this is pre-


Projective Research and Explorations
How will we confront changing cultural values with new ideas, concepts, and typologies that empower architecture with agency? This is a dedicated space to think beyond the traditional bounds of architecture and urban design to define the systems that inform both.

pre- is the work of Brandon Hall (Yale 2014) and Brian Vargo (Harvard 2015). Get more info@thisispre.com

the terminal
How can we redefine the concept of the terminal and air travel to increase flexibility and confront systemic inefficiencies?

featured in the interntational journal BRACKET: at extremes, to be realized in spring of 2014. find out more
featured in Rice University School of Architecture's PLAT 3.0 : Collective Disruption purchase here


Air travel has evolved into the most complex infrastructure in modern culture. The industry supports approximately 800 million passengers annually within the US, negotiating changes in regulations and technology with unprecedented precision. Its extremity lies in both the magnitude of its mobility and the complexity of its infrastructure.

Yet despite the massive scale and importance of this infrastructure, the industry has posted a $63 billion deficit within the past ten years. The increasing inefficiency of an aging system has driven operating costs up 162% since 2000. Despite a persistently growing demand for air travel, airlines sell only 82% of their available seats because large scale airports are either no longer strategically located or outside of areas experiencing high population growth. The infrastructure has become increasingly congested, expensive, and inefficient.

Perhaps the cost of maintaining the current system actually limits its potential to grow. We propose a renewed airport typology to supplement these issues by addressing a systemic flaw. Why do airports limit the indefinite medium of aviation to only finite points? What if air travel can further propagate its mobility by finding a more adaptive system to truly become the most flexible of infrastructures?


We propose simultaneously accepting the consequence left by urban sprawl while providing a more adaptive system for the future. Why not repurpose the 4 million miles of existing highway in the US to create temporary runways? By rescaling the 'airport' into a mobile AIRNODE, a new infrastructural typology can provide unprecedented opportunity.

The highway system provides a malleable substrate – already wide enough in most locations and well within structural limits to land commercial jets, it can easily facilitate the basic requirements of an average commercial runway. AIRNODES divide the same functional, security, and mechanical requirements of a conventional airport into individual mobile gates that supplement the highway network. These gates are designed to the dimensions of a flat bed truck, and are thus easily moved to where they are most needed. AIRNODE 'hotspots' will emerge and disappear over time, and routes can dynamically adjust to customer demand, models of efficiency, and the flows of existing ground traffic.


AIRNODE is the logical response to the extreme inflexibility of a conventional airport. Can the global mobility afforded by air transit coalesce with the regional network provided by the highway system? This typology can push the boundaries of mobility by connecting the potential of two infrastructures into an infinitely more adaptive system.
The potential of this typology is far reaching. In Los Angeles, for example, 12,000,000 residents spread over 5,000 square miles, but share only three major airports. AIRNODES can take advantage of the expansive highway system to create temporary runways during periods of low traffic, facilitating a hyper-efficient transportation network for one of the world's most congested cities. AIRNODES can also be easily gathered into areas of very high demand, for example massive sporting or entertainment events adjacent to existing large-scale parking lots. The flexibility of an adaptive system provides a synergy of transportation for all scales, more users, and in a wide range of contexts.





the museum
How can urban space be blended with museum galleries to create a museum typology that benefits the experience of both?


The typical museum establishes a spatial hierarchy, dividing 'fine art' from the outside world. But how does this rigid model relate to the informal and interactive nature of contemporary art? Our proposal redefines how 'The Museum' can create meaningful interactions between its contents and all members of the public through a series of cohabitated spaces.

The confidential site lies along a post-industrial waterfront, lined with continuous brick warehouses from the 1800s. The site occupies the only open space remaining along a long row of warehouse blocks, providing a small urban plaza that connects the city with the adjacent water front. Building upon the only usable public space within this context would be thoughtless. Can we turn the competeing need for an iconic museum and qualitative urban environment into a cohesive narrative that actually celebrates both conditions?
We propose to design a series of urban spaces the cohabitat between outdoor urban functions and interior galleries. By lifting the building's program above an entirely open ground floor, we can enrich the existing urban plaza with distinct activities. These public activities find their match within the interior program, establishing a variety of activities that redefine the boundary between museum spaces and urban life.
Our proposal articulates the public level into 5 zones - A sports court, an event area, an art garden, a transit terminal, and an open plaza. These functions become different urban living rooms shared by public life and the Interior Museum spaces. The spaces created by the urban functions intersect with the Museum's interior, fostering new dialogues and perspectives about how people perceive, understand, and connect with art in the real life of a city.
Rather than protect the art from the public, the architecture blurs the division between public and gallery spaces. A contemporary gallery and a city sport-court intersetect to create an art arena for spectating: art, sports, and activity.


The architecture concentrates its focus on an interior environment that is neither part of the museum or the city, but rather a mixing zone of both. Vertical spaces stack a variety of activities and program with collaged flexibility.



driving
How can architectural and urban strategies popularize sustainable modes of transportation?
1st Prize, STCenters Competition, in collaboration with Annie Peyton


The electric car is purported to remedy worldwide pollution, particularly within the confines of dense urban environments. But two decades after their first introduction, 100% electric cars have yet to emerge as the mainstream option for most consumers. The 2012 STCenters Competition for an electric car operations center hopes to facilitate more widespread use of the electric car in Rio De Janeiro, one of the world's fastest growing cities. We propose a new terminal typology that redefines the electric car as an instrument to create public interactions, focusing the operation's center on its role as a public space.

We propose to forego the suggested building envelop of the competition, which is out of scale and context to its neighboring buildings, and rather build a simple canopy over the adjacent street connecting a major park and the beach front. Above this new, high-volume pedestrian street, we propose an interactive 'terminal board' that lets users request car shares with neighbors using a web based application. This digital/spatial terminal system uses a simple combination of light and color to highlight similar users and create meeting points for either car rental or car sharing. The program of the operations center is buried within the street below, allowing for a distinct space that functions more than anything as an exciting public venue.
The street becomes an electric promenade that engenders a 'spectacle' surrounding the electric car. Our proposal articulates the competition's goals into an architectural space and an infrastructural system which overlap to create a new social platform. E-Link was unanimously awarded the 1st prize by defining a solution that 'with just a single gestures resolves the volume and the program ...in a clear and concise manner.'

recycling
How can the ghost fleet of retired ships be repurposed in more resourceful ways?

The US Military has the largest navy in the world, over 13 times bigger than its nearest competitor. The navy’s operating principle in the 20th century was simple: to have the biggest ships, the longest reach, and the largest fleet. This came to a climax at the end of the 1950’s, when the navy enlisted 6,578 vessels, but the active fleet has been substantially reduced ever since.

The end of war and new technologies soon rendered this massive buildup of ships as outdated and unnecessary. In 1960, the National Reserve Fleet was formed to retire active ships to indefinite storage harbors. Ships were planned for regular maintenance as they waited to be repurposed, recycled, or left to sink. However, the retirement of ships has drastically slowed, and now there are just as many ships unused as those listed on active duty.

The Reserve Fleet concentrated ships in harbors thought the United States. Over the last six decades, a few of these groups have become ‘ghost fleets’, stuck in a bureaucratic process that prevents the ships from regular maintenance and lengthens the timetable for their disposal. Ghost Fleets have been adrift for as much as twenty years past their decommissioning, polluting their surroundings and littering their communities with an ostensibly negative symbol.

Recent studies by the US government have studied the three options for the reserve fleet’s disposal to improve the system. Indefinite storage has been proven the most expensive and dangerous, as elements within the ship eventually erode and pollute nearby ecosystems. Recycling programs have found substantial logistic and economic challenges that prevent widespread implementation. However reefing - sinking a ship by design and using its structure to create an artificial marine environment– has gained favor as a time- and cost- effective alternative. But rather than simply sink a ship, can we design an environment that follows the same logic?

The Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet is the most notorious ghost fleet in the US, as over 50 ships crowd the local community with their rusting skeletons. The bay is also one of the most important habitats for the California delta, connecting the San Francisco Bay Area to the Sacramento River. This delta provides essential irrigation to one of the world’s most populated regions and forms wetlands that are home to countless threatened species of birds and fish.

The massive scale of the reserve fleet has degraded the local environment and created a persistent eyesore for the local community. Once thriving wetlands encircled the entire bay, but accumulation of toxins left by the untreated fleet and annual dredging has rendered its vicinity lifeless. Annual dredging removes the natural accumulation of silt from the Sacramento River that would otherwise run the fleet aground. The ships are currently planned to be removed and tugged over 6,000 miles to Brownsville Texas after being stripped of toxic paint and wildlife, at the cost of over 1 million dollars per ship. This solution leaves no money to remedy the existing pollution of Suisun Bay and risks countless ecosystems along the ships’ journeys to contamination from toxins and nonindigenous species.


We seek to restore the local environment by reclaiming the Suisun Bay Fleet for broader social goals. We propose to strategically reef selected ships along the destroyed coastline, and to connect their decks via a public boardwalk. By stopping the annual dredging operations and through the strategic positioning of ships, a limited number of ships can create a wetland superstructure. This gesture can reconstruct the wetlands to redefine Suisun Bay as a post-industrial success story, rich with life and cultural value. The massive scale and structural qualities of the ship provide an ideal building block for a dramatically new landscape . But by keeping the fleet within Suisun Bay, the investment costs can be redistributed to cleaning up the areas already polluted by the ships over time. Some sections between the existing bulkheads are opened to the water, creating various water depths, temperatures, and salinities that encourage a diversity of marine life. A connective boardwalk creates public programs that link the ships historic story to everyday visitors. These factors work together to create an environment that balances ecological needs with diverse cultural goals.


The Navy’s stagnant reserve fleet invites opportunities for creative intervention. Rather than envision the fleet as a bureaucratic problem, we see it as a potential to give back to the community. We aim to reclaim the Suisun Bay Ghost Fleet for widespread social, economic, and environmental goals. By creatively readapting the ships, we can activate their cultural potential. The Naval Boardwalk can be a sanctuary for wetland wildlife, a public boardwalk for learning and gathering, and a timeless cultural gesture that gives back to its community.


the library
How can the book be reinvisioned in the relationship between the library and the community?

With the advent of ebooks and digital readers, what is the role of a conventional book in the 21st century? If the library is to be a meaningful building for the community, we suggest asking a fundamental question - Is a conventional library relevant in an increasingly digital world?

We aim to remix a library’s formative principles to celebrate its content, giving renewed excitement to such a fundamentally important building.

A typical library design separates its spaces into two major components - the reading rooms and the stacks. In this arrangement, the books are sequestered and compartmentalized, and the library is viewed as a sterile archive of knowledge. We suggest a more creative approach that extends the stacks along a circular perimeter. What if we created an environment that was more inclusive, actually emphasizing the fundamental qualities that make books magical to both interior and exterior?

The site is described as a waterfront plot within a small coastal town. This context offers a unique challenge - How can we build within such a delicate context without taking away from the surroundings?
Our inspiration comes from a historic building type typical to such a landscape - the lighthouse. The elegant shape of a lighthouse provides both an iconic form and a refined addition to the natural landscape. We aim to reinterpret the historic “lighthouse” icon into a new “media house” for the community. With this effort, the building respects the delicate context and emphasizes its place as a public landmark.


This bold spatial arrangement creates a strong icon for the community. The library’s role as a public building is emphasized by this simple gesture, creating open space that invites life into the heart of the library’s spaces. This typolgy offers a unique spatial experience. The library is not an archive for books, but rather an exciting public building that invites its community to gather, learn, and interact. The direct relationship the books have with the facade make a dramatic statement that gives renewed energy to the library’s future.

planning up
is our entry to the 2012 city vision competition. The competition asked us 'to imagine New York in its future if the manipulation of the urban context and its architectural objects, joined with its inhabitants, will be influenced by space and time.' With that in mind, we tried to ground the brief to the most basic of New York's formative principles: high-density zoning.
New York is the epitome of the 20TH century metropolis and the quintessential laboratory for grand visions of urban planning. The city's manifesto has profound simplicity: to build with massive scale, guided only by a horizontal grid. But New York's urban principles have been increasingly challenged by the reality of its size, density, and congestion. The utopia sought by previous generations has become stale as the city's massive scale prevents its further growth. What does the city now aspire to be? To redefine its cityscape, New York must grow from its tradition of visionary urbanism.
New York once pioneered the guiding principles behind urban planning in large cities. As the first skyscrapers pushed the limits of height and scale, their unchecked density cast the public below in perpetual shadow. New York created the first major zoning restrictions for dense urban environments, passing a landmark resolution in 1916 that defined maximum heights and mandatory step-backs to allow light to the public realm below. Popularized into an architectural motif, these regulations helped shape the iconic Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and many others. Fifty years later, advancements in technology allowed for lighter construction, taller buildings, and extreme density in parts of the city. Again, the city developed a landmark zoning resolution in 1961, establishing incentive zoning that required public space at ground level to balance building higher. This created the modern skyscraper, a sleek box with a public ground floor, as evident by the Lever House, the Seagram Building, and the conventional office tower. Now, another fifty years later, New York must revisit the fundamental principles that have governed its growth to create a new vision. The city's evolution has negotiated public wellbeing with private interests to achieve a greater density of quality urban living. The value of public space has grown ostensibly over time, as zoning regulations have required more and more consideration for the public's welfare. But how can the city's future extrapolate these principles into new typologies that further address the importance of public space in the city?
We propose to create a vertical zoning system to compliment the horizontal plan of New York. By supplementing the horizontal plane with a vertical infrastructure we can create an entirely new axis for public life, filled with prototypes for a new urban vision. While past visions of New York have entirely remapped the city, we aim to actually readapt what is already given. Perhaps the most fundamental element of the city's urban fabric is actually its least visible – the elevator. The city's verticality has essentially relied on the elevator as a vertical infrastructure. We propose to further this principle by appropriating the elevator as a completely public element of the city. In doing so, we redefine the elevator as a vertical street and create vertical mobility for public life.
This creates the means for an immersive, 3-dimensional public realm, where the cityscape can evolve with rich programmatic density. Vacancies in existing towers can be exploited, becoming temporary museums, markets, or galleries. New amenities can transform existing office towers into vertical neighborhoods. Public pools can be suspended in the midst of the cityscape. Roof tops can become community gardens and parks, activating unused spaces with public life. Cultural programs can propagate throughout the city, creating diverse activity in the dense fabric of the city.
These public amenities are essential for a sustainable urban habitat. The truly Vertical City unveils the programmatic potential of the urban environment, able to respond to the various environmental, social, and economic conditions that constitute the city. In this sense, we aim to create an urban identity that will result not in any one vision, but rather in an accumulation of activities, spaces, and urban life.