Redrawing East Harlem – A study on Urban Mutation

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Animation, Axonometric, Students, Texture

Redrawing East Harlem – A study on Urban Mutation

Kig Veerasunthorn & Wen Zhou @ Columbia, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation [Hilary Sample Studio from MOS Architect, Spring 2017 Advanced studio]


Redrawing East Harlem – A study on Urban Mutation, is a typological study of some buildings, or urban artifacts in Aldo Rossi’s word. These buildings were once the center of cultural events in East Harlem and went through change in use in history. We call this process of change “urban mutation”, which signifies a reactive transformation to its environment. Some mutation are considered successful and the buildings remained it vividness in urban life, some are “pathological” and declined and failed to carry on as a container of collective memory.



The design premise was to challenge the typology of “Housing” itself with the minimum moves. How could one lot of housing have a great impact the whole collective block?. The design aims to play around with the perception of “front” and “back” sides. We try to eliminate the perception of “back” side and create two-front-sided housing. By this way, the left over parametric space in the main collective courtyard soften and slower the pace of East Harlem street life, and becomes a sanctuary island for a local community.






Who influences you graphically?

Our Studio focused on drawing narratives in architecture.  We had to think critically about how and what we express through drawing.  We felt the drawings we produced should not only illustrate our aesthetic tendencies, but also should be able to communicate design intention.  During the semester, we looked at representation precedents from architects through such media as books, drawings, and films.  Architects who inspired us range from those from the 18th century to contemporary ones including David Chipperfield, Caruso St. John, 6a architects, DRDH, DVVT, Alvaro Siza, Isamu Noguchi and Auguste Choisy.


What defined the different mediums through which you choose to reveal the project? How does each medium work and explore the proposal in a different way?

We documented our design process throughout the semester starting with a research booklet, then the idea of making a series of booklets came to mind.  The booklets divide our work into three volumes: volume one contains our research, volume two is for design studies, and volume three illustrates our design proposal. Both of us have social media platforms, so we thought about what mediums would offer accessible content to our audience through those channels.  Our solution was to summarize our project through a brief film.  Making this film challenged us to push the boundaries of architectural representation by integrating architecture with art and narrative.  We were inspired by the deadpan techniques of MOS Architects’ films, but instead of making the main character in the film our physical model, we experimented on our drawings and animated the architecture in a surrealism-inspired background of urban life.  The film extended our architecture into a combination of creative domains including music, visual arts, and storyboarding.


Which medium did you enjoy working the most with and why?

Booklets were the most enjoyable medium.  They recapped our thoughts at each stage of our creative process and organized our content into a coherent narrative structure.  But it is always productive for us to keep moving from one task to another—sketching, making a 3d model, producing a book, creating presentation drawings, and building physical models.  Switching tasks frequently gave us greater freedom and perspective to view our project.  As such, it was a very productive and instructive way to work as a team.

What as your work process in terms of concept development and representation through drawing animation etc? 

When we changed the way we drew, it changed the way we thought about space, programs, and materiality in architecture.  Most of the time we objectified our architecture through drawing, treating it as product design with architectural programs.  The last part of our film disintegrates our building into parts and portrays small moments from each to suggest impressions of their programs.  We developed the project’s materiality by objectifying part of the project, and when all the parts came together as a building, it offered richness and contrast in space and materials.


What programs did you use?

We use very common programs such as Rhinoceros, AutoCAD, Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects.



How and to what extent did the environment and work developed at Columbia influence the way you will operate as an architect in the future?

We both attended GSAPP during the deanship of Amale Andraos, when the school utilized theories and arguments to establish a critical framework for architectural representation.  GSAPP’s academic environment was as playful as our project, yet it also embraced innovative uses of new technologies.  We hope that in the future we can continue to anticipate trends in technology to facilitate our thoughtful design.  We think our age is not unlike the Renaissance, as today technology similarly operates in unison with art and culture. We think these circumstances yield productive foundations for investigating architecture.

Kig Veerasunthorn (MS.AAD) and Wen Zhou (M.Arch) are recent graduates from Columbia GSAPP. Wen graduated with Honor Awards for excellence in design (M.Arch) and Kig graduated with William Kinne Fellows Traveling Prize. Currently, They are pursuing their architect career, Wen Zhou is working with Studio Gang Chicago and Kig Veerasunthorn is working with Bjarke Ingels Group New York.



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