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Dissolving Formalities

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Sara Johnson, Hanley Wood Media

Project Name

Dissolving Formalities

Project Status

Student Work

Year Completed



  • Julie Pedtke

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This student project was completed in School Without Classrooms: Micro-Weather Futures of Education Technology, a studio course at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation which won a Sloan Award in the 2016 ARCHITECT Studio Prize competition.

Project Description


The school proposes a program with individualized learning plans that allow families to come and go as they please, and select among core class offerings on varying schedules. A series of residencies managed by the school provide affordable housing and workspace for visiting instructors - artists, designers, and fabricators who will likely be priced out of the fast-developing Navy Yards.

The architecture responds to unpredictable daily schedules with a thermodynamic approach that sorts program by consistency of occupation, and matches spaces with heating and cooling strategies on a spectrum from “slow” to “fast.” Slow spaces are consistently occupied and rely on thermal mass, inertia, and insulation, and preserve the embedded energy of the existing brick houses. The regular rhythm of the Admiral’s Row is continued, but breaks down into a field condition of smaller, unprogrammed “fast” spaces. These spaces are immediately responsive through active radiant systems that turn on and off and interface directly with the user's body.

On a site scale, the school maintains public access to the waterfront through a series of piers and easements that cut through the privately-owned spaces of the Navy Yards. These walks and waterfront spaces are also available for students to interact with the ongoing restoration of the coastal ecology by the Army Corp of Engineers.
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