Buildings within Buildings

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Project Team

Authors: Lucy Yang, Jeff Jang

Institution: University of Toronto

Instructor: Carol Moukheiber

Studio Coordinator: Sam Dufaux

Studio: Net Zero Activism; Graduate Architecture; Spring 2021

Project Description

This proposal provides a platform for social and environmental activism. It announces the urgency of social and environmental reform through relinquishing ownership of the ground plane, offering an open courtyard for the community in East Harlem.

The courtyard is a public and flexible space where social movements and voices are amplified, and hidden processes of building construction and demolition waste are brought to the foreground. The proposed building not only serves as a storage of salvaged building elements, but it is also comprised of reclaimed elements itself. Reclaimed windows and bricks from the local contexts become critical components that give the project its architectural identity and reduces embodied energy.

The concept of nested thermal buffer zones, inspired by the flimsy facade of reclaimed windows, also bolster the building performance. The temperature gradient blurs the distinction between outside and inside, creating a composition of buildings within buildings that is comprised of found objects.


Additional Links

Project on JSTOR

Studio Description

The Studio explores both the conceptual and technical dimensions of post-carbon thinking at the building scale. It asked the students to re-think and reimagine the social and material dimensions of buildings to create a Net Zero Center for Activism in East Harlem. The Center for Activism is a global hub for the activist movement to work together and share ideas and also an institution that functions as a local community center. It is a framework to re-think how buildings should be built/un-built and programmed for the future given we have 9 years left to decarbonize our industry. The project takes place in New York City. The city’s urban structure, density, culture and endless transformations is the ultimate triumph of capitalism. At the same time, and perhaps as a result, it is a city of extreme climate vulnerability and social inequities. The site, along Lexington Avenue and between 119th and 120th Street materialises this condition where social and environmental vulnerabilities overlap. As a starting point, the students articulated ideas in a “Net Zero Manifesto” to consider how the interaction of program, systems, site and space can create a new ground for both decarbonization and social justice. At the technical level, the studio applied a methodology that asked students to reconsider design working methods to integrate and represent the quantifiable yet relatively invisible forces such as embodied energy, supply chains and thermodynamics to deliver a Net Zero building.