The urban monument is architecture’s reflection of a political and social afterthought. We construct our monuments for the things which we hold in highest ideal, but which are in jeopardy of passing from memory. The Monument is the commemoration of our highest ideals. Social and political figures are monumentalized for have broken common expectations in order to better the lives of others. Historical moments that have created a landmark in our common intellect are given firmament as revered places in our physical environment. Our monuments are the corporeal embodiment of our better selves.
The Monument to Direct Democracy in Colorado commemorates a rich history in Colorado of direct democracy, a process by which citizens of the state vote collectively on ballot measures to amend the state constitution. In recent years, the concept of direct democracy has been challenged by political interests.
The Monument demonstrates a reappropriation of the generic load bearing block structure as the manifestable representation of the aspiration of contemporary culture. Having grown accustomed to being a thin and superficial surface, the block is thrust back into its original role once again. It carries its own weight and leans on itself to become robust enough to stand.
Denver CO, 2016 -
Designed as an accessory dwelling unit, the Mother-In-Law’s house is sited behind a Denver family’s urban home to take advantage of the form-based zoning code in the city. The building springs from a deformed 10’ square footprint to minimize the lot coverage area while maximizing occupiable space. The end result is a tower in miniature - a home that occupies four levels. The building is conceived as a load-bearing brick building, taking advantage of an unconventional geometry to create a challenging contemporary approach to a traditional building material and assembly.
HOUSE ON A FENCE
Denver CO, 2015 -
The house on a fence, conceived for a family currently seeking to buy a corner lot in Denver Colorado, takes an unconventional approach to the form-based zoning code of the city in order to tap into unexpected opportunities in the urban setting. The house uses the code’s maximum allowable fence height as a datum. The house, submerged partially into the site, holds below this sight line. This move allows for the house to sit under the canopies of surrounding trees and plantings. Rather than looking out into the windows of neighbors, rooms are oriented around skylights that look up into the tree canopy shaded sky. The house and fence rest high enough to provide privacy and low enough to recede below the horizon line. Two studio “towers” flank the main house from both sides of the property. Looking out over the planted roof of the house at one another, these small-scale workspaces give the owners privacy to work from home while providing them with the ability to see and signal one another from afar.
Gunnison CO, 2012 - 2013
Suspended above the sloped side of a mountain valley, the camping platform provides visiting guests an open view of the surrounding landscape. The campground floats between the trees of the site, using them for structural support. The central stack of four precast concrete pillars frame a climbing ladder and shelter for two open hearths. The scalloped articulation of the underside of the platform conceals all structure to further reinforce a sense of weightlessness and tension.
Buena Vista CO, 2010 - 2013
Designed for a client retired from public life, the house is sited within a corridor of working cattle ranches in a pocket of the Rocky Mountains. The owner’s wish to create a compound for his family to visit for longer periods of time was challenged by local zoning mandates limiting the amount of habitable structures on the site. In response, the design nests a collection of “cabins” over the public level of the house. Each self-contained suite is situated around a central stair and terrace on the second level. An array of cloistered outdoor spaces surround the immediate precinct of the house, providing for year-round family gatherings under the shelter of the house’s protective structure.
VARIATIONS OF VARIATIONS
Sol Lewitt's Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes (1974) presents 122 cubes drawn in isometric on a grid. The work documents all possibilities within a set of constraints established by the creator. Lewitt’s work stands as one of a number of iconic closing statements of the late modern movement. Forty years later, the open nature of contemporary design culture is one separate from and inclusive of both the modern and postmodern. It requires different modes of description. Lewitt's work lends us a means for viewing the often messy overlap between indexical and referential modes of production. By stripping the form of meaning, the project generates content without irony. The degree to which form exists in near limitless variety evades our ability to choose a path without attaching meaning. Executed without assistance from parametric software, the project has to date realized 6,534 cubes. The irresolvable Open Incomplete Variations of Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes (2014) stands proxy for the restlessness of our present.
HOUSE IN A CLEARING
Breckenridge CO, 2013 - 2014
Designed for two families planning a vacation home on a wooded site, the house is divided into three levels. The partially submerged lower level situates living and dining spaces at a vantage parallel to just above the forest floor. The upper level is split into two equal suites of two bedrooms above the tops of the surrounding trees. The raised central outdoor level connects the separated upper and lower halves. By lifting the outdoor gathering spaces of the house into the middle of the forest canopy, privacy is increased to create a sense of outdoor enclosure. The separation of living and sleeping quarters establishes a sharp awareness of the tenuous boundary of human shelter. The void buffers public and private quarters to provide isolation in a typically packed cabin.
BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE
Asheville NC, 2009
The Mountain Retreat represents the culmination of a period of study into the lasting legacy and history of Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Seen at the time as a visionary decentralization of institutional higher education, BMC was at one time or another home to many of the great artists and architects of the post-war period in the Southeast United States. By attempting to operate sharing logistical responsibility equally between student and educator, the school opened up the conceptual learning environment in order to allow for ease of discourse between all who participated. In spite of its eventual financial failure, Black Mountain College continues to have a lasting influence on the region within which it resided.
As a reclamation of this heritage, the Mountain Retreat is to be seen as a place of cultural identity for the region, and as a reinvestment in the ideals staked out by Black Mountain College. By engaging the slope of a steep site deep in the Smoky Mountains, the retreat entrenches itself into the forest slope. Rather than focusing on collegiate education, the retreat is a place for visiting artists on fellowship to study in the rich forest landscape. In return for this occupation, artists are engaged to teach workshops for people from the surrounding towns and cities. The compound contains twelve apartments, a gallery, offices, a small theater, dining facilities, a library, and a large subterranean workshop space. The solid volume of the compound is sliced and punctured in all axes to create a complete brokenness into which the surrounding landscape encroaches.
PUBLIC BOARDING SCHOOL
Richmond VA, 2011
Graduate Thesis, Advised by Mack Scogin
Richmond is a place of conflict and paradox. Over it a history of oppression and of achievement hangs, overshadowing the present in a way that defines it. It is a city of firsts and of lasts; it is a city of ruins and of monuments.
It is in this context that we encounter the unknown object. It is both on the margins and at the center. It is on the highest hill, straddling the lowest valley. It is found embedded on its forgotten and shabby site between a trio of emblems to the varied stages of the city’s history: An early plantation home now converted to a convent, the church in which Patrick Henry gave the speech that inflamed the fledgling colonies of the American South to revolution, and a spare concrete radio tower designed by Philip Johnson at the height of the modern age. Amongst these icons, the Public Boarding School establishes a firm and porous boundary with its plinth. Rising above this strongly horizontal datum, the quizzical expression of the unknowable monument ripples and distends out and across the site. It is the tower above the plinth. It is a blank object that both captures and defines the essence of the need within the city for an anachronistic and dynamic departure from itself. In its extremity it is reaching to push beyond its formal and programmatic typological expectations in order to attain a distinct and enigmatic other.