Culture Cultures

UNBUILT: Culture Cultures

Featured in this week’s UNBUILT post, is Zherui Wang’s Coney Island Life Screen project. Check out his 3D model here.

Zherui Wang
Pratt Institute School of Architecture
Lee and Norman Rosenfeld Award for Best Thesis
Critic: Jason Lee, Michael Chen
In Collaboration with Molly Mason


“We are only being offered one particular story about the deployment of networked informatics in the urban Milieu… it only portrays the narrowest sliver of what is possible.” -Adam Greenfield, Against the Smart City


New York, 2050. The agenda of the Smart City is to collect information from the vast datascape that saturates urban environments and render it actionable. The collection of data, lying latently embedded in everything we know, has had an increasingly physical effect on how cities grow, mutate, and behave. With each evolution of information infrastructures follows a higher degree of data resolution and, theoretically, a more sensitive city. We are interested in the next paradigm of information, life after the Smart City: a Biosentient City. By combining wetware with the New York’s existing hardware and software infrastructures, we are speculating on a new urbanism brought about by information.


Data requires units of measurement; Information requires an awareness of trends. The human body is already a rich site of bio-information. With a microbiota to human cell ratio of 10 to 1, these micro-organisms provide highly specific profiles of bodies and their activities. By tracking microbes, we observe that the data between bodies and bodies and bodies and spaces is in constant exchange. The Biosentient City begins with the dispersal of airborne bio-sensitive agents, bacteria capable sorting microbial data with an enhanced sense of delicacy and reacting based on a genetically programmed ruleset. If we coat New York with enough of these agents the City can truly behave as an organism; the collective bioagent population will register microbial exchange and behave accordingly. The city will transform with its own emergent consciousness.

New patterns of behavior will emerge at different scales within the Biosentient City-some with explicit instructions from municipalities, others seemingly of their own accord. We expect these to be accompanied by design moves on the urban, architectural, bodily, and micro scales. Changes to the Zoning Envelope will affect aerodynamic (and thus bioagent) flow through the city, creating neighborhoods of high information collection and potentially changing real estate value. Street space, the public tissue housing the exchange between many bodies, becomes invaluable in observing rising trends within the city.


A new body consciousness will descend upon the New York, allowing for the formation of new typologies such as the Pharm, a public facility where bioagents are grown, collected, and released. The site, 67 Greenwich Ave, acts as an entirely public space, a park where strange events occur in a normative manner. Interfacing with the biosensitive microtextures that compose the architectural assembly, visitors donate their microbes to the architecture which, in return, sniffs and trembles as it exchanges information with bodies. The body and architecture have tangible effects and affects on one another.


Through this exchange, we expect many issues to arise: questions of privacy, of resistance or compliance, speculations on policies, debates of top-down versus bottom -up, promises of material, challenges of “natural versus artificial.” Culture Cultures explores the emergent cultural trends of a city beginning to grow as a biological culture.

IN-Accessible by Ke Li

IN-Accessible by Ke Li

Ke Li
SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture)
Advisor: Elena Manferdini

Even though buildings do not literally speak, they are not necessarily silent. They communicate through signs and representations. People are told by buildings where the entrance is. It is odd then that the need to communicate accessibility seems to outweigh other voices. Perhaps they “talk too much” in this respect. Decorated entrances and, countless windows, clutter facades and drown out other messages in their incessant chatter. When we listen to the building, what else might we hear?

Taking up the role of opening dialogue, the exterior communicates with the interior through signs (entrances, windows…), which are important devices that serve as a transparent representation of the building. This thesis seeks to find how architecture would operate if it did not respond to the fear of needing to situate ourselves within it, of being ‘mute’. Through IN-Accessible, architecture can find a subverted way to communicate.

In-Accessible By Ke Li Modelo »

This is a concert hall on East River in New York. A wired-shape and bright-color building floating above the river. Being a container of art and being an artwork of itself.

Even though buildings do not literally speak, they are not necessarily silent. They communicate to the public in other ways. There is a long discourse on communication in architecture, the classical orders communicated information about the significance or programmatic function of a building. They made the sounds through the signs and representations. We can understand the exterior as the opening dialogue, since it is most often the first encounter with the building. The exterior sometimes communicates with the interior though signs, such as the entrance, the windows show where habitable space and circulation. These signs are an important device that serve as a transparent representation of the building and how it relates to the human scale. And they sure complete a beautiful appearance to the public. It is odd then that the need to communicate accessibility seems to dominate most communications when it comes to buildings. People are told by buildings where the entrance is, for example. Through things like orientation, decor, scale, buildings can communicate many things.

IN-Accessible By Ke Li Modelo »

However, following the codes, where to open the window, where to set the doors makes the building elevation become a “cliche”. In kids’ drawings, a square plus the triangle rooftop, adding the rectangular door in the middle, window on the side, It is a house. I can see the development of curtain wall would be a solution to avoid the cliche, it delete the cliche, builds the shining finish. But it also delete the beauty that created by the signs.

I do have the faith in the beautiful signs that exist on the buildings. Instead of deleting the “cliche talking”, I experiment the way making them talking “gibberish”. By deforming the traditional facades, and reforming them in to the new facade. And eliminate the function, using the single color to mute them.

The golden roof pointed up while the industrial bottom point down, they were separated until the modernist arches glued them together. The golden roof is the part become the public space, the black bottom is the entrance and storage space, and the blue is the concert hall.

People can see the big entrance from distance, but they can never enter through there. People can read the windows the decorations, but they can never tell the story inside.

Read More

Urban Cosmetics

Urban Cosmetics

Urban Cosmetics (Image courtesy of Oscar Abrahamsson) 

Designer: Oscar Abrahamsson
Institution: SCI-Arc
Critic: Elena Manferdini

Urban Cosmetics is a proposal for a new home for MASP (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo) in São Paulo. It utilizes the blankness of explicit geometric shape, urban décor and adornment, and new ideas of the urban ground in creating a museum that lowers the threshold between culture and life in the street. Urban Cosmetics is trying to find ways of re-introducing a sense of belonging and familiarity into the city by creating new models of urban life, whilst simultaneously dwelling within the context of urban fragmentation in the megapolis of São Paulo.

Urban Cosmetics By Oscar Ambrahamsson Modelo »

Two simple triangular shapes constitute the building volume – forming new, elevated, grounds – habitable sloped planes that are displacing the urban ground onto the top of the building. Massive, opaque and black, the figure of the building merges in its muteness with the ground. No apertures are present to confuse the simple volumes. Natural light still pours in through the massive skylights established by the fake horizon lines on the top of each of the triangular shapes. Above the ”horizon” the skin is glazed but highly reflective, below, it is black, opaque, but soft in its reminiscence of interior padding.

Décor is normally the adornment of a room or the inside of a building. Décor has historically been associated with the feminine, “women’s work,” and subjective proclivities, whereas architecture, seen as a more objective “science”, is associated with the public realm, the city, and a universal subject. By taking two elements of décor; upholstery and glass embossement, extracting them from their usual settings and transforming them into an exterior, architectonic expression, the project tries to overcome this reductive dichotomy, whilst utilizing the familiarity of the décor to lend a new sense of belonging to the urban context.

The scalar shift involved in this transformation lends the project a surreal appearance as the facade treatment oscillates between reading as too-big and too-small, and introduces a new kind of urban decoration that envelopes its body and maintains a consistency with the building shape.

The padded open-air slopes on top of the volumes caters for leisure activities like bar, restaurant terrace and outdoor performance space. The building thus broadcasts its activities out into the public, and makes the public participants of the life of the museum. The interior cascade of terraces around a void space caters for a giant semi-divided exhibition. The inside becomes like a landscape of art along the terraces, a long stair which connects a series of spaces and enables the visitor to move through space at their own pace. The projects alternative arrangements of interior and exterior present us with other possibilities in terms of how we occupy space and thereby, how we interact with one another.


Explore More

Submissions for Unbuilt

Unbuilt: Highlighting Innovation in the world of 3D Design

At Modelo, we are working to create a platform for architects and designers from around the world to seek inspiration and share their accomplishments. 

As the world of 3D design continues to mature, the speed of innovation and creativity has been accelerating with it. Users have been able to explore infinite possibilities, both possible and impossible.

In our newest blog channel, Unbuilt, we aim to feature some of the most original, thought-provoking, and complex models of unbuilt design in an effort to inspire 3D designers of all kinds.

How does it work?

You can upload your 3D designs directly to the Modelo platform and, using an embed code, we’ll integrate a dynamic rendering of your design directly into an Unbuilt article.

You can either create a guided experience for your users to follow or allow users to freely explore your design themselves. The rest of the article will explain what principles, techniques or philosophies you followed that guided you through the creative process.

Interested in getting involved?

Architects, designers, artists, students, fabricators: we love hearing from 3D software users of all kinds and seeing what types of work you’re up to!

If you’d like to see your work published on the Unbuilt blog, feel free to reach out to us using the form below.

Name *



Feature Article Goals: to showcase innovative, creative, original, complex 3D designs.

  • Include a short summary of your work, what it is, and what sets it apart. (Minimum 300 words).
  • If contacted, be ready to upload your 3D files to the Modelo platform so that we can render them directly in the blog post. Multiple models would be ideal!
  • Models and renderings must be royalty-free or have the express permission of the photographer for inclusion in press materials
  • All creations must be attributed to the creator.


  • If your 3D designs aren’t already on the Modelo platform, we’ll kindly ask you to upload them! (don’t worry, they still entirely belong to you!)
  • Once the files are ready to present online in 3D, we’ll draft a written summary of the project with the information available.
  • Before publishing, we’ll give you about 7 days to review or make minor edits to the article.
  • Once you’ve approved it, we’ll share it on the Unbuilt blog and on our Medium account.
  • We also share all posts social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest and would encourage you to do the same!
  • Select articles are included in our email newsletter.

Marine Research Complex

Shahira Hammad
Marine Research Complex – Alexandria, Egypt
Undergraduate thesis project – 2008
Arab Academy for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Egypt
Advisors: Magdy Mousa, Amira El Nokaly, Ahmed Bahaa

The aim of the project was to create a mixed-use research complex that acts as an integral node of the multidisciplinary field of marine sciences in Alexandria for both public use and research use. Simultaneously this project will increase the city’s environmental awareness and help in the conservation of the marine environment.

The complex grounds are located to the east of Abu-Qir’s waterfront and cover a surface of 148,000 square meters.

The complex is entirely driven by marine sciences, composed of two key elements: public zone (museum) and research zone (research buildings and fields). Both are linked by an outdoor green area, acting as a transitional space between the two main zones. Despite the different use and construction material, the two zones are linked together with a common structural grid.

An outdoor structure of trussed frames partially shrouded with aluminum panels is built over the transitional space to form a semi-enclosed space, at the same time increasing the cohesion between the two zones. As a result a dovetailing compound of buildings is achieved.

Click and hold to rotate model. For a guided tour, click on the comment icon in the corner.

The marine museum plays the role of the public zone to be experienced by visitors. The museum is a mega-structure of trussed steel frames cladded with lightweight steel panels forming a free-formed structure, inspired by the morphology of marine organisms. The entrance to the marine museum is reached from an ascending ramp starting from the parking lot (ground level 0.0) to the museum doors (+3.8 m). The main museum features are the IMAX Theater and the three exhibitions.

Each of the three exhibition zones are dedicated to three different stages of marine pollution; the effect of pollution on water, marine biology and marine geology respectively. The IMAX Theater is the first feature (optional) the visitor experiences. The visitors’ journey begins from the escalators to the first zone; water pollution. This is demonstrated in the form of water tanks and screens. Like a labyrinth the path winds its way through descending ramps towards the second stage; marine biology. A variety of situations emerge in the form of water tunnels, fish tanks and organism fossils.

The visitor experiences various types of organisms from invertebrates to marine mammals. Finally the visitor leaves the second zone down to the third zone by escalators. The third zone; Marine geology, consists of models of wave generators and hydraulic structures. Mineral samples and a fossils cave are later experienced.

A restaurant/ cafeteria and a souvenir shop are located at the end of the museum; both can be reached after the journey ends. When the tour finishes, visitors exit the building through a ramp going back to the main hall through an exterior glass tube-like ramp.


Aerial Station La Paz

Aerial Station La Paz

Lisa Wolf
La Paz, Bolivia
University of Applied Arts Vienna
Studio Greg Lynn

The project is an aerial transportation hub that pulls functions across multi-leveled loops above the city. This new civic building features an interwoven three dimensional streetscape that is blending interior with exterior and provides framed views to the city beyond. It endeavors to negotiate the scale of the hub with the fine grain urban fabric of the city.

The site of the project is located at the edge of a slope between the two densely inhabited cities of La Paz and El Alto in Bolivia. The cities have a height difference of 500 meters and were poorly connected, so cable cars were implemented to improve public transport and to reduce the economic and social divide that has occurred. The site is a strategically important infrastructural node for the both of the cities.


Click and hold to rotate model. Click the comment icon to begin a guided tour.

The project consists of not only transport facilities but features additional program that is stimulating a central void within the proposal. This includes an enclosed volume that is framing the central space and contains a public library which is also part of the university located at the next cable car station.

The central void is the nexus of the project. This void is animated by infrastructure. It integrates bus services, the existing cable car network and its planned extension which spread out in different directions and are interweaving the aerial transport with the transport on the ground.

Conventionally stations that are traditionally horizontal or if they contain multiple levels, they are concealed. Compared to this model of a station, the project exposes these levels to create a full experience of this three dimensional space. The spatial experience is created by the use of giant loops which connect the platforms distributed in this space and work like an three dimensional streetscape. They provide continuous circulation and constant view connections to the city beyond and the other platforms.

Collaborative Commons

Collaborative Commons – Post-Capitalism in the Valley of Fire

Kevin Rosenberg
University of Michigan, Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning
Propositions Studio – Compressions, Substrates, and Control
Brief: Collaborative Commons – Post-Capitalism in the Valley of Fire
Faculty: Dawn Gilpin

Using the Valley of Fire as a backdrop, Nevada’s relentlessly inhospitable desert-like environment that the city of Las Vegas calls home, Rosenberg explores how architecture can adapt to and influence the transition to a post-capitalist society.

The space aims to distance itself from the capitalist values that rely on constant production and and unconstrained consumption.

In a post-capitalist society, people are liberated from those constraints and a greater emphasis is put on the creation, intellect, and the sharing of ideas, skills, and resources.

The Collaborative Commons superstructure acts as a tool to leverage the slow transition towards the post-capitalist society, a movement which Rosenberg believes to already be in motion.

The project is in large part based on sociologist Jeremy Rifkin’s theory that certain technological advances are driving direct changes in societal behaviors.

Rifkin argues that society is reorganizing itself to form a new social order based on the factors of: free access to information on the Internet, the decentralization and customization of manufacturing, the rise of the sharing economy, and the decentralization and modernization of renewable energy production.

Inspiration for the design comes from local Moapa Indian rock engravings, thought to have been left there by the tribe more than 2,000 years ago.

The logic behind this deliberate search for local roots is to look beyond ideas conceived within the socio-economic constraints imposed by the capitalist period.

The masterplan is created around a series of functions: clusters of individual habitations, spaces for transmitting ideas and collaborating, and transportation axes defined by the topographical landscape.

The structure itself is modular and can expand or connect with other structures based on the growing adherence to the community and its’ values.

Check out more outer-worldly designs in our UNBUILT blog series and on

Click and hold to rotate model.

Click and hold to rotate model.

↑ A series of experiments within the site begins to identify and extract design ideologies that can guide the built environment of a post-capitalist society. ↑ A series of experiments within the site begins to identify and extract design ideologies that can guide the built environment of a post-capitalist society.

UNBUILT: Fractured Veins

UNBUILT: Fractured Veins 

Design Team- Luke Prifogle + Dane Stokes
PennDesign 2014
Studio Instructor- Hina Jamelle
Structural Adviser- Daniel Brodkin | Principal ARUP | NYC
Structural Adviser- Matt Jackson | ARUP | NYC

Fractured Veins is a mixed use tower located in West Chelsea that holds retail, commercial, residential, and luxury that combines structural elegance with striking aesthetics. Through iterations of formal and diagrammatic transformations, based on the state change of metallic crystals in meteorites, a formal driver appeared.

Fractures in the form created structural lines up the building. This allows for a structural system that allows the form to play in between the veins of the building.

The transition of program from commercial to residential takes place along these fractures, mixing the program of the building in a new way. The veins respond to these transitions, along with the facade. The fractures cut into the building, creating a relationship of facade to interior of the building.

Grid II

Grid II

Designers: Kaiho Yu & Aaron Choi

Advisors: Russell N. Thomsen & Dylan Krueger

Co-Advisors: Marcelo Spina, Devyn Weiser, & Darin Johnstone


Click and hold to rotate model.

Created by partners Kaiho Yu and Andrew Choi, is a beautiful mesh of how a structure’s core and envelope beautifully intertwine in a relationship of both autonomy and dependence. The result is that neither component relies exclusively upon the other, but they are both reliant on the balance created between core and envelope.

Click and hold to Rotate.

Inner Core in 3D. Click and hold to rotate.

The core, or monolith, acts as a constant variable, solid, legible, an iconic matter. Yet, its span and scale are justified by the intricate mass that weaves through it, the envelope. The two components, outer and inner, are not made to fit together, but instead meet throughout the structure in different conversations and create a dynamic, but heterogeneous, whole.

As the two components fuse and unite, both core and envelope evolve in a way that changes the interior as much as it does the exterior. In other words, the outer frame pushes and pulls the inner mass to define the spatial interior planning and creates a harmonious form integrating both interior and exterior.

This pushing and pulling of envelope and core acts as a natural creator of walls, columns, and slabs. This process makes the space within the building flexible, using the grid as the spatial reference for defining programs, while the outer frame is used to create the habitable spaces.

More about the project can be seen on Kaiho Yu’s portfolio.




Yike Peng
GSAPP, Columbia University
Academic/ Individual Work 2013 Spring Semester
Director: Juan Herreros + José Aragüez

When you change the use of something, actually you change the definition of it. This process can be considered as a kind of alienation. In this project, changing the basic use of architecture elements is a new strategy to explore how far we can push the residential architecture.

Chinatown Manhattan is one of the few “Chinatowns” in NYC and one of the 300 existing around the world today. It works like a dynamic city in its own right, comprised of residential, productive, business, commercial and cultural sectors. Current conditions are dissimilar. Most of the buildings are over a hundred years old and have never been renovated.

The project is aimed at misusing the regular residential building as an infrastructure and creating divergence zone of private and public. Bring Chinatown people to the riverside and revitalizing by attracting more people outside the Chinatown is the main strategy. Programmatically setting a new relationship among the project, river, FDR and the existing building revives the ordinary order a new potentiality and unfolding new typology.

The Urban issue is always condensed from the society. Deconstructing society itself is a precise way to solve urban issue rather than those architects who hastily denouncing their utopian appeal just after a glimpse of contemporary society. The contemporary one is already overstepped for architects to unscramble it.

The proportion of different programs is based on the idea that “mega-structure as reinforcement”. After analyzing the proportion of each program and comparing to the average level of the Manhattan, the multi-family residential program and public institution program are condsidered as the major embedded program. Meanwhile, bring the commercial program as the “watcher” to the public area is responding to Jane Jacobs’ idea to avoid the public space deteriorating.