TSOA Unveils 5 New Shelters at Arcosanti

Shelter Thesis Program
Instructor Matthew Trzebiatowski
ARC 731-732 Thesis
Fall 2020-Spring 2021

In Spring 2021, six graduating students, under the leadership of Dean Stephanie Lin, President Chris Lasch, and Core Faculty Matthew Trzebiatowski, reimagined the typical prompt of building a small dwelling structure through a broadened range of materials, uses, and degrees of permanence. By confronting the realities of construction, all projects test and explore the notion of “shelter”, expanding its possible outputs and underlining building as a critical practice. Within the larger context of the thesis, each student also explores the potential for these concepts to grow, translate, or scale up.


Jessica’s shelter explores the synergy of architecture and its inhabitation by multiple species. She uses rammed earth construction, a building technique that utilizes a loose mixture of soil, sand, and minimal amounts of cement compacted within a form. Her rammed earth is embedded with a seed mix that will either germinate, or be picked away and serve as food for birds. Allowing the form to decay artfully into its environment and support the local ecology.


Solomon’s shelter examines the comfort and satisfaction of living within a biomorphic building. His ground-hugging structure embraces soft curves and ovoid openings, which serve the dual purpose of providing cross ventilation and framing the views of the valley below. Spaces for sleeping and sitting are integrated into the thin-shell concrete form. Of all this year’s shelter projects, this one is most at-home amongst the sand-cast domes of Arcosanti.


Azrien’s structure investigates a kit-of-parts approach to shelter building. The form can be reconfigured as it is being built. The parts vary in length from 18 inches up to four feet and are made from rigid foam which is interconnected via concealed, friction-fit fasteners. In the end they form a shelter that is lightweight, improvisational, and easy to assemble, exploring a set of pre-manufactured components that can be used to create a shelter via a bottoms-up process.


Michele’s shelter experiments with the use of biomaterials in her construction. Mycelium, the root network of mushrooms, was grown within molds to create her structure’s insulation panels. Michele was able to eschew traditional insulation and minimize the adverse environmental impacts of traditional, and often toxic, construction processes. This mission was further explored by placing the finished build on helical piers, eliminating the need for a concrete foundation. Her shelter will serve as a shared structure between the School and Arcosanti’s agriculture program.


Shelby’s pop-up shelter explores ephemerality through inflatable construction. The celebratory space was inflated for the first time in Arcosanti’s iconic vaults. The entire structure was sewn by Shelby out of ripstop nylon in five colors representing the stages of grief, anticipating the collective sense of loss as the world begins to emerge from the global pandemic. She dubbed the pneumatic enclosure “Scuttlebutt,” an exuberant and defiant response to creating her thesis during such a challenging time of disconnection and separation.

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