Michael Meo (MArch ’16) and his 1,100-mile thesis

Michael Meo’s thesis germinated in Gund Hall’s Trays, but it bloomed in the Mexican desert.

For nearly three weeks in late 2015 and early 2016, Meo (MArch ’16) led 22 cyclists on a desert bike trek down the length of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. For Meo, the experience provoked considerations on perception, process, and the social construction of physical space. It would also shape the foundation of his GSD thesis.

This photo was taken around mile 800, on the most rural, flat stretch of the desert. We would bike several hours and take breaks as a group to eat and hydrate and stretch. Courtesy of Michael Meo
Photo courtesy Michael Meo

“As a designer I like to step back and think about solutions because sometimes you don’t have to build a building,” Meo told the Harvard Gazette. “Sometimes it’s crafting a story, it’s reframing a problem, it’s designing a system, it’s designing a toolset, it’s enabling an experience.”

Meo’s thesis advisor Mark Mulligan, associate professor in practice of architecture, has had a front-row perspective on Meo’s passion and its foundational role in his thesis project.

“You can hear in [Meo’s] passion for the project and the experiments he undertook how excited he was about it,” Mulligan told the Gazette. “At the same time it’s not enough that he was excited about it. He wants to share that excitement, he wants to inspire other people to think through different kinds of lenses.”

Meo starts sharing his story tonight, Wednesday, April 27, with an 8 p.m. screening of documentary “Many Deserts” based on his thesis at Lowell Lecture Hall (17 Kirkland Street, Cambridge). The film chronicles the journey of Meo and his 22 fellow bikers from Mexico City of all ages and abilities—blind, deaf, amputees, old, young, novice, experienced—as they bicycle 1,100 miles across one of the most rural roads on the North American continent, provoking considerations on the serendipitous and transformative power of human-centered design.

To learn more, read the Gazette’s full feature.