Boîte-en-Valise, French for “box in a suitcase,” is inspired by a work of Mercel Duchamp of the same name. The piece serves as a protective case for seven miniaturized projects from my first year in Carnegie Mellon’s architecture program. Rather than fully obscure the portfolio miniatures, 10% of the closed structure’s surface area has been removed, allowing partial views of the pieces even when closed and locked.
Depending on the number of operations made when opening the box, different pieces become exposed and obscured. This quality encourages an exploratory approach that focuses the viewer’s attention on different pieces at different stages in the unfolding process. When closed, an inset walnut tendon secures the main volumes and safely locks the box for transportation.
One of Carnegie Mellon University’s longest enduring traditions is the Fence. Students partake in the practice of “claiming” the fence by occupying the surrounding gravel pit, painting the colors of their organization on the fence, and sleeping overnight to prevent rival groups from claiming the fence themselves. The charge for this project was for 10 groups to create adjoining shelters that offered protection from the elements and sleeping space for the occupying members of the fence.
The project began with a simple notion: repetition of a modular unit. This idea relates the structure to the fence near which it sits and also facilitated construction and allowed for maximized material usage. To deepen the shelter’s relationship to its location and the neighboring structures, the rectangular volumes were carefully distorted as they moved away from the fence.
A key feature of the structure is the inclusion of two smaller, movable volumes. These volumes dramatically transform the space by shifting the focus from interior to exterior. These sliding volumes provide seating, storage, and steps for climbing onto or into or on top of the structure.
By exposing the framing of the structure, the shelter exudes an honesty and simple clarity that elevates the basic forms out of which it is made. This notion is further enhanced by the use of a series of carefully crafted mortise and tendon joints that provide both structural integrity and clean lines.
The shelter provides three levels of habitation: the floor, the elevated sleeping pods, and the roof. Formally, the shelter relates to the surrounding shelter projects. It meets a neighboring orthogonal project in a connection that compliments the multi-level structure and climbing spirit of Klätterställning. Additionally, the angled face of the structure relates visually to the angular nature of another neighboring structure.
Furthermore, the shelter creates a duality through its open north façade and its closed south façade. The closed side allows for privacy from the busy walkway it faces and uses its precise openings to frame a view of the fence. The open north façade provides shade to the occupants inside the shelter, while still allowing in natural light.
The project required groups of students to create a self-supporting structure based off of the inherent structural integrity of a Catenary, the curve that a cable assumes under its own weight when supported at its ends. Project was to be made principally of plywood and the use of hardware and adhesives was discouraged.
Fascinated by the asymmetry that resulted in tilted string structures, our team began to design two catenaries tilting away from each other, with center spans holding the structure in tension.
A CNC router was utilized not only to profile out the forms, but also to mill out material to expose the veneers of the plywood.
This project takes a liberal interpretation of Jean-Michel Frank’s Parson’s Table, the only requirements being exposed joinery of the legs to the top, and a rectangular footprint.
I focused my efforts on creating an interlocking assembly of components that completely eschewed the use of glue or hardware, and whose strength and rigidity was dependent on the synergistic interaction between each intersection and joint. The assembly of the tabletop frame consisted of 20 simultaneously fitted half-lap joints between the primary and secondary crossbeam members. The composite legs, meanwhile, are secured to the frame with floating tendons. The glass tabletop delicately floats above the interior joinery, within the footprint of the frame. The legs, meanwhile are secured to the frame by means of floating tendons.
Materials: Cherry, Walnut, Soft Maple, Glass
This project serves as a formal exploration of curvilinear wood furniture construction. It is designed to be placed in my parents’ living room, and its design reflects the performative demands of the space: it must include a wide and uninterrupted table surface, a secondary storage shelf below, and a prominent platform for potted plants.
The lack of linear elements and connections demanded extensive hand-shaping to ensure all joints met seamlessly and rigidly. The volume of each component was generated through rough lamination followed by precise subtractive hand-carving.
Urban Design Build Studio
The Urban Design Build Studio is a design collaborative; involving students, professors, community members and organizations, municipal groups, contractors, and granting foundations; all working towards making socially conscious urban architectural interventions for the betterment of the communities in which they are built. The projects worked on by the UDBS are real, taking students through the realities of design developement, client relations, and construction administration. Furthermore, in each project a part of the construction is completed by the students, providing invaluble education in the complex relationships which surround any architectural project.
In my time with the UDBS, I have worked on a project titled Re_Space. This goal of this project is to design and construct a formal base of operations for the collaborative efforts of the UDBS, Construction Junction (CJ), and the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (TIP). The design project calls for a community room, gallery space, and design studio. The design parameters are to both demonstrate creative reuse of reclaimed material sourced by CJ and to demonstrate construction sensibilities that can be replicated on low income housing projects developed by future UDBS students.
The design features reclaimed church pews to redirect natural and artificial light, a variegated exterior skin made from construction waste material and reclaimed joists, and a canopy structure over the hallway with articulated panels made from reclaimed hollow-core doors.
Construction for the project is currently underway. The panelized wood frame, steel structure, and TJI roof structure are already constructed. While the mechanical and electrical systems are being installed by sub-contractors, the UDBS and the TIP are processing reclaimed church pews, lumber and doors that will be focal elements in the completed design. Meanwhile, a working mockup representing the NE corner of the Community Room is being used as a design tool to test construction techniques and ensure cohesive systems integration between different design components at corner conditions.