Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam's studio was chosen as one of twelve U.S. teams to exhibit work at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy. The chosen architects were asked to speculate potential responses to one of four sites in Detroit. The jury asked Mack & Merrill to look closely at the Mexicantown neighborhood and to propose an intervention at 6370 Vernor Highway: a dilapidated industrial lot, a railway bordering its northwest and a dense and diverse neighborhood to the southeast.
The team at Mack & Merrill's studio spent months researching and analyzing Detroit and Mexican Town. They decided to present their findings in three modes, 2D, 3D, and stereoscopic viewers. The two-dimensional presentation featured a collage and beaux arts inspired plates. The three-dimensional component featured a scale model, and last, floor-mounted viewers presented images from the research process.
MSME brought on a team of young aspiring architects at the very end of the process to fabricate and construct the exhibition pieces. I worked alongside graduate students and recent alumni to build the 3-foot by 6-foot model.
I was deeply inspired during the few weeks I spent with Mack & Merrill, and I hope to carry their imaginative spirit with me.
Design Team: Annie McCarthy, Barnum Tiller, Bridgette Mont, Bud Shenefelt, Clark Tate, Christian Ayala, Damian Bolden, Denise Dumais, Holly Seddon, Jen Pindyck, Justin Southard, Mack Scogin, Maria Velazquez, Melissa Booth, Merrille Elam, Nathan Walker, Rubi Xu, Samuel Kim, Shen Li, Soleen Karim, Ted Paxton, Tina Maceri-Bolden, Vic Maloof, W. Gavin Robb. Stereoscopics: Peter Bahouth, with Tom Meyer, William Kennedy. Film: Helen Han. Cast aluminum: George Beasley, with James Vincent, Ion Yamazaki. Student assistance: Ali Crownover, Chantale Martin, David Moore, Dianne Dumais, Honora Johnston, Joanna Bidani, Maryam Atassi, Rock McDaniel, Zhenhou Zhou, Zhixian He. Map Data: Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.
mock-up of the physical model
Tagging key public places throughout the neighborhood
Tina and Dameon work on perfecting the collage. It features photographs of Mexicantown and images from the research process.
Grace He cuts foam "Perry-posts" that anchor the model at key civic hubs.
Shen experiments with pouring resin over plaster forms
using the CNC router to mill acrylic sheets
David drills the frame of the model to the acrylic base
Molten aluminum suggests potential forms at the project site
Each layer of the model represents a different definition of the boundary of Mexicantown.
Mack fiddles with the final model before it gets shipped off to Venice.
Gavin, Merrill, and Nate look critically at the model.
Maria and Gavin adjust lights to photograph the exhibition pieces
crating the exhibition pieces to ship to Venice
synopsis at the exhibition, photo by Eddie Krenson
Mack & Merrill have set up their studio in a former Rolls-Royce dealership
I had the opportunity to explore a variety of media and techniques in the design of highly detailed single-family houses. Emphasis was placed on the warmth and durability of organic materials and the integrity of vernacular building traditions. I learned to maintain beauty as the ultimate goal despite practical constraints. I gleaned much about how to employ a robust design process: flesh out a thorough schematic design by hand and approach CAD for documentation. The elegance of each detail and its representation contributes to a pleasing level of craftsmanship in the space and in the project drawings.
model for a farmhouse at Blackberry Farm, Tennessee a collaboration with Lauren Cundiff
educational nature center at Dogwood Canyon, Missouri
rendering for a log cabin in Columbus, Georgia
rendering for a civic building that houses a historic caboose
wall assembly for a stone barn
stringers hold the treads in a keyed mortise and tenon joint in this floating stair
rendering for a condominium tower
Stay tuned to see how I worked with a homeowner to transform their basement sunroom into a full kitchen.
A Sanctuary for Books
Directed by Michael Gamble, In collaboration with Amelia Deaton Georgia Institute of Technology 2014
A living-learning community for Georgia Tech's campus on the corner of North Avenue and Techwood Drive. With the common values of durability, pride of place, layers of togetherness, and holistic health and sustainability, my partner and I sought to create an honorific sanctuary to fill a void on Georgia Tech’s secular campus. Nestled in the courtyard is a precious gem, a sanctuary for books. A protective shell that preserves the sanctity of the physical book and allows it to rest in a cradle.
The cone of the cradle protects the book in the center from the sun’s harsh rays while illuminating a halo around the cradle. The building’s skin is part glass and part thin veneers of Georgia Tate marble, held together by an intricate lacework of aluminum mullions. A visitor can part the cradle bristles to enter a private study nook nestled between the cradles and the building’s skin.
I drew inspiration for the book sanctuary from Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, for which the theme was “Better City – Better Life.” What is a city without plants? What is a university without books?
A collage illustrating the thorough process we went through to discover this project. The most influential precedents were Louis Kahn's Phillips-Exeter Library, SOM's Beinecke Library, and the monastery described in Umberto Ecco's The Name of the Rose.
The complex is located on the corner of North Avenue and Techwood Drive.
A terrace affords access from the street corner to the lower courtyard level. Two residential towers flank the street edge. A garden is at the back of the lot, and the sanctuary is nestled directly across from the terrace.
Underground Floor Plan
The plinth level is constructed of marble blocks. Elegant steel columns provide intermediary support. An octagonal core braces the building.
Main Floor Plan
This is the entry level of the sanctuary. Inhabitants can enter from one of the four doors and then ascend or descend one of the two staircases.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Floor Plans
On the three upper levels of the sanctuary, rows of book cradles define the edges of the space. You can part the cradles to enter the private reading nooks along the perimeter, or gather for group study in the corner meeting rooms. The octagonal core provides linear shelving.
An arts & media complex for the Oxford College of Emory University, inspired by the tranquil style of Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The main feature of the intervention is an axis that connects the campus quad to the forest. Flanking this axis are three buildings that serve the architectural program.
The proposal features light-catching surfaces that animate the passage of time. Ando’s style employs thick concrete walls with only deliberate openings. In the same spirit, I began with blank walls and only carved openings where they could capture specific phenomenal qualities. Each of these moments serves to offer a view, provide natural light, or bring to life the changing seasons and the sun’s journey across the sky.
I chose to emulate Ando because he intensifies spatial phenomenology. I feel drawn to the sense of stillness, vitality, and balance. I wanted to investigate how architecture can be stable yet compelling, calm yet inviting, universal, but unique. The modern era throws essential values into question. What truly matters? For Ando, nature is essential. It is the irreducible essence of human life on earth. Architecture should not “mar the grandeur of the existing landscape;” rather, it should seek to provide a new landscape that, along with the existing landscape, fulfills architectural needs.
Wood site model was a collaboration between all members of the studio: Grey Peterson, Elaina Thompson, Amelia Deaton, Maryam Atassi, Songmi Kim, Naimo Bakar, Jean Guo, Steven Fendley, Mary Briatta, Courtney Blanchard, John Warrener.
A small art gallery to house five works of art by Gerhard Richer: steel and glass installations 11 Scheiben (11 Panes) and Seiben Stehende Scheiben (7 Standing Panes),Abstract Painting (849-2), Abstract Painting (873-5), and photorealistic painting Lescende (The Reader). The gallery is situated across the street from Richard Meier's High Museum of Art and adjacent to a tower that houses the office of Perkins+Will, the Midtown branch of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, and the Museum of Design Atlanta.
In sculpting this gallery as an articulation of the relationship between nature, art, and architecture, I chose to focus on architecture’s ability to juxtapose nature and modern art. The largest piece, 7 Stehende Scheiben, is seen against a wall of planted trees. Turning right leads to an enclosed garden terrace; turning left leads to the other steel-and-glass piece, 11 Scheiben. Positioned opposite a window onto Peachtree, the panes reflect images of urbanism to the viewer. This series of experiences throws mainstream definitions of nature into question. The inhabitant may ponder the difference between what is natural and what is manmade, or the thickness of the line that differentiates them, or whether manmade is just as natural as what is made by the earth and all the animals and plants that thrive on it.
Main Floor Plan
Ground Floor Plan
Richter's five works layered against a backdrop of trees