Spring 2013, Jackson Studio
Melissa Peter’s thesis, Social Interchange, argues that the physical infrastructure of the city, particularly its transportation infrastructure, does more to socially and experientially segregate the city than it does to cohere it together. While the freeway system is often analogized to a network, Melissa demonstrates that it fails to provide the unstructured openness and combinatorial possibilities of a true network. Recognizing that such a physical network is impossible to construct, and that the intangibility and invisibility of the wireless network does not allow it alone to remedy the problem, Melissa’s thesis develops a hybrid strategy that integrates the social connectivity of the wireless network with the physical presence of an architecturalized mutation of the freeway system—one in which its surfaces have been genetically altered and physically rearranged into mixed spatial constructs for both vehicular and pedestrian social interaction. This physical reorganization adapts the horticultural practice of “pleaching”—in which living vines are trained over time into architectural structures such as arbors and archways—in order to preserve the topological and functional continuity between the existing freeway system and the new constructs derived from them. This approach is demonstrated in a series of interventions located throughout Los Angeles, including a large mixed-use tower-like mutation integrated into the 110 Harbor Freeway in downtown Los Angeles, and which is occupied by a constantly shifting and socially interactive mix of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
This thesis project was awarded a Thesis Award for being selected as one of the most outstanding thesis projects in the 2012-2013 academic year.