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The Chasm of the City

Shifting Paradigm: Celebration of Hidden Urban Infrastructure, Philadelphia, PA


Exhibited at Gallery MC, NYC and at SCAD, Savannah, GA

T-Square Club Fellowship, Excellence in Design
Will M. Mehlhorn Scholarship, Best Theory Work

Published in WORK2010-11

PennDesign Foundation Studio II
Advisor: Kian Goh
Spring 2011


In the discourse of architecture since Vitruvius, dank and dark spaces such as caves and urban sewers have been considered as fundamentally deficient spaces for human occupancy. The famous Vitruvian hut by Laugier has been the standard feature of architectural practice and discourse, which has the purpose of providing an environment distinct from those neglected spaces. The famous Greek philosopher, Plato, wrote of the cave as a metaphorical space of ignorance in his Allegory of the Cave. He asserted that we need to be released from the cave to see the sun, which, to him, is the ultimate reality and true knowledge. It is very clear that the Western philosophy has a negative foundation on dankness and darkness of subterranean domain. However, many  contemporary artists and architects - such as Miru Kim, Philip Rahm, R&Sie, Aranda/Lasch, etc. - have begun to explore this domain: underground urban infrastructures such as sewers, tunnels or other dank spaces.


The City of Philadelphia is majorly covered by asphalt, which causes a serious urban heat island effect as well as the division between the community and the hidden urban infrastructures. This is the same for other megacities such as London, New York City, Seoul, Tokyo, Toronto, etc. This proposal traces the  existing urban chasms of Philadelphia and connects them with the surface to provide better and more spaces of urban aquaculture, agriculture and vegetation. This has yielded me to define the boundary conditions and web-like networking among those zones and within the site. This resulted in a ‘wet’ atrium that purifies water and air through its pores and aquiferlike streams similar to that of natural chasms. It will provide a new kind of economic, environmental and social sustainability through the use of natural chasm mechanism in urban setting.


A research paper along with this project is available upon request.

A Shifting Paradigm: Celebration of Hidden Urban Infrastructure (April, 2010),


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