Advanced Design Studio: Bald/Birmann

Project Description

Nomination, H.I. Feldman Prize

The project’s primary point of investigation is the agency of the architect in the planning process, particularly within the framework of the blank-slate urbanism of Lucio Costa’s Brasilia.

The 90 m X 120 m block takes the form of a bar-and-mat scheme, where the bars house a variety of residential units and the mat. The aim is to create a developer-friendly model of mixed-use urbanism where the role of the planner is to maintain an overarching vision, but also relinquish part of that control to market dynamics, social forces, and the community itself.

This idea of possibility and flexibility is implemented in two ways. One, by means of a systemic organizational module that generates both the public and private program, i.e. the mat and the bars. The second is a strategic deployment of service armature that allows the site to be developed intuitively. So within the same spatial framework, retail could mean anything from a Zara to a hole-in-the-wall bakery.

These possibilities carry over into the residences, where a module-based organization makes it possible to combine units to become a variety of dwellings— from studios to penthouses. Each apartment is a cross-ventilated, single-loaded unit fronting an open veranda. The option to purchase an open well allows residents to convert the space into a bedroom, study, terrace, or patio. While one of the bar’s facades is a louvered acknowledgement of Brasilia’s modernist legacy, the other is a pixelation of the community’s own expression.

The block is designed to fit in with the existing master plan, but is perhaps at its strongest when it takes on a prototypical role where different permutations of its many parameters come into play at different instances. It is looked at as a top-down exercise in providing an ‘armature’ within which the bottom-up organic forces of urban growth are allowed to proliferate.