sunset blvd collage

The Remnants

M.Arch Thesis, Advisors: Neyran Turan + Nicholas deMonchaux

Obsolescence + Preservation

Among the many concerns of contemporary architecture, one issue is its own obsolescence. By definition a building may reach a state of being in which it is no longer useful, and thus unwanted. This typically leads to abandonment and demolition. Obsolescence is associated with time and use, informing the way in which architects understand the life span of architecture. The most common reaction to a building’s death is preservation, which involves the re-use, restoration, renovation, and/or addition to the existing building. How does the agency of the architect change when working with existing buildings? If a building must die, how can methods of de-construction be used as a way to preserve the building components that are still useful? Preservation is becoming increasingly urgent, not only because of issues of sustainability and reuse, but because this type of work is transforming what it means to practice design in contemporary cities. Preservation is typically associated with aesthetically pleasing sites that current generations must care for and protect so that they might be passed to future generations in order to forge a sense of common identity based on the past. This thesis challenges this conventional notion of preservation by choosing buildings that might be considered ugly, unsavory, or unworthy of preservation.


The Problem

With the advent of autonomous cars, the need for buildings, infrastructure, and services designed specifically for self-owned cars will be obsolete in the near future. Within the context of Los Angeles, a city known for its symbiotic relationship to cars, this project looks at three remnants from the age of the automobile: the gas station, the car wash, and the parking garage. While it may be tempting to simply demolish these structures, this thesis proposes methods of deconstruction and disassembly as an alternative solution. The project investigates the opportunities that lie within these typologies - utilitarian structures that can be thought of as banal or straightforward. This thesis recognizes their potential to regain cultural currency, to obtain value by re-using the mundane to create more engaging space. The limits of legibility are tested: how much of a building can be cut away before it is no longer recognizable? Which pieces or parts should be saved, and how will they be reused?

pieces and parts sketch
Gas Station Demolition.jpg

Disassemble / Catalog / Reassemble

The year is 2043: gas stations, car washes, and parking garages are simultaneously being de-constructed and demolished to make way for new development in LA. The parts / pieces / chunks / bits of each typology are salvaged for reuse, from gas station canopies to pieces of storefronts to underground storage tanks. Even the rubble from the demolition processes is reused as the exposed aggregate for concrete-cast elements.


 Using the catalog of salvaged parts, a variety of different plan typologies are created. Each plan is generated out of the re-use of a specific part, with the height corresponding to the maximum height of the salvaged piece.

plan typologies

The plans are then stacked in different orders to create a variety of high rise building types, providing opportunities for juxtaposition between the different floors. Some plans are shifted to create overhangs for below or to provide balconies for looking out and the re-used pieces and parts have been treated with paint to abstract their original identity. 

street elevation

You'll find walls cast from twelve different gas station facades or self-car-wash partitions, an open space defined by walls made from underground storage tanks, a colonnade made from several different columns, eight garage doors that bound four rooms, rough masonry cut from former parking garage concrete slabs, a vaulted ceiling lined with brushes of a former automatic car wash tunnel, a facade of precast concrete panels from a former parking garage, or a roof made from twenty three gas station canopies.

ghost walls
tank walls
garage doors
precast clapboard
car wash shag
spiral patio
slab masonry
tank room
roof of roofs
exterior closeup-1
exterior closeup-2
exterior closeup-3

While this project looks specifically at the obsolescence of car-related typologies, the overall objective is to provide a new way of thinking about re-use that could apply to any obsolete building in any city.