SCI-Arc B.Arch graduates Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong explore post-human infrastructure architecture in Las Vegas | properties

In today’s society, architecture is often directly influenced by capital. Replacement monuments are designed to attract and accommodate as many as possible for revenue. Endless products in response to endless occupancy and demand. By Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong. Advised by Jenny Wu

Against the background of their thesis in Las Vegas, the graduates of SCI-Arc B.Arch, Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong, are designing a data center whose structure can adapt to the surrounding desert environment. By creating a “sustainable breathable facade”, the structure contributes to creating “a new horizontal corridor perpendicular to the Las Vegas Strip” in addition to the surrounding energy systems. Her design exploration unpacks the purpose of architecture in a posthuman age.

Archinect partnered with the duo to learn more about the progress of their project and the transition of the entire project to a digital format. The team also shares their thoughts on how the pandemic has affected the resilience of the industry and architecture as it reacts to the turbulent events of 2020.

Archinect’s focus on 2020 theses: 2020 was an extremely challenging year for architecture graduates. Students were evicted when schools closed, academic communities had to adapt to a new virtual format, year-end celebrations were canceled or dramatically changed, and these students are now entering an extremely challenging job market. In support of the 2020 class, we’re launching a summer series of features highlighting the PhD students’ work during this unique time of distance learning amid COVID-19. Be sure to follow us 2020 thesis Day to stay up to date when we post new project highlights.

Image courtesy of Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong

Our project is a posthuman, infrastructural monument that speaks for a future in which architecture is not produced for people and people will be the new excess of architecture.

Image courtesy of Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong

Please describe your thesis.

Our project is a posthuman, infrastructural monument that speaks for a future in which architecture is not produced for people and people will be the new excess of architecture. We bring a traditionally inconspicuous IT infrastructure from the background to the foreground in order to highlight and celebrate its importance through a morphological approach. The data center is a combination of the symbolic geoform, the sustainable breathing facade and the high-tech interior design that coexist on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

With the energy systems and our data center, we are building a new horizontal corridor that runs perpendicular to the Las Vegas Strip. In this new industrial corridor, the biogas plant collects and processes waste from nearby districts by converting organic waste into methane gas. The methane gas and the energy generated from the solar field are then stored in fuel cells and the data center is supplied with electricity. The geothermal systems ensure that the racks are cooled. The heat generated by the data center is then distributed to nearby neighborhoods and the excess human space beneath the data centers. The direct air collection units help to purify the air in our data center and in the surrounding area.

Image courtesy of Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong

These systems create a climate-neutral environment for the data center, the surrounding districts and the city. They form a synthesis of the natural and the artificial, which is why the shape and aesthetics of the monument are derived from this synthesis. We also use necessary functional ventilation systems in the facade skin, which make the systems an aesthetic for the project.

The interior of the data center is largely automated and inaccessible to humans. However, among the cores are casinos, retail space, and nightclubs. Excess human spaces that only exist as a by-product of the massive energy that our data center and energy systems produce.

Image courtesy of Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong

Image courtesy of Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong

Image courtesy of Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong We had to devise an entirely new presentation strategy when we found out it would be completely virtual.

How did your project change when the studios switched to remote learning?

Due to the pandemic, we deviated from our original plan to create an oversized model for our thesis. We had to come up with an entirely new presentation strategy when we found out that it would be completely virtual. We made some adjustments and did a lot of brainstorming to switch to remote learning, which gave us the idea to present our thesis with a short film. Although it is an unconventional format for architecture, we felt it was the most comprehensive and appropriate way to present our thesis. We had to learn how to edit videos and do animation, but it was all worth it in the end.

Courtesy Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong. Given that the pandemic is precluding many forms of social interaction, it is important to keep in touch with and support others as well.

Image courtesy of Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong

Any tips for students who keep working on their work?

This may not be the last project of her career, but it is her project, her vision. It is important to stick to your own interests as the thesis is a very formative experience. Your diligence will pay off in many ways. That being said, in the production phase, getting support from others is crucial. Given that the pandemic is precluding many forms of social interaction, it is important to keep in touch with and support others as well.

The Other Space by SCI-Arc B.Arch graduates Hongjian Qin & Chi Fong Wong. Advised by Jenny Wu

As a graduate who has experienced the direct effects of the pandemic, what is your current position on the architecture industry?

Most industries are hit by the pandemic, architecture is no different. You can’t really move projects forward with construction stopped in the middle of a recession. However, it is important to stay positive. Knowing that many far-reaching theories of architecture were developed in the post-war period, there are still many things to look forward to in the future. The industry is likely to adapt, recover, and move forward.

What are your next steps as a graduate?

One of us will be joining Harvard GSD’s MArch II program this fall. The other is currently working as an architect in Los Angeles.

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