A bosom friend afar brings distant land near. The Oversea album shares the lives of Chinese living abroad with all. The No.106 episode is about Trax Wang who graduated from Harvard GSD and UC Berkeley, and is now working for Fogarty Finger Architecture.
Why going abroad?
I guess I was always planning to study abroad since I attended a summer session in the States during high school.
What impressed you the most when you are abroad?
大家都多多少少为自己的兴趣和梦想而活着。做毕业设计的时候机缘巧合认识了Robert Stephenson，一位65年毕业的校友。他听说我的毕业设计想研究市政厅的时候给了我很多帮助，并带我去他生活的小镇Jaffrey参加了一次当地的全员大会Town Hall Meeting。老爷爷带着我们在小镇转了一天，按历史发展顺序把小镇前前后后办公的场所和办公的特色全部梳理了一遍。他并不是学校的老师，也不是我毕业设计的直接获益人。他这种非常无私的帮助让我印象非常深刻。老爷爷从GSD毕业之后一边写书一边致力于他创办的南极洲环境保护的非盈利组织上，让我更加觉得这种对兴趣和梦想的执着追求真的是值得敬佩与学习的。毕业后发现老爷爷也真是时代的缩影，我们周围有许许多多的朋友在无畏地追求自己的兴趣和梦想的同时，也非常愿意无私地帮助着身边的人。
I was impressed to learn that most people I met abroad have a clear understanding of what they want for their careers and in life. Not only do they strive to achieve their goals but are also very supportive of the people around them that share the same interests. I had the opportunity to meet Robert Stephenson, MCP ’65, during my thesis project. Knowing that my thesis focuses on city hall in the context across urban core to urban edge, he invited me to his own town for a field trip. They were in the process of decommissioning their existing town hall, and I was lucky enough to attend their town hall meeting during the stay. Robert also took me on a tour of the town, showing me all the historical events and projects that led to the current curious predicament of their decision. Because my thesis has no immediate and personal benefit to him, I would say his accommodation and hospitality was not something I expected to receive. It is also worth mentioning Robert runs an NGO for Antarctica environmental preservation out of his own interests besides his full-time job as a writer and journalist. I guess it shows me that interests are the motivating force in paving one’s own path.
What do you miss the most about China?
My family and longtime friends of course. Other than that, it is probably to ride a bus just for fun.
Will you come back? Why?
Not for the time being. My hometown Shenzhen, like New York City, is an immigrant city. I was raised in this city that exhibited a great level of inclusiveness, unlike other major megacities and metropolises around the country. I guess I am merely following my parents’ path here by settling in NYC.
Is it more distinct to view China in a different environment after going abroad? Any thought?
I guess yes and no. Yes, for the fact that I have learned so much about China during my graduate studies at Harvard Graduate School of Design that was never taught in such manner at my undergrad school. There is no extensive curriculum in my undergrad that examined modern architecture and urbanism in China. All academic endeavors somewhat end with the Qing dynasty as we learned in the course of traditional and vernacular Chinese architecture. I think it is such a greatly missed opportunity as we should have enough information to really form a great academic taxonomy to begin to understand what the best practices are and why. I do think that lacking these kinds of articulated research results in us, as undergrads, aiming to experiment in many design projects with so-called “Chinese elements”, such as those that share morphological similarities with calligraphy. This should have been taught by default so we can debate and explain the rationale behind the design from a higher baseline of understanding.
At the same time, I guess my answer is no because there is an increasing number of young architects and designers focused on filling this void. I do think in the near future there will be more to discuss and more to see in the context of Chinese modernism. We already see many emerging voices in the realm of pedagogy and professional practices. I cannot definitively envision how these new research and practices will move the nation forward culturally, economically, and socially, but for me, the next few decades will definitely be exciting.
▼在校时期的笔记，台北城市发展，sketches during school days
What are the educational characteristics of your school?
It feels like Harvard GSD is one of the least obscure schools due to the great publicity our alumni received throughout the years. As for me, the school is always encouraging and aiming to bring out the best in all of us. There’s no wrong idea, no project too insignificant, or interest not worth pursuing. We discuss projects with the mutual understanding that we all know how to design a building. I do think this is very important, as I mentioned earlier in the so-called “Chinese elements”; the core of academic design projects is not just about how to lay out a unit or an egress stair, but rather the rationale behind it. Now, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the pracitcal elements, but that was what we’ve been taught to focus on at other schools.
I also think that Harvard GSD, as the pioneering university that really developed the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and urban design in the U.S., still demostrates its leading role in defining the frontier of knowledge. For my thesis project, one of my instructors, Michael Hooper, gave us an extensive overview of what a thesis is and how it differs from a project. It is something I personally never thought of, and it just became such a fundamental backbone in defining my thesis argument and shaping my design research.
What are the characteristics and interesting points of your firm?
我的导师Rick Joy跟我们说他自己开事务所前期走了很多弯路，痛并快乐着。如果让他重新做选择，他会把前面10年“碰壁“的时间缩短在大公司里摸爬滚打，接触到的东西可能更多而且学起来更有效率。我感觉自己可能最终更喜欢小事务所的工作方式，于是在毕业后在Perkins&Will熟悉北美的标准化和工作方式，之后因为移居纽约而来到了Fogarty Finger。
Rick Joy, a renowned architect who I look up to, once told me that if he were to start over again, he would probably have spent the first 10 years of his professional career at a well-established large-sized practice. One can learn so much because everything is already standardized and optimized. I totally agree with him, which is why I first joined Perkins&Will. After moving to New York, I thought it was the right time to pursue my plans of working at another renowned firm, albeit relatively smaller in size. That is when I joined Fogarty Finger in 2017.
Along the years, the firm has begun actively expanding, and we now have over 100 office employees, working from home of course. I often joked that I joined this firm only because I was convinced it had limited personnel for its architectural “ground-up” team, which quickly proved otherwise. All joking aside, I am still grateful that I was part of the team and now I am proud to be responsible for significant aspects of all incoming projects in NYC for all phases.
The firm is very flexible and comfortable with moving employees to find their best spots. There’s always opportunity to learn and be widely exposed to different aspects and phases of a project. Typically, you would need 8-10 years of experience, as stated in job requirements published by AIA, before you are assigned the complex tasks that I am currently responsible for. I do think my atypical career advancement is due in part, if not all, to the fact that this firm places an incredible amount of trust in its staff and is willing to promote individuals based on their merit rather than their years of experience.
Perkins&Will is a renowned architectural practice that needs no introduction. The firm has a wide range of designs in its portfolio from civic and commercial to hospitality and science. Perkins&Will has an extensive connection with Harvard in the sense that many alumni work for the practice and lead its design teams, and also in the sense that the firm gives support back to the school. Prior to my interview with Perkins&Will, I was pretty much determined to accept an offer if they were to extend one to me. During my first interview with two directors at Perkins&Will, it appeared that I would be a great fit to the firm and vice versa. It was at this moment I knew working here was for the best.
The Boston office was just awesome. It is an experienced team that always sought out new perspectives. Because of its proximity to many world-class academic institutions, there are opportunities for projects that will have a profound influence on future generations. It is fulfilling knowing that you are making a significant impact to the world.
One of my interviewers was the firm’s design director. He oversaw pretty much all designs by this 150-staff firm, and I reported directly to him on all new studies. I was both honored and excited to work for him, and as a matter of fact, I worked on about 8 projects. Some of them are incredibly important, such as the institutional projects of Maine Medical Center and Fermilab, and urban designs in Boston adjacent to South Station and the Emeral Necklace. This is in addition to the works and projects for academia that include MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Dartmouth University and WIT (Wentworth Institute of Technology).
Who is your favorite artist (in wider range such as art, music, movie)? What is the influence?
感觉自己喜欢绝对耿直刚烈或是柔美的东西，不喜欢折衷的事物。建筑里面一定是Marcel Breuer和Paul Rudolph，看一根柱子都可以激动老半天，根本跳不出来。建筑之外我喜欢硬核摇滚，摄影我喜欢Joe McNally的作品，电影的话我一直很喜欢《十分钟年华老去》和《白日夢冒險王》的风格，导演的话那一定是斯皮尔伯格，16年研究生毕业恰好还是老爷爷来毕业典礼演讲，当他在上面说“祝大伙儿跑得比霸王龙都快”的时候感觉这辈子也是值了。
I like things perhaps designed to pass their liminal stage and are ripe to an absolute upright. It could be perfectly minimalized, could be extremely candid, or very simply over-complicated piece of art. But nothing really in-between. The architectural style that closely resembles this is Brutalism, which is also dubbed “Heroic”. To me, Marcel Breuer and Paul Rudolph are the two quintessential architects of this Heroic style. I very much appreciate and enjoy these ambitious projects from a unique period in American history where urban cores were reimagined by the government. I also enjoy listening to metal rock and watching movies such as “Ten Minutes Older” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. Joe McNally is my favorite photographer and Steven Spielberg is my favorite director. I was thrilled that Mr. Spielberg was Harvard’s commencement speaker for 2016, and just hearing him wish us to “outrun the T-Rex” was one of the most memorable days of my life.
I guess aiming for “perfection” also helped me find my own voice in design and in life in general. I can often understand the bigger picture and bring that level of care all the way down to the details. Thinking back, this is probably why I chose to work at FFA in the first place. The work is clear-cut in an elegant and beautiful way. It kind of echoes my own preference in brutalist architecture but with a modern flair.
What fascinates viewers the most in your portfolio in your opinion?
It has been a while since I finished up my portfolio of academic projects. Looking back, what stands out the most is the collection is not confined to a particular time or style. I think some of the trans-scalar design works are still relevant today, and the graphics are still suitable to meet current standards. It is a very personal collection of works and I am very happy there are still some tricks up my sleeve.
When did you start to follow gooood? Any suggestions?
Probably since 2013. It has been a great pleasure to follow gooood as it has kept up with everything and has become one of the most influential websites featuring architectural design. I would love to see more exclusive projects that are not always easy to find in other prominent publications. There must be a great number of architects and newly built / unbuilt projects worth mentioning.
W O R K
Independent Thesis in Satisfaction of the Degree Master of Architecture in Urban Design
Distinction Honor; Urban Design Thesis Prize ’16; Published in Platform 9: Still life
Advisor – Felipe Correa, Michael Hooper
The city hall is found all over the globe, and yet it is an understudied building both in terms of architectural history and typology. This thesis is less about resolving design problems on site, but rather “hallucinating” to design a position about what a 21st Century model of civic space should be. This thesis aims to examine the role of city hall as an acupuncture architectural and urban design project within the American urban landscape across from urban centers to urban edges.
It is both a taxonomic research that examines the arching attitudes towards the political, social, and spatial dimension of city halls across time in the context of American cities, and a combination of three design proposals with intention of deriving new designs and understanding of the city halls that aim to set the 21st century terms for a sense of the commons, democracy and monumentality moving from surface to type.
This thesis is important because it would open a discussion between the original manifestation of the city hall, current attempts to accommodate a larger suite of cultural and civic activities, and, in reality, the lack of civic activities that is commonplace in many contemporary city centers.
▼市政厅历史照片，Original photos: Lynn Lennon; Ghost photos: Kyle Penningto（图片来源）
▼部分比较极端的市政厅拆除方式，Some of the more extreme ways of demolition
The project would also discover a transition from surface to type for contemporary city halls that revives the sense of the commons which was lost; in particular, a type that might be able to both meet the administrative needs of city government and catalyze a new sense of public space with multi-functional urban activities across the various urban landscape.
▼世界上现存的最早的市政厅雏形，位于意大利科莫（注意办公的功能空间位于村民使用的市场之上，需要时政府官员可以在二楼透过窗户与楼下广场直接交流），The earliest prototype of a town hall in the world, Como, Italy
市政厅（City Hall）与村委会（Town Hall）起源于欧洲，现存最老的村委会位于意大利的科莫小镇。在村委会形成之前，一个区域内的大权主要是被教皇和贵族这两大力量所控制，村委会作为一个新兴的“第三者”，它的形成本身就代表了着一种“人民当家做主”的愿景。之后因为区域变大而形成的更复杂的市政厅则更加反映了一种人民的意志。美国的发展与村委会的建立是从美东的新英格兰地区开始的，在这些地方也能发现很多类似于科莫村委会的样子：办公的空间与村中心的市场毗邻，往往最繁忙的集市也是最能反应公众意愿的地方。这个例子在纽约其实体现得也很明显：美国建国之后，纽约将准备筹建的新市政厅选址定在了原市民中心一带（the old Common），虽然位于当时纽约行政区域相对靠北的位置，但也能看出来新规划的市政厅在城市轴线和公共空间的处理上有着很强的引导作用。市政厅本身相对体量已经比科莫的村委会大了很多，但是就是在今天，也可以看出公共与私密、室内与室外的处理上与科莫村委会有很多相似之处。
There is always a divide between architectural practices and pedagogical theories. In the realm of city hall and symbolic civic public spaces, this divide somehow seems even greater. The civic spaces have been wildly discussed throughout the centuries, from church-dominated medieval city center to modern symbolic civic axis spaces. On the other hand, built architecture always seems problematic, or in other words, unsatisfactory. Boston city hall serves as a great example: guided by Lynch’s idea of creating a legible image of the city, the physical manifestation, however, was described by the Boston Globe as “an atrocious waste of space” and “anti-urban”.
毕业设计的前半年广泛收集了一百个美国的市政厅案例，通过对城市概况、建筑原型和细部构造等三大方向、十个维度的简要分析后，我将市政厅向今天演变的趋势简要归类成“越做越大（monumental appearance），越做越少（office-oriented program）”。我觉得这个状态歪打正着特别适合借用库哈斯的City of the Captive Globe配图，似乎在21世纪的今天每一个街区上的楼都有成为当今市政厅的潜力，但是需要看到，在这些强有力的表象（surface）之下，这些建筑徒有其表的外型不能象征着一个新的城市建筑形态（type）。但是反而人民的中心其实一直就在那儿，市政厅建筑的精神应该放在将如何定义城市空间与包容的边界上，办公功能不是市政厅的唯一。
This divide, of course, is affected by the gap of time between the start of architectural design and the end of construction. However, I believe the other reason lies in the fact that there is insufficient research in terms of single architectural typologies together with a larger scale of public spaces typologies, which might set up a series of guidance, references, and facilitate debate over whether certain typologies could benefit certain cities more than other typologies.
In the light of this idea, a typological study, similar to the role of housing prototype studies, might start to improve this split along ideological lines. By rethinking the relationship between centered city halls with their adjacent urban context, we might begin to discover a new role of city hall in terms of providing both working spaces and public spaces.
▼市政厅早期的一些梳理，city hall analysis
▼研究时期整理的一个市政厅历史沿革的时间线，timeline of the historical evolution of town halls collated during the research
▼City of the Captive Globe. 市政厅越来越像办公室，到底哪个才是真正的市政厅？
研究之后我做了三个设计，分别对应着三个不同的城市形态：马萨诸塞州的波士顿（Boston, MA）代表城市中心（Urban Core），肯塔基州的帕迪尤卡（Paducah, KY）代表城市外围（Suburban），新罕布什尔州的杰弗里（Jaffrey, NH）代表城市边缘（Urban Edge）。这三个城市在我做设计的时候都有提案想要翻新或重建已有的市政厅，对我而言选择这些场地恰好是一个很好的机遇。
After an extensive research of city halls, I proposed designs of city halls across different urban landscapes from urban core (Boston, MA) to suburban (Paducah, KY) to urban edge (Jaffrey, NH). There was also an immediate need of proposals for city hall reconstruction or renovation when the thesis was conducted. I reckoned these sites would also serve as anchor sites in a practical way.
波士顿市政厅 | Boston City Hall
In terms of designing city hall for Boston, my design mainly focused on a re-introduction of the original town hall ideology where the town hall, when combined with the common market, becomes a representation of the common on a larger scale. A new edge of the civic center was created by aggregating density along the axis from the city hall to Haymarket, with the intention of introducing inclusionary housing in the context of downtown Boston. The new buildings were designed to celebrate the unique fenestration of existing city hall and were positioned deliberately to allow for new view axis from major commuting arteries.
肯塔基州帕迪尤卡市政厅 | Paducah City Hall in Kentucky
肯塔基州的帕迪尤卡市政厅面临的问题则有所不同。现存的市政厅是设计师Edward Durell Stone的作品。他和Marcel Breuer以及Paul Rudolph都有类似的教育背景，而且都是那个时期我非常喜欢的建筑师们。市政厅本身独具魅力，但它的位置已经独立在了当地人们活动的中心区域之外。因此我在设计中重新定义了原本的街区形态，将一个新的步行轴线建立在原本四方形的街区上，希望同样通过加大对密度在边界的堆叠重新找回市政厅与主干道之间的关系。几年后在加州游玩，发现这个想法和Pasadena的市政厅处理有些相似的地方，尤其是和主干道Colorado Blvd的关系。只恨当年研究和设计的时间还是不够长，否则一定有更多的案例能够让我的设计变得更好。
Paducah City Hall in Kentucky faces a curious predicament as it was designed as part of the 1960s urban renewal projects. Even though the city hall and city hall plaza were designed to display a level of transparency and inclusiveness for local residents. Here I proposed to introduce a thickened ground by refining existing blocks. City hall and city hall plaza would not be served by streets but rather by a combined block. By aggregating density along the edge of the street and adding new codes connecting anchored civic programs, the city hall plaza connects back to existing downtown center and becomes the new civic axis.
杰弗里村委会| Jaffrey Town Hall
Finally, for Jaffrey town hall in New Hampshire, I presented a more indigenous and contextual route in my proposal that examines the role of architectural and urban design for city hall in the context of urban edge. A few decades back, highways and public roads were introduced to this town and soon enough the town center was relocated a few miles southeast to its current location at the intersection of US 202, NH 124, and NH 137. It is simply impractical to introduce an axis or a visual connection from the existing town hall to the new center. A new town hall at the intersection makes more sense, and that is exactly what I proposed. For Jaffrey, one of the major concerns is the increasing traffic through these major arteries, and the intersection creates high traffic volumes that piles up for miles before the light turns green. It creates an opportunity for the town hall to truly be a representation of the common by facilitating the vehicular turns while creating a new centrality for the common.
MIT Undergrad Residential Report
As part of its Capital Renewal Program, MIT has been implementing a long-term plan to renew its undergraduate residences, with the intent to add new housing for 350-450 undergraduate students with amenity spaces at one site on MIT’s West Campus.
We developed detailed architectural programs and conceptual designs for each of the West Lot / West Garage project sites, in collaboration of MEP engineers, structural engineers, and other consultants. This report helped MIT make informed decisions on how to allocate the desired bed-capacity and amenity spaces on the site and will provide the basis for subsequent phases of design.
▼负责的场地模型，注意下侧一排建筑都是明星设计师在不同时期设计的学生住宅，Site plan, including the student residences designed by famous architects at different times
▼对于单元式住宅的一些梳理，analysis on residential clusters
▼研究期间每周在MIT和学生代表的例行讨论，discussion with student representatives at MIT
▼研究期间做了很多模型，可能是我参加的最像学术设计的一个真实项目了，models druing the research
Vernon Boulevard is a significant architectural landmark in the heart of Astoria. The site presents an ideal opportunity to redefine the character of the shoreline and streetscape of this neighborhood. To realize this vision, we had to overcome the exceptional challenges in complying with zoning regulations for a non-standard Queens rectangular block with deep slopes that limits the use, building envelopes and floor area bonus generated on-site.
For this project, one of my responsibilities was to work directly with the founding director to fully grasp and work within the NYC zoning regulations to create the ideal floor plate for the current marketplace, all the while creating a contemporary exciting new architectural landscape that would be well-suited to transform the site into a bold presence. Because the entire project is positioned to create an incredible amount of affordable housing, it was considered an essential construction during COVID.
This project helped further the fundamental and systematic understanding of professional practices in NYC. I am the lead member of feasibility studies team. I work closely with directors and founding partners in preparation of business development presentations and meaningfully participate in new project pitches with senior leadership. As I pointed out earlier, the firm does not hesitate in trusting its staff, and this provides opportunities to really stand out from your peers.
Distinction Honor; Published in Platform 8: An Index of Design & Research
Instructor – Felipe Correa; Teammate – David Jimenez
This project examines how autonomy plays role within the architectural and urban design context, and how the senior citizen demographic can help catalyze a high-density mixed-use housing project along the waterfront. A sector of the city which has not addressed in terms of affordable housing is the elderly sector. In recent years, the elderly population, aged 60 years and older, living in New York City numbered over 1.4 million, representing 17.2% of the city’s population. Due to increases in life expectancy and the approaching retirements of the large baby boom generation, this could impact a far larger segment of the city’s population in the future.
Escalating housing costs have brought city wide issues of affordability to all segments of the city’s population. Only 18% of seniors in Manhattan receive subsidies for housing, and half of them still cannot afford housing. Today, 53% of households headed by those between the ages of 60 and 69 pay more than 30% of their income on rent, which is a level considered to be unaffordable by federal standards. More than 19% of the New York City’s population aged 60 and older lives below the poverty level, compared to 9% nationally.
Thus, we proposed a senior citizen housing project, with input from senior citizen associations and the NYC housing authority, that would be financially viable with the right combination of market rate housing and senior citizen affordable housing. We imagined this project would help define the presence of First Avenue by aggregating density along the edge of the block. The site’s drastic elevational changes were mitigated by a thickened pedestrian ground extending from the street line to the waterfront. These new public levels introduce a new connection to the ecological waterfront above and below the existing FDR drive.
Maine Medical Center
项目位于缅因州波特兰市，主要由两个部分组成。一部分是现存住院部Coulombe Family Tower的扩建，另一部分是更大规模的新建部分Congress Street Development。由于缅因地处美国东北角，地广人稀，这个项目对于当地医疗体系有非常重要的意义，屋顶的停机坪也能让服务半径变得更大。
Maine Medical Center (MMC), located in Portland Maine, is the state’s largest medical center, licensed for 637 beds, with an unparalleled breath of services, including the state’s only allopathic medical school program, through partnership with Tufts University School of Medicine, and a world-class biomedical research center. The new expansion of the Coulombe Family Tower at MMC is now open, delivering 64 single-patient rooms dedicated to surgical and medical oncology care. The next phase of implementation includes the Congress Street Development, a new 280,000 square foot tower that will drastically increase MMC’s in-patient capacity by offering 64 single-patient beds and 19 highly adaptable surgical and procedural suites. By doubling medevac and air ambulance capacity, MMC is better positioned to serve its patients in remote areas of New England.
我的一大兴趣爱好就是摄影，Joe McNally是我最喜爱的摄影师。本科有个短学期的课程，需要两周之内做一个艺术家工作室。场地在良渚，题目自拟，手绘出图。自然而然我想说那干脆做一个摄影师工作室好了，于是乎有了Sketching Light这个设计。Joe的看家本领就是把握光线，他的成果里没有人造光的影像极少。哪怕是看着特别自然的一个场景，其实也是摄影师精心布置出来的。我觉得从建筑的角度出发，除了比较正常的展厅啊工作间一类的功能，是不是可以利用建筑本身跟自然光的关系形成几个别具一格的场景。整个设计最后都是围绕着建筑中心空间的环境光氛围而展开，希望通过天窗和片墙的设置能够营造出一个类似伦勃朗光线的场景感。
We had a 2-week short term academic studio that focused on designing an artist workshop. My first choice was of course the photographer, Joe McNally. Mr. McNally has an exceptional understanding of lighting in photography, and I was wondering if, as a result, a workshop for Joe should display a level of natural lighting that you cannot get without the presence of the building. Sketching Light examines how architecture as an acupuncture gesture within the site can manipulate light into space. The final deliverables were two arch size boards and a handcrafted model.
The result of two weeks of design classes: two hand-drawn works and a model made of fine dried noodles
▼整理作品集时做的渲染与图纸，renderings and drawings made while sorting the portfolio
工作单位：Fogarty Finger Architecture、Perkins&Will、都市实践
When: 2006 & 2012 & 2014 to now
Where: New York, Boston, Berkeley, and Pittsburg
Name: Trax Wang
School: Harvard Graduate School of Design, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and Zhejiang University
Office: Fogarty Finger Architecture, Perkins&Will, and URBANUS