Midreview – Presentation


“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore” – Mark Twain

Faced with a population increase of more than 5 billion people, efficiency has been forced upon the City. This change had materialized in the formation of a subterranean metropolis : a semiautonomous network of communities, districts, and transportation nodes that have formed underground.

Here, subtraction has led to a new type of real estate speculation beneath the Old City’s streets, where the ground has become an artificial datum point: a thickened territory that blurs the boundaries between above/below, interior/exterior, and public/private urban space.

Growth Diagram

So we can imagine that as territories become more and more limited, that a new type of real  estate speculation could emerge under ground. This can be seen as a form of urban mining: one where large corporate conglomerates compete to excavate large quantities of space, which are then sold to individuals for economic profits. Eventually the city was  forced to implement alternative ways of regulating these emerging growth patterns– and rules were set regarding subterranean expansion.

13.01.29_subtraction diagramSeen as an instigative action to initiate the growth process, the underground is initially accessed by a series of surface “injection points”. This is done through surgical removal of specific parts of existing urban fabric: buildings considered seismically unsafe (multistory buildings built before the structural code changed in 1973) and also current abandoned buildings or sites.

13.02.01_mapThese sites overlaid with historic preservation zones and population density to create this figure ground to show places where you can and cannot build. This method could indicate zones where large amounts of subterranean growth could occur. This project deals with the areas of

1. Chinatown: the city’s densest residential district,

2. Downtown: city’s commercial district (current)

3. the booming tech industry of SOMA

It should be noted that these are areas along the central subway line, currently being constructed 120 feet under ground.
Subtracted sites

Where a large amount of these void sites are present, the existing city fabric is completely transformed, a new urban landscape is created: one that blurs the threshold between above and below ground level. Underground zones would be able to house program that would necessitate a greater amount of surface porousness to let in natural light and ventilation.


Grid Obstacles_gridBetween these  injection points, space is divided into parcels using a three dimensional grid system, and are then able to be acquired. These parcels are significantly smaller units than the typical plot size, which could enable  a greater variety of vertical forms to occur.

Grid Obstacles_5AM FAKObstacles to avoid would be existing building foundations and legal obstacles such as mineral rights (below surface structures that are technically off limits, but these are able to be bought and sold). Also, It should be noted that bedrock lies approximately 120’ deep, and is significantly more expensive to excavate than soil above it . This potentially creates an interesting polarization between value of the surface level and value at the deeper parts of the ground (bedrock), where these spaces could be the more expensive places to build with the underground becoming this new middle ground between the two.

UndergroundSpace can then be subdivided, using a clustering system where three tiers would be connected by a circulatory vehicle path. This allows the galleries to be at a three or four story volume, creating micro-environments (almost like vertical blocks, or neighborhoods) and allowing for efficient circulatory paths, as well as efficient use of artificial lighting within these subterranean spaces.

Atrium_flatThese subdivisions connect to primary circulation veins which provide vertical and horizontal circulation infrastructure for both cars and people. This is seen as less of a designed space, but more of a lack of built space. A negative volume delegated by zoning regulations, in which the grid becomes solidified.

These spaces are a hybrid infrastructure and public space, accessed from street level and  branching out to create a network between surface connection points, enabling a doubling or tripling of the street to occur in densely populated areas, effectively creating a thickened territory primarily underneath the existing infrastructure (streets, sidewalks). Programs here would generally be a multiplication of existing zoning conditions – in this case of downtown, its a place for commerce

To conclude, the project aims to not only challenge the norms of traditional urban planning and growth methodologies, but (going forward) to further explore new possibilities in terms of form, construction, and ways of urban organization that advances in subterranean building technologies are able to provide in the two other programmatic areas of the project : including housing and industry, and how these zones connect.



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