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Puddles of Glass

School of Architecture + Design
Spring 2019 Integrative Design Finalist

The wide streets right off of Lake Lugano draws residents and pedestrians away from the mountains and down to the boutique-filled valley. Several blocks north of the coastline, the city of Lugano,CH, is heavily trafficked and densely filled with orthogonal mid-rise buildings. "Puddles of Glass" serves the city as a Disaster Relief and Recreation Center that replicates the geographical striations of the surrounding mountain ranges and bodies of water.

As part of the ACSA 2019 Concrete Competition, the design must include a 1,350 sq ft Digital Library (25 computer work stations, IT offices, and  IT closet), 900 sq ft of classrooms (outdoor classroom and an indoor classroom that doubles as post-event/special needs shelter), and a 4,300 sq ft Storm Shelter (public restrooms, storage, gymnasium that doubles as a storm shelter, and kitchen for concessions).

Neighborhood Site
Lugano City Site
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Initial investigations started with studying Zaha Hadid's MAXXI Museum. The diagonal axes of the precedent building provoked a question of whether the Recreation Center should follow the fixed-orthogonal grid of site or impose its own order.

To meet the square footage requirements of all the programs, the first and second floor of the design cantilevers of the ground floor. The sketches to the right and study models below investigate structural concrete ribbon-form beams that span the entire length of the design. The structural beam and girders divide the form and predetermine where the programmatic spaces are. 

Ground Level Structural Ceiling:

  • Girders: 2'-4" x 1'-6"

  • Beams: 1'-6" x 1'-0"

First and Second Level Structural Ceilings:

  • Girders: 4'-0" x 2'-0" 

  • Beams: 2'-4" x 1'-6"

Conceptual Study Model
Recreation Center - All Elevations with

The elevations demonstrate a composition of puddles that signify different spacial programs within the building. Without entering the building, a pedestrian can determine where each program are: the larger puddles of glass indicates an open and social space (gymnasium, vertical circulation) while the smaller puddles indicate a quiet enclosed space (indoor classroom, digital library). 

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The third floor (roof-top) is the outdoor classroom and represents the building as an "Urban Oasis" within a densely compacted neighborhood. The glass oculus allows natural light to flood the gymnasium below, and during storms acts as a beckon of light when the gymnasium's light fill the dark sky.

An ellipse bench wraps around the oculus, allowing visitors to enjoy greenery above the city's ground. Spider clamps and metal trusses support glass panels that span the expansive area of the oculus. A drainage system allows trapped water to flow from the edge of the oculus and run under the ellipse bench and into the water reservoir to be evenly distributed for the sod and plants.


More than a visual spectacle, the exterior layered striations repeat itself inside the building to promote human physical interaction with the architecture. The striations are spaced evenly apart where an adult will find comfort sitting on it. Each layer of striation tapers away from the wall to prevents toddlers from climbing the walls and allow rainwater to flow out from the crevice between each exterior layer.


The renderings below honors the two female architects and their buildings that inspired this design, Zaha Hadid (MAXXI Museum) and Jeanne Gang (Aqua Tower).

Zaha Hadid and Jeanne Gang.jpg
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