Civic Mutations

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My Aspiration

For our first assignment for thesis seminar, we were asked to write a short synopsis of our intentions for the thesis project. Here’s a portion of my aspiration I submitted.

Can architecture solve our current social/housing problems? Or rather, can a well-designed architecture solve our social well-being?

A recent article in Monocle magazine rated Copenhagen as the best livable city in the world. And within the top 10 spot, none of them are American cities. Jane Jacobs mentioned in her book on “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” that there is a lack of public life in great cities like Los Angeles, and suggested buildings be primarily mixed use. I had the opportunity to visit both Copenhagen and Los Angeles recently and agreed with the two views. Copenhagen, like Boston is small in scale, but the city provides its citizens with great public infrastructure, facilities and amenities. In contrast, Los Angeles lacks comfort and convenience getting from one destination to another without a car.  Because of that, there seems to be a lack of interaction between the different communities within the city of Los Angeles. In terms of architecture, the modern and old sits in balance within the city of Copenhagen. However, architecture in Los Angeles are so spread out that it’s difficult to judge how they stand with each other, but as an individual building, they are visually stunning and serves its purpose well. As I begin to dig deeper into the idea of city planning, the editor in Monocle magazine believed good city planning care for its citizens and their quality of life, and thus listed a few key elements of this so called “qualities”. And so, I beg to question what qualities do we/I possess in today’s modern world? How does that affect a city and its building? 

Clive Thompson of the New York Times published a rather interesting article on September 5, 2008. The title was “I’m So Totally, Digitally Close to You – Brave New World of Digital Intimacy”. His story was on the development of social networking sites like Facebook and how that has changed our interaction and connection with friends and communities and thus aided in the creation of this ambiguous intimacy within our social network. As architecture necessitates around human presence, there’s no doubt our social behavior more or less affect the design and process behind building design. Thompson’s article provided a stimulating point of view and direction towards my question on social qualities and its affect on building design. On a deeper level, it goes beyond questioning our social interaction within one building, but also the interaction between individual buildings and how they (the buildings) are addressing the city as a whole. As a thesis proposal, the question begins with the most basic element suggested by Jane Jacobs and the editor of Monocle magazine, what are the qualities in life we seek? From there, investigation and research on today’s society will project our vision of a modern building and its connection to our community on which will be tested within an urban context.

The current idea is still a bit vague, but as I was doing my readings and talking with some friends, I was questioning my direction. Part of the school requirements is to design a building at the end of the day, but I felt that I was dealing with a bigger problem here, a more urban planning direction which I didn’t want to go for. So, I’m starting to look into the core of architecture – space. What’s the definition of space in today’s society? Is there a boundary between public and private space? Do we even need that boundary? These are just a few questions I’m asking myself. I recently found a book about hybrid space and the existence of mobility in today’s society. Haven’t finish reading the articles yet, but I feel strongly in developing this new prototype.


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