Browse Month August 2021

Thesis – Week 4 – Review Proposal and Site/Program Development

Paths of access for the public – diagram overlays of the plan from last weeks presentation to think through each floor.

There are other ways for the public to engage with representatives. There are “conference” areas where conversation can happen. There are areas adjacent to their offices they can host visitors and open “protest areas” Next steps will be thinking through how the public moves through the building for a variety of purposes.

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Thesis – Week 3 – Intensive

Effective governance in a representational republic is contingent on a proper proportionate of representation to the population as it grows and evolves to create a more perfect union. 

The U.S. Capitol building needs to be increased in size and scope to accommodate proper representation per population. 

My thesis will explore a modified design that will increase in size to accommodate a greater representation. The building will need to address global competition of iconic building forms, balancing historic preservation. The subset of the building will need to balance openness with security and create spaces for collaboration and conversation. 

Comments and Feedback provided During Presentation

Question from Karen Nelson: Why have representational democracy… what about direct democracy through voting directly?!

Representational democracy has shown to be the best in promoting ideas highlighted by the enlightenment. I support this approach, and history supports representational democracies. I would note that direct democracy is mob rule. We know that a large portion of the population is easily swayed and even to the point not in their long-term interest. I am a supporter of the government as a means to protect the private property of its citizens.

Comment from Karen Nelson: China has many more representatives… but not a representational democracy

The problem with their representatives is that they are not voted but placed. The more fundamental point is that they are representatives of their dictator rather than representing their constituents. 

Comment from Susan Morgan: how does your approach acknowledge expectations for civic architecture, for western and US assumptions of classical architecture establishing our validity as a “young” democracy…?

I touched on this a bit when referring to Thomas Jeffersons Academical Village in the use of Roman Architecture as a means to establish a sense of grounding the new republic in one of the greatest republics that ever existed on Earth. 

Comment from Susan Morgan: be mindful of the use of terms: “preservation” has specific meaning and expectations, in distinction from rehabilitation, conservation, etc.

Yeah, this is important. Carl even mentioned this… I want to find a way to talk about it as being a problem and holding us back. Carl’s comment about preservation rules would make my proposal impossible, which is precisely the problem. 

Comment from Karen Nelson: What do you value about the political processes of the US? What needs revision? What needs keeping? Restoring?

The immediate need is that we have taken away the diversified strategy of governance that was more local. It is common to focus on federal laws, and the media perpetuates this idea. Rather than allowing citizens within California, Massachusetts, or Florida to make their laws and decisions to govern themselves, we focus too wholly on the federal level. To battle this, we need to make it more combative, with more debate. We cannot have critical laws contingent on how one individual will vote and whether or not we can sway that person. That is the sign of the times when we look at one Senator and say, ” How will he vote, and it will impact all citizens. The goal would be to scale up representation (of the people and not representatives of dictators). The legislators would only pass laws that are genuinely bi-partisan and have obvious benefits to the people. If the legislators cannot agree, that means that it should not be legislated at the federal level and that the States need to take a more significant role in passing laws that would be needed to protect and promote the citizens of that State. That is the overall thinking. I need to find a way to manifest them in the overall Thesis. Right or Wrong, that is the stance that I am taking on the proposal, and I want to try to explore that further. If anything, the Thesis will cause discussion around a serious problem that we have, and I am just trying to put out into the world what I think the solution is. 

Comment from Susan Morgan: Famous failed dome approach from a master of domes:

This is some good information. Thank you for sharing. 

Comment from Paul H: Is your greening of the capitol expansion symbolic of Anti-Federalist (Agrarian) versus Federalist (and Federal-Style architecture)?

I go back and forth on these two, and they exist specifically because there are different thoughts on them. I took the approach of breaking it down and its use depending on whether or not it will support the political position. For instance, the use of Agrarian, nature-oriented, would be utilized when discussions need to occur. Within the final vote, the arena of politics, the place where it becomes challenging to remove that law within that same legislative branch once it is in law. Those spaces should reflect an architecture that is bigger than man and more formal. 

Comment from Susan Morgan: worth understanding the difference and similarities in intent and expression of Foster’s Reichstag versus his later London City Hall: and

Thank you. I will research this more fully. 

Comment from Karen Nelson: What is the polemical argument? Heading towards fascism? Here already?

Firstly, just so we are on the same page, I rarely use the word “polemic,” I want to make sure I understand you. I understand a polemical argument as the following: A statement used in opposition or controversy of a proposition. 

I don’t, or at least I am not trying to have a polemical argument, but just a pure argument. I am trying to use the facts and precedent written in our federalist papers discussing the proper proportion of representation to its citizens. The reference of this can be found in Federalist No. 58, Federalist No. 55, and there are lighter mentions of the need for it but it is just a broad statement. There is also mention of this same argument in the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787. I could add this documentation within the Thesis as some supporting precedent. 

I do not intend to make any commentary on fascism and whether it is here. The primary goal is to state that we have an issue of under representation, and that I am advocate in the foundation of this country and would like to grow representation as it has worked so well in the past. 

Comment from Karen Nelson: maybe time to bury it and begin anew ontop…

I took the approach of tearing it down vs. “preserving” it depending on the hierarchy of importance. For example, the perimeter buildings that are accommodated for dialogue can be open and not as formal. Still, as legislation becomes more solidified and makes its way to the federal arena, the Architecture should formalize with that same level of importance. The area space is intended to be an architecture that is bigger than man and more formal. 

Comment from Karen Nelson: What about the grounds around the capitol

The grounds around will be maintained as much as possible for occupiable green space. Any lost space will be replaced by an elevated green walk that surrounds the federal arena. 

Comment from Susan Morgan: Thom: worth reviewing design thoughts about this:

These are friendly spaces within the National Mall, and it reminds me of other programmed spaces like the botanical garden. When master planning, I call this type of stuff the “litter” to activate space. I feel free to use that kind of language here because the entire competition was based around the bias of “dead spaces.” I wonder if a landscape architect intentionally designed an open space for a particular reason, and others call it “dead space.” I am sure. However, I am an advocate for activating spaces like this with skating rinks, fountains, etc.

Comment from Karen Nelson: Are we under-represented? Really>

Yes, we are under-represented; a school board is much more accessible than a house of representatives and even more so than a senator. Scarcity value is a good analogy for this. 

Comment from Susan Morgan: Thom and also:

I need to get on your newsletter! You have a ton of great resources. There is a moment within the building, the house, and the senate chambers that would be converted into a museum space, and I was struggling with what to do with it that wasn’t just locking it in time but making it a more interactive learning experience, and this competition has some great thinking along that line already. Thank you for sharing. 

Comment from Karen Nelson: How many people can function?

I alluded to this in my previous response, but the question I am trying to solve has a different importance threshold. When we talk about functioning, yes, it will function. If the key performance metrics are evaluated by whether bills get passed, I am trying to fix that evaluation. We need a new standard for the key performance metrics. The standard should become something similar to “did the bills that get passed have a positive benefit to the people and did a majority agree?” Too often, we pass bills by the margin of a single person, and this is a recent legislative change that we call the “nuclear option.” We can easily say, well, that is the solution to get rid of the nuclear option. That is a solution and should happen, but we also need to address a growing population and wealth to representation that is not growing. It is an obvious problem, and my proposal is to have more representation to fend off the influence of potential corruption.  

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Thesis – Week 2 – Pecha Kucha

Karen Nelson Comments

  • Q1. Provocative spatial and political argument
  • A1. Thank you. 
  • Q2. Maintain only an image of representational democracy?!
  • A2. This is my nod to the embedded corrupt nature of a system with a locked representation while we can have our first trillionaire and how a small handful can manipulate a small group (non growing representatives). The corruption will only become worse… There are other solutions, but I am trying to maintain the form of an idealistic form of what it should be rather than the reality of the situation
  • Q3. How do you make decisions about the form of the project? How serious… how sci-fi?  Is it worth contrasting our numbers to those of China and its larger legislature?
  • A3. I have a precedent I am using within my research about the Galactic Senate in Star Wars, which is about the monumentality. I am also using the Nazi Capital as a precedent for the propaganda piece and that is when I relate it to China. A representative republic needs to have an answer, so it doesn’t get left behind, and can continue to be relevant. I like to make a comparison of the church using the best “artists” like Michelangelo to showcase. The best of the best was used as an association. This is similar to Celebrities, Athletes, Institutions, etc. They use the best of the arts to illustrate their propaganda to get an association bump. It is important to have a form that reflects that in order to compete against authoritarian governments. We don’t want the next generation of surface thinking to be “China is cool” and “America is dead” 

Daniel Daou Comments

  • Q1. Concur, very provocative. But the symbolic dimension needs to be foregrounded. the driving argument can’t be a merely functional one.
  • A1. I have a precedent of the nazi capital, which its intent was to create a monumental space that would be a symbol of power. The goal was to have delegates that arrive to brag about the architecture back home. This happens a lot in China and UAE, and it has very valid societal impacts just by being a symbol (propoganda). There are overlaps of China (Communism) and their use of propaganda and how a representational democracy can combat that propaganda without feeling left behind.
  • Q2. What would the “terms of criticism” be?
  • The terms of criticism are as follows: 1) Is there a space to meet with representatives in a more direct and neutral way? The intent of the space would be to acknowledge that both parties; that of the representative and the citizen, are equal and there is not hierarchy above one another in these dialogue zones to better understand the needs of the community. 2) When the representatives are working, can the public see them? 3) Is there space for the public at hearings, committees, office meetings, and when congress is in session? 4) Does the building meet the standards of a healthy working atmosphere (healthy building)? 5) Does the building have a monumental stance in its environment that can command attention?
  • Q3. How do you evaluate how successful your design/research is? Does anything go? Speculation is perfectly fine, but internal narrative self-consistency becomes paramount.
  • A3. On the surface it is speculation, and hopefully the supporting documentation can support my Key Performance Index, which is: 1) Increase the Size. 2) Balance of Security and Openness. 3) Creating spaces for Collaboration and Conversation. 4) Creation of regional zones of lesser magistrates that will have a standard operating procedure of judgement in order to pass any potential legislation on to the Federal Senate and House for a vote. 

Susan Morgan Comments

  • Q1. worth including in an intro why we should keep/add on to the existing capitol building versus step away and create new, adaptable facility for proper representation. Side note: in the world of digital meeting, to what extent is the assumption of physical presence appropriate for the next 50+ years?
  • A1. Great point on a focus on the keep/add of existing capital vs new. I explored this idea early on and there is some interest in exploring it further, but it tended to not be manifesting itself in form, but rather a cerebral push and pull about the proper way of representation when it intersects technology. I can get carried away with this idea, because it is rich. 
  • Q2. With such direct visual comparisons to Buckminster Fuller and Norman Foster, you should be explicit about these references and acknowledge their relationship to assumptions and visions for the physical expression of political engagement. 
  • A2. Understood. I do have these references in the expanded version of the presentation, but I will ensure that I make reference within a reduced presentation as well. 

Ekaterina Siemoneit Comments

  • Q1. Some sketches reminds me of Reichstag glass dome by Norman Foster. Was it your inspiration?
  • A1. Yes I did look at this building. It is very beautiful. I also looked at some concepts for the Tokyo Stadiums that have a wrapping path around the building. Very good catch!

Molly Boudreau Comments 

  • Q1. Seems costly. Maybe they should all remote work instead? Ha!
  • A1. I understand you are being playful, but I think we both know this could be a reality very easily, and I touch on it slightly, but don’t go too much into it because of my bias towards built form. 

Ryan Hoppe Comments

  • Q1. What security considerations have you made about having a public elevated platform above a house of government given what we saw in January?
  • A1. I intend to touch on the full history of attacks on the Capitol. I specifically touch on “1983 U.S. Senate bombing” by the New Communist Movement. I am focused on the fortification from weaponry and bombs along with cordining of populations. 
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Thesis – Week 1 – Revisiting and Expanding

Thesis Overview

The topic explores the governance of a civilization by the people and how to develop the least corruptible form of government, and how Architecture plays a role. History and recognition that some government Architecture begins to outdate and restrict the people. How can Architecture redefine the relationship between its representation and the people it represents? This topic is vital to all our civilization as there is a built constraint of the bruilt form. Still, it lives in a world where the monetary, corporate interests, and political beliefs are ever-changing and growing.

Thesis Statement 

  • The issue I am addressing: Effective governance of a people is contingent on having proper representation that is proportionate to the population as it grows and evolves to create a more perfect union. 
  • Hypothesis for how the issue can be addressed through design, as specifically as possible; and The U.S. Capitol building needs to be increased in size in order to follow the same trend line of representation to population. The Capitol building has stopped its growth, but the population has continued to increase in size.  To design a building that can accommodate the current representative needs spatially and how it can continue to grow with our population. Create additional program to accommodate intimate and group conversations with the representatives. 
  • The program, site, and other information you propose to use as a test of your hypothesis. Design vignettes of the programmatic spaces as a comparison and illustrate the improved scenario. 

Kit of Parts

Preservation – The preservation of a social contract

Preservation – The preservation of historical architecture

Monumentality – Impressive scale; to inspire; to bring attention to

Hierarchy – Public officials should be physically lower, vulnerable to the public

Light – Natural light to enter the space and provide a stronger connection with the outside 

Openness – Physically and Virtually more accessible to the public

Transparency – Meeting logs, conversations, emails, available openly without FOIA. 

Softscape – Landscape areas for conversation in a “natural” environment. 

Dialogue – You face your enemy; you sit with your friend. Changing the way we sit with our representation. 

The Watchtower becomes the Watchedtower.

Terms of Criticism

Is there a space to meet with representatives in a more natural way?

When the representatives are working, can the public see them?

Is there space for the public at hearings, committees, office meetings, and when congress is in session?

Does the building meet the standards of a healthy working atmosphere (healthy building)?

Does the building have a monumental stance in its environment that can command attention?

Design Directions

A monumental building that commands attention and open to the public. A Grand scale that can accommodate public viewing and all representatives with future growth. 

A lesser magistrate models. Abandon the capital building and rebuild state capitals to draw attention to the strength within the state and to make them more accessible locally. 

A focus on security and accessibility – Design a building that is resilient to not just future climate change but to a populace that needs to balance the security and safety of the public as well as the accessibility of the public. 


The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates – Matthew J. Trewhella 

Site Selection 

The site still makes sense. I have a drive to complete the thesis as started. The foundation is strong and there are moments that need to be defined and those placemaking situations will require more research in order to have some key performance indices for whether or not they are successful or not. 

What is the Thesis

The primary objective of a thesis statement is to be that constant reminder of what the topic is. This helps to ensure that we don’t go off topic and keep the focus on the initial system. For instance, I was asking a research question of what are the factors that lead to society to circulate large scale buildings and bring attention to it. Monumentality plays a big role and in the Nazi capital it was purposeful to bring attention to the grandeur of the place and their society, so others who would visit would “write home about it.” The kit of parts are the moments of the placemaking that can define the spaces within the overarching building that will support the openness, transparency, and accessibility of the building. 

Update August 15

Terms of Criticism (Revised)

Is there a space to meet with representatives in a more direct and neutral way? The intent of the space would be to acknowledge that both parties; that of the representative and the citizen, are equal and there is not hierarchy above one another in these dialogue zones to better understand the needs of the community. 

When the representatives are working, can the public see them?

Is there space for the public at hearings, committees, office meetings, and when congress is in session?

Does the building meet the standards of a healthy working atmosphere (healthy building)?

Does the building have a monumental stance in its environment that can command attention?

For the design direction, I’d stick with the Capitol, but I do like the idea of also pursuing smaller buildings too. Perhaps the design direction you go in has a large building, but then also has smaller buildings spread out with passageways between them – where people from different parts of the country work. That way, you’d balance accessibility with the ability to close off paths – and focus on smaller representative groups collaborating together before bringing legislation to the larger group.
I really like this idea. There might be a Standard Operating Procedure that associates with these smaller rooms. I am thinking simple rules and if it makes it past the smaller committees then it can be presented to the larger federal level. 
1) Delete existing laws/regulations… For every bill proposed a proposal of revision or dissolution of an existing law/regulation must accompany it. 2) Parties Involved… Who does this benefit?3) Impact of existing state laws (other states than the repesentative)… How many State laws will this proposed bill impact negatively/positively. Is this law in opposition of State Laws? Is this law in support of existing State Laws?
It would be interesting to explore what those spaces could look like architecturally. 
I think this is an important step to a Representative Democracy is having a system to deal with any new proposals to check against itself. We often make so many laws that are contrary to other states and even existing laws. The Legislators tend to pass this off on the Judicial system to resolve the conflict, and it perpetuates the idea that the Judicial system is making law, while the onus is on the Legislators, but they don’t have a system like this to check against. It would be a great idea to explore what those spaces and interactions look like architecturally. I have diagramed these relationships below. Showing how the people can interact within a space with regions and states and then those regions will be able to check against themselves before moving to the floor of the federal legislators. This is necessary in my design because there is such a strong Federal power that it needs multiple checks before arriving. 

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