American Power Box

Master Thesis - SCI-Arc Thesis Merit Prize 2018
@SCI-Arc Advisor Elena Manferdini

An American Power Box investigates ontological weakness in the architectural expression of power.

If modern architecture used to embody hegemonic national power with equally singular form, today more striated and heterodox political structures require more multiplicitous modes of expression. Formerly stable bureaucracies have been replaced by spontaneous, market-driven clusters of agency. At the same time, states still require symbolic and physical manifestations of their authority. This thesis explores the potential in this conflict with an embassy prototype that simultaneously enacts and represents the United States’ newly fraught status on the international stage. Designed to be deployed in different postures relative to the ground depending on the relationship between the US and the embassy’s host country, the project couples monolithic legibility with shifting optical effects.

Embassy design has come under increasingly strict design regulations since the 1950s. My proposal is a prototype that meets these criteria while exposing the economic, military, and political instability that occasioned them. To do so, the project works in between iconicity and anonymity, consistency and flexibility, and transparency and opacity. A holographic, opalescent cube that indexes the security apparatus within presents a luminous yet impervious state of being in the world.