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ADS5: Camping in a High Rise

Nettie Mohan Ni

Nettie obtains a persistent level of curiosity and fascination with architectural spatial typologies. In her past collection of works, there has been a constant search for unique spatial qualities created with experimentations in materiality, structure, light and spatial divisions. For Nettie, making architecture is like conducting a chemistry experiment. By adding spices of architectural languages, portions of solutions to problems, the product is induced by a fusion of her burning passion and love for the Art.

Before joining the RCA, Nettie graduated with Distinction from Bachelor of Architectural Studies from the University of New South Wales in 2016. During the undergraduate studies, Nettie has obtained a persistent record of high distinctions across design studio projects, with regular yearly achievements of the Faculty of Built Environment Dean’s Merit List. Nettie’s final Bachelor graduation studio project, ‘Earth and Sky’, taught by UNSW Regional Studio, led by Glenn Murcutt, was named ‘Regional Winner of Oceania’ and ‘Highly Commanded’ by the Global Undergraduate Award (UA) in 2017 for the Architecture and Design Category. After graduation, Nettie has worked for Dunn & Hillam Architects as an assistant architect on projects from residential to public scale. Projects involved include Sydney Dance Company, Camden Amenities and the Gunnery Refurbishment conceptual design. In addition, Nettie has also worked at LYCS Architecture in Hangzhou. She is currently a freelancer graphic designer at Inbetween Creatives.  


Nettie Ni Designs | niii space

Degree Details

School of Architecture

ADS5: Camping in a High Rise

Being born in China and raised in Australia, Nettie has developed a great interest in observing the state of Chinese cultural phenomenons. She seeks to discover of the architectural spatial affiliation with such cultural phenomenons in its relationship to the social and political context. Nettie’s project this year, ‘Vertical Neighbourhood: A Kindergarten for Empty Nesters’ articulates her interest in exploring the architectural spatial relationships of the post-Chinese Communist district neighbourhoods inhabitations. In understanding and by studying and learning from the current and past spatial organisation of old neighbourhood streets, the fostered human interconnections have been the driver of Nettie’s project this year. It seeks to question how could such human dynamic be realised in a high-rise typology and adopted to a vertical spatial organisation.

ADS 5 this year and its working methodology has been assisting Nettie greatly with the development of her personal project. By satisfying her curiosity and desire for spatial explorations, the project began with an intuitive search for spatial principles in which evolves into a 1:20 principle model. Inhabitation and emerging subjectivities are then studied to enrich the project with program. Rendering has been a great tool to facilitate with the articulation of the project this year, especially in the context of the Global pandemic. Along with the facilitation of the stop motion film, the lives of the building interior are realised and portrayed through movement and sound.  

Elevation | Co-existence with Neighbourhood

Plan | Typical Floor Plan

Plan | Typical Floor Plan — The elderly rooms are divided in regular spaces efficiently along the tangents of the triangular floor space, while the balcony space shared among three bedrooms become a small moment of excess, a meeting place among the elderlies.

Section | Cross Section — Conversations between floors are conducted through an interplay of double height spaces forms the spatial language of the building. A conversation between the elderly balconies to the ramps, retirement home to kindergarten spaces, constantly varying in scale from private to public and visa versa.

Neighbourhood Studies — Learning from the old neighbourhood ways of inhabitation, such as the da-za-yuan phenomenon in Beijing, old courtyard houses were overpopulated by proletarian families. Due to the limitation of the private space. Daily life begins to leak out into the public spaces. Yet this way of inhabitation, particularly familiar to this generation of empty nesters, resembles the fact that the room has become a tent. A place of shelter, where the left over narrow streets, the spaces of excess, become fascinating spaces for where intertwining social interactions take place.

This project dedicates to the lonely Chinese baby boomer generation of empty nesters who are the wanderers and inhabitants of the old neighbourhood streets; and the screaming kids who are occupiers of the playgrounds and with endless energy and vibrancy.

A vertical neighbourhood designed for the elderly and the kids in Hangzhou manifests itself in an encapsulation of retirement home facilities and day care centres for kindergarten children.

Situated in the old city centre of Hangzhou, the project pays tribute to the disappearing old neighbourhoods and the associated ways of inhabitation. My project seeks to explore a new form of high-rise typology in which social connectivity among individuals can be celebrated with a richness in scale and nodes of interaction conducted through form and space.

Along with a triangular plan, my building consists of a ramp around the perimeter, enclosing and connecting layers of interlocking floor plates that form a spatial module with variations articulated across three floors for residential and kindergarten purposes. The triangular geometry becomes a grid, a primary medium which allows for the generosity to divide spaces according to efficiency, while also allowing for irregular moments of excess.

The building provides an intertwining intersection of vertical spaces. Conversations between floors, that are conducted through an interplay of double height spaces, form the spatial language of the building. A spatial discourse between the elderly balconies and the ramps, the retirement home and kindergarten spaces, that are constantly varying in scale from private to public. It is almost rotational and chaotic, yet composes an acoustic ensemble and visual affiliation, with a constant awareness of each other. Spaces unfold in layers, from the exterior to the interior, allowing one's eyes to follow the diagonal tangents of the triangular beams, connecting one to another moment of excess. The ramp is an internalised street, a ‘living room’ space for the beholders. Life extends out from the singular ‘shelters’ of the elderly bedroom units and leak out to the public ‘street’ for the elderly and the kids alike. It lands upon an open, continuous and interwoven living belt for all residents across the floor, forming an invited moment of irregularity, a stage for daily life to perform across vertically.


Video, Images, Drawings
ADS5ArchitectureCampingDesign for social impactElderlyKidsNeighbourhood
01 | Elderly Balcony at Dawn — The bird sings at dawn, he coughs and switches the light on, pushes the sliding door across and walks into the balcony.
02 | Here Comes the Kids — It begins at one morning, when he comes out of the elderly home and walks into the kids canteen space, here comes the kids.
03 | The ‘Street Living Room’ — Grandma Wang yells across the street to Grandpa Wu down at the corner landing. She is descending a basket with prepared lunch from her balcony. The afternoon chatters begin on the ramp space. Looking after a few children, the elderly groups are enjoying the afternoon sun with laughters, conversations and classes.
04 | The Night Returns — As the day approaches to an end, when laughters are shared, the children have left the building, the bustles of the old neighbourhood streets calms down. Lights switch on and food are being prepared. The building returns to the elderlies and dissolves into the night cityscape, elderlies return to their shelters, let alone the woven interconnection of spaces, it comes to rest.
Following the footsteps of the elderly and the kids, the collection of stop motion films portray moments of lives within a daily routine of the vertical neighbourhood.


Video, Images, Drawings

Materiality of the Elderly Home

View Across Kids Canteen Space

Interlocking of Vertical Spaces

Detail Section

The structure consists of an assembly efficiency, a simple steel i-beam and column system played upon the triangular grid, facilitates the complication of the interior structures. Forming a horizontal truss, the triangular grid system contributes to structural rigidity within a high-rise typology. Interlocking vertical spaces are achieved by deducting horizontal members from the grid system in relationship to the ramp. Ones eyes follow the diagonal tangents of the triangular beams connecting one to another the moment of excess. Demonstrated by the construction details, the private bedroom space is sheltered in layers from the bustling noises of the streets. It is, the elderlies private hide-away if they wish to be left alone from the kids.


Drawings, Renders, 3D Models

Model from Afar

Co-existence in Space

Intersecting Vertical Spaces

Rotational Interior Space

Split Floors

The Corner


Model Work in Progress

Spatial Principle Test Model

Spatial Principle Test Model

Atlas | Jacques Hondelatte, Bordeaux Courthouse — The plan of the Bordeaux Courthouse, though appears experimental in its spatial division of the triangular geometry, demonstrates an interplay of a similar triangular geometry in scaling. It forms a spatial discourse in which various scale of this triangular geometry is contained within and related to one another. Such spatial division regulates the amount of the angular spaces encompassed within the plan, simultaneously proposing various spatial solutions to which the remaining angular corner spaces can be inhabited within a triangular plan. Circulation in the plan is decentralised, scattered either towards the perimeter or occurs occasionally towards the centre. The smaller corner spaces are assigned with a sense of privacy, often enclosed as an individual room. Concurrently, some corner spaces are enlarged to become a courtyard space or divided to form an internal void. Moments of the acute angles are treated with either an extended view of a corridor or has become a point of spatial tension preluding to a space with more openness. The obtuse angles seem to provide a generosity less defined in its way of occupation.

Atlas | Courtyard Space by Ortner und Ortner — A courtyard space designed by Ortner und Ortner is enclosed by a clear indication of perimeter, the solid brick wall. The courtyard wall is realised via its vastness in scale containing a triple and quadruple height space. The point of entrance is clearly indicative on the perimeter walls, in which enhances a sense of separation and isolation from the internal courtyard space to the exterior. The height of the perimeter walls indicates a vertical growth towards the sky, extending both upwards towards and downwards to the underground space. Two spatial volumes at different levels are contained within one solid perimeter of a courtyard space. The vertical space is enriched by a split-level typology, establishing a spatial dialogue along with an interplay of light and shadow displayed against the depth of the courtyard space.

The initial 1:20 model is a manifestation of the spatial design principle developed earlier in the year. Derived from a series of chosen atlas images from the ADS 5 atlas collection, the project is inspired by works of Ortner und and Ortner and Jacques Hondelatte. The final 1:20 spatial model settled upon principles of a triangular plan indicating non-orthogonal interior spaces along with intersecting of vertical spaces.


Video, Images, Drawings

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