Author : Emmet Truxes

University : Harvard University, Graduate School of Design

Status : MArch I, 2013

Advisor : Felipe Correa

Title : Platforms of Visibility | Exploring legibility through the contemporary Latin American city

Urban architecture inhabits sites of radical dynamic interchange, often acting as the focal point where a variety of visible and invisible flows converge.

Global networks and processes transcend immediate notions of site and adjacency, forcing the restructuring of relationships around new definitions of scale, boundary, and spatiotemporality. Current networked and mobile infrastructures have not only radically redefined communication, but also how we interrogate and see our surroundings. For users of these networks, the whole idea of urban legibility and navigation has become immediate and much easier. But for those who study the contemporary city, these networks and processes only make the study of urban legibility that much more complex.

This thesis examines how architecture, as a primary participant in this stage, can serve as a legibility platform for the modern urban condition.

The thesis work will then focus on Latin America, widely acknowledged to be the most urbanized region in the world. Out of necessity, this region has re-established and advanced the necessary toolkit for radical urban transformation in the 21st century.

The research content will look at the idea of mapping networked forms of imageability within the context of three Latin American cities: Caracas, Venezuela; Medellin, Colombia; and Quito, Ecuador.

The interrogation of the research data at multiple scales and mediums in Quito, Ecuador will serve as primary driver for an architectural proposal sited in that city

The ambition for this thesis is to present a platform — within the context of urban Latin America — through which the dynamic contemporary urban condition — and by extension the dynamic architectural condition — can be put in focus.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we, the audience, should be aware of?
Emmet Truxes_ Platforms of Visibility explores how architects can create design tools from the incredible amount of data embedded in today’s social networks, using Flickr and Instagram as case studies. The argument here is that these large datasets reveal patterns that aren’t readily evident through traditional means of site analysis. In Platforms of Visibility, the mapping of geotagged photographs in three Latin American cities reveals all sorts of clues about socio-economic partitioning, segregated and networked spaces, areas where tourists congregate, and so on. By positioning a public cultural project in the middle of a dead zone, the argument here is that architecture can act as a delicate and nuanced social agent that begins to break down the invisible walls and boundaries that segregate our urban environments.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interests you?
ET_ At the moment: photography, cartography, urban theory, cinema, rendering, animation, web design, cartooning, languages, politics, and international affairs.

S//A : Most important thing you remember from architecture school?
ET_ I was exposed to so much at the GSD, and if I had a recommendation for today’s students it is to use the time in grad school to tighten and focus. There are so many things to learn about and study at school but don’t become a generalist. After dabbling a little bit, find those professors whose ideas and methodologies you can stand behind and take their classes multiple times. Find a core group of classmates to collaborate with and learn from. Not only will you learn more, but you will create lasting relationships that will be there once you leave school.

S//A : Describe your dream project
ET_ A cultural project embedded in a city, maybe a museum, through which I can further explore the ideas of my thesis.