Distributed Architecture is a New York-based design and research practice run by architects Catherine Ahn and Fabrizio Furiassi. The practice is committed to designing participatory and instigative architecture that connects and strengthens communities. Distributed Architecture is a current recipient of the NYSCA & The Architectural League of New York’s Architecture + Design Independent Projects Grant (2022-2023), and the Columbia University GSAPP Incubator Prize (2021-2022 & 2022-2023). Catherine Ahn and Fabrizio Furiassi work at the intersection of pratice and academia, and currently teach at the Architectural Association Visiting School program.

Catherine Ahn is a registered architect and researcher based in New York and Seoul. She has over ten years of professional experience in cultural, residential, and hospitality projects at SITE, Obra Architects, and Andrew Franz Architect. Catherine graduated in architecture at Princeton University SoA and the Cooper Union. She also studied at the Hongik University. Catherine was a research fellow at the Institute for Public Architecture in New York where she investigated new modes of community engagement with industrial stakeholders around Newtown Creek. Recently, she has completed research projects on construction and demolition waste, environmental justice, and collective design pedagogy at the Women’s School of Planning and Architecture (WSPA) with the Princeton Mellon Initiative.

Fabrizio Furiassi is an architect, researcher and educator from Rome, based in New York and Basel.  He teaches architectural history/theory and design studio at The New School, Parsons School of Design, the University of Basel, Critical Urbanisms, and is the director of the Architectural Association Visiting School Basel. He also taught Landscape Architecture at the University of Rome. Fabrizio has over ten years of professional experience at architecture firms and cultural institutions, including at Sou Fujimoto Architects in Tokyo, Obra Architects and the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery in New York. Fabrizio holds master’s degrees from Columbia University GSAPP and University of Rome. He also studied at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, and was a research fellow at the Strelka Institute. Fabrizio is currently pursuing doctoral studies in architectural history, and his thesis traces the urbanization of Sicily during Italy’s postwar building boom, elucidating the social and spatial impacts of the Mafia’s concrete developments. An introduction to the project was  published in Log 53: Why Italy Now?

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Central and East Harlem have recently topped the charts as Manhattan’s least digitally connected districts. Both of their Community Board statements feature access to stable wifi as a priority, pointing to the digital divide between low- and high- income households that has widened during the Covid-19 pandemic. As internet became essential to obtaining vital health information, public assistance, and education, the project aims to provide tangible and immediate relief for residents lacking this very basic infrastructure.

Uni(wi)fied proposes the construction of accessible wifi networks for residents in Harlem that are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to internet. The project seeks the design and donation of wifi “antenna” structures to be installed  on rooftops, along residential streets, and in parks of the neighborhood, incorporating contributions from local artists and residents, while providing low-cost and stable, high-quality, high-speed internet service for all.

In its inaugural year, Uni(wi)fied focused on engaging with residents, activists, and local institutions. We have initiated conversations with the Community Board 10’s Economic, Transportation, and Parks committees, and installed two wifi hotspots in the neighborhood—at St. Aloysius Church and West 120th “Open” Street. These hotspots served as testing sites to monitor the coverage of the independent internet provider, and our partner, NYC Mesh. In the next year, Uni(wi)fied will prototype and deploy highly visibile structures that house and elevate wifi nodes in publicly accessible sites in Harlem. We hope that these structures will catalyze the expansion of a self-sustaining internet infrastructure that features sculptural and culturally grounded architectural devices and demarcate a new model of community empowerment.

Location:    New York (USA)
Client:         Self-initiated
Program:    Infrastructure, Public Space
Status:        Ongoing
Year:            2021-20XX
Team:          Catherine Ahn, Fabrizio Furiassi
Partners:    NYC Mesh, Center for Justice Innovation
Sponsors:  GSAPP, ArchLeague NY, NYSCA

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Assembly, or a Mosque for All

In a suburban area with very few occasions of social gathering, the new mosque near Preston, Lancashire, is conceived as both a unique religious landmark and platform for social encounters. Accessible to all and intended to become a meeting point for the entire community, the area is designed to function as a public park to encourage human relations and cultural exchange in a country, the UK, where historically the Muslim community is the singularly most victimized, scrutinized, demonized, and marginalized.

To leverage the area dedicated to the park, the building develops its program vertically in respect of the Islamic tradition of juxtaposing functions in religious edifices. For the same reason, the parking is located underground and is connected to the free-for-all entrance of the mosque through a narrow excavated pathway. The building is constructed with renewable materials relying on local availabilities and craftsmanship, and is composed of two independent elements: a three-level timber structure accommodating the required functions, and a perforated envelope regulating the interior light and temperature during the different seasons. The combination of these two elements—the container and the contained—aims to reflect a new approach to orientation in the design of mosques that expands the relationships between inner spaces, voids, enclosures, and the external landscape calling for the site to become the place of a vivid activity. In respect of the believers, the prayer hall is elevated to the building’s highest floor and remains separate from the other spaces open to Muslim and non-Muslim visitors. While featuring double amenities such as restrooms, ablutions, cloakroom, and vertical connections, the interiors of this mosque differ from the typical setting by allowing equal access to the diverse spaces regardless of gender.

Location:   Preston, Lancashire (UK)
Client:        RIBA
Program:   Religion, Park, Public Space
Status:       Competition Entry
Year:           2021
Team:         Fabrizio Furiassi

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