Re:Play (Architecture Thesis)


Recasting existing elements into new forms, Re:Play challenges the permanence of form by establishing a cohesive, organized urban landscape which can accommodate constant change. This flexible intervention, situated adjacent to the Golden Gate bridge, is a playground for leisure activities: it can expand, retract, and deteriorate to host a circus. Re:Play, like a circus, has a life cycle of its own yearning- it treats permanence as a construct of time while allowing ephemeral events to deform itself. Ultimately, a with a willingness to innovate and transform, it controls the existing environment, anticipates the spectacular, and acts as a catalyst synchronizing architectural form and function.

Situated adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Fields serves as the site for Re:Play and has a rich history of its own. A landfill from the 1939 Golden Gate Exhibition, the site was first used as the Polo Fields. A fire destroyed the stands of the stadium after 1940 and then it was rebuilt, serving as a military aviation field for San Francisco. These domestic air hangers were then abandoned after the Presidio became recognized as a US National Park. Today, a couple of the remnants of the hangers are occupied by gyms and retail spaces while most of the buildings remain empty.

Circuses were a combination of the oddities and ordinaries found in daily life. they produce an appearance of urban centers overnight, but disappear just as quickly. They were designed to momentarily inspire wonder but at the same time, leave no trace on the landscape. Often exaggerated by playful designs, circuses have a non-conforming attitude and a willingness to innovate beyond the limits of tradition. Architecturally, however, their form never outlasted their function and their memories were never manifested in a tangible form.

On site, the existing programs reflect a similar performative quality. There is a rock climbing wall, a trampoline gym, a swimming pool, and remnants of empty air hangers. Taking advantage of these existing programs and analyzing their similarities to a circus, parallels between spatial and programmatic use are established. In this investigation, an imaginary circus and fair are used to test the hypothesis of the thesis. This circus comes into the site and inflates the landscape.

Existing spaces are transformed to accommodate for the circus- for example, gardens are used as the fairground, which can also host Sunday farmer’s markets when the circus leaves. The trampoline gym is transformed into the main hippodrome with temporary stadium seating. The empty air hangers are adopted as animal barns and performer living quarters, and as the circus leaves, these could potentially then once again transform into libraries or archives of past spectacles.

This proposal takes advantage of the existing built environment and uses the structure of the existing buildings as the most permanent form. The landscape is then bermed, where the ground begins to connect with the existing buildings more intimately. The berm can house temporary programs such as performer living quarters and barns when the circus is in season. Seatings for the hippodrome can be carved out of the hillside. An interstitial pathway is inserted into the existing buildings, connected the disorganized together into one single entity. The enclosure of existing buildings are cut to accommodate for the pathway. Most of the meandering pathways are constructed in a U-shape at the second floor level, setting up a dynamic mezzanine level to accommodate for spectacular performances.

Experimentally, one can traverse this complex mostly on foot, going in and out of existing buildings while changing elevations at interstitial points. Each existing space is transformed into a performance area where one can view the spectacle or become a part of the spectacle. During circus seasons, people can catch glimpses of giraffes and trapeze artists while in off seasons, they can rent a trampoline or rock climb. Sunday farmers’ markets can be set up in one of the landscape gardens while the spaces near the old airfield memorial are transformed into cafes welcoming visitors to purchase food on the sunnier days and serve as wind shelters in the colder seasons. This intervention has both permanent and temporary elements, constantly under transformation and deformation with the passing of time.

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©  Sophie Ying Su, 2017