A Building in Conversation

Carly Gertler (website)
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Core III Studio
Faculty: Danielle Etzler


A BUILDING IN CONVERSATION takes on the task of a mixed-use high rise – a city within a city – in which the juxtaposition of a sports facility/gymnasium, a bath/pool complex, and a hotel combine to form an urbanistic approach to a high rise in a city context. Structure, Facade, Circulation, Egress, Thermodynamics, and Urban Position are all taken on as elements of design to facilitate an integrated approach.

The building is sited in downtown Montreal, where the urban fabric is much about the duality between the “underground city”, the ground level street condition, and the experience from Mont Royal. This split of three is embodied in the project, portioning out each program in order to share collectively a vertical experience. All programs – gym/spa/hotel – exist at all three sectional levels. Driving this split is the concept of PARTAGE (Noun: Division, sharing, the act of partitioning out or dividing up; A division in order to hold in common).

Engaging in a theoretical discussion, the building identifies this splitting with the Baroque notion of the Leibnizian “Fold” and the allegory of the baroque house. Described by a shrinking downward and an upward pull, the upper level is metaphysical and concerns the soul, the lower physical and concerns the body. This plays into the atmospheric divisioning of program vertically throughout the building – where the higher one is the more solitary and individual ones experience becomes.

Throughout the entire project, DATUM (Noun. A unit of measure) plays a large role in determining form, program allocation, urban strategy, thermodynamics, and structural strategy. This interest comes from Mont Royal’s specific relationship with the city of Montreal and its urban fabric. Shaping and regulating it, the mountain caps the city off at a zoning code of 203 meters, where no building can go higher than the mountain itself. Historically, the mountain and river similarly designated the original city grid, where the grid was set up on an axis of Mountain – River, versus N – S. The building responds to this geographical exterior relationship through the goal to reach a pinnacle and through the interior inhabitation therein.  


↑ conceptual section ↑ downtown Montreal site plan   ↑ FIELD NOTES acetone transfer, ink, graphite, and collage on paper. 18”x18” Focusing on thermodynamics, the studio began with three sites in drastically different environmental conditions: Dubai, Montreal, and Medellin. These three collages explore field conditions by abstracting each city grid and overlaying abstractions of what creates a ‘site’. Montreal  landscape of building ↑ building in landscape ↑ entrance landscape ↑ structural systems – 0. total, 1-3. hotel: floor girder, edge plate, and core concrete structure, 1-6. gym/spa: column, beam and truss  study models focusing on facade materiality – porosity – and ephemera

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