An Urban Patchwork

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An Urban Patchwork

Niclee Design

An Urban Patchwork offers a critique of the typical road stop typology and its relationship with the city. The typology of a road stop is typically a hybrid of gas station, garage, carwash, café, and minimart. A road stop is often a mere pit stop along highways or motorways where travelers refuel their car and bodies with gasoline and coffee. One can say that a road stop is placeless – they are all the same regardless of their location. They are often located in the middle of nowhere, and when they are located in a city, they appear disconnected from any surrounding context.

How do you give a road stop an identity? How do you create a road stop that is connected with the surrounding? Can a road stop contribute to its surrounding community? How do you make a road stop into a road place?
An Urban Patchwork is located in an industrial ruin in Castelo de Maia, along the N14 National Road that connects Porto and Braga. The site is bordered by the N14 National Road and train tracks, and is at an intersection between the University, athletic center and metro stop. Utilizing these different conditions, the project aims to aims to engage with the surrounding context and become a place not just for road travelers, but also a destination for the local community. An Urban Patchwork is a hub that mixes an array of different programs such as gas station, cafés, bars, artist workshops, disco, retail plant nursery, reading room, etc. Furthermore, the existing buildings have unique spatial potentials; therefore they are renovated and restored, along with some additional new roofs. The result is a unified project that provides very different spatial qualities and environments that cater a wide range of users and program, as well as preserving and celebrating the industrial identity of the site.


Nicolas Lee is a graduate student in the Masters in Architecture II (Post-professional) program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the GSD, he studied with Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in the Harvard-ETH Joint Studio (Contemporary City Institute) in Basel, Nathalie de Vries (MVRDV) in her option studio, and Christopher C.M Lee in the AECOM Project on China studio. In 2013 and 2014, he took a gap year from his graduate studies and worked at Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA/AMO) and MVRDV in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Nicolas holds the Bachelor of Architecture (Cum Laude) professional degree from Syracuse University’s School of Architecture in New York, where he completed his thesis titled – The City Within The City. The project was selected for the Thesis Awards Jury at Syracuse Architecture, and was awarded Dean’s Citation for Excellence in Thesis Design, Furthermore, the project received Second Prize in Re-thinking the Future’s International Architecture Thesis Awards in 2013. Nicolas was also a recipient of the Syracuse University Chancellor’s Scholarship and Dean’s List. In his 4th year at Syracuse, he studied with Joshua Prince-Ramus (RE X) in the New York City Urban studio, and studied abroad in Italy with the Syracuse Florence Program. Previously, he studied Real Estate Design and Development with Jared Delle Valle and AJ Pires from Alloy Development. In the past, he has worked as an architectural intern, a project manager assistant, a freelance designer, a project collaborator, a graphic designer and a teaching assistant.

Nicolas is also co-founder of the international architecture collective bluefoamit. Their project “On the Move” received Runner-up (Rouen, FR) and Selected finalist (Schiedam, NL) in the Europan12 competition. “On the Move” has been published and exhibited in Europe.

Nicolas was born in Hong Kong, but has also lived in Vancouver and Toronto.



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