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Research, socially responsible architecture and change of plan

Phillip Giordano
M.Arch 2014
Staten Island, NY

Phillip is currently enrolled in the M.Arch program and is part of the Innovations in Urban Healthcare Research Studio. He talks about his experience in the program and how the research process and studio topic has impacted his future plans.

Why did you decide to stay on and complete the 1-year graduate program here at NU?

Continuing in the Master’s program was an easy decision for me in part because of the smooth transition process between the undergraduate and graduate programs. However, my main motivation was knowing what the grad program here could offer me. Northeastern’s focus on urban design and strong emphasis on research and individual expression in the graduate studio appealed to me as a way to really find myself as a designer.

How is the Graduate program different than Undergrad?

The undergraduate program focuses around building up your skills as a future architect through a strictly defined set of topics, parameters, and programmatic requirements. The graduate program is all about pursuing your own interests. You select the topic you want to focus on at the onset of the semester and continue to develop your own design thesis, which culminates in your individual creative solution of the project.

Tell us about your project for the Master’s Research Studio.

The studio I selected was Innovations in Urban Healthcare, in which we are focusing on what initially seemed to be a non-architectural problem through research and design. We began by generating a knowledge base about the current built environment of different modes of healthcare delivery from clinics to emergency rooms. While conducting our research, we were constantly searching for opportunities for innovation, intervention or improvement to a specific typology or business model.

Using the research as a basis for my proposal, I have been able to blend my own architectural interests with the concrete opportunities for innovation garnered from the research. I developed my own set of parameters and programs to be explored and developed through the design process. My project is to incorporate a community health center within the Lenox Camden public housing project in Boston. The goal of the project is to provide convenient access to quality health care, while at the same time revitalizing the housing project, which was originally built in 1939.

How has the studio influenced your future plans or expectations?

Being in the Master’s program has allowed me to really explore my interests as a designer and develop my own theories about design. I have always wanted to work in a firm that did flashy and expressive public projects but throughout the semester of research I realized that I am now more interested in pursuing a career in socially responsible design that focuses on projects benefiting the residents of the community in which a building is constructed. My opinion about architecture also shifted during my time in the Masters program. Previously I felt that traditionally, architects only responded to a predetermined problem, but through the Masters program I have learned that sometimes identifying a new problem and developing a comprehensive solution for it can offer significantly more to the community and the profession.