Dwelling within the Material City

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Virginia Tech

What does it mean to truly dwell within a city marked by the cycles of political turnover? How does one carve out for himself a unique sense of belonging in a city with such a grand history?

Martin Heidegger suggests that in building "nests" for ourselves, we begin to build our lives. We build our own stories into the traditions and myths of a place. This thesis proposes four unique stories, or four dwelling typologies, stitched together by a common alley site. Each dwelling typology finds its primary expression in one of the Four Classical Elements — Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. The four are intended to be read as distinct artifacts within the urban fabric of Washington, D.C., yet also as siblings of the same architectural family.

The four dwelling typologies include (1) a studio for an artist, (2) a residence above a small business, (3) loft apartments and (4) a boutique hotel. Each occupies an infill site along the District of Colombia's historic Blagden Alley.

Elements, Empedocles, Blagden Alley, Materiality, Dwelling