Devin Gharakhanian. BArch Thesis // The Cathedral of Waste

student: Devin Gharakhanian

school: Woodbury University _ School of Architecture

location: Los Angeles, CA, US

professor(s): Berenika Boberska (UCL//Bartlett) + Casey Hughes (Harvard//GSD)

project title: Remnants _ The Cathedral of Waste

super-hybrid // 6-month long construction process_ pre-leminary thinking/concept speculation; construction (10′ x 5.5′). This mixed-media sectional construction integrates [renders, drawings, sketches, images, paintings, scans, and photos] using both hand craft and digital software’s to stitch the parts together.
consolidating ideas of // city center, multi-functional and flexible spaces, integrated zoning, public meets private, urban/environmental context, work/live hubs, and building as an experiment

Thesis statement: For the last 200 years society has been obsessed by the myth of development, catching it in a ‘progress trap’. How can we further the process of creating, making, and distributing the state-of-the-art, without exhausting the environment around us? Can we create “stuff without making other stuff”?

The Cathedral of untapped resource is an urban prototype that targets modern waste streams. Each prototype responds to that specific city’s supply of retired products. This scenario recycles and repurposes a collection of inactive aircraft sprawled across the Mojave Desert. Driven by a spatial narrative, this dense network of machines, majestic and noisy, are stationed upon the western edge of California City’s airport. The organization is based on three primary zones – Crippler, Regenerator, and the Cathedral – creating an experience beneath a network of undulating machines.

This ever-growing city element serves as a functional machine and also a public space generator. This is where big objects live with small ones, where the tower is adjacent to the house, where the aerospace scientist stumbles into the city dweller’s dream. We begin to reimagine whether waste can be considered high culture…


Thesis journal cover
Journal // collaging the early thought process
Site synopsis
Mapping physical data _ a sprawl of zones that contain inactive or retired aircraft (whole + parts) within the Mojave desert


Site strategy diagram(s) // site positioned on an unoccupied parcel, adjacent to the CA City airport

Design organization // program assembly
Section sketch // indicating a mega under-belly space that serves not only as a field like canopy within an incandescent environment, but more importantly manifests a spatial experience for the city dweller.
This early construction depicts the final result of a speculative development (from phase.1-phase.x).
The goal then was to establish phase-1 (primarily levels 0-4) in 3-dimensions. The digital realization of phase-1 references not only the site, program, function, but establishes a rooted system that serves as the dominant foundation of a center-less city. 
Axon // phase-1 composition _ crippler, cathedral, and re-generator
Long-section // the Crippler
Mixed-media production // the Crippler (technical perspective, screen print render, plan/section)
Long-section // the Cathedral

the cathedral’s netscape serves as a remnant catcher and exposed storage. This parametric construction in all its physicality is the result to a data-set of the (material, dimension, and shape) of the aircraft components that are chopped, distributed, and collected within this undulating storage. This netscape is a field of heavy duty star-shaped modules that release or fasten regarding on weather the system wants to discharge a specific percentage of objects down to the ground level or suppress the objects in the catcher.

 A series of point loads are established to uphold this flexible load. Each point load is supported by a single spider column, which consists of 4 adjustable arms that react to the unpredictable load and movement of the netscapes form. The columns construction is inspired by the objects it holds above; (spider column construction _ a set of aircraft parts re-configured and re-purposed to serve as an adjustable column). In addition, each point load is separated 12′ in the x-axis, in order to accommodate the import + export trucks that flow under the cathedrals infrastructural channels. 


Short-section // the Re-generator

Autopsy room // (52′ high) designated space where the workmen stitch the remnant left over fabrics from aircraft interiors. Once complete these boolean drapes are mechanically transferred into the softscape storage, where they hang. The softscape storage system indirectly acts as a shield to the cathedral (hardscape storage) from the occasional dusty wind accelerating from the East. 
Workmens hostel // (15′ long) aircraft belly’s chopped and re-purposed to serve as temporary living courts for the workers

Softscape storage // the inventory containing largely stitched fabrics extracted from the aircraft-carriers interior

Physical model _ zoomed in moments of the machines in the desert
A speculative urban strategy _ re-thinking how to engage and re-link a city in pause by accommodating a new urban element _ The Cathedral of Waste, that can then begin to influence infrastructure, development, activity, and so on…

S//A Interview:

S//A: What’s the most important aspect of this project that we the audience should be aware of?

DG: The process of the project itself, thesis, free-thinking, discovering and how after 4 years of topic studios, one is granted an opportunity to really bleed out their ideas and undress their soul in fulfilling his or her own spatial intuitions. More specifically, in relation to this project, the most important aspect is the context of the site or the lack of it. How, what, or where will this innate object erect and more importantly why? After numerous site visits and rigorous research, I was able to home in on the true/hidden character of the Mojave Desert. Other then the cliche desert environmental attributes, this mystic site is an unofficial graveyard for retired or inactive aircraft. So with this discovery, I was able to retrieve some sort of contextual aspect to influence an open-ended idea. It’s easier when your site lands in a dense city or within a rich landscape, because then an endless array of urban elements indirectly become the project, in a way blinding innovation, manipulating ones design thinking and ultimately influencing the source of the design. I purposely chose a desert, a blank canvas, a dried up city that is lacking foundation, that is lacking a host, that is lacking hope, in order to give my architecture more freedom to be autonomous, as an experiment, and dramatically decrease a redundant set of contextual constraints… So I will say, process is more important then context, because context is merely a default to influence architecture, not necessarily the thing that defines architecture.

In addition to the importance of this project, I must quickly mention how essential it is to discover your own way of representing an idea. What I mean by representational discovery, is that I consciously chose to integrate and experiment with my interests in film/screenwriting/photography into the presentation; manifesting a fictional narrative //short film of my project through the “user(s)” lens.

S//A: What other fields outside of architecture interests you?

DG: urban design, technology, film, photography, and the visual arts in general.

S//A: Most important thing you remember from architecture school?

DG: I would say the most important thing for me personally is what I lacked most, communication. Although it took my 5 years of education within the discipline of Architecture to realize that communication is as much of a design tool than an after-thought. Drawings, renders, diagrams, research analysis and even a film is not nearly enough; my over produced projects in school have been a success until the moment of presentation. Consistently failing to share an idea verbally has taught me how vital it is to clearly simplify and communicate a complex idea, in order to successfully perform an information-transaction. Failing to communicate with the other, an idea enters into a coma and is eventually lost. “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality”, to that I say voice your opinions, share your thoughts, and strive to communicate your ideas successfully in order to influence real change.

S//A: What is your dream project?

DG: That’s hard to say, I dream up different projects everyday. But today I’m reminiscing about my thesis and the machines in the desert, can such an idea be realized? I wouldn’t mind making this experimental project tangible, and being able to physical implement it on the desert surface. But I can say that I hope, better yet dream, that one day I will see a “project” of mine built, and a type of project that one might see on SUPER//ARCHITECTS VS. the dry work from that’s produced from the practice. I just hope that some of the factors of the project consist of: international traveling, realizing a new city/culture, public space, complex mix of programs, loaded layers of site elements, an experimental process, experiential space, interdisciplinary collaborations, and of-course one crazy-ambitious client that gives the author full control!

special thanks to: Mo Bensasi, Artur Nesterenko, Jason King, Adrienne Rosco, Arthur Oganesyan, Karni Hadidian, Munira Nurmamat Aman, Cyrus Dorbayan, Drew Kessler, Jean Monestine, and all the other students//professors who helped in any way.


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