Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA
Bunkerhill Community College Sports Center and Library
Concept, 2022

The site is a parallelogram shape that situates at the boundary of Charles Town of Boston, between the stretched large scale urban fabric of the highway and the community college and the dense small scale urban fabric of the residential area. There is a 3.6-meter height difference between the front street and the back street of the site. The building aims to provide a common public space that can be shared both by the residents of Charlestown and the community college students.

The building is consisted of six identical curved Vierendeel trusses that span across the site to provide the height and layout flexibility for various sports activities. The placements of the trusses are sheared by the parallelogram of the site, registering the force of the site boundary at the same time intensifies the objectiveness of the trusses. A pedestrian footbridge shoots out from the third floor of the building, connecting the community college main campus to the library and classrooms of the new building.

There is a pedestrian bridge shooting from the third floor of the building, connecting directly the library and student center to the original footbridge of the main campus. The bridge is also open to the public. By integrating the building and the bridge formally and functionally as a unified one, the building itself becomes a urban connector, linking and activating the dense residential area behind the main road, which currently is severed from the rest of the larger urban fabrics.

The cavity of the Vierendeel trusses is used as circulatory corridors, and occasionally they become study cells for the students. In between the trusses, there are large columnless spaces which can either be used as open library spaces or classrooms and auditoriums. Looking from in between the trusses, the curved trusses appear to be disappearing from the horizon of the floor slabs, constantly leaving the visitors a sense of vicarious wonder to be drawn toward. The floor slabs are sheared by the slantness of the curved platform. The rooms remains rectangular where is slope is gentle, and becomes sheared into parallelogram when the slope is steep in order to optimize the clear height.

The floor underneath the trusses is hanged by the tension cables, they are hidden away from the first encounter of the building. From the street perspective, the second floor is condensed to a thin plinth with limited height for internal spaces. The interior of the second floor is a large open library space, with its disappearing horizon, generating similar vicarious effect to the upstairs.

The ground floor is consisted of three stripes, the one on the right is the sports court, the one in the center is the student lounge. Next to the student lounge is an outdoor walkway that connects the library entrance to the lower front street. On the left is the library entrance, a gallery space, and back of house offices. These public spaces are sheltered by the slanted standing seam metal roofs that fomally resonates with the repetitive roofs in between the trusses. The goal is to engender a vicarious wonder on the recurring building elements.

The trusses are extended beyond the second floor plinth, invading the realm of the street. The skins are peeled open at the end, revealing the seemingly inhabitable trusses, but in a steep angle that appears to be dangerous to occupy. Thus arousing the sense of vicarious experience. During the night, the cantilevering beams will become light boxes, as a series of floating beacon.

Five Principle of Vicarious Forms:

I. Forms that resist immediate comprehension of their internal organization;

II. Forms that suggest motional trajectory;

III. Forms with diverse functions that recurrently show similar visual structures;

IV. Forms that capture the dichotomic tension between the interior and exterior;

V. Peculiar positioning of volumes that appear to be inhabitable.

*Special thanks to:

Yvonne Gu, Jackie Pan, Eric Shichen Li, Zhaoqi Chen, Susu Pan, Pan Hu, Yufei He, Yalun Li, Feiyue Chen, Zirui Pang, Weichen Wang, Xianming Sang, Bonnie Ye, Yujin Cao, Lei Zheng Song Dong, Yiran Zhang, Guanming Huang, Daisy Zhang, Haotian Wu, Xinyu Wan, Ran Huo, Yangyang Liu, Hollie Wenxian Zhu, and Preston Scott Cohen.