Pier Vittorio Aureli asked everyone to rewrite their studio brief in order to tackle certain areas of interest. My partner, Wanli Mo and I are interested in the following… 

In a world where work has become a totalizing sphere, the condition is especially self-evident in immaterial production. Contemporary creative workers are available for working twenty-four hours, seven days a week. However, contrary to their long working schedules is their “willingness” to accept any form of exploitation. In terms of housing, while creative workers are favored by capitalism as agents of gentrification, they usually find themselves unable to afford living and working in the gentrified areas.

With the emergence of immaterial production into a hegemonic position which used to be held by the industry, revisiting the concept of the common has never become so relevant as today. As Michael Hardt suggests, with the rise of immaterial production, there will be an inevitable tendency toward the shared over the exclusive, as the logic of scarcity does not hold in the domain of immaterial production. If the house is a place where life in the form of labor potential is harnessed and political subjectivity is constructed, then can a new form of housing bring out the latent potential toward the common?

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Tech hangouts welcome at Ace Hotel. Image by Douglas Lyle Thompson

Among creative workers, we are particularly interested in providing living and working space for artists – painters, sculptures, musicians and etc. As different modes of art productions require different spaces and certain degrees of isolation, it provides the possibility for a series of subtle and transitional interventions that each is operated on at a small-scale. Instead of appropriating large industrial space as what happened in the past twenty years to gentrify the declined industrial areas, we’re interested in recycling the “ruins” of suburban city. While in New York City it is no longer possible for artists to find an affordable living and working space due to the over-gentrification, its twin city – Newark – becomes the perfect testing ground for the new approach. The fragmented urban condition of Newark is not only able to provide a series of spaces for artists to live and work, but also allows these scattered spaces to become points of differentiation and influence in the sea of homogeneous suburban houses.


A Pier Vittorio Aureli enthusiast emailed to ask me how I produced the drawings and images when I took his studio at Yale School of Architecture this past Spring after seeing them circulate online. Here was my response…

Dear xxxxxx,

It’s quite all right to ask how we did our work! I am happy to share techniques. My partner, Wanli and I built everything individually, the long way in order to achieve a particular level of specificity. There are no “tricks” to the process and it was a tremendous amount of work. However, here are some “tips!”


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Color Images -  These were built in Rhino, but in a very minimal fashion. They were rendered, very lightly (white matte or concrete texture and simple transparent glass with little reflection) in VRay, though Maxwell provided similar results, too. Then for everything else (which was practically everything) was Photoshopped in - chairs, people, material, vegetation. Aureli suggested that on some of the surfaces that we xerox white sheets to bring out the grain of the white, or to achieve a type of striation. Yes, xerox white sheets! It doesn’t quite work these days because copiers are able to replicate at a higher resolution of the white sheet, but we were able to get similar results using filters in Photoshop. The images were printed at A0 square format (33.1” x 33.1”) so a very high level of detail was required and they took a lot of time and consideration since they were our only means of representing our project.

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Plans - For the plans we were able to find a Newark GIS maps and draw in all the details using AutoCAD. Numerous hatches, line weights, customized CAD blocks where used when we referenced back to Google aerial view which helped replicate the diversity within each city block and individual parcel.


Jennifer Dempsey, Nicholas Hunt and I submitted a proposal to be editors forPerspecta 49, due to launch in Fall 2016. Perspecta is The Yale Architectural Journal, the oldest student-edited architectural journal in the United States. It is “internationally respected for its contributions to contemporary architectural discourse with original presentations of new projects as well as historical and theoretical essays.” Below is only the Statement of Purpose portion of the proposal… enjoy!


Perspecta 49 proposes that the concept of reflection is a far more complex topic than that of a mirror image. In language, reflection connotes the act of contemplation, often the process in which we draw from our past. It describes an intellectual action that amplifies a line of thinking. In physics, reflection is the interference between two different media, which causes an abrupt change in direction of a wave (light, sound, etc.). The behavior of reflection allows us to perceive an image through light. In mass culture, our desires are reflected as a semblance of a collective identity. Here, reflection becomes an unconscious phenomenon of our shared experience.

Reflection raises issues that are philosophically rich, technologically relevant and culturally significant, rendering it a fertile lens through which to contemplate architecture. Perspecta 49 will bring together various accounts of reflection to consider the ways this prolific term influences the disciplines of art, architecture and culture.

French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan identifies the significance of reflection in the formation of individual consciousness in his work, The Mirror Stage. The Mirror Stage describes the formation of the ego in an infant when it encounters its image in a mirror for the first time. The child’s identification with the mirror image establishes a conception of the subject (self) in relation to the object (external world).1 The system of consciousness identified in The Mirror Stage is elaborated into three realms in Lacan’s larger body of work: the Imaginary, the Real and the Symbolic. These orders will provide three themes in which to ground the discussion of reflection.


Above Image - Architect, Francois Roche, curates the single circulating image of himself which is a photoshopped combination of him and his wife. The image of his firm, ideas of identity, and ‘architecture as entity’ are seen in his hypersensitivity towards copyright, and his concern with public perception.

Images at Top: A baby and its reflection. La Reproduction Interdite by René Magritte.


For the first half of our design studio with Pier Vittorio Aureli this semester at Yale School of Architecture, we were broken up into three research groups in order to gain a better understanding of the topic of designing housing for the creative class in Newark, New Jersey. This also facilitated a studio-wide discussion, fostering the creation of knowledge-based theses about our design intentions. The three topics we were divided into: Labor, Housing, and Newark, resulted in concise presentations, and required the development of succinct ideas on how each topic relates the problem we are addressing. It has been incredibly educational to hear the history of labor as it relates to traditions of productivity and idealized working environments, especially in light of Marissa Mayer’s recent request for Yahoo employees to stop working from home and return to the office. Additionally, the housing group has provided numerous precedents for understanding spatial conditions and government initiatives which affect the living condition standards which are ever-changing.

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1666 Settlement  of Newark                                          1950 Settlement of Newark

I am very fortunate to have been assigned to researching Newark because I was able to learn about a city that I have passed through many times, but knew verylittle about. In addition, map-making became a very effective way of conveying an idea about its tendencies, latent aspirations and infrastructural impositions. The process of map-making became a voice for my group to establish precise ideas and critically understand the best way of portraying these ideas. We made nearly fifty iterations of maps based on a range of sources which include satellite views of the Northeast, historical maps of New Jersey, and simply the topographic and natural landscape in which Newark was settled. It has been incredible to see the transformation in representation and how effective each stage has been in our understanding. The Newark group, which included partners, Stephanie Lee and RJ Tripodi, ended up only using about five of the maps created in our mid-review presentation today.

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1666 Tendency of Newark                                     1950 Tendency of Newark

The white maps above point out the 1666 settlement in relation to the water which supported the agrarian and theocratic society it was aiming to establish. But by the mid 20th century, the post-industrial society had gone through a number of transformations to support the once booming economy, and the transportation and manufacturing hub it became. 

The black maps above show the inherent tendency to develop a city grid which was lost by the mid 20th century because of the fragmentation made part by infrastructure which was constructed to help people pass through, but ended up leaving the city heavily divided.