On Island



Volume 3, Issue 15
March 1, 2018

Advanced Design Studio

On Island

Course 1119b
Design and Visualization
Spring 2018

Coordinating Faculty: Harris Steven with Michael Robinson Cohen


The island is a recurring concept in both architectural theory and history. Oswald Mathias Ungers and his student Rem Koolhaas famously invoked the island figure in their 1977 analysis of Berlin, The City in the City – Berlin: A Green Archipelago. The archipelago as a collection of islands is further evident in the polycentric city advanced in the writing and design work of Elia Zenghelis. Recently, In The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture, Pier Vittorio Aureli also turns to the archipelago as a cipher to unveil the political nature of form in the historical projects of Palladio, Piranesi, and Boullee. Additionally, the journal San Rocco dedicated an entire issue to “Islands,” emphasizing the “intimately alternative” quality of architectural islands. Despite the recurrence of this theme, the island largely remains an abstract concept, unrealized in built form. Architects lose sight of the island, as they engage in self-referential rhetoric and fetishize architectural autonomy.

This studio, however, will focus on the one island that Architects have successfully produced in built form: THE KITCHEN ISLAND. As an essential element of any residential project, especially in luxury real estate, the Kitchen Island is now an established archetype in the repertoire of architectural production. Further, architects have garnered an extensive disciplinary knowledge about the materiality, form, and functional details of the Kitchen Island. Undoubtedly, Frank Lloyd Wright would recognize the Kitchen Island as the “hearth” of contemporary domestic space.


In the initial weeks of the studio, students will conduct exhaustive precedent research with the intention of establishing a typological index of Kitchen Islands. From the waterfall edge to the under counter wine refrigerator, the studio will collectively catalog the formal and material lexicon that establishes a fundamental conception of the Kitchen Island in the public imaginary.  Architectural Digest will be placed on reserve in the library for reference. Research will be uploaded on Pinterest on a weekly basis and presented during the midterm.


During the travel week students will literally go “on island” to the Hamptons—to research islands.  Traveling out east by antique Porsche, each student will weekend in the beach home of a Harris Steven client. This visit will be used to observe and document the rituals around the Kitchen Island within the single-family residence. Students will gain intimate knowledge of the everyday routine and lifestyle a Kitchen Island defines. Students will confront the Island, at the scale of territory and domestic structure, as a True Life signifier.  Documentation will be done through Instagram and the quantity of likes received will factor into each student’s final evaluation. Throughout the semester additional trips will be made to vacation islands along the northeast seaboard. Acquaintance with such destinations—Shelter Island, Fishers Island, Block Island, Fire Island and Martha’s Vineyard—is vital to professional practice and students will potentially be introduced to future clientele, although all work conducted in the studio will remain the property of Yale University.


For the final review, each student will develop a complete set of construction documents and will fabricate a full-scale prototype of their Kitchen Island. Due to generous corporate sponsorships by Wolf, Dornbracht and Subzero students will have the opportunity to incorporate real appliances into their mock-up. Notable figures from across the spectrum of New York high end residential practices will participate in the final review and will potentially award summer internships.


Due to the professional focus of this studio, NCARB has agreed to reward students AXP hours for their work throughout the semester.  Additional hours will be rewarded if students design a contextually appropriate and tasteful bathroom.

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Volume 3, Issue 15
March 1, 2018