A Narrative Architecture of Multiple Realities

RISD  |  2014 - 2015  |  Masters Thesis

Primary Advisor Silvia Acosta; Secondary Advisor Chelsea Limbird

Beginning with an abstracted atmosphere, personal representations of emotions, memories and feelings found in music, this thesis evolved through the intangible and indescribable into something more concrete, universally understood, at least on an intuitive level. In this abstraction, I found a language and geometry with which to carry into an architecture.


Working in-between drawing and modeling, I drew the imaginative atmospheres that I sought to bring out and tested them through physical models - ones that had to obey gravitational, structural, and material logic. It is only through these physical limitations that the intangible strengthens.


This is true of the architecture as well. The narrative is embodied in lattice and column design, enclosure and circulation, the project’s interactions with landscape and season. Constant motifs that persisted were reptition and its irregularities, continuity of space, inclusiveness of weather elements, material revealments, and selective use of dramatic geometry like slots, cantilevers, and elongations.


The investigation began in three chapters - About Fictions and Narratives, With Natural Processes, and In-Between Absolutism and Relativity - before coalescing into first an exploratory project, then the final project study.

I.  About Fictions and Narratives

 The collapse of fictional space into architecture as bound by reality is integral to enabling that occupant’s imagination, to establishing an instinctual sense of place, engaging that occupant in a thinking, being, belonging experience, evoking a visceral feeling and memory that remains, like a rhizome, long after the moment disperses.

II.  With Natural Processes

Allowing transparency in design for cyclical change and its uncontrollability reminds us that we are not special, and we don’t need to be. We live in the context of a larger ecological system – our architecture should reflect this connection, not strive to hide it.

III.  In-Between Absolutism and Relativity

Blur the lines between discrete, typically contradictory concepts and embed meaning in the transitional, intermediate space. Energy exists most at confluences. Like whitewater’s eddy lines, the fictional space lives where water is travelling in two directions, simultaneously.

IV.  Initial Exploratory Project

Thirteen Ways a Container

an adaptation of Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"






Among twenty lands and oceans,

The only living thing

Was the container.




I was of three minds,

Earth, Sky, Horizon

In which the container is.




The leaves whirled in the autumn winds.

Over and through the container, a seasonal pantomime.




A tree and a man

Are one.

A tree and a man and a container

Are one.




I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of details

Or the beauty of the whole,

The container emerging

Or just after.




Shapes held space

Hinting at play.

Minds shadows

Danced them, to and fro.

The mood

Inhabited the container

In intangible aura.




O authors and makers,

Why do you imagine Martian pods?

Do you not see how the container

Anticipates the dreams, hopes, fantasies

Of the people about you?




I know perfect geometry

And living, logical rhythms;

But I know, too,

That a fiction is involved

In the container I know.




When the container ebbs away,

It marks the edge

Of one of many circles.




At the sight of containers

Eternal homes for men,

The end approaches

And we cry sharply running.




He slowed at the ground’s holes

Ominous in their suggestion.

Once, a fear pierced him,

In that he mistook

A glimpse of menace

For the inevitable truth of containers.




The river is moving.

Life continues and the container is.




It was evening all afternoon.

It was snowing

And it was going to snow.

The container waited

At horizon’s end.

V.  Setting the Final Project Study



The container is caught between earth and air – the ultimate intermediary between the under and above ground. It works as a filter, moving elements and people alike through itself. Integral to its formation is the transitory, in-between space where intentional moments are emphasized in defiance and awareness of reality.



The created site holds conditions that exist on earth – conditions chosen for their universality and opportunities to further the thesis concept. The site contains cliff, a bank, a river. It undergoes all four seasons, receiving sun, wind, rain, and snow forces.



The chosen program hosts three subway lines – it is at their intersections that the container exists. Its primary function is to circulate people into, between, and through all hours of the day, every day of the year. There is an integral moment of pause, of waiting, of heightened awareness, caught in the flurry of movement where the container comes alive at a standstill.

VI.  Final Project Study - First Iterations of a Transit Hub

After site, program, and container in words and images, combining a certain realism and narrative atmosphere in each take, the hardest and ultimate test is compiling those findings into an architectural proposal - maintaining the fiction while infusing technical, environmental, and programmatic realities.


These compiled iterations propose to integrate the universal realities of earth’s environment: water, light, and air, with the universal realities of architecture’s constraints: structure, enclosure, material, and program in order to facilitate that specific experience that I have been exploring in various related components.

VII.  Final Project Study - Final Iterations of a Transit Hub

The final iteration is a closer study of the structural canopy and column connections to a specific experience of blurring the then and now, inside and outside.A network of cast-in-place concrete beams are designed for an ideal depth and width, limiting the maximum span and conjuring layers of canopies both supporting the structural demands of the transit hub as well as a semblance of the light qualities available under a dense forest.


The column as a gathering place - conceived as water collector and revealer, captures rain and courses it from roof to earth. Upon rainfall, depending on its heaviness, the rain emerges within allocated carvings. It might collect in deeper geometries, waiting to evaporate more slowly, or simply wash and deepen the concrete grounds’ coloring.