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As part of Archiprix International, 304 graduation thesis projects by graduate students in architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture from around the world are on display on the fourth floor of Building 7. In 1865, MIT became the first university to establish an architecture program in the U.S. and facilitated the development of the Modernist movement in this country.
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Archiprix International is an exhibition of the best graduation projects from top architecture design programs around the world. The biennial event was founded in 2001 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, as an attempt to create a global context for architecture education, and Archiprix now has 1527 participating universities. This year, MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning is hosting Archiprix International 2011, from the end of May to beginning of June.

In the spring of 2010, architecture and urban design graduate students with the best final thesis projects from participating universities were selected by their institution to submit their work to Archiprix. The students were also invited to take part in 2011 Archiprix program — comprised of workshops led by MIT SA&P faculty and international designers under the theme of the redesign of Manhattan. The program also features panel discussions and the presentations of the student projects. The 304 participating entries are exhibited on the fourth floor of Building 7 and will last through the first week of June. The projects encompass various focuses and disciplines, including educational or recreational space, suburb, city, metropole, post-modern design, ecological design, and adaptive reuse.

Currently, a number of selected projects are marked as Participant Favorite — voted on by Archiprix participants — and Nominated — selected by an international jury — and will be shown to the public. The Archiprix award ceremony will take place in New York City on June 9 at the Guggenheim Museum.

Here’s some of the many proposals that caught my eye (in order of the intensity of captivation):

ZIPZIP by Rodrigo García González

Madrid, Spain

ZIPZIP is a patent-pending deployable system that creates high-rise structures. The structures can be manufactured, assembled and dismantled efficiently. It can be expanded in both vertical and horizontal direction, allowing flexibility in form and function. The structure becomes an eleven-story tower when expanded and is reduced 78 percent in surface area and 97 percent in volume when folded.

Architecture from Shade by Kensuke Ohtsuka

Kanagawa, Japan

This design uses urban shade as axes for the city blocks in Ginza district, Tokyo. Different ranges of darkness carve up space into regions without physical dividers. At the same time, its ubiquity allows the interconnected shade to serve as connectors to unify the existing buildings and new buildings of the growing district.

XYZ Structure
by Maciej Siuda

Wroclaw, Poland

This concept provides various independent functions in one building. It’s beneficial to crowded cities because it offers an alternative to managing urban space — no longer in a two dimensional plane, but three. The structure allows a small plot of land to facilitate different types of public space — from restaurants and athletic facilities to pavement, parks, and playgrounds, exemplarily filling its role to maximize the potential of land for public use.

Spaces, Poetics, and Voids by Simone Pizzagalli

Delft, Netherlands

This is a design of a prison to be situated in the outskirts of London. Through an interplay of the presence and absence of material emerged a rhythmic, poignant composition, giving rise to meaningful moments in both local (the building itself) and global (as part of the city) contexts. Surreal elements are embedded within reality as the voids in the structure serve as a blank slate with potential to be filled with imagination, contemplation, resolution, or change. A prison de-familiarizes passers-by, even though a prison is only the crystallization of the familiar disorder of a place.

Students from all majors are encouraged to take a peek (or a stare) if interested in being surprised or stumped, or perhaps intrigued or inspired. Kick off your summer with refreshing mental events as you redefine the meaning of architecture in the 21st century, or simply check out what is going on in another field. To complete its role as a good host, MIT must remember to take advantage of these visitors (the exhibitions, perhaps not the graduate students): learn from them, and make them matter.