Thick Skin and Dense Space: A Luxury Leisure Aquatic Wellness Center

Advanced Studio V- Thick Skin and Dense Space:
Critic: Lise Ane Couture of Asymptote Architecture

View From The Water Looking West At Sunset
Conceptual Approach

Through the strategic reinterpretation of the tessellation patterns and geometric orderings originated from the shell of a tortoise, a new dynamic condition unfolds where there is no longer a binary inside / outside relationship but an inside, outside, above and below condition. This new condition stems from the fact that the tortoise is unique in that it has both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by a bridge.

This symmetrical hybrid system allows for an architectural potential of a series of intricately carved spatial organizations that challenge typical interior to exterior relationships. There is a carved exterior, a figural interior space that is open to the exterior and fully enclosed interior with large penetrating ‘exteriorized’ programmed volumes. This ordering lends itself well to a site, massing, and programmatic strategy that are developed simultaneously and follow the behaviors of the tortoise in its natural habitat.


Situated in Mission Bay, San Diego near world renowned destinations like Fire Island, Scripps Research Institute, and Sea World, the new complex will augment an already well-established network of marine focused destinations. With dozens of luxury resorts and villas sprinkled across the bay and a prominent waterfront site with incredible visibility, the campus will serve as a beacon for tourists, day travelers, and locals alike.

Here the massing is on an edge. Amphibious like its tortoise brethren, the new campus sits comfortably at the intersection of land and water, of earth and sky that converge into a new layering of inside and outside conditions. There is an inherent directionality in its composition, suggesting a balanced but focused emphasis on an exchange of the natural elements. Water comes slowly around and underneath the campus, with pockets of pools found above and within.

Structure & Material

The tortoise carapace has a unique material translucency and structural strength, which has been extrapolated as a strategy for an envelope that varies in opacity, becoming most transparent where areas have been carved out the most. This operation heightens a sense of slowing down, retreating inward, and feeling fully enveloped by a strong warm volume when circulating from the exterior to the innermost spaces. There is a formal and material continuity between ‘glazing’ and ‘mass.’

Ultimately the goal is to explore how an exterior condition can be perceived as fully enveloped by the interior and vice versa. This inversion of a typical spatial relationship can create a heightened sense of awareness of the moments of transition between interior to exterior and affords the potential of a strategy that exudes a simultaneous heaviness and porosity. Through the strategic carving and nesting of a repetitive form arrayed in series, an intricate system of filtering between fully enveloped exterior spaces and their interior counterparts can potentially be revealed.

This interstitial filtering poche then serves an experiential, programmatic, and potential structural purpose. To create such a condition, the carving and boolean strategy stages both the extent of the envelope and the configuration of the landscape simultaneously, potentially revealing new ways to define the relationship between interior (building) and exterior (landscape) in a wholistic and integrated fashion. The end result is a thick yet porous envelope that filters a hidden light source, serves a structural purpose, and creates a series of spaces that begin to blur one’s bearing and take them outside of their own metaphorical shell.

Keywords: Symmetry, Mirroring, Boolean, Carving, Two Halves, Nested Geometry, Series, Array 

Thick Skin Dense Space Studio Blog

Build A Better 'Burb: Upcycling 2.0

First Place Winner: Upcycling 2.0 
Long Island Index and Rauch Foundation Sponsored Competition:
Team: Ryan Lovett, Patrick Cobb, John Brent Simons
A New Finance and Planning Mechanism for Community Improvement
New Opportunities for Civic Amenities, Developments, and Architectural Typologies
Upcycling 2.0 is an incremental development approach that combines the positive innovations from both urban centers AND suburban neighborhoods. We refute the idea that density and privacy are mutually exclusive. Through the strategic market driven acquisition and re-appropriation of property, our proposal encourages interaction and desirability via new community associations that pool and manage funds for community improvements and amenities. This in turn closes economic, environmental, and social loops, while increasing civic participation, awareness, and accountability. There would be a direct correlation between your money and your neighborhood. Our proposal targets the ubiquitous suburban typologies: The single family detached house, strip mall, train station, street medians, big boxes, and vast seas of parking lots.

By employing a series of different re-appropriations of these typologies, three distinct zones emerge over time: An agricultural network that follows major auto-oriented developments, a mass transit-oriented network which would create regional scale economic centers, and finally a series of mixed-use neighborhood enclaves, which feature new public amenities that minimize the need for extra car trips.

The new strategy can be deployed on two fronts: The private sector can slowly acquire privately owned property, and in turn set up new rental types and housing associations, and the public sector, which could incentivize new development and mandate all new construction be more mixed-use and promote land-use equity. This bottom-up parcelized approach organically creates a myriad of densities, architectural styles, scales, affordability levels, and ultimately a unique identity that can change over time.
Selected Press: 
Architect (AIA) Magazine: Start a Revolution
About the Competition:
Build A Better Burb

Development Studio: New Media Epic-Center


A mixed use mega-project consisting of three mixed use New York City blocks immediately south of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment District on the west side of Manhattan. 


Critic Jared Della Valle of Alloy Development LLC (Formerly of D+B Architecture), Summer 2010


Through the NYC Economic Development Corporation (Media Lab), Tax Increment Financing (Infrastructure), and Private Investment (Commercial & Resident


There is an ongoing trend in the Tri-State area towards mega projects that are facing stiff financial problems, inadequate provisions for a diversity of programs, and a lack of vision for keeping the region at the forefront of economic competitiveness. A mega-project is usually a once and a lifetime opportunity for a city, setting the stage for a new identity and experience. As arguably one if the most daunting types of development, in all of its complexity, and long timeline, the mega-project necessitates a strong vision that can pull seemingly intractable differences together. Typically these kinds of endeavors become so compromised and watered down that they fail to capitalize on the uniqueness of scale and impact of the project.

Questioning the notion of a "Loss Leader"

LA Forum Dingbat 2.0: Sustantiating Surface

LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design Sponsored Competition: Dingbat 2.0: Substantiating Surface 3rd Place Winner

Earth Institute: AirLab on the NYC Highline

View Looking North West on 10th Ave and 19th St

Columbia Studio, Alice Chun, Fall 2009, Earth Institute: AirLab on the NYC Highline

Retooling Mt. Lee: An Interdisciplinary Emergency Response and Education Center

View From The Center Looking South West Towards The Pacific Ocean
Retooling Mt. Lee: 

 An Educational and Interdisciplinary Emergency Response Command Center on the site immediately above the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, CA Fall 2009