Many studios start with an empty site, an effectively blank canvas (or CAD file). But not this graduate studio: Here, students adapt existing, commercial-ready buildings in a dense city center for residential use. “From a pedagogical point of view, I’m trying to put students far from the idea of creating buildings from scratch,” says professor Juan Herreros, who has taught the course since 2008 and co-taught this semester’s studio with adjunct assistant professor Ignacio G. Galán. Herreros wants students to understand cities as evolving sites shaped by economic and political power, and to see how architects can help tip the scales back to aid the underprivileged.

“The number of studios based on a city has been growing exponentially, and many of them are nothing but a sociological, tourist view of exotic cities. So to address the question of densification—redensification, as they call it—I thought was good.” —Juror Bernard Tschumi

In the past, the studio has tackled sites in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Harlem; this past spring, it focused on the center of Rio de Janeiro, which was once riddled with favelas. In recent years, the city has been pushing many low-income residents out of their homes and renovating those sections for commercial tenants—spurred, in part, by preparations for the 2016 Olympics. Herreros wanted his students to think of ways to push back against that trend, and tasked them with developing proposals to renovate or expand existing buildings for affordable residential use. Students visited their project sites and met with community members to better understand their needs and the impact that an intervention in one building—adding more apartments, expanding ground-level retail and services—might have on the whole neighborhood.

Student Work


Sai Ma and Weiyao Zhang
Sai Ma and Weiyao Zhang
Angela Yang
Jingshu Wang and Yi Wu
Songkai Liu and Haochang Yu


Project Credits
Course: Hybrid Residential Infrastructures in Rio de Janeiro: Urban Occupations & Typological Corrections
School: Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP)
Level: M.Arch., without preprofessional degree (year three)
Duration: Spring 2016 semester
Project Site: Rio de Janeiro
Instructors: Juan Herreros (professor of architecture, and founder-partner, Estudio Herreros, Madrid); Ignacio G. Galán (adjunct assistant professor, and principal, IGG-Office for Architecture, New York and Madrid)
Students: Mohammed Khesroh, Songkai Liu, Sai Ma, Mohammad Sadegh Dadash, Jingshu Wang, Yi Wu, Angela Yang, Haochang Yu, Weiyao Zhang (submitted projects); Abdullah Edrees, Makenzie Leukart, Jaewoo Park
Collaborators: Pedro Rivera (director of GSAPP Studio X Rio de Janeiro)

Read about the other 2016 Studio Prize winners.