April 14, 2021 Students Reimagine Structures that Represent an Oil-Dependent Past

During spring 2021, Rana Abudayyeh, Assistant Professor and Robin Klehr Avia Professor of Interior Architecture, are encouraging students to define new purposes for the abandoned structures of a fossil-fuel economy.

In the course, “AFTER OIL 2050: Interior Architecture and Environmental Agency,” Abudayyeh is leading her 4th-year Interior Architecture students to examine and understand the decommissioned settings of an oil-dependent era and how they might be repurposed.

In January, students embarked on this unique course by projecting themselves into the year 2050, when America and the world are less dependent on the use of oil. The students began reimagining and redesigning four structures that represent the past.

“Energy forms fundamentally shape the attributes and capabilities of society,” Abudayyeh stated, “Accordingly, a shift in energy today demands, in addition to the adoption of renewable and sustainable energy sources, a new approach toward adapting the built environment.”

The four sites studied by the studio include the Oil Platform Holly in Santa Barbara, Calif.; Bayside Oil Depot in Bushwick Inlet Park of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York; ExxonMobil Building formerly Humble Oil Building in Houston, Texas; and The Packard Well Site in Los Angeles, Calif.

Abudayyeh’s students worked in teams to develop a future for their sites by researching oil networks in the U.S., the history of the sites and needs and concerns of the surrounding communities. One team who is reimagining the Brooklyn structure addresses the concerns of housing shortages and rising sea levels. The team’s site will be adaptable to the future height of the East River and provide a transient housing community on the beautiful shoreline of Brooklyn.

Students also looked to nature to inform their designs.

“We explored resilience in nature, and each student researched an organism,” said student Sam Richwine. From nature, students can learn resiliency, adaptability, design and function. Student Allie Bierman researched the resiliency of a group of species called “super coral,” which are resilient to the warming oceans.

To further develop their repurposed structures, students conducted site analysis research and conceptual development. “We are merging the characteristics of the organisms into a spatial form for our sites including schematic designing, programming and space planning,” Richwine said.

Through this work, students are learning not only high-level interior architecture but also how designers collaborate and impact the world.

“I think the most important piece of the studio was learning to think critically about the future in a collaborative effort,” said Bierman. “Most firms are challenging their studio members to be active members of the community, and it is important to recognize our responsibility as designers to create a positive impact on our collective future.”


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