Diploma 12 pursues an agenda to explore new spatial and social constellations through engagement with infrastructure. This year we developed a network of public bridging systems for the Los Angeles Metropolitan region.
Before the advent of modernism infrastructure was integrated within the experience of cities and buildings. The development of modernist regional planning practices, such as those enacted by Robert Moses in New York, changed all that. According to the modernist paradigm, urban space consists of a series of rationalised and functionally distinct operations.
Network transit projects in this tradition built to a regional or national scale tend to sever connections at a local one. Resulting scalar disjunctions and social fragmentations produce ‘splintering urbanism’, in which the local public realm is ill served by privately funded large-scale projects.
In response to this condition, and in the context of the infrastructural renewal currently underway in the US, we explored alternative infrastructures in Los Angeles. The unit addressed the potential of architecture to mediate between the different scales across which networked infrastructures are mapped, exploring the capacity to accommodate an array of local public interests as well as demands for global forms of connectivity. To this end, the typically linear trajectory and narrow functionality of the bridge typology was reoriented toward a field condition in which multiple programmes are articulated.
The unit travelled to LA to study the complex conditions of infrastructural settings and to visit a range of modernist and contemporary buildings as well as architectural practices working in the region. Each student selected a condition that runs along, over, under and/or across an existing freeway in terms of structure, topography, geometry, programme and potential. Accordingly, we employed the diagram and the index as methodological tools through which to read and reconfigure these conditions.
Exploiting architecture’s capacities to fuse the functional, the projective and the spiritual, Diploma 12 proposes visionary material structures that transpose ‘freeway’ into a sustainable and inclusive future.