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


Vijay Rajkumar

Thesis Committee 

Anton Garcia-Abril 

John Ochsendorf
Renée Green 

Polish any surface and it becomes a mirror. The act of smoothing away the roughness of a material transforms its behavior from tectonic to optical. The physics of light are privileged over the physics of gravity. In the ways that a mirror distorts, duplicates, and disappears space, smoothness conceals. When ultra-smooth, however, like in slow-motion film, smoothness can also reveal inherent conditions otherwise unseen, such as in found symmetry that emerges from natural forces.

For the last three decades, architecture has primarily been designed in digital spaces free of the influence of gravity. The legacy of industrial manufacturing techniques, modernist aesthetics, and the siloed professions of design, construction and engineering, has enabled a culture of smoothness in architecture in which form, structure and material engage each other in an incongruous hierarchy. Historic examples in Antoni Gaudi, Heinz Isler, and Pier Luigi Nervi, provide models of practice that challenge these conditions — guided by observation to find intuitive and efficient architectural form. Contemporary research in structural design in universities such as MIT, ETH Zurich, and the University of Cambridge, follows in this legacy, while engaging with contemporary high-precision digital fabrication methods to produce materially efficient structures whose form is derived from a logic of forces.

Influenced by these historic precedents and contemporary research, "Ultra-smooth” explores an approach to design that leaves the computer (and even paper and pen) aside and allows gravity to give form to architecture. Through casting experiments producing formwork with fabric, and observing with high-speed photography the behavior of fabric in motion as it finds its form in equilibrium, the expression of gravity is embedded in this process-based approach and made visible through formal expression.