Well I finally made it to the other side.  Thesis is over, grad school is no longer a bunch of deadlines and classes, but is neatly packaged in a few letters, "M.Arch." I have escaped the toxic life of MIT and I am now happily basking in 8 hours of sleep, home cooked meals, ample doses of Denver sunshine, and a pretty cool job that promises to give me a paycheck at the end of the month.  MIT felt like I was trying to get somewhere by crawling on my stomach. through mud. with those electric shocker things above me.  Post-grad school feels like I am running straight ahead. downhill. In top-of-the line running shoes.

My next big goals to tackle will be getting licensed as an architect (within 3 years), eliminating my six digit student debt (in under 5 years) and  building our tiny house (shooting for 2 years). Hurray!  These all go hand in hand with each other, which I love.  Before I begin documenting these journeys, I'll back up a bit to my first tangible action towards these goals.

So I've been planning to move to Denver after graduation for probably over a year, since my boyfriend, Corey, started talking about moving out here to Denver to join his brother who had recently moved there.   The move to Denver would be many things, including cathartic.  I went through a very intentional purging of all the stuff I had accumulated over the years.  It was actually probably the first time I had done this...ever. All my other moves involved either short distances or free large vehicles to transport everything.  For the move from Boston to Denver, it  was critical that I downsize because I would either be flying there or driving in a very small car.  

I started this process the summer before thesis, and photographed all the Stuff I owned that I might want to get rid of, and then in the last few weeks of the semester when thesis was consuming me, but all the other students done with studio were switching apartments, I emailed out my ad to the department. (list serves are awesome!)  I managed to sell a lot of bulky, heavy items that wouldn't travel efficiently, and ended up donating about half my clothes.  I made a nice chunk of change to help fund my trip.  And with every item I sold or gave away, I felt a lot lighter, and closer to Denver.  There has not been 1 item so far that I've regretted parting with (even thought you all gave me shit for giving away certain architecture books), and it's a way to feel like I'm making progress towards moving into the smaller space of the future tiny house.  Of course Corey has me beat; he has about a third of the clothes and shoes that I have.  

My awesome parents drove my remaining Stuff (and me) from Boston to Buffalo, the day after my thesis defense.  After the holidays, I was on my way West.  The move out to Denver was pretty cool. Corey and I drove together in a rental car from Buffalo to Denver over 2 days, stopping in Madison, WI to visit my sister and brother in law.  It was deeply satisfying to have everything I own packaged neatly in 1 little car.  I went for the cheapest car possible which is a small 4 door car, and decided that anything that could not fit would be left behind or shipped.  Amazingly, we got a free upgrade to the next size up, a small SUV, which fit everything with my bike strapped on the back. 

I have had to buy some furniture for the new place, (Corey and our roommate had been living without any chairs for 6 months, which I couldn't handle) but a lot of it I think will fit nicely into the house we build so it is nice to know I won't have to sell it all in a year again and that it is actually the start of a nice investment. I know someone challenging themselves to reducing their posessions down to only 100 items.  I know I will never get there, or want to get there, but I'm at least being more intentional about what Stuff I allow into my home, while also getting rid of anything that makes me unahppy.  "Stuff" is a love/hate relationship for me.  I definitely love buying new things, and window shopping, and owning things.  Oddly enough I get a similar amount of pleasure when getting rid of a particularily useless or unpleasing possession as I do finally obtaining a much researched, highly anticipated purchase.

Well that is my prelude to my Denver life and I'm looking forward to moving my stuff into the tiny house... one day. 


On Thursday I presented for my final review of M.Arch Thesis at the MIT Media Lab with 18 other students. I am elated!!

MIT has a tradition of the Core and Option students helping the thesis students finishing up.  They finish a few days before us and then keep going-building models, and essentially being our interns for a few days.  In the past, I've helped thesis students every year, but never have I seen the department this completely mobilized  contributing to our projects.  We had incredible support! 

In a non-stop adrenaline session, I presented on Thursday and moved out of my apartment and studio and drove to Buffalo on Friday with my family who came to support me. I have a week in Buffalo and then onto a new life in Denver, CO! Onwards and Upwards. (or westwards?)

Thesis Interview

For the MIT architecture blog, thesis students are being "interviewed" each week about their thesis.  It's a quick way to give other students in the program a window into what's happening in the thesis room. Here's my response:

Day One at Silo City

Today starts my week long adventure in my home town of Buffalo through the lens of my thesis on adaptive reuse of abandoned industrial buildings in shrinking cities.  Case study: grain elevators in Buffalo.  This morning I met with Jim Watkins, the Silo City Site Manager who is a wealth of knowledge of the happenings and history of these concrete giants.  I interviewed him outside his house beside his super-chill giant dog, feeling totally dwarfed by the silos rising around us.  He gave me a tour of the site and led me through the three buildings that Rick Smith of Rigidized Metals owns and then gave me free range to explore.  Also on the site today was a graffiti class for inner-city youth: using the silos as their canvas, remnants of a wedding that happened there, and the beginnings of the design studio with +FARM with whom I was able to talk.   

I have lots more meetings, tours and interviews scheduled and will even get to check out a wedding happening at Silo City on Saturday.  

I'll be here grinning all week, smelling Cheerios from General Mills.  

Meanwhile, here are some photos from today: 

Thesis Travel

Next week I've scheduled time to go to Buffalo, NY and visit some grain elevators there and chat with designers from +FARM Studio who are working for three weeks on fabricating a pavilion along the Buffalo River funded by Rigidized Metals, a company invested in the grain elevators.   


Here are some things I've been producing from industrial building photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher's body of work on grain elevators:


New Project Post

A sketch proposal for Buffalo, NY with the Green Archipelago urban design strategy applied of Ungers and Koolhaas.  This addresses the realities of shrinking cities-cities declining in population and how to maintain urbanity as density decreases.

Summer Work Update

This week I staffed MIT's Open House at the Stata Center for the Grand Junction.  MIT Office and Campus Planning is currently working on a Feasibility Study to see if the Grand Junction, the railroad on campus, can be converted to a mixed-use bicycle/pedestrian/train path that could safely connect Cambridge over the BU bridge to Allston and to the future Somerville Community Path.   

We had about 50 people show up to learn about the study and voice opinions.  Lots of people are invested in making this happen.  Meanwhile, there are a lot of logistics to work out--fitting in dimensions of paths at narrow points and negotiating the travel of hazardous chemical-carrying vehicles in that service alley.  

I'm looking forward to contributing to its progress this summer.

Learn more: 


One of my thesis committee professors just hooked me up with at least a hundred GIS layers of data for the city of Buffalo which I've been trying to track down for months.  It's like Christmas in June!  I've been so psyched all week.  Railroads! Water! Parks! Vacant parcels by year! Time to get map-making!

Remember, Sharing is Caring.  Always share your GIS data! 

Thesis Musings

I'm currently in the midst of Thesis Prep.  Here's a peak at what's on my mind:

Grain Silo Adaptive Reuse Brain-Storm Sesh.

Some exist, some have been proposed by others, some are absurd.

Mastering Masonry

This past Tuesday, my studio was treated to a workshop at the Boston International Masonry Institute to learn more about brick laying.  This was a really great opportunity to work next to the experts and understanding the characteristics of bricks and mortar at 1:1 scale.  It's also always great to venture off campus and hear some real Boston accents.

Interestingly, one union mason defended bricks by saying bricks are so fundamentally sustainable because the Earth produces clay at a faster rate than we create bricks  and that bricks have such a long lifespan and can be repaired upon decay or destruction.

Just as in architecture, the mason life is thick with jargon or hyper-specified common words.  The vocabulary they generate is indicative of the many issues they are working with.  My favorite was when a mason offhandedly referenced an apparently common saying in the industry, "on the hang you gotta bang. If you're on the batter it don' matter."  This referred to checking yourself for being plumb and which way your wall leans and strategy for correcting this.  

Architects as a whole seem to have a problem of designing for a state of perfection with the presumed tolerance of zero.  In contrast, when one is building, everything is assumed to be imperfect-the skill comes from understanding what type of imperfections are tolerated, how to keep them from accumulating and how to make decisions of choosing one imperfection over the other.  There are ways to hide the imperfections and ways to capitalize on them.  For example, building with a stack bond will undoubtedly highlight the fact that each brick's length is different as a result of method of production.  Each brick can be as much as 1/4" different in length from each other making for irregular mortar joint widths.  Offsetting the mortar joint each course masks this reality.  But these imperfections can be highlighted as well.  Bricks can be fired to chemically take on new and somewhat uncontrollable hues which increases visual variation over the entire building. 

I think more interactions like this one, from school throughout a career, would improve relationships between architects and collaborators-especially those whose skills account for the realization of our paper thoughts.

The Brick Vault Completed

We just had our "Open Studio" on Thursday this week, which is a new thing at MIT this semester where we all get to check out what we are doing in different studios.  A problem in the school is that everyone is so busy doing their own work that we don't really get to witness the work happening around us.  Even during final reviews, everyone is scheduled at the same time and aren't able to see others present their projects.  So each studio takes a turn throughout the semester to have an open house and show off.

Our studio talked about our finished brick models.  In addition to putting in a bunch of hours (days) laying a bunch of bricks, my group also composed a paper documenting the research which we intend to submit to a Masonry Conference in the next year.

Click through the final photos and some of the documentation:

The Masonry Studio

Check out this brick vault I'm building!

In this semester's studio we are starting our masonry research by studying the brick work in the 1966 Church of St Peter in Klippan, Sweden by architect Sigurd Lewerentz.  We are modeling a possible construction method of a portion of the roof based on what we know from photos and drawings.  The vault is  a series of intersecting extrusions of one radius along a beam.  Because the vault is an extrusion and not a cone, one could use a reusable formwork with a constant radius to build each arch. We are modeling how a mason might place these bricks on a removable wooden rib of that radius that notches into two temporary beams supported from the ground. Lewerentz never cut any bricks for this, but does turn the brick on its end for the effect of a "half brick." The adjustments are made in the mortar joints.  There will be two layers of brick modeled here.  It took us about 20 minutes to lay each course of in approximately 26 hours of work it will be "finished."  Each bay will be an experiment of different building techniques, and will be in various stages of completeness to reveal the process.

It's amazing to me that such technology of construction method can be lost in history.  Older buildings that do not have documentation on the details of formwork and construction leave us guessing and interpreting clues as to their method.

It's exciting to be building! This is what ultimately attracted me to MIT. We learn by making here.  After all, our motto is Mens et Manus: Mind and Hand.


Bricks are at 1:4 scale, cast from Quikrete in rubber smooth-on molds.  For mortar we are using joint compound.  Base is constructed of milled MDF and plywood "I-beams." The blue foam is a stand in for a piece of acrylic to act as our cut plane.  This is a 3-person group effort with David Miranowski and Elizabeth Galvez.


Click through the gallery below:


The semester begins...

This semester I will be a Research Assistant to Professor Brent Ryan in DUSP (Department of Urban Studies and Planning) working on generating images for his upcoming publication.   More updates to come.