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May 9, 2007

Thesis Studio Eats My Brain

All I can think about lately is my thesis. This is a good thing, but weird. For example, I haven't been attending plant sales I'd planned to attend because I just can't think about gardening. And I recently decided to drop my Construction Management minor because it would allow me to take only thesis studio for the next two quarters. Strange, huh?

Anyhow, I figured I'd show you all some of what I've been working on. Most of it is inside my head; I've been reading 3-5 books a day about spatial psychology and bioethics, which is great but doesn't give a lot of pretty drawings. So in addition, I've been making lots of little diagrams of complex systems like this:


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What I'm trying to do is understand how users inhabit a space, and how teams work together dynamically. If you imagine each of the outside dots as a person, you can then follow them around as they meet with a small team, then in a larger group, then maybe in a small team again.

Dynamics of teamwork

I've also been interviewing researchers to better understand how they inhabit the space they have now. As we talk, I make these little diagrams of their movements through the space.

Individual path

We're writing our programs (descriptions of the types of spaces in our buildings) right now, so I have also been compiling lists of types of spaces required, and sorting them by intimacy of setting.

Types of spaces

As I worked with those diagrams and got a better idea of the spaces needed to conduct research, I began to define spaces around my little dots and then group them into workgroups that are doing related and unrelated work.

Spatial definitions

Then, to better understand what I was doing, I made this system diagram, where I put modules of different types of spaces together and made larger modules. My experience has showed me (and my research agrees with this) that smaller groups work more effectively than large ones. So I'm trying to limit team sizes to 4-8 people, at least in close contact. Of course those teams will get together and form larger teams for complex projects, but for sitting-at-desk time, small is good.


In parallel, I've been exploring biological arrangements of space. Here's a cellular formation from the vascular system of a tree (I drew this from a picture in a book, so it's vastly simplified).

Cellular formation

Cellular formations take on a lot of shapes, but I'm most interested in this sort of larger-space flat shape, with interesting interstitial spaces. This is another drawing done from a book, a simplified and combined version of several different things: a piece of plant material, a dragonfly wing, and a skin layer.

Strip of cells

Because I'm going to be designing for an urban site (I'm not decided, but it's somewhere along Geary in San Francisco, near USCF's Mount Zion campus), I have also been looking at verticality. These drawings are explorations of how spaces can be stacked and connected around a vertical core.

Clearly, this one is based on a spine. But it also borrows from the form of neurons, and I think it has a bit in common with my little movement diagrams.

Spine thing

The problem with high rises is that they end up being very bland, spatially. Lots of stacked floorplates. So I was thinking about how to take the sort of bone-like, spine-like structure and make it less flat. I call this drawing "dumbbells."


That's not nearly everything I've been working on. I have a bunch more drawings and some models and some photo studies on transparency, but this post is long enough.

# Posted by ayse on 05/09/07 at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)