Theses Master's

Partions, Please

Conklin, Emily

How can we, as preservationists, imagine new possibilities for outmoded spaces? This thesis offers a new method for preserving the architecture of Modern office buildings, threatened with obsolescence, through a change in program. By synthesizing practices of spatial arrangement and participatory processes, the methodology also begins to realign the field with community values and housing justice.

Office vacancies have continued to increase in post-COVID city centers, especially in aging mid-century buildings. At the same time, calls for more scalable solutions to the affordable housing crisis continue to escalate. Yet office-to-residential conversions are only fueling the luxury housing market, as developers see no affordable methods for adaptive reuse. This thesis proposes an alternative.

By retaining the character-defining feature of these towers – the open plan – preservationists can protect these flexible interiors from being lost to the isolated units traditionally demanded by the housing market. By proposing specifically that interior architecture become a shared commons gives these towers new relevance for the 21st century city.

This thesis asserts the need for a participatory design process to achieve this goal. Communicated through a pattern book of processes, this how-to guide for a gamified design workshop encourages preservationists to move towards an actors-based thinking. Like in traditional pattern books for textiles or ironwork, this methodology is meant to be shared and copied, and even a bit lost in translation in the process.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2025-06-19.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Otero-Pailos, Jorge
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 21, 2023