Venezuela Neighborhood Transformation Among Recent Studio Community Projects

February 18, 2020

rendering of high-rise building in Venezuela

Rendering of a combined school/community center/housing collaborative in Venezuela as designed by Architecture students Irem Gurel, Ali Katircioglu and Jenny Choeimalai

Fourth-year architecture students stepped outside the comfort of their traditional studio setting to examine problems that engage wide-ranging communities in Boston and Venezuela. The projects—each linked to one of three academic concentration areas—explored problems faced by urban communities, with the intent to find design solutions in support of equity and civic life.

Twelve students from Professor Robert Cowherd’s Urbanism concentration studio worked individually and in groups to develop proposals for the transformation of the La Charneca neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela (pictured).

The students proposed new infrastructure, a library, a church, terraced market gardens, and a 140-meter housing tower with public connections between a new school in the valley and the Metrocable station. The studio is partnered with in connection with the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Spanish foundation of Caracas. 

At the same time, 12 students from Associate Professor Rob Trumbour's Emerging Technology concentration worked with the Hyde Park YMCA and Wentworth’s Center for Community and Learning Partnerships to provide a new outdoor lobby shade structure between the building and the street.

Trumbour, who holds the William E. Roberts Professorship, introduced his students to the Autodesk Build Space, where they tested tools such as a five-axis water jet and a six-axis industrial robot. These were used to develop fabrication methods for precast concrete formwork in conjunction with a local precasting company. Students have developed end-of-arm tooling and workflows to build modular formwork robotically.

The project will continue over several semesters, leading to the eventual fabrication and installation of the structure at the YMCA.

In a separate project, 32 students from Professor Mark Pasnik’s Adaptive Interventions concentration studio and seminar (co-taught with Adjunct Professors Maressa Perreault, Kennan Rhyne, and Aaron Weinert) engaged with Boston Public Schools to reimagine the future of the O’Bryant School in lower Roxbury.

The concrete structure, designed in the 1960s and 1970s by renowned modernist Marcel Breuer, is in need of substantial changes to update its learning environments. Meeting with juniors and seniors from the school, Wentworth students developed 12 proposals, several of which will provide a foundation to further study in the spring. The teams heard from engineers, architects, preservationists, historians, educators and students—and eventually presented findings to leaders from Boston Public Schools and the Boston Mayor’s Office.

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