Opening Reception and Project Presentation 
Wednesday, February 17, 6:30pm 

In conjunction with the exhibition A World of Many Worlds, and in keeping with annual tradition, the outgoing Master of Architecture II students in The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture will present their thesis projects to the incoming graduate class. The presentations will be followed by a conversation among Cooper Union students, faculty, alumni, and invited guests.  

Though it marks the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, this event begins a new dialogue with the incoming graduate class—one of the first encounters with the School’s academic and social culture. For a one-year program, this tradition has proven critical to its continuity, and despite the ongoing pandemic, this event will ensure that the incoming class has access to this experience. 

This diverse group of local and international students—representing eight individual perspectives—has explored Thesis topics ranging from disciplinary constructions of context, the queering of space, and cultural appropriation to memory and destruction, the relativity of bodies, and the disruption of normative perceptions.  

Presenting students: Sally Chen, Yingxiao Chen, Nien Ying Lin, Jamie Lindsey, Austin McInnis, Roni Schanin, Doosung Shin, and Qicheng Wu.

Respondents: Virginia Black (feminist architecture collaborative), Marina Otero Verzier (Het Nieuwe Instituut), and Sumayya Vally (Counterspace).

Opening remarks: Dean Nader Tehrani, School of Architecture Archive director Steven Hillyer, and Graduate Thesis faculty Nora Akawi and Anthony Vidler.

In conjunction with this presentation, an Anti-Racism in Thesis Workshop will be held on Saturday, February 27, 2021 from 10:00am to 4:00pm. This event will continue ongoing work at The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture to decolonialize the curriculum and advance an anti-racist pedagogy at the school. To learn more about this event, please click here.

Meridians in Space
Meridians as Body Templates

The site of the project is a historical temple inside a shopping mall in my city, Chengdu. The design of the shopping mall is rendering the space comfortable and invisible, the attention can go to the environment and commodities. While the temple inside the shopping mall provides a resistance experience by setting a sequence of discomforting architectural elements.
Anesthesia and Acupuncture  

The body, medicine, and architecture are closely tied together. While western modern medicine anesthesia is aimed to get rid of discomfiting feelings and disturbances, traditional Chinese medical treatment, acupuncture, is to use discomfort to stimulate your body to get a healthy effect.
Stimulation in Architecture

The Threshold of Foguang Temple (857), Shanxi, China The temple is located in Wutai Mountain, one of the most important Buddhist centers in Tang China. Visitors need to overcome a series of physical obstacles and challenges to reach the main hall to see the Buddha.
Anesthesia in Architecture

“Anesthesia is the removal of feeling, the temporal suppression of the central nervous system in order to achieve lack of sensation, and by minimizing friction, the smooth surfaces of modern architecture anesthetize bodily sensation.”  

Colomina, Beatriz. X-Ray Architecture.
“Without an element of cruelty at the root of every spectacle, the theater is not possible.”  

Artaud, Antonin. The Theater and Its Double.

Comfortably Numb:

The Case for Discomfort in Architecture

Yingxiao Chen

Advisor: Lauren Kogod

Comfortable environments have become the default aspiration in the design of our daily experience. This Thesis visualizes how modern standards in architecture control the body through the design of comfort, manipulating perception, attention, and consciousness.

Anesthesia in architecture would be the numbing of sensation, rendering spaces comfortable but also invisible. By contrast, acupuncture in architecture would cause discomfort, but also activate the body and stimulate consciousness and presence of the mind.  

By using acupuncture points and meridians as a body template and scaling device in architecture, this Thesis documents and spatializes the kinesthetic experience required by various kinds of topographies and thresholds, and proposes a design tool focusing on the intersection of the body, consciousness, and architecture.


Critical Disruption:

Between Image and Experience

Jamie Lindsey

Advisor: Michael Young

Critical Disruption: Between Image and Experience is a speculative investigation into how materiality can generate spatial and representational ambiguity, probing the potential of uncertainty to challenge conventional design processes, institutions, and systems.

In today’s world of engaged digitalism, image forgery has already shattered the indexical link between photography and reality. Altered and fraudulent images are widespread and often indistinguishable from photographs. Ultra-black, a new material with unprecedented light-absorbing properties, extends this distrust of the image to a skepticism of the physically constructed world. By visually redacting light and the information of our physical world, ultra-black creates perceptual holes in space.  

Probing the museum as a case study, Critical Disruption uses visual absence to expose and challenge latent systems governing how we design, occupy, and conceptualize space.



Humoring the Theater of Translation

Qicheng Wu

Advisor: Austin Wade Smith

骐骋 (phonetically “Ki-Chung”) is an unusual, unfashionable men’s Chinese name that translates to “Horse.”  马马 (phonetically “Mama”) is a more common men’s Chinese name that also translates to “Horse Horse.”  In fact, the names are related - the characters of Mama are a simplified version of the characters of Ki-Chung.  And, thus, Mama has become a nickname for Ki-Chung.  But in English, Mama does not sound like a man’s name at all...

The simplification from Qicheng to Mama which happens in a different linguistic context (Chinese to English) changes the semantic meaning of “Mama” and its perception. The translation unveils a concealed nature of a homonym which is defined by its context. The revelation of “Mama” has two characteristics associated with it. First, the change of context is the alchemist, and second, the result is humorous. The translation of “Mama” generates a playful double of its origin, resulting in humor from contextual defamiliarization. This thesis considers contextual manipulation as trigger of translation, which evokes a distinct perception for the original form. This occurs in architecture as well.  

The Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California is arguably a result of such translation. By altering contexts, traditional Chinese structural elements find their translated doubles being decorations attached to a Hollywood-style theater. The original volumetric elements get de-characterized and flattened. Through transplanting decorative elements of Hollywood’s Chinese Theater back to the structure of Taihe Palace in Beijing, this project takes on a second decontextualization, bringing out the playfulness of the Hollywood Chinese Theater by unveiling an intentional double of it. The performance of decorations to act as origins echoes the flattening that occurs in the design of the Chinese Theater.

The de-characterization as a result of (mis)translation is further explored in the format of a play inside of the translated theater. Based on the same script, the reconstruction of the entrance of the Hollywood Chinese Theater takes place simultaneously on two stages in the show titled Found In Mistranslation. One stage replicates the entrance of the Chinese Theater, while the other discloses the playful double of it by allowing architectural mistranslation of the script and reversing the relationship between structures and decorations, flatness and depth. This architectural (mis)translations reveals the entertainment industry’s culture of flattening and its (mis)appropriation of “exotic” cultures.

The Invasion

There is one of the biggest Grove's annual rituals called "The Invasion." It began in 1976 when a drag queen was denied a drink at a bar in the Pines, the neighboring gay community in Fire Island. After she came back to the Grove, she organized her friends, also drag queens, to invade the Pines one week later. It has now become a venerable historic tradition.

... This is the very first conceptual drawing of The Floating Theater. It dreams of a euphoric queer performance space. The theater will be mobile and transformable like a temporary pavilion, so that space and freedom can exist anywhere in the world.

Gender has been socially constructed in architecture and still is. In architecture, an entrance is the first threshold into a space. It is an important transition moment from one world to another. The above drawing entitled “Controlled Entrances” criticizes the past in terms of thresholds that did not allow the queer community to come in. Commonly, buildings have one entrance or left-right binary system entrances. What if people had multiple choices of entrances to define their own journeys into a space? This below prototype model is entitled “Five Authorized Entrances.” With varying widths, heights, colors, and patterns, the entrances represent a deconstruction of the standard entrance.
Queer Gestures in Architecture


Columns are not just a structure of architecture; they can be unique features in a space. Especially, their form can be expressed more dynamically. Here, I made six columns with resin mixed with acrylic color. Like the LGBTQ+ community itself, having diverse colors and forms, columns reveal their importance in space.
The “Duplex”

The Drawing is based on one type of queer performance spaces in New York City, that is a piano bar. Why people love piano bars is not just because of their beautiful sounds and atmosphere. But because, here, we exist not as gendered individuals, but as melody, tempo, and notes. The piano bar is a space for removing labels altogether.

This abstract staircase insinuates two kissing bodies. The staircase represents two lovers, supported, fortified and more durable because of the structures around them.
Last year, I discovered and quickly fell in love with Cherry Grove, located on Fire Island, New York.

The Grove is America's first gay and lesbian town in the United States, renowned historically and culturally as a one-of-a-kind place for the LGBTQ+ community.

As I grew up in a conservative area, I've been inspired by how safe The Grove is and charmed by its exquisite culture of freedom and expression.

In Search of Queer Space:

A Floating Theater inspired by Cherry Grove

Doosung Shin

Advisor: Steven Hillyer

What is the future of queer performance space?  

This project is a process of self-expression, navigating my own queer aesthetic as an architect and artist. As an architectural storyteller, I researched and represented the narratives of queer performance spaces. Through drawings and sculptures, I explored my queer aesthetic and proposed possible queer architectural components.

The Thesis proposes a queer performance theater inspired by Cherry Grove, located on Fire Island, New York. The Grove is America’s first gay and lesbian town in the United States, renowned historically and culturally as a one-of-a-kind place for the LGBTQ+ community. The theater would alter conservative perceptions in places where the queer community is still not welcome: utilizing performance as a means of fostering acceptance. Making inclusive space in our society is making things right.


Facing the Street:

Visions and Futures of Philadelphia, 1947–2035

Austin McInnis

Advisor: Benjamin Aranda

Planners routinely propose methods to understand the site and conditions to justify their designs. This process produces an inherent resolution; for inscribing the context, but also a qualification for the architectural response. This thesis is concerned with the fidelity of acceptable devices used to research context and the latent constructions of subject and fitness embedded in them.  

In Philadelphia, this can be followed through the 1947 proposals to bring automobile access downtown and “liberate” colonial civic monuments. Convincing the public of this undertaking had planners carefully calibrate a vision of universal access, at the expense of those drawn out and denied from these plans. Ultimately, this played out through the images, surfaces, and streets of the city.

The politics of separation have so far defined the current century; my goal is to work toward a concept of architectural design which does not neatly resolve, but embraces the uncertainties of its limits, constituents, and proclivities.


How Buildings (Dis)appear:

The Metamorphosis of 270 Park

Roni Schanin

Advisor: Lorena Del Río

The built environment absorbs the events of our lives. Architecture can generate occurrences, encounters, and memories. Sometimes architecture itself remembers what we have long forgotten. As architecture has a prominent role in forming a memory, what happens to the memory once the architecture no longer exists? This project searches for remains and traces left after thedestruction of architecture in its variable configuration.

In July 2019, one of the most massive demolition projects in human history began in New York City, and by 2021,JPMorgan Chase Tower on 270 Park Avenue is expected to become the tallest building ever to be voluntarily demolished. This historical event is not only a monumental operation in a hyper-dense urban environment but also a rare opportunity to take a closer look at the very moment where memory leaves its physical ground and transitions into its next metamorphosis. In this temporal transition moment, earlier historical transformations can be re-read and reflected. By observing moments of destruction, I am asking questions regarding memory and commemoration, narratives of history, the representation of temporal moments in space, and the forces driving demolition and construction rituals in an urban environment.

The demolition operation entails a spilling over into external spaces from the demolition site such as landfills, the surroundings, and the atmosphere by clouds of dust and toxic substancesthat disperse and wander uncontrollably; therefore, the demolished building does not disappear but rather, it is displaced.



Traversing the Meridians

Sally Chen

Advisor: Diana Agrest

The Thesis began from three objects in one observable phenomenon: the sky, a plane, and its trace. The trace is proof of the plane’s existence. Through the lens of relativity, the trace becomes proof of our existence. Between the sky and the earth, a passenger and an observer exist in relative distance, speed, and time. As Peter Galison writes in Einstein’s Clock and Poincaré’s Map: “In looking down, we see up; in looking up, we see down.”  

This Thesis visualizes and conceives of the meridians as sections that register within them the intersections of cultures, environments, and politics. When the plane travels through a meridian, an imagined archive of the globe, it becomes a moving witness. Everything becomes relative. Everything is subsumed in one picture.

“Cracks are oblivious to the difference between what we understand as figure and ground: a building and a site.”

In this search for lost memories, I extract the literal and psychological cracks in different scales. Through drawing, these openings are filled with the potentials for gaps, fissures, and memories to transform and reorder the conception of time and spaces.  
This is the coastline of Taitung County. On along the Taitung’s coast, the water is warm due to the Kuroshio current. The current transports salt, and organic and inorganic matter from south to north, shaping the ocean ecosystem. Along the coast we can see traces left by people’s activities. The ground and the ocean were continuously made and remade by people who were born in different generations.
Fishing Industries (Bonitos)

My grandmother’s bonito factory is across from the house and facing the ocean. After bonitos are smoked by the burned woods in the factory, she will then expose them under the sunlight in the house. Therefore, the smell of bonitos leaves their traces in the spaces.
The high temperature can also dry the crops and bring the dusts to the hillside and the interior spaces.
The impact gets stronger each year when people start to pave over lands, cut down trees on the leeward side, and construct the buildings on the hills. Without trees, fén fēngs (foehn winds) contribute to the elevated temperatures.

Taitung is filled with natural resources and the main terrains are mountains, rift valleys, plains and coasts. During the summer, the island is very rainy because of the southwest monsoon. Since Taitung has the high mountain at its rear, it often influenced by the foehn winds in the summer. They are warm, dry winds and have significant impact on the cultivated crops.
Furrows are small and they are made to carry water in order to irrigate the crops. To prevent crops that would be damaged if water covered their stem or crown. The crops are usually grown on the ridges between the furrows. This is the crack between wet and dry.
Tractors drive around the farmland to scoop up pieces of soils and turn them around. In the process, they bury any crop residue and weeds to prepare the new fields. The machines striate the same striped patterns on the land to generate the ridge and furrow topography. It is a result of ploughing.

In the older generation, farmers plough the land with the help of water buffalos. Water buffalos are pulling logs over the ground to divide the soil. Nowadays, farmers are replacing the animals with more efficient modern tractors.

Taitung County is situated where two tectonic plates meet. The plates push together and create the upward and downward movement to the earth. The movement of the plates will also make the surface rupture and generating the disturbance traces on the earth. With ocean in front and high mountain at the rear, Taitung County is rich in fishing industries and agriculture variety.

Taitung County is recognized as the countryside in TW. It lies on the southeast coast of the island, facing the Pacific Ocean. The railroad is crossing through the whole county, and it is convenient for people to take train getting here. when people start to construct the railroad over the land, the sleeper and ballast is added upon the earth and creating a new ground level.

The house sheltered itself in different generations – my grandmother, my mother and me. The house is in Taitung County, and I lived there with my grandmother when I was a child.  During my journey, to crack (V) can also be seen at the level of the environment.


In my story, the crack(N) can be seen at the level of an individual house. This is a house I used to live in but cannot go back to. It is haunted by layers of cracks from objects to spaces. From the farmland, the fragmented red front door, the scary staircases, to the smells of bonito fish


I would like to start my story with the avocado I bought in the supermarket. Instead of throwing the avocado pit away, I put it in the water to experimentally sprout it. As time passed, their bodies cracked and started to regenerate new life.   To crack (V) is an ongoing event and it registered the dynamic forces resulting in cracks (N)  


This transformation makes me think of the traditional Japanese technique – kintsugi. When the teacup was broken, people infused the liquid gold into the cracks rather than throwing it away. The liquid gold celebrates the broken pieces and redefines the objecthood of the object.


Body / Growth  

Nien Ying Lin

Advisor: Tamar Zinguer

This project explores the literal and psychological cracks of a house and considers seeds as a metaphor for registering the lost connection between cracks of different scales. Following the traces of cracks, seeds infiltrate boundaries and open space for memories to reinhabit. The crack can be seen at the level of an individual house in Taitung County, Taiwan, where I once lived but cannot return to. It is haunted by layers of cracks, from objects to spaces. With absences in between, the cracks register breaks in time, distance, material, memories, generations, land, and ocean. Drawing them trains our imagination about formation and destruction. They are the thresholds between past and future.