Meshes of the Afternoon
Harvard Graduate School of Design - Fall 2011

STATEMENT

What is a utopia today? A dreamer lies on the city's bedrock - giant spiders weave away his dreams - webs expanding out of sight. A tapestry spreads and fastens to the streets, projected as a three dimension matrix, a scaffolding of dreams. This sensitive membrane sifts through the currents of the city, catching in its web particles, fragments, seasons, nights and days, lifting them up in the winds like a fisherman hoists his net.

Up here in the stratosphere, the layers of the city peel away, elutriating as in geological formations. Looking down, we see the speeding cars, above us the moon, motionless stars - and planets. But from this incisive contemplation of the city comes a feeling of nostalgia, as if we had left the Earth and were but ghosts walking through the walls ofthe city's towers. They no longer exist in physical form, all is abstraction.

A mermaid is caught. Her body is tangled in the ropes, but her spirit wanders and animates our structure - is it not in fact our desire that flutters in those cables?

An intangible manifestation of the city, framed within its air-rights, a space in constant expression allowing a better understanding of our environment, and also of ourselves. In a world whose complexity escapes us, confuses us, crushes us, but inspires us - this is today's utopia.

IMAGES

Day and Night Elevations: During the day, we see the hyper-structure supporting the cable mesh in tension. The program is fixed to either one or the other. The towers and bus terminal are a visible part of the complex. At night, the hyper-structure disappears, and the activities taking place inside the mesh take over, as they seem to float.
The Cinema: The cinematic qualities of the complex take on their most obvious manifestation in the screening space. With the city as a backdrop, the cinema acts as both an event in the mesh and an episode for people walking by. On the right, we see the gallery, in visual communication with the screen, whose projections through perspective lines resemble graffiti on a fabric wall.
The Night Club “Les Planètes”: The mesh continues in the enclosed space of the night club, reflecting colored lights and allowing both circulation and lounging on the way up to the main dance floor. As the club overlooks the city, the giant disco balls float above like planets, and long neon lights are shooting stars. In what must feel like space travel, patterning reverberation, dancers sway on floorscapes frozen in the hum of undulation.
Between the Towers: The three spaces framed by the towers, the additional residential units, and the elevated platform are invested with public and cultural activities. They are connected by passages through the towers, and thus constitute a conceptual “three-ring circus”. Like ghosts, the audience slips through towers free from walls. In front, the mesh serves both as elevated passages, and a vertical projection surface, the Media Wall. As the mesh pulls away from the exterior structure, gardens overlooking the city are revealed.
The Arena: On the western side of the complex the arena overlooks the G.W. Bridge entrance. Constituted by the field and the suspended running track, it provides both facilities for leisurely sporting activities, and venues for professional meets.
The Nervi Bus Terminal Promenade: The hyper-structure, scaffolding the sky, allows the discovery and habilitation of extraordinary parts of the city such as the roof of the Nervi Bus Terminal, otherwise out of reach. As a planted promenade spans its length, pop-up stores are spring bound in tension overhead, reflecting the earthly seasons and the culture force between them. The netted mesh, suspending stores like frost-encrusted leaves, gives way to windowed mannequins in sleeves. Their sweeping loops of woven mesh with fiber warp and timeless weft write history of transience in tapestry of permanence.
View from East River
The Underpass:Stoic in its solid framework, meshes breathing in the air, drivers raise their eyes as if to catch it staring back at them. Like a child on his elbows crawling underneath a trampoline.

ANIMATION

STUDIO BRIEF: Evolutionary Infrastructure - the new mega form

Biased toward expediting movement and inherently resistant to supporting other forms of inhabitation, transportation infrastructure is an archaic monument to mono-functional use. With ever increasing levels of urban density throughout the world, infrastructure in the city is an underworked territory that must sustain a larger agenda.

At a time where the scale of architectural commissions has grown to nearly infrastructural proportions, new models are necessary to work at this very large scale. The intersection of city, water, bridge, tunnel, on and off ramps constitutes a distinct condition. This studio will test the potential of an evolutionary, inhabitable, and hybrid form of infrastructure - a new mega form.

The legacy of infrastructural utopias is realized in the northern tip of Manhattan where the George Washington Bridge enters Manhattan, forming an elevated highway that crosses the city and incorporates Nervi's revolutionary bus station and a series of housing towers. This unfinished modernist project terminates abruptly at the eastern edge of Manhattan where the highway crosses the Harlem River and carves through the Bronx with a remnant wake of on and off ramps.

Completing this utopian project raises new questions: how can this dynamic but unfinished hybrid be reconsidered as a new mega form, where a new reciprocity between the precision of architectural expression and the systemic logics of ecology, landscape, and infrastructure can generate a contemporary paradigm?