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 processes that connect and strengthen 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 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.

Catherine’s awards include the Peter W. Bruder Memorial Prize for Excellence in Structures (2009) and the Abraham E. Kazan Award for Urban Design Studies (2009) from Cooper Union; the Howard Crosby Butler Fellowship (2019), the Robert Geddes Post-Professional Award (2020) and the Suzanne Kolarik Underwood Prize (2020) from Princeton University SoA. She was shortlisted for the AIANY / ASLANY’s  Transportation + Infrastructure Design Excellence Award (2020).

Fabrizio Furiassi is an architect, researcher and educator based in New York and Basel.  He teaches architectural history/theory and design studio at The New School and 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 (GSAPP Exhibitions) in New York. 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. Fabrizio is currently developing research at the University of Basel. His work 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?

Fabrizio’s awards include the Tutoring Fellowship (2009) and the Extra-EU Mobility Grant (2013) from La Sapienza University; the Torno Subito Grant (2014-2015 & 2016-2017) from Regione Lazio;   the Research Fellowship (2015-2016) from Strelka Institute; the Avery Scholarship (2018-2019) from Columbia University; the Doc.CH (2022-2026) and the Mobility Research Grant (2023) from the Swiss National Science Foundation. He was shortlisted for the Archiprix International / MIT (2011), and the EUMiesAward / Young Talent Architecture Award (2016) sponsored by the Fundació Mies van der Rohe.

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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
Sponsors:  GSAPP, ArchLeague NY, NYSCA

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