Final Thoughts

Over this semester, my skill in architectural modeling and visualization is strengthened in modeling class and studio. But this course is important  and educative in a different way. It opens up a new perspective to me to think about architecture in terms of natural system, urban fabric and human scale. I used to consider more about geometry form during design process but now I know that the experience we have inside a building is the indispensable factor that determines how the building looks and works. By observing and analyzing the building in both big and small scales, ideas of design emerges and prospers.  Our experience inside building decided the lighting, ventilation, heating systems designed by architects. And it is important to design an architecture not only aesthetically elegant but also natural-friendly, comfortable and sustainable.
Personally I find the parts about systems very interesting. I especially like the emergency theory of complex system and the model of sheep and wolves. The systems theory can not only be applied to architectural design but can be used to explain almost every phenomenon in the world. I can always link the system theories to other fields like sociology, philosophy and biology, etc. The Bay Game is also a very helpful and interesting learning approach.Throughout my experience in designing, I will constantly look back to the materials and case studies that we have looked on in this class.

Blog Post 5

To consider Ulan Bator as a potential site for a new U.S. Embassy, we need to think in terms of climate, culture and site data. A series of climate data and precedents studies are found helpful along the way of coming up with the design principles, the program characteristics and functions of the building.

Settling in deep Asian land, Ulan Bator possesses  classical temperate continental climate, which have distinct seasonal changes and big annual temperature difference. The main design principles to deal with the climate is to solve the problem of low temperature during winter, which often remain below 20-30 degrees below zero during winter.
Considering the guidelines from the climate consultant, the following rules should be applied in design.
Place most of the glass area south to maximize winter sun exposure. Located in high latitude, day time hours in winter are very limited. Use double pane clear windows at south for maximum passive solar gain. The double pane clear windows allow more than half of the solar energy to enter into the building and are better for store heating energy inside the building to reduce heating loss. Extra insulation for building envelope is also necessary to keep indoor temperature more uniform and to increase occupant comfort. During day time efficient sunlight input keeps the interior warm. At night the heat is still stored inside the building.

Due to the low temperature during winter, the energy cost for heating is a significant part of consumption. To make the building sustainable, it is important to lower the indoor comfort temperature at night and use high efficient furnace to reduce heating energy consumption. The building size should be relatively small because excessive floor area wastes heating and cooling energy.

Considering both the vernacular architecture and the modern transition of the urban architecture in Ulan Bator. The Embassy could design as a complex that both embrace the traditional parts of the vernacular culture but also represent the new perspective. The entrance hall where people wait for consulting and applying visa could adopt the shape of the traditional shape of Mongolia yurt, which possesses the rules we talked about thoroughly. The opening oculus at the roof top creates a tunnel for air circulation and skylight. The aerodynamic shape allows wind to slips over the structure with minimum resistance thus minimize cold air’s effect upon the building.

blog diagram

Sunlight                                        Thermal                                         Aerodynamic

Contemplation Room

Hereford_College_wideview photo

My space for contemplation is set up the grass slope beside hereford residential college facing the runk dining hall. The small lawn has a widespread view of the mountains beyond and ample sunlight. Huge mass of trees and vegetation wrap around the lawn, making it an ideal place to have sports or hang out.


I arranged the contemplation room at the edge of a steer slope at the end of the lawn to fully integrate the space with the landscape. With the main entrance facing south, the room will be lit by warm sunlight morning and afternoon during the day when the sun is close to the horizon. In the middle of the day, when the radiation raised to the highest point, the overhangs can prevent the heating sunlight  to penetrate the room. The windows provide interesting effect of light in the room. The one on the east facade allow us to watch the sunrise on the loft area. The trees also overcasting moving shadows through this window. The big transparent window on the south gives the person who sit in the center of the room of view of the nature and the reflection of sky from the runk dining hall window.2

According the Climate Consultant, the most important factor of building a house in Charlottesville is maintaining humidity and using natural ventilation. The contemplation room takes away heating and cooling systems and only uses natural ventilation. The two adjustable windows on northern facade and on the tilted southern facade is the main entrance and exit for natural wind.  Windows are oriented to prevailing breeze in Charlottesville.

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Blog Post 4

Over the last two decades China experienced significant development in economy. In one perspective people’s living conditions were improved profoundly. China’s Gross Domestic Product has surpassed many competitive and powerful country and become the second place in the world.  But a nation function as a complex system, when it prospered in one field, other side effects were generated along the process. In fact the rapid growth of China has caused a lot of serious problems. Meadows pointed out that “Growth has costs as well as benefits and we don’t count the costs among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction.” [1] The cost we paid for economical development is detrimental, especially in environmental aspect. For a complex system, growth might not be a good thing. In some cases growth can be a bad condition for a complex system like country or city. We need to consider in broader time period and create a more sustainable system for the country. In Meadows words, sometimes we “need slower growth, no growth or negative growth.” [2]

During recent years some major cities in China have undergone serious air pollution. In my hometown, Shanghai, smog has effected many people’s daily life. There was one time last year when there was a heavy smog for nine days straight. Elementary and middle schools have to suspended classes in case of students’ health condition was impaired. Nothing could be seen 50 feet away. Hospitals were claiming a lot of patients with respiratory problems. The causes of this series of air pollution are complicated but they are concluded by scholars into the results of huge amount of coal using for heating in northern area and exhaust gas emission from cars. Another serious problem is that “biophilia’—“people’s love of outdoors” [3]has dropped significantly. More people were reported needing mental consulting due to the lack of sunlight and fresh air.


The problem for the environment system here is its long delay in feedback loop. Meadows has a strong statement here: “A system  just can’t respond to short-term changes when it has long-term delays.”[4] China has developed coal industry for heating and electricity a long time ago, but the negative effect of this energy sources wasn’t shown until recent years. The system keep heading in one direction and growth was accumulated. “Overlong delays in a system with a threshold, a danger point, a range past which irreversible damage can occur, cause overshoot and collapse.”[5]  Like in the Bay Game, if the Bay Regulator keep the longest time of crabbing and the maximum number of crabs individual could catch, each fisher will catch a lot of crabs and profit but in long term the population of crabs drops significantly and the future years’ market will be damaged.

When finding the solution to this already collapsed environmental system, city regulator of Shanghai looked upon previous situation in London in 1950s when the Great Smog stayed for five days caused all city systems’ shutting down and 12,000 people’s death. It took British people a long time to fix their city and industry systems. UK-wide Air Act was passed in the coming years which banned many smoke-emitting fuels, raised the minimum permissible heights of industry chimneys and relocated power station away from cities. But there is always the problem of large population in China that makes everything more difficult to deal with. Already established industry systems and city transportation systems will cost way too much to reorganize. As Meadows says, complex systems are usually counterintuitive. The first thought of solution tend to be wrong. If we choose to not drive to reduce exhaust gas emission, more people will stay at home and consume more heating and electricity energy which is also a major source of smog. We need to look deeper into the source of the problem, which is the structure of energy source in China. We rely heavily on coal industry and little on nuclear energy. By changing the proportion of the energy source, we cut off the source of the smog. The wise choice is to  “leave aside the old model of product-and-waste and its dour offspring “efficiency” and embrace the challenge of being not efficient but effective with respect to rich mix of considerations and desires.”[6] China always put emphasis one rapid development and wish to surpass everyone but now we need to slow down and think about what the future will be like if we keep going like this.


[1][2] Meadows, Donella H., and Diana Wright. Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Pub., 2008. 146. Print.

[3]  McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point, 2002. 75. Print.

[4] Meadows, Donella H., and Diana Wright. Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Pub., 2008. 152. Print.

[5] Meadows, Donella H., and Diana Wright. Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Pub., 2008. 153. Print.

[6] McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point, 2002. 72. Print.


Blog Post 3: McIntire Amphitheatre

There are a lot of spaces on grounds that provide space for students to gather or hold activities. Among those numerous locations, the McIntire amphitheatre is an interesting case to study for the relationship between space and human behavior. Funded by Paul Goodloe McIntire in 1921, the amphitheatre was built for the purposes of public gathering. The first event held there is the UVa centennial exercises. The amphitheatre includes a 60-foot-stage, a semicircular grass patch and Greek-style hemispherical stairs with a capacity of 2500 people. Behind the stage is the offices of for the UVa Facilities Management team. The stone curb around bottom of stairs and 10-foot-wide walkway were added later, which added more accessibility and thus more dynamic circulation inside the space.


The amphitheatre serves as a multi-functions space now. It is a place for students to meet people, enjoy time on their own, take break between classes on daily basis. The amphitheatre has the best location to converge students between classes. It it in the heart of central ground southwest of the Lawn, surrounded by class buildings from all departments. Many students commute between off-ground houses and classrooms have to walk path this area. With the two popular food trucks with huge lines every day right next to the amphitheatre, it now become students’ favourite place for eating dumplings and pies. Right on top of the amphitheatre are two bus stops that transport hundreds of students everyday. Some students who have a 30 minutes gap between classes chooses to lay on the grass slope of amphitheatre, some take their whole afternoon to study on the stairs.


Stairs facing southwest, most of the time they were fully lit by sunlight. Leaving very small space of shadow on the edge of the stair sphere. While the stage facing northeast are under shadow of the building almost all the time. The shadow of the stage and the building behind stretch on the grass field and move along the sunlight. Observing the site, I found out that nearly no students choose to sit on the stage or on the grass field although a cool space is created. Although the stairs are heated by sunlight sometimes up to a very high temperature, most students still choose to sit on the stairs. Those who tend to have some shadow choose to site under tree canopy on the grass slope above. pano2dev

A clear temperature changes from the stage to the stairs are produced because the different sunlight duration from the stage to the stairs. The stage always have the lowest temperature while the stairs have the highest. Hot air on the stairs rises up and scatters and the cool airs from the stage fills in. Thus, sitting on the stairs, though hit by the strong sunlight, the wind of natural ventilation cools people down. The two thresholds on two sides of the amphitheatre also create a dramatic air tunnel along the stairs. The stairs thus become a very comfortable zone to sit and relax.

Vigil              Orchestra_SUTS           amph-student-act-fair

The amphitheatre also serves as the location for special events such as the annual student activity fair, events held by student council and other organizations, performance of school symphony and public speech of celebrities. It also become a place where students and faculties gather for vigil of tragedies happened in the country and in school. Some of those cases happened during night, and electric lighting was provided on the stage. The stairs become auditorium and thus do not need any artificial lights. Large number of students take place the whole stairs, the grass field, the walkway and the grass slopes above in some big events. There was an interesting situation when a man from a local, radical church tried to draw attend and preach in the amphitheatre. Students gather around the amphitheatre naturally after classes and were all irritated by his disrespectful words. At some point, all the students start to sing the Good Old Song holding hands in hands. The chemistry appeared in this place is unbelievable by drawing students around to enjoy and cherish what we have.


Fagan, Alanna. “The Man of God Is Right: Youre All Doomed.” The Black Sheep. 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 9 Oct. 2014. <>.