Archive for December, 2012

Paint the stairways green? Hmmmm.

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

As you will have read from my blog entries concerning my thesis, the stairways of Lima installed under the Castaneda administration were an iconic yellow, color of his political party. I proposed in the thesis that the incumbent mayorship whose political party color was green would benefit from the stiching or weaving together of stairways through the use of architectural programs at times painted green. A compliment rather than replacement. The result is sadly below.


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The Kingspan Generation: L. Michael Lu

December 15, 2012 4 comments

Architecture for the Public Good

Architecture has the inherent ability to move people. For my Master of Architecture + Master of Urban Design theses, I became enthralled with the notion that design for the most vulnerable sectors of society is a cause worth basing a career upon. For this study, the project was located at the juncture between two poverty stricken districts of Metropolitan Lima: San Juan de Miraflores and Villa Maria El Triunfo. These districts had been physically divided for decades through the installation of a commuter rail system designed to integrate peripheral Lima to the city core. The result was miles of impassable walls.


In the 1990s, then Mayor Luis Castaneda, invested a great deal of financial and political capitol in the hillsides of Lima’s periphery. Thousands of the city’s most marginalized are resigned to live on treacherous slopes in houses built from found objects. Switchbacks and paths made by the people snaked down through one shanty community to the next to reach the city streets below. His solution was simple: create stairways. In one effective and uncomplicated move his administration integrated the city above to the city below.


For the thesis, I proposed what I considered a next logical step: build upon existing infrastructure to integrate rather than separate communities. As the stairways ran vertically down the slopes, I would design horizontally connecting stairway to stairway bringing much needed amenities typically found in the city below, up to the level of the people.

Generation Kingspan Competition: Philanthropic Design

The design of the Kingspan manufacturing facility and corporate headquarters was intended to be mixed-use AND mixed-income. Yes, I considered it plausible for a large corporation like Kingspan to plan along with its fixed program of uses, a section of the site dedicated to mixed income housing in downtown Phoenix.  Sustainability for me extended beyond the simply physical. True, design the built form to mitigate impacts to environment and yes lower energy use and footprint. But, in addition, dedicate a portion of the budget for those with lesser means.

As a participant in now many design competitions I thought to myself, do I really need the money? Having lived and worked in Peru for years as an archaeologist, and witnessing first-hand the poverty that exists in developing nations, would the prize money impact my life for the better? I felt strongly that money for nothing would more appropriately serve those who more desperately need it.

I won the social vote using a quite simple and selfless method: I offered the prize money in exchange for votes to a hospital in a rural sector of Peru with limited means. A group of doctors were planning to buy medical equipment for the Hospital Regional Guillermo Diaz de la Vega located in Abancay which has the highest incidence of poverty in the country. I approached the doctors explaining my design and the process of winning and they agreed that my choice to donate the prize to their cause was worth their own efforts. Medical school students, teachers, friends and family rallied together to vote for someone they never knew personally, only knowing that he was a son of Peru willing to give back to a country that formed his career. They voted on an idea and on a philosophy rather than a design based in Phoenix, Arizona. The result was uncanny. Thousands of votes poured in from all over the world now interested in a simple design that made waves across the globe. Everyone was now competing together for the same cause, provide the first eye care facility this region of Peru had ever known. My contribution began with images on paper forged from years of education in design and sustainability. The result was giving the marginalized an opportunity to see.



Now, in these final days of the year I encourage you, the reader, to remember those less fortunate. That even in competition never compromise your ideals. Yes, we could all use the money to buy a laptop, pay-off student loans, or purchase any number of perishables, but what if we, an emerging generation of professionals were to truly design for the public good and live by it? We can indeed affect change in the world and extend our hand to those in need through design. I know. I lived it.

Thank you Peru for your unending support and hope.

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