Work / Architecture
Location- Arts District, Los Angeles
Site Area- 700,000 sq ft
Size- 2800,000 sq ft
Program-Hotel, Residential, Live+Work, School, Gallery, Theater, Market Place
Two antithetical entities:
The discrete, whose primary mode of control is sheer autocracy.
The continuous, whose strength is its flexibility and openness.
What happens when these two are forced to manifest in an ambitious mixed-use project?
This thesis is about the production of an Architecture in which two antithetical morphological systems are
forced to dialogue in a tactical manner in order to create a contemporary mixed-use development. While
these two morphological systems have their individual merits, the mediation of these two antagonistic
tactics will inevitably result in multiple tensions that have architectural implications on a variety of scales.
We begin with the identification of these two different entities. The discrete, defined by its striated forms,
combinatorial properties, repetitive nature and rapid assembly methods. On the other hand, its
counterpart, the continuous, is regarded for its ability to produce poly-scalar spatial effects and its
structural continuity that make long-spanning spatial configurations possible, sometimes taking on the
role of flowing or soft form.
The site of this thesis is in the Arts District, a proposed development referred to as 6AM, which is an
abbreviation of the street intersection at which it is located, Sixth St and Alameda, less than a mile away
from Sci-Arc. The project consists of 2.8M SQF of program. This includes residential, commercial, office
spaces, a hotel, a school, exhibition spaces- essentially constituting everything and to put it simply, a city
within a city. Our ambition for this thesis is to create a mixed-use residential project that operates
according to an urban model what with the emerging public transportation in LA that will now directly
connect the Arts District to other major parts of the city from the West all the way to Pasadena.
In approaching a project that is so large-scale, there is a need to utilize both top-down and bottom-up
approaches to design and assembly, taking advantage of the strengths of both methods. Residential units
remain strictly bottom-up assembly as well as design method while the facilities part of the residential
area adopts a top-down method. Many other programmatic spaces incorporate the fusion of these two
methods, the imposition of a gridded repetitive system and how these components encounter the singular
A library is an example in which both methods have to be deployed. A library primarily calls for a
singular space but also requires the subdivision of it through the infection of the assemblage pieces, the
discrete. So although, an overarching top-down view governs its design, its programmatic requirements
also align with the strengths of a bottom-up assembly method. The library is a space in which repetition
and rapid customization are often necessary. It can absolutely benefit from a rapid deployment method as
well as contain excess space for continual expansion. The bottom-up method ensures this. The hierarchy
allows the assembly to be done over time and for the space to continuously expand and grow.
We studied two precedents in great detail that ended up heavily influencing this thesis. Kowloon walled
city and Corbusier’s venice hospital. Both precedents are starkly different from one another with
Kowloon Walled City being a much more of an informal Architectural project as compared to the
extremely formal Venice Hospital. One is designed by an architect while the other is simply a settlement.
Our aim for 6AM was that it should possess the systematic structure of Venice Hospital, whose every
detail was meticulously planned out while allowing for a dynamic growth method, the development was
to be built on the idea of phased dynamism.
In contrast to Corbusier’s Venice Hospital where the modules are working at a one-to-one scale, our
components are a series of hierarchically scaled modules that respond to program and space. Corbusier’s
module was one that was fully contained and because ours, in comparison, is not working at a one-to-one
scale. The components operate with multiple sclar hierarchies and combinatorially combine to in turn
generate different outputs. It thus gives the project the ability to operate in between the two territories of
the more static venice hospital and the more dynamic Kowloon Walled City. Our aim with these
components was to make possible the creation of a development that has the coherence of a formally
designed project, such as venice hospital while encouraging dynamism through adaptation and scaling,
the way that Kowloon Walled City operates, ultimately with an underlying intention.
Our discrete elements are made up of a single module, similar to Corbusier’s venice hospital. One that is
able to switch directions, is structurally sound and is able to be mass-produced using simple materials
with simple joinery. Most importantly, these elements can ultimately produce a myriad of possibilities,
both expected and unexpected. This module was then used to create components, from small scale items
like furniture to structural elements like beams and columns. It allows for the creation of more complex
macro-components. It is also used to infect the continuous and provide regulatory structure and
organization in spaces that require some. The discrete also eliminates the need for singular and estranged
furniture pieces because everything becomes built-in.
In designing the continuous we looked at the idea of large pockets of spaces intersecting with one another
to create a robust whole space. We also investigated the idea of intersecting multiple scales of vaults to
utilize their cusps to define varying space types.
There are several moments in which the two systems would collide and an unavoidable negotiation would
have to take place. These situations raise questions of hierarchy, which system should reign over the other
and how? The discrete infects the continuous, transforming it with slits, inflicting a regulatory framework
upon it. The continuous utilizes its now striated form to in turn receive the discrete. Both systems are
trained to receive one another in differing ways that ultimately still engages their respective strengths.
We are imagining a development that is always continuously expanding yet still maintaining an order.
The continuous that engages a top-down assembly tends to take a far longer time to build unlike the
discrete whose bottom-up assembly method allows for it to be constantly added on to, to have the
flexibility of an ambiguous end goal, and to always remain unfinished. And so these larger discrete
elements provide support in the development of the continuous, both in regard to structural support and
The presence of a single dominant boulevard as the main circulation space that connects the residential
spaces to the hotels and retail/office building is to help guide the growth of the residential modules. The
boulevard is a permanent element in the ever-growing ever-changing development, guiding and coaxing a
certain behavior through the residential. It serves as a backbone for the growth of the residential units.
The boulevard enforces an order onto the more informal construction of these residential units. As you
look down on the city from this boulevard you will witness an entire city in the works, you are essentially
surrounded by the dynamic energy of a working city, an organized complexity.
This is the ground level plan. The ground level plan is mostly populated with entrances to the circulation
cores that will take you all the way up to the hotel and residential parts of this building. You are
transported into this realm containing fields of geometry that you could only initially see from the ground
level by looking up. There is a clear and easily fathomable circulation path on the ground level, and
deliberately so, to provide clarity and succinctness to what seems like a daunting piece of Architecture at
a glance. The freeing up of space is also to promote the idea of an open marketplace.
When you reach the top level, you’ll realize that the residential is straightforwardly organized. It is
composed of the usual, 1BR, 2BR and studio apartments that are separated by corridors. In between them
are bodegas and spaces where neighbours can congregate and hang out. There is also room for further
expansion if need be. As an occupant, the organization is meant to be one that is direct and even, one
might argue, utilitarian. If you need a shelf, it becomes a shelf. If you need divider, the discrete will take
care of it.
This is where the context becomes absolutely relevant for our ambitions of this addition.
We now live in a time where more value is placed on cognitive labour rather than physical and it is
integral for this to manifest itself in Architecture, the way that it has in other disciplines, for us to
maintain relevance in society. Information and knowledge are now the most valuable forms of currency.
The Arts District is going through the effects of extreme gentrification. Although this mostly means good
things for the district, the inevitable negative externalities that are tied with gentrification are abundant. A
very important one is that rent prices are skyrocketing and residents who used to live here can no longer
afford it and are naturally driven out of the Arts District. There are currently 16 proposed large-scale
developments for the Arts District on top of this one and all of them are essentially going down the same
path and will most likely become yet another typical mixed-use development project with expensive rent.
Our hope for 6AM is that it does not become yet another one of those. We tackled that through this thesis
with the persistent challenge of trying to find a solution that alleviates the high rental issue while not
disadvantaging too many groups of people.
Because our residential spaces and the elements that construct them are so predictable and controlled we
are proposing a system that labels each of these individual pieces that make up the component as well as
track its life-span. The data that is collected from this is, valuable, and can be sold for profit, which is a
plus point for the developer. As a result, residents who agree to have the materials of the components in
their house fully tracked can enjoy cheaper rent.
We, as architects are always at a junction where we cannot decide whether to please our clients or to serve
the greater good. More often than not, we choose the former and become the enemy. But why does it
always have to be a conflicting choice? Developers need to realize that the most valuable form of
resource these days comes in the form of humans and their cognitive strengths.