Masters Thesis, 2013
Thesis Advisors: Professors Martin Bressani and Aaron Sprecher

*Ping Kwan Lau Prize in Architecture for excellence in research, site analysis, and program preparation
*Régis Coté Graduate Prize in Design and Sustainability
*Canadian Architect Student Award of Excellence, nominee

This thesis proposes a utopian vision for the very real dystopian future of the Samoan islands: one that includes a depleted energy source, an insufficiency of agriculture, a lack of local economy, and a minimum two-meter rise in sea level. However catastrophic, these anticipated changes are seen as an opportunity for the emergence of a new typology. An elevated infrastructural backbone is proposed for the island off of which other program grows. The thesis explores the design of this spine along with an experimental village: the scale at which Samoan society functions. Unassailable from the dangers of a swelling sea, the project then begins to address the issues of energy, agriculture, and economy.

Rather than domesticating the natural conditions and extreme topography, this project aims to exploit their true conditions. An elevated road runs around the island, navigating the slopes to connect even the most dramatic points, capturing a diverse range of conditions. Development clings to this road while allowing the majority of the island to remain untouched, as it has been for thousands of years, preserving the natural and sacred integrity of the mountains. Specific moments, such as the villages, interrupt this continuity responding to the surrounding site and capitalizing on its natural systems. There is an implied style of life in these emerging sites all the while maintaining familiar cultural conditions in an attempt at redefining Fa’a Samoa – ‘the Samoan way’.


Masters Design Studio, 2011
Studio Coordinator: Professor Aaron Sprecher, Project Partner: Caileigh MacKellar

Awards and Publications:
*Azure Magazine’s 2012 AZ Award Jury’s Prize and People’s Choice Award
*Published in LUNCH8: Futures for Sites Unknown, University of Virginia, July 2013. Print
*Published in McGill Alumni 365, Trash Talk: A Winning Design, April 3, 2013. Digital
*Featured in The Globe and Mail, Imaginative Cities, March 1, 2013. Print
*Featured in The Globe and Mail, How architecture students would shake up our cities, February 28, 2013. Digital
*Featured in Azure Magazine, June 2012 issue. Print

Polytropism – a self-sustaining, floating machine that captures and then recycles plastic waste – was designed with bold vision and impressive detail (...) The giant white curved fins are made up of wave-oscillating pipes whose moving joints generate energy, which is efficiently captured by the machine. The machine is also inlaid with solar tiles to create solar energy.
— Lisa Ronchon in Imaginative City, The Globe and Mail. March 1, 2013
The depth of research in this proposal is extremely impressive, and the concept is about thinking way into the future. But it’s an idea that really should happen now.
— Jeffrey Bernett, Consultants for Design Strategy: jury member for AZ Awards


Carlo Ratti Associati, 2013
Research Lead & Designer

The entire coastline of American Samoa is vulnerable in the event of a Tsunami. The effect on buildings can be extremely destructive and difficult to anticipate and control.

In response to the 2009 South Pacific Tsunami, the government of American Samoa asked us to develop guidelines for a flood resilient home.

By studying the nature of a tsunami and its potential hazards, we developed solutions to integrate into traditional building design. Local architecture and lifestyle, together with the island's unique morphology, acted as a starting point for the development of a series of innovative construction guidelines. A workshop was held with members of the local government, construction industry, and community to bring stakeholders into the conversation.

The proposed methodology, in the format of a 100-page illustrated document, improved overall village safety while maintaining the existing quality and way of life.

Team: Carlo Ratti, Giovanni de Niederhausern, Newsha Ghaeli, Andrea Cassi


with architect Philip Beesley and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, 2009
Design & Fabrication

Workshop Website

Exhibited at the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP15), Copenhagen, 2009
Exhibited at the Pluto Design Festival, Brussels, 2009

The contemporary societal context necessitates the thinking of sustainable solutions for our built environment.  But how do these challenge the way we think and design space?  How do we challenge our understanding of sustainability from being a set of posterior technological implementations to become part of the intellectual thinking and culture of architecture?  Where formalist design traditions uphold the autonomy of the architectural artefact, we ask how ideas of interfacing and actuated behaviour can allow a re-conceptualisation of core architectural terms such as context, shelter, programme, and extension.

Run by Canadian architect Philip Beesley and organized by the Center for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA) at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, this collaboration investigated how concepts of interactivity and responsiveness can suggest new ways of thinking the relationship between the building and its environment.


U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, Team North, 2009

placed fourth overall

In Canada, anyone who spends time in the outdoors camping, canoeing, or hiking, knows that the best way to prepare for unpredictable weather is to dress in layers. With this in mind, North House is constructed in layers. The outermost layer combines flexible thin-film photovoltaic technology with passive solar heat management in the dynamic shading textile. The second layer is a high-performance, highly insulated glazing system with an unusually high solar heat gain coefficient to maximize solar gain. Inboard of the glazing system, is an interior shade to moderate privacy and view, without compromising thermal performance. The interior layers, called the Adaptive Living Interface System (ALIS), is conceived of as a ‘thin’ skin of information systems, responsive to touch, capable of subtle display, and able to measure interactions between the occupants and the building systems.

Participation through a course at the University of Waterloo led by Professors Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thün of RVTR

North House Site Plan

North House Site Plan