Sites and Systems

Jose Rodriguez Trujillo

Project: Sites and Systems
Date: Spring 2017
Class: Architecture Studio
Professors: Darell Fields, Lisa Findley and Janette Kim (coordinator)
Teaching Assistants Justin Smith, Javier Mendoza, and Ege Taskin Yener

This second semester of the Undergraduate Architecture sequence introduces students to design strategies that shape environments and counter-environments. We will build on design strategies explored in Studio 1 that deal with space, form, and order by testing how they shape social and eco-systemic conditions in the built environment at large. Students will design two projects this semester that will address water and water infrastructure: one in the rural landscape of the California Delta and the other in the urban context of San Francisco’s India Basin. This course will guide students through an iterative process from initial concepts about sites and systems to the resolution of a building’s spatial, tectonic and functional effects, realized through the inventive use of architectural conventions of representation.

To consider what ‘site’ means to architecture, imagine four contrasting images: a porch, a sunroom, and a terrarium. A porch tempers its environment but exposes us to it: here, we can enjoy the rain without getting wet or a warm day without getting sunburned. A sunroom harnesses and exaggerates, capturing a hot pocket of air on an otherwise cold day. A terrarium manufactures an entirely different world, capturing condensation, plants, nutrients, carbon and oxygen in its own bubble. (And we can also imagine a fourth kind of space: one that creates new microclimates around it). Each space relates some kind of discrete ‘interior’ or object to its immediate context. Each has its trade-offs—it constructs a different social and ecological effect, and operates on a different level of control. Which would you take on, and why? What other strategies might be possible?

The term ‘site’ in architecture can refer to a plot of land purchased by a client, but it can also refer to the publics, ecosystems and urban dynamics that are contingent upon it. To ask how a building ‘addresses’ a site, therefore, is to ask whom that building accommodates, what ecosystems it serves, and what urban infrastructures it feeds into. This studio will address these topics as a set of open-ended questions across the spectrum of responsiveness, control, and inclusiveness suggested by the porch, the sunroom and terrarium. The charge of this studio is to leverage architectural design to reshape urban water systems, and to do so in a way that creates provocative, new relationships between social life and environmental impact.