New Haven Basilica
Nomination, H.I. Feldman Prize
The original mission of the Catholic Church, from its Greek word catholicus, universal, was to negotiate and unite the dispersed Christian cultures. The church’s original agenda was to capture and manipulate existing public space in order to assert its place within the community. This operation linked the notion of the sacred with the notion of space. The Roman Basilica, a recognizable public building, transformed into the symbolizing archetype for the Catholic Church-- a sacred space with clearly defined directionality and movement. The critique of the church in this project is represented through a reversal of this process. The mat building surrounding the sacred spaces, recaptures the church and by that reveals the interdependency between the church and the public.
The Catholic Church has always dealt with the crisis of representing the ineffable and the project seeks to answer how this is pertinent within today’s urban paradigm. The project’s site, located between two incompatible rationalities, acts as what Marc Auge defines as a Non-Place, a space with an unattainable narrative. Thus, the site becomes perfect ground for the project that seeks for the ineffable. The site is located between two clear structures of reason, the dominant New Haven nine-square grid based on ideal planning proportions of Solomon's temple and the peripheral non-linear grid of Wooster square driven by its contextual boundaries. As the site has not revealed an attitude towards which neighborhood it belongs, it is located in a space of ambivalence. Due to that fact, the site becomes fertile ground for a homogeneous mat building type which is inherently self-driven with an internal organization and growth structure spreading outwards towards the site limits.
Sacred space is produced via an interruption of this rational homogeneity. The symbolism of the church has traditionally been achieved using an unpredictable/figural mass and juxtaposing it to an otherwise homogenous and predictable context, I.E the displaced church/plaza as an interruption of regular space. Our reinterpretation of the church is achieved through a similar process. The introduction of irrational heterogeneous space (the church) as an interruption to the highly rational mat building typology (the apartment building). The mat buildings offers homogeny and the possibility of continuity while reserving clear structure and reason. Through the juxtaposition of regular against irregular, the intuitive against the rational, the project negotiates the idealistic notion of democracy as seen with a non-hierarchical building type and the ideological notion of sacrality associated with intuition and the irrational.
Advanced Design Studio: Wood
Gabon, a coastal African country located on the equator and 80% covered in rainforests, is highly informed by water. However, the country suffers from a general disregard of water as an important recourse. With no real country-wide sewer system, 67% of Gabonese lack modern sanitation facilities and 12% lack access to clean drinking water. Gabon needs a new direction for how it manages water infrastructure. This system should not merely be a continuation of the standard western model of isolated infrastructure; it has the opportunity to become visibly integrated into people’s daily urban and ecological lives.
The proposed site for the first of these interventions in the capital city of Libreville would be located at the bottom of a large water shed area in a location that allows for easy access to the economic and governmental buildings along the Boulevard Triumphal, the surrounding housing neighborhoods, and the country’s main university. This plant can then become an asset for the adjacent neighborhood in other ways, combining the utilitarian functions of water purification with social programs that can feed off the byproducts of the plant’s processes like laundromats, pools, restrooms, car washes, cafeterias, bars, meeting rooms, media labs, auditoriums and galleries.
Because of its arrangement into a vertically stacked system, this new water treatment plant and community center would become the tallest structure in Gabon establishing itself as an unavoidably visible statement about the importance and potential of water and water management for the future of Gabon as a developed country.