Academic, M.Arch Thesis | MIT, 2023
Advisor: William O’Brien Jr.
Readers: Jeffrey Landman, Rosalyne Shieh, Anne Whiston Spirn, Garnette Cadogan

We are all ageing, so are buildings.

A building’s pristine original state, if that ever exists, only marks an infinitesimal, ephemeral point in the coordinates of time. Time is in fact the most significant part of the vitality of architecture. Rooted in an anonymous residential building in the center of Mexico City - one with 70 years of history being born, lived, earthquake-destructed, abandoned, repaired, rejuvenated, and cared for - this thesis is a multimedia play that embraces technology to unearth architecture as a living object, and shines light on the forgotten, the unseen, yet the enamored everyday. It dances between observation and imagination, and builds an alternative literacy that redefines the beginning and the end of architectural design. It teaches us to unsee in order to see, and to question established forms of architectural authorship.

Borrowing viewpoints from our allied disciplines - photography, filmmaking, and landscape architecture, this project uses the digital camera to access a series of spatial tools, such as photogrammetry, data processing, robotic drawing, and most importantly, our eyes. Through gazing at intimacy between architecture and its people, its patina, its everyday rituals, this project uses “wrinkles” as a conceptual thread to contemplate on the correlation between a building’s life cycle and the life cycles of the humans who inhabit it, embarking on a journey of wonder, introspection, and reimagination.

We need to be better observers before we can become better designers. Living in a world that is saturated with modernism buildings boomed in the last century, which have, to different extents, started to show signs of crumbling, it is crucial for us to reflect on the existing built environment and question - how will we live together? Solutionism is not the offering, but rather, an outlook for re-discovering architecture as life-long projects.
160,000 broom strokes, 24,000 wipes, and 10,000 hammering

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© 2022 Daisy Ziyan Zhang