whose every detail was meticulously planned out while allowing for a dynamic growth method, the development was to be built on the idea of phased dynamism.
    In contrast to Corbusier’s Venice Hospital where the modules are working at a one-to-one scale, our components are a series of hierarchically scaled modules that respond to program and space. Corbusier’s module was one that was fully contained and because ours, in comparison, is not working at a one-to-one scale. The components operate with multiple sclar hierarchies and combinatorially combine to in turn generate different outputs. It thus gives the project the ability to operate in between the two territories of the more static venice hospital and the more dynamic Kowloon Walled City. Our aim with these components was to make possible the creation of a development that has the coherence of a formally designed project, such as venice hospital while encouraging dynamism through adaptation and scaling, the way that Kowloon Walled City operates, ultimately with an underlying intention.

    Our discrete elements are made up of a single module, similar to Corbusier’s venice hospital. One that is able to switch directions, is structurally sound and is able to be mass-produced using simple materials with simple joinery. Most importantly, these elements can ultimately produce a myriad of possibilities, both expected and unexpected. This module was then used to create components, from small scale items like furniture to structural elements like beams and columns. It allows for the creation of more complex macro-components. It is also used to infect the continuous and provide regulatory structure and organization in spaces that require some. The discrete also eliminates the need for singular and estranged furniture pieces because everything becomes built-in.

    In designing the continuous we looked at the idea of large pockets of spaces intersecting with one another to create a robust and whole space. We also investigated the idea of intersecting multiple scales of vaults to utilize their cusps to define varying space types.
    There are several moments in which the two systems would collide and an unavoidable negotiation would have to take place. These situations raise questions of hierarchy, which system should reign over the other and how? The discrete infects the continuous, transforming it with slits, inflicting a regulatory framework upon it. The continuous utilizes its now striated form to in turn receive the discrete. Both systems are trained to receive one another in differing ways that ultimately still engages their respective strengths.
    We are imagining a development that is always continuously expanding yet still maintaining an order. The continuous that engages a top-down assembly tends to take a far longer time to build unlike the discrete whose bottom-up assembly method allows for it to be constantly added on to, to have the flexibility of an ambiguous end goal, and to always remain unfinished. And so these larger discrete elements provide support in the development of the continuous, both in regard to structural support and framework.

    The presence of a single dominant boulevard as the main circulation space that connects the residential spaces to the hotels and retail/office building is to help guide the growth of the residential modules. The boulevard is a permanent element in the ever-growing ever-changing development, guiding and coaxing a certain behavior through the residential. It serves as a backbone for the growth of the residential units. The boulevard enforces an order onto the more informal construction of these residential units. As you look down on the city from this boulevard you will witness an entire city in the works, you are essentially surrounded by the dynamic energy of a working city, an organized complexity.

    We now live in a time where more value is placed on cognitive labour rather than physical and it is integral for this to manifest itself in Architecture, the way that it has in other disciplines, for us to maintain relevance in society. Information and knowledge are now the most valuable forms of currency.

    The Arts District is going through the effects of extreme gentrification. Although this mostly means good things for the district, the inevitable negative externalities that are tied with gentrification are abundant. A very important one is that rent prices are skyrocketing and residents who used to live here can no longer afford it and are naturally driven out of the Arts District. There are currently 16 proposed large-scale developments for the Arts District on top of this one and all of them are essentially going down the same path and will most likely become yet another typical mixed-use development project with expensive rent. Our hope for 6AM is that it does not become yet another one of those. We tackled that through this thesis with the persistent challenge of trying to find a solution that alleviates the high rental issue while not disadvantaging too many groups of people.

    Because our residential spaces and the elements that construct them are so predictable and controlled we are proposing a system that labels each of these individual pieces that make up the component as well as track its life-span. The data that is collected from this is, valuable, and can be sold for profit, which is a plus point for the developer. As a result, residents who agree to have the materials of the components in their house fully tracked can enjoy cheaper rent.
    We, as architects are always at a junction where we cannot decide whether to please our clients or to serve the greater good. More often than not, we choose the former and become the enemy. But why does it always have to be a conflicting choice? Developers need to realize that the most valuable form of resource these days comes in the form of humans and their cognitive strengths.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    JW & AG: Primarily Kowloon Walled City and Venice Hospital by Le Corbusier, but also the work of the Metabolist, Team 10, The Accelerationists and the contemporary society’s shift to the principles of crowd-sharing.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    JW & AG: #accelerate the accelerationist reader, Ben Bratton’s the stack, The mereological city by Daniel Kohler, All documentaries and readings about Kowloon Walled City and Venice Hospital, Post-capitalism and a world without work, Black Mirror.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    JW & AG: Refik Anadol, Gilles Retsin, Tomas Saraceno, Hans Op De Beeck, MVRDV.