October 7, 2016

Reflections on BKSK’s Inaugural Research Fellowship

Fellowship_01The BKSK fellowship program invited an inquisitive, engaged and ambitious student from NYC’s City College to examine the fundamentals of how the built environment impacts the human condition. The goal of the fellowship is to offer a true sense of what it means to work in an architectural office environment and how visionary research can translate into practice.

Of several applicants, Katherine Serrano was selected to join our team and further investigate a topic of interest that was framed with two requirements; that it include environmentally responsible design at the urban scale. Included below is a portion of her submission outlining her research framework:

An inquiry into biophilic design in an urban context is pressing, as it requires theorizing the concept at the intersection of nature, technology, and culture. In undertaking my study, I will identify what biophilic design patterns are most beneficial in urban settings, while developing my own interpretation of the meaning of biophilic design, as it relates to the urban realm. My main objective is to develop a booklet to convey my findings based on the following questions that I will research and answer during the period of the fellowship:

  • What is biophilic design and what is its impact on humanity?
  • How and where do urban environments best benefit from Biophilic Design and what patterns are the most essential at different scale conditions found in an urban setting?
  • Where in Manhattan can one find biophilic design patterns, and what are they? As well as, what are the causes and effects of this Biophilic Design condition?
  • What are key locations that could use the integration of Biophilic Design patterns in New York City, based on different parameters including pollution levels and constant high concentration of people?

By answering these questions through analytic writing, illustrations, maps, and photographs, I hope to gain a clearer understanding of biophilic design.

Katherine was challenged to focus on a particular topic of inquiry, without the restrictions of project-based responsibilities, but benefiting from the opportunity to interact with and impact the course of the firm’s ongoing design work. Her two month fellowship allowed for independent research, as well as guided support from a BKSK LAB mentorship team, a collaborative feedback loop and dialogue opportunities with other participating staff.

 “This opportunity allowed me to choose a topic
I found interesting and be able to take the time
to just focus on it. With the help of my mentors,
I was able to broaden my knowledge of different
writers and found new ways of looking at and
analyzing information.



Image: Katherine shares her initial research in a presentation to BKSK staff.

The research resulted in a final presentation booklet “Biophilic Design, Reinterpreting the Urban Environment,” a final draft of which will soon be available for view on the LAB section of our website.

Fellowship BookletImage: Proposed biophilic design intervention at 125th street in Harlem: analysis of the traffic and noise patterns.

BKSK Architects is an architectural design firm focused on the creation of socially, contextually and ecologically engaged architecture. Our work is rooted in the dense urban environs of New York City and guided by a conviction that architecture should provide experiences of comfort, meaning and delight. Through our commitment to the expansion of the collaborative process, we explore a relationship between the individual, their community and the environment.

“The BKSK research fellowship is a great incentive
for architectural research to be conducted while still
in architecture school, or as a recent graduate. It
changed my way of thinking about design and
seeing architecture around me.”