_Senior Thesis in Computing and the Arts: "TABULA RASA"
TABULA RASA: a clean slate, a stripped landscape, a level plane.
This project critically examines the “tabula rasa” in computer science and urbanism, questioning the emptiness it describes in landscape through an exploration of its origins in terms of intelligence. Experimentation with tabula rasa in machine learning, where the term describes the originally empty knowledge base of a thinking machine, demonstrates the impossibility of a truly unbiased artificial intelligence and provides a critical lens through which to interpret the tabula rasa in urbanism. Revisited from this perspective, case studies of empty sites including landscapes rendered unbuilt by war, natural disaster, and wilderness protection destabilize the urbanist tabula rasa through the traces and remnants that subvert the illusion of vacuity. These findings, combined as an undergraduate thesis project in Computing and the Arts, support an attitude in favor of deference to history in both fields and demonstrate the value of conversation between the two, which here relies on razed earth as common ground.
This project was made possible by the Harvey Geiger Fellowship. I was honored to be the first Computing and the Arts student to win funding through this architecture department award, which enabled me to undertake eight weeks of field work in Japan and Chile.
This semester-long urban studies project takes a multimedia approach to demonstrating the effects of globalization on a seemingly remote or isolated site. The research here concerns the quinoa farming community of Salinas de Garcí Mendoza, a small town populated largely by members of the Aymara indigenous group in western Bolivia. It investigates the economy of quinoa and the ways in which its changing perception by the outside world has driven its history. It depicts the Aymara way of life with a focus on traditional attitudes towards the land, depicting how that relationship has changed over time as a result of an ongoing process of globalization. It explores the mingled spirituality of indigenous pantheism and Catholicism and relates it to modern quinoa farming practices. Finally, it responds to all of these projects with a final set of proposed interventions at the site and abroad, which it offers and critiques with awareness of its remote viewpoint.
This final project, for CPSC 678: Creative Artificial Intelligence for Visual Computing, adapts the seminal "Pix-to-Pix" paper by Isola et al. to infer fully filled-out land use maps (emphasizing park land and highways) from sketches of their water systems. The original paper uses a GAN architecture for machine learning to perform a diverse set of image translation tasks. My implementation of it extends the original to do the image processing necessary to create its own training data set, so that from exclusively images screenshot from Google Maps, the final system can learn a model such that it is able to take in a digital water system sketch and output a suggestion of what the surrounding land use patterns might look like.
_Elemental Media: The Earth-Image and the Anthropocene
My final written project for a seminar on environmental humanities and media philosophy, investigating the meanings and significance of "earth-images" and the importance of mediating and visualizing our planet in a globalized age.
A historic analysis and assessment of Arthur K. Watson Hall, an 1890s Romanesque Revival building that now houses the Yale Computer Science Department. This project was completed with research from the Yale manuscripts and archives department as well as personal observation, and it is now hosted on the New Haven Building Archive (NHBA) website.
This graphic novel uses text and collage to address the topic of boundaries in New Orleans. It makes the parafictional claim that because the boundary between land and water in the city is muddy and volatile, all other boundaries there become similarly murky or wavering. It portrays New Orleans as a distortion zone where the liminal nature of the swampy landscape extends through all aspects of the city, where the volatile boundary between land and water destabilizes other binaries in the built environment, the demographic composition of the area, and even its abstract or metaphysical character. Throughout the book I use figurative visual references to the dripping, sprouting landscape in order to emphasize this condition.
The content of this piece includes true historical and statistical information as well as fiction, but the fiction it involves is not falsehood. This portrait of New Orleans emerged from a brief visit to the city, and the intention behind the project and its theory of boundaries is, above all, to create a framework to accurately convey the feeling of the city. The New Orleans I perceive and imagine is inseparable from its swampy context. Its mildew and mud are ornament as much as its intricate decoration is, and its warped lines and trailing plant growth are as intrinsic to its architecture as the city plan.
Architecture as a visual medium is inseparable from the concept of the gaze. And because the discipline is not purely visual but also personal, political, and functional, the gazes it mediates take diverse forms. With a basis in critical theory on the expression of surveillance culture in the modern and contemporary built environment, this piece explores the social psychology behind this design era with a focus on the role of glass in its projects. The narrative of observations employs textual references, images, and video content to trace the evolution of the role of glass in the surveillance society through the transition from the Foucauldian disciplinary society of the industrial twentieth century (which produced Modern architecture) to the Deleuzian control society in which we live today, surrounded by contemporary architecture and technology. These dynamics arise from developments in Western philosophy and come to affect the semantics and psychology of our society.
My group final project for CPSC379 (Advanced Web Applications for the Digital Humanities) was a web interface for a collaborative archive on the Grove Street Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark and local feature in New Haven. We created a database for information about burial sites and other significant elements in the cemtetery, such site users could contribute information or images to a community archive, and we mapped them all onto my custom drawing of the cemetery plan. The site is a prototype but intends to explore the concept of collaborative bookkeeping and archiving, as well as the practice of combining data with a visual interface to map information to specific locations. The project interested me because of its model-like qualities: the cemetery could be viewed as a miniature city of the dead, and our project the New Haven Building Archive equivalent for it.
These images are the product of a series of exercises exploring the idea of a "protagonist" of the city of New Haven. Here, I investigate the Tower (Hall of Graduate Studies) as a protagonist, focusing on its panoptic role in the city due to its wide visibility. In the flood drawings, I emphasize the tension of its vertical form with a force trying to level the ground of the city, emphasizing the conflict of the natural floodwaters with the phallic ego of the tower morphology.
This final project for Advanced Computer Graphics explores the idea of gestural drawing with an AR iphone interface. It builds new features into an existing base project for AR drawing and made for an in-depth introduction to the world of app development as well as augmented reality. At its inception, the project's goal was to create a means to track hand gestures in conversation and create three-dimensional forms based on them-- while this was not possible with ARKit software, I still hope to pursue that project by other means.
The map presented here shows a world that differs significantly from the literal globe with which we are familiar but is perhaps a more practically accurate portrait of the planet from a certain perspective. It depicts the distance of every country on Earth from the United States as a function of the number of hours it would take to get there from JFK, starting at midnight today. It is based on Google flight data, with the starting point of 12:00 AM, May 1, and the hours between midnight and the departure of a flight are added to the duration of the trip to create a final hour value that then corresponds to a radius from New York.
Under this system, some nations are brought closer to the US than they literally are, and some nations are pushed farther away. Some places are completely inaccessible today because there was no flight data at all. Nonetheless we are privileged with proximity to an access point like JFK: there is hardly any other place from which more locations would be reachable. That privileged place has the power to privilege other places as well. Why does it take three times as long to get to French Guinea as it does to Guyana, even though they are (in the literal world) right next to one another? How would this map look different if the hour-distances were based on one of those places? This map is intended to raise those questions and frame global architecture as a matter of location-specific perception. It adopts an existentialist view that the globe is not the same to everyone.
The study carrels in the bookstacks of Sterling Library at Yale are covered in layers of pensive, exuberant, and furious graffiti from the minds of years of students trapped at their desks. I find these notes fascinating as an archive of the common internal monologue of Yale students over a long period time, revealing their hopes, fascinations, frustrations, and most intimate confessions as one collective voice. I decided to record a selection of this graffiti across numerous floors of the library, categorize it by theme, and use it to randomly generate poems that could serve as snapshots of the abstract Yale student's mind.
This representation of Venice is inspired by a weekend visit I made to the city this summer. I have never felt such a strange mixture of awe and guilt as I did during those few days-- I could see the immense cultural and physical stress the city struggled to bear and how I was contributing to it. As some of the few remaining locals protested the overwhelming tourist industry, especially related to cruise ships, I had to wonder if I loved Venice enough to never visit again.
I think the struggles facing Venice are representative of a larger question in the world today. With its subsidence due to well usage, flooding due to large cruise and industrial ship traffic, and cultural erosion due to mass tourism, Venice is a symbol of the detrimental effects of modern industry on historic sites. It begs consideration of how fragile monuments to culture can be preserved as they become too fragile to bear the needs of the present day.
This panorama hopes to show that concern in the form of a graph. As one walks along the path of the grand canal, buildings become skeletal, revealing the mounting flood of garbage that invades the city as a representation of the physical and cultural ills it faces. The narrative culminates with a view of the Piazza San Marco, completely filled in with garbage and topped by displaced residents contemplating their future beneath the barely-visible campanile, the only remnant of their drowned city.
The project consisted of an eye-level tunnel in the shape of the grand canal, made up of 14 feet of laser-cut elevations of Venice facades. The viewer could walk through the grand canal, watching the mountain of blue trash pile up behind the windows.
Archaeologists have recently begun to decipher the mysterious history of the Moon Pyramid-- their discoveries inspired this section. They dug tunnels into the structure (indicated with wood pieces) and uncovered seven concentric pyramids within the solid mound, showing a process of renovation and addition expressed in the etched and frosted sections. They discovered hollow graves (II-VI) and interpreted the overall shape of the structure as a formal reference to the sacred mountain landscape. This section cut bisects the hundreds of stairs that ascend the south side of the pyramid, referencing the typical means of interacting with the building while revealing the history hidden inside.
Through the Urban Ecology and Design Lab at Yale, I have contributed the ThermoGreenWall project by creating 3D models of the project and generating the text and figures for an academic paper on it. The ThermoGreenWall is a vertically constructed wetland that uses plant process of evapotranspiration to cool hot water flowing down its growth medium. The technology is an example of blue-green infrastructure that could eventually replace HVAC cooling towers on buildings, offering a cleaner alternative for water cooling as well as advantageous microclimate effects and social benefits.
I was commissioned to design a set for an undergraduate production of the student-written piece "FLUSH," a play focusing on the psychology of high-school girls as portrayed by their interactions in a school restroom that functions not only as a real social space but as a representation of the young female mind. The project was challenging because the stage on which it took place was very small and especially very shallow for the size of the theater. I saught to transform the space by creating the illusion of depth, using trapezoidal mesh walls to make the space seem larger according to linear perspective than it actually was. I also eliminated all surfaces (stall doors, mirror, and fourth wall) that would face the audience to open up the space, leaving only the frame of the mirror between actors and audience. The idea was to construct the set as a drawing, with the walls slanting towards a false vanishing point and only the sketch of a mirror and stall boundaries, in order to make it feel like a totally different space with minimal material resources.
_Mayo Clinic Neural Engineering
During an internship with the Neural Engineering Lab at the Mayo Clinic, I worked on a project developing implantable electrodes for deep brain stimulation (which deliver an electrical charge to specific areas of the brain in order to stop muscle tremors from Essential Tremor or Parkinsons Disease). My contribution involved data analysis concerning the custom diamond reactor used for creating the diamond-coated microelectrodes, seeking to confirm or negate its role in the variable performance of the electrodes it produced.