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The following is a selection of work from my undergraduate thesis. The thesis book can be viewed here.

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Abstract

The study is concerned with engaging an existing artifact. Through the exploration of a Buddhist monastery in ruins emerges a spatial and tectonic comprehension of architectural elements: wall, column, floor, ceiling, roof and others. The ruin informs the new, and reveals the complimentary and contradictory nature of ancient tectonics and layered modern assemblies. It is an exercise in working between ancient and modern, waking and dreaming, reality and projection, memory and imagination.

Program

The program serves to facilitate the stone craftsmen of Taxila. Each of the new buildings is specific to a purpose.

A school for apprentices to learn.
Studios for craftsmen to create.
A gallery for visitors to explore.

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Site

Taxila, an ancient city dating back to the 5th century BC, reached its apex as an eminent Buddhist center of learning. Knowledge was accumulated and disseminated through monasteries situated upon tranquil hills around the city. These places were made for and of silence and stone.

The use of stone as a building material and as a material for artistic expression has continued from ancient times to modern day. Stone craftsmen still inhabit the modern Taxila, practicing their craft in ways similar to their ancient predecessors. Massive stone walls reveal these layers like geological strata.

Ruin

The ruins of the Buddhist monastery of Jaulian lie upon a hill, a short distance from the modern city of Taxila. Remains of the old built site became groundwork for the new. Remnants of existing plans, sections, and elevations informed new thoughts and atmospheres.

The study of the ruin began with a wall section to understand how stone was once used as a building material. The raw natural rock and refined slabs of cut stone complete and stabilize the wall. The raw and refined exist simultaneously.

The material and tectonic spatial analysis had begun with the unit of the wall. The wall multiplied, formed corners and edges and bound space. A room was formed.

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School

The school for apprentice stone craftsmen was approached as an extension of the ruins. Stone craftsmen continue to primarily work directly on the ground outdoors under the shade of large canopies of peepal (fig) trees. Fittingly, legend speaks of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, attaining enlightenment while meditating under this species of tree millennia ago.

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The presence of the massive stone walls of the ruin heightens the awareness of the absence of columns, beams and roof. These absent elements therefore become the tectonic and material juxtaposition to the ruin. The ancient stone wall is stabilized with a concrete layer poured above. Notches in the concrete allow for glued laminated timber beams to rest in the wall. The beams reach out to rest on wood columns reinforced with steel which use excavated rock from the site as a base.

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Glass is used to enclose the school building, while sheets of fabric become the moveable partition walls within. Fabric is commonly used as an element to provide shade and privacy in the regional architecture. The thin and billowing fabric and glass contrast the five foot thick stone walls of the monastery.

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Studio

The monk’s cell became an inspiration for the individual studios for master craftsmen. Instead of a living garden that the monks tend, the craftsman tends the stone garden; the material for his work. A simple room and garden complement each other as interior and exterior working spaces.

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The cluster of studios is inspired by the system of interlocking walls of the cells in the monastery. The studios lock together to form the third space of the individual “stone gardens” where the craftsmen work.

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The garden is approached as an outdoor room. The tree anchors this outdoor space and provides a roof for the craftsmen working outside. The steel column and roof within the stone and concrete walls of the studio serve the same purpose. The steel column in the studio is aligned on axis with the tree in the garden.

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Gallery

The gallery serves as a space for stone craftsmen to display their work for visitors to view. The compressed circumambulating path of the existing stupa area informed the spatial nature of the gallery. The idea of man and object in such personal contact within the stupa area reflected on how an exhibition space might function.

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The narrow area of circulation in the stupa and the impressive shrines create a charged atmosphere. Objects on display in the gallery and the viewer are engaged in a similar fashion by means of the structure and manipulation of light.

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Rock columns hold the precast vaulted concrete roof. Repeated forms in precast concrete are used to create a seemingly complex space. The ceiling of the gallery emerges from the twilight by reflected light from glass pavers of the below. Light cannons pierce the concrete roof and orient the observer within to the sky and earth above.

The finished objects of the craftsmen are placed in front of the rock columns within the concrete vessel of the building. The refined work of the builder and craftsman comes face to face with the raw material from the earth.