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Very Large Architecture ︎ Studio Nine

ARCH 491
Fall 2019 ︎

Los Angeles

Jason Rebillot

Work by B.Arch student Dana Ladd

Using California’s Central Valley as a laboratory for experimentation, this studio investigated the relationship between architecture, territory, and economy through the design of very large architecture. Large structures such as distribution centers are increasingly common as logistical operations are consolidated for reasons of efficiency and geographic competitiveness. Designing such a large building opens up a range of questions at the margins of the discipline. For example, when does a massive architectural project become infrastructural? When does it become landscape? When does it become part of urban systems exterior to it? When does deep interiority become a kind of urbanism in itself? What role do aesthetics and formal composition play at large scales, and how does one navigate through an endless space? How does a massive building get subdivided into smaller zones? A related hypothesis for this studio was that very large architecture might have the ability to impact urban-territorial systems and networks, where they operate, and how they relate to each other. Through its sheer size, magnitude, and gravitational effect, very large architecture could possibly act as more than just a building.

Work by B.Arch student Aarti Patel

The Central Valley

From architectural, urbanistic, environmental, infrastructural, economic, political and cultural perspectives, the Central Valley (CV) presents an incredibly rich and fluid set of conditions. Historical issues remain present, such as the persistence of agriculture as the CV’s most dominant economy and related issues of worker’s rights (the legacy of Cesar Chavez being the most emblematic), the dark history of Japanese-­‐American internment camps, Dust Bowl-era migrations to the CV from the center of the US, and a long legacy of complex water control and distribution systems. At the same time, the CV hosts several major urban centers including the state capitol of Sacramento, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton, and Bakersfield. Today, the CV is evolving toward industrial agriculture and it has become a breeding ground for extensive solar arrays that capitalize on the CV’s significant solar exposure as well as massive new distribution centers that take advantage of the CV’s central location on the West Coast. Environmentally, the CV is home to several species of migratory birds that depend on the surface water located in wetlands for survival. However, those wetlands are drying up- presenting a changing ecological balance in the region. Culturally, the CV is often thought of as little more than the infrastructural connection linking Northern and Southern California despite the richness of conditions found throughout it’s geographic area of more than 22,000 square miles. Equally problematic, design culture tends to focus on the ‘glamorous’ poles of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. This studio cast those conventions aside, preferring to embrace the unique and diverse spectrum of phenomena present in the Central Valley.

Model by B.Arch student Christian Boling

Work by B.Arch student Ka Kit Chiu

Catalog Description

The studio intent is to explore and test architectural design as it relates to one or more special contemporary issues. The studio is open to both fourth and fifth year students.