Maker Story: Urban Ruins

Designer: Weishun Xu
Critic: Alexander Kitchin
Year: 2010
Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Project Type: Stuido/Residential

metaphor image

Project Brief

      This site in Philadelphia is located at the intersection of urban fabrics, where an elevated railway brutally cuts through a 300 year old worker class community. This railway eliminates the mixed-use buffering zone between Fishtown community on the east and the abandoned industrial area on the west, where people from the community used to make their contributions to the city. The proposal attempts to re-connect the workers to their industrial past, taking the form from a generator in loosely constructed ruins, to synthesize the two zones via programmatic and physical connection. A mechanical sculptor’s studio is chosen as the exemplary program since it integrates immediate material usage, skills from the working class community as well as artistic inspiration. The project is a deliberate exploration in the phenomenological translation of architectural metaphors into spaces via physical modeling processes that resemble in working style the community craftspeople’s physical touch.


Site Strategy

      Site analysis situate the project at the intersection of local material flows, community information flows as well as district infrastructures. The ground surface is both lifted and sunken throughout the spatial sequence. It is a metaphor of elevating the community members’ earthy crafts to high-figure mechanical art, and also directly responds to the displacement of social identity brought by the programmatic changes depending on their relative height to the elevated railway.


Site 2Site 1

Evolution of Models

      The modeling exploration attempts to interpret the form of metaphors by taking on the senses of mechanical artists during hand craft processes. It starts with expression via materials and ends with phenomenological experience during manipulating the same material.


The Place of Progression

      The design is supposed to generate the sense of a place, a field where no specific constructed object other than the central corridor is defined. It attempts to achieve so by de-emphasizing the thresholds between the interior and exterior.

Tech Drawings