D e s e r t   U t o p i a

Type: Mixed Use

Status: Conceptual

Year: 2017 

This project is a laboratory experiment in search of new architectural models. The goal is to rethink the architectural avant‐garde as a strategy for developing the intersection between the technological/material/formal and the social/cultural. We live in a modern society where current architectural paradigms are winding down, projects are led by an exaggerated formalism that deprive the architectural experience.

The goal of the study is to find out whether it is possible to propose another Architectural Revolution based on our capitalistic society, its socio-economic needs, and new technologies appropriate for today’s modern times. Usually, during any phase of design there are boundaries and compromised to be made; the following project takes a form of an utopian development and is freed from all constrains, for the purpose of the research, yet it maintains a scale of tangibility. 


The study focuses on the complex operations involved in turning abstract architectural concepts into concrete building proposals. To build architecture, it is necessary to move beyond surface appearances to understand the complex, material composition of buildings. It is necessary to negotiate between ideas and facts; the proposed utopia develops from conception (design) to construction (systems) and, proposes ultimately, an imagined inhabitation. 


It was necessary to study past urban strategies that influenced the development of architectural movements that shaped our modern cities.

Emphasis was given to a study on Rome, Roman Castra, Canabas, and Coloniae.


1 – We want to create a condition through the built environment that represent the socio-economical interaction of two artistic spheres: Fine Art and wine production. 

2 – Proportion and balance, juxtaposed with few conditions of a-symmetry will be used along within a radial scheme as underlying systems for our poetry; key is the central condition created by the intersection of two main axis.

3 – Questions of proportional systems, and interaction of architectural orders are analyzed on a small scale in building facades by Leon Battista Alberti, Brunelleschi, and Michelangelo throughout the Renaissance. It was done in order to resolve the new architectural questions that rose in the period, and understand the new architectural possibilities. Questions of balance, symmetry, central axis and equilibrium relationships between volumes and program were studied on a bigger scale in the 1900s with the Beaux Arts. Guillaume, Garnier, Housmann, Olmsted, Burnham, McKim, Mead and Whtie pioneers of the time, answered questions about city grid and city development through the restructuring of the city of Paris with its boulevards, the Columbian Exposition (“White City”), the new Chicago urban plan, and the new Washington D.C. Mall. We want to exalt new methods of development that focus on both small scale –building type, and large scale – city development; the two are not apart from each other but coexist united by our architecture and enclosure systems.

4 – Modern Society is based on constant interaction and mixed environments; we affirm that the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of the mix-use and shared space. Our architectural scheme gives a clear underlying base structure of the various social groups and program division but blurs the lines of interaction spaces allowing the built environment to act as a porous membrane that merges the architecture with the social program.


5 – Artistic ideas are based on dialogue and collaboration, the creation of the mind is followed by the representation of the hand and vice versa; dynamism is a required element in the process of making Art. Our architecture is dynamic and favors interaction and ideas exchange, providing multiple forums between the main axes that merge into a focal point.


6 – The presented utopian development is the embryo cell of a larger organism. In the designing a new establishment it is essential to accommodate future developments and allow the project to grow in scale; two main axes act as primary circulation, the “Cardo” and “Decumanus” extend to an infinite point granting opportunity for satellite programs to “plug” into the main structure.


7 – Forum (n.), Foris, Fora:  Roman place of assembly, marketplace, public open space, place for public discussion. The central point is the heart of our development, from here a series of arteries expand outward reaching the organs or program as this one pushes inward; expansion and contraction mimic metaphorically the heart pulse and are engine of the dynamic architecture. Exhibition space and exterior plaza are place for social exchange, display of the arts and nucleus from which satellite programs revolve around; it is the median between the wine production sector and the fine art production.


8 – It is essential to control the expansion outward of the program’s orbit away from the nucleus to prevent programmatic dispersion on a large scale, key is the introduction on a small scale envelope system that interacts with the infrastructure and sustainable architectural mechanisms of the various volumes.


A - Collage of different existing architectural projects to                 understand spatial adjacencies.

B - Definition of grid-system based on the collage study.

C - Definition of actual program within the new grid system.


Exhibition Space - Forum 

Workshop - Artists

Permanent Residences - Wine Workers 

Semi-Permanent Residences - Artists 

Temporary Residences - Hotels

Wine Facilities - Storage - Tasting Area 

After the analysis of various grid systems, a radial scheme was chosen with a central plan.

The program is arranged around primary circulation that runs North to South and East to West, and secondary circulation running concentrically around the plan.

Interaction among programs was essential, therefore spaces juxtaposition as well as space - overlaps are present within the built environment; the expansion and contraction of the various spaces create a dynamic setting.

Temporary residents are situated in the hotels with guest rooms, lobbies and offices. They are placed tangent to the main axes and divide the organization into sectors; one for permanent residents that includes housing, vinyards and wine facilities (storage, tasting areas etc.), and one for the artists with various workshop spaces.

Attention is given to a central space that houses an open forum and an exhibition space used by both artist, performers and wine related events.

Envelop and enclosure systems are used to provide natural ventilation (air chambers, vents), passive heating (trombe walls), and drain water recycling for a sustainable architecture. 


Structure - Envelope - Systems

- Structure: Concrete deep foundation reinforced by rebar and footing. 

- Envelope: Operable mechanical louver system with tension cable and                    support steel tube connected to concrete slab and                                  foundation. 

- Systems: Natural Ventilation (single duct +vents + air chambers),                           Water Collection Systems, Septic Tank + Pump and                                 Distribution Box to Leachfield.