Distributed Architecture is a New York-based design and research practice run by architects Catherine Ahn and Fabrizio Furiassi. The practice is committed to building participatory and instigative processes that bring equity, diversity, and inclusion into the built environment. Distributed Architecture is recipient of the Columbia GSAPP Incubator Prize 2021-2022 and the Independent Projects Grants 2022-2023 (ArchLeague NY + NYSCA). Catherine Ahn and Fabrizio Furiassi lead a unit at the AA Visiting School Seoul.

Catherine Ahn is an architectural designer 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 who teaches architectural history/theory and design studio at Parsons School of Design in New York. Over the last ten years, he has collaborated internationally with architecture firms, cultural institutions, and enlightened clients to disseminate critical design culture. Among them are Sou Fujimoto Architects, Obra Architects, and the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery. Fabrizio holds master’s degrees from Columbia University GSAPP and La Sapienza University of Rome. He also studied at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, and was a research fellow at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design. Fabrizio is a faculty member at the University of Basel. His current research 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 families that have widened during the Covid-19 pandemic. As internet access has become essential to obtaining vital health information, public assistance, and education, the project aims to provide tangible and immediate relief for households lacking this very basic infrastructure.

Uni(wi)fied proposes the construction of community-owned wifi networks  for  underserved communities in Harlem. The project seeks the design and development of free wifi “antenna” structures to be placed along residential streets, rooftops and parks of the neighborhood, incorporating artistic contributions from local BIPOC artists while providing stable and free, high-quality, high-speed internet service for all residents. In its inaugural year, the project will focus on prototyping structures that house and elevate wifi nodes for one or more testing sites. These nodes will serve as catalysts for expanding a self-sustaining wifi system in Harlem and deliver sculptural and culturally-grounded structures that demarcate a new model of community empowerment. The project will engage and partner with local institutions and activists in Harlem.

Location:   New York (USA)
Client:        Self-initiated
Status:       Ongoing
Program:   Infrastructure, Public Space
Team:         Catherine Ahn, Fabrizio Furiassi
Partners: Rob Johson (Electrical Engineer at NYS and Volunteer at NYC Mesh), Rev. Victor Emumwen (St. Aloysius Catholic Church), Cheryl Smith (NYC Open Street W 120 St. and Board Member at CB-10 Central Harlem)
Sponsors:  Columbia University GSAPP Incubator Prize, The Architectural League of NY, New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA).

December 2021

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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
Status:       Competition Entry
Program:   Religion, Park, Public Space
 April 2021

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