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Rendered perspective at nighttime.
Yushan Men
Student Work M.Arch

A Forest in the City: Mass Timber Infill Urbanism

403 Research Studio
2020

Three quite succinct questions sum up architecture’s future as it relates to the problematics of climate change: 1) How much of it do we need? 2) Where will it be built? 3) What will it be made of? If the first question is substantially answered by data that shows a dramatic shortfall in housing (our most ubiquitous program) in California and the second logically suggests urban environments like Los Angeles, then the third answer is less direct and murkier when seen through the lens of sustainable metrics. At this point, a moment defined by both urgency and ambiguity, our ability to measure and define carbon emissions and eco-footprints is guided as much by assumption as fact. Life cycle costs and performance criteria can be analyzed according to data, but also shaped by sheer belief or faith in a certain way of thinking that can be scientific and moralistic. And if there is one material that speaks to this range of opinions and emotions regarding sustainable construction it is wood, more specifically mass timber, a type of generalized system based on large, prefabricated structural elements and modules.

Based on initial urban plans – designed by six two-student teams – for sites in Los Angeles of 400 meters in diameter located at major transportation nodes, and on field research in Oregon to study recent timber buildings and mass timber factories, the work presented here aims at depicting scenarios for a future Los Angeles in which materials, zoning, form, and programmatic compaction reach new levels of provocation for urban densification. A local forestation of architecture.

Related Faculty
Neil Denari
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