On behalf of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, especially the students who now present the culmination of their M. Arch education through their thesis, we extend our gratitude to the guest critics who have generously joined us on Thursday, December 22, 2022:

Erin Besler, Garnette Cadogan, Sean Canty, Beatriz Colomina, Natalia Dopazo, Jenny French, Antonio Furgiuele, Caroline Jones, Ang Li, Diana Martinez, Lauren Pacheco, Julian Rose, John Todd, Ivonne Santoyo Orozco, Hans Tursack, Matthew Okazaki, Mark Wigley, and Alpha Yacob Arsano.

MIT Master’s
of Architecture

Fall 2022

Beyond Topography: Remapping Appalachia

Katie Koskey

Thesis Committee 

Brandon Clifford

Mohamad Nahleh
Rosalea Monacella 

The field of architecture has been operating under a false sense that we only construct things. Robin Evans might be right that architects make drawings, not buildings, but through these drawings, we’re also moving mountains. The geography of Appalachia has become collateral damage in architecture’s focus on our urban centers through mountaintop removal coal mining. Architecture’s conversations around sustainable architecture have neglected the design interventions that operate at our sites of resource extraction. We design buildings for a ~100-year lifespan, but extraction marks the landscape for millennia.

Architects, as we’re trained, are ill-equipped to address the wide-reaching impacts of extraction, but we do have a number of tools that can be used for more critical interrogation. We are comfortable with scaling ideas, with form, with figure to confront issues that deal with society at large. Recognizing that architects are inadvertently working with mountains and topography, this thesis proposes a design methodology for architectural operations through these geologic scales of place and time. With media as method, this exploratory research presents a range of approaches to telling the story of resource extraction through experimentation with time-based form transformations, mapping, scale shifting, and multimedia storytelling. Materiality, time, and non/scalability are topics that converge (and diverge) through artifacts, both found and made. How can architecture's techniques be used to expand the discipline itself?