Building on Buildings [M2]

In pre-Hispanic cultures, pyramids were often built on top of others. Layer by layer, the structures would grow, understanding that each finished building would at a certain moment be the foundation for a new work of architecture, for a new project created by a new dynasty. The Kukulkan pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico, for example, contains three layers. The inner pyramid is only 33 feet high and was constructed between 600 and 800 AD. A second layer was constructed on top of that in 800-1000 AD. The current construction, also known as “El Castillo,” rose 79 feet and was realized after 1000 AD. The outcome is a massive structure that, like a Russian matryoshka doll, contains several smaller versions of itself.

What happens if we look at architecture as temporary iterations of built form? Adaptive reuse would no longer be just defined as the transformation of historic structures into new buildings. We would also come to understand that ‘new building’ as the potential site for new construction and adaptation. This idea resonates with the idea of a ‘circular building economy,’ establishing a shift in thinking away from perceiving buildings as monoliths of permanence, to become the repository for materials that will one day be re-appropriated for other purposes, thereby underscoring the fact that every building is a temporary answer for a temporary need.

Students will design a small community center on a site in Mexico. Although the site is in Mexico, this is not a traveling studio.

The project will be implemented in several phases, and students will conceive their projects as a succession of different projects in different moments (in the years 2030, 2040 and 2050), adding different program elements to the building over time. We will consider how to design architecture as a process, as a system of aggregations and alterations, rather than as a final formal solution.