359° 56′ 39.4″ −0° 2′ 46.2″

(Our World) Six different climate zones are located throughout the world; Polar, Temperate, Arid, Tropical, Mediterranean, and Mountainous. People have settled in nearly all of these climate zones, with exception to the extremes. Extreme Polar, Arid, Tropical, and Mountainous have proved to be unaccommodating to human occupation. These are areas of the world that are studied, deemed uninhabitable, and left untouched by mankind. Despite what the media portrays about these locations, I believe architects can exploit these inhospitable environments and take advantage of the extreme conditions to create living quarters that can define a new architectural typology. Not to make another proposal for a housing development, restaurant, or shopping center, but simply as an opportunity to test, inhabit, record, and document, as a practice about process that challenges the unclaimed sites of the world.

moving forward

As we arrive at the last few sentences of the final thesis conversation, it becomes evident that the project holds some ground. The foothold that it finds, is a way of working that relies on exploration, discovery, challenges, failures and the architect to develop an informative design process. Drawings, models, and full scale prototypes become a synthetic medium in which the architect is able to discover new opportunity from real world experiences. Often in academia we find that speculation and observation generate designs both past and present, formulated along side the ambitions of case studies or nearby peers. This methodology hopes to bring new light and fresh air to students and possibly practitioners. It singles out the architect, enabling them to becomes inhabitants of the spaces they create, in order to inform the design decisions they will continue to make.

an altered approach

The film demonstrates the design approach and methodology I have constructed for my thesis. A methodology where testing and inhabitation begin to inform design decisions, in turn making architects more aware of the spaces they create.

drawing construction

Each drawing is constructed to show weather patterns, site constraints and the successes and failures of the design, highlighting informative re-design changes for the next iteration. The entire journey demonstrates my thesis and interest in forming a methodology where architects and designers create intimate relationships with the spaces they create, as a way to elevate our awareness as curators of the built environment.

testing grounds

The expedition required a multitude of sites at various altitudes. This elevation gain allowed many climate zones to be tested over a short period of time.


MC_03 is our second highest camp at 19,527 feet. We have spent nearly two weeks living in the Andes, and hygiene continue to be a topic of discussion. A tent that provided a means of clensing the body is a focus for the next iteration of design.


MC_01 is our first camp on the mountain. It has become apparent that energy for powering stoves and electronics (gps phone, camera, etc) that we are using for three weeks needs to be budgeted. A solar system that works with the geometry of the tent, or a tent which generates geometry from the dimensions of a solar panel would be beneficial.

responsive structure

As we reach basecamp we notice that wind speeds are gusting at over 40 mph,  this will be a major challenge. The testing I had done was to design a tent with an orientation into the wind, responding to winds that we would have in urban spaces. In extreme climates, because the systems are so large and spaces are so open, winds are unpredictable and come from all directions. They howl across the valley, along the side of the mountain and through the main traverses. A responsive structure that utilizes rotary sensors and arduinos could shift with the movement of the winds.

exterior space

VC_02 provides a calm day where the suns intensity in the only thing keeping us in our tents. A removable fly that can be used as an extension of the structure could create occupiable exterior space.


VC_01 was the first camp in the valley, where a rock was launched through the side panel of the tent. This began the conversation about introducing a new material in the next iteration.



MC_04, at 20, 262 feet was our highest camp on the mountain. The air is thin and a tent that could generate oxygen will help the body.

informed design process

In academia, we rely on presentation models and drawings as a critical medium to our conversations. I want to add a chapter. I want to display models that have been shredded by wind, and bleached from sunlight. Physical models we can learn from. Now, back in Ann Arbor I am able to examine my torn, patched, and sun burnt full scale model. Through my proposed working methodology it becomes evident the successes and failures of the design intentions. As I begin the process of informative re-design, I gather the rich body of knowledge from my research to test, alter and modify the tent through a series of drawings.

the larger conversation

As I return from the main research and testing phase of the project, I am able to continue the design and conversation back in Ann Arbor. The work has unexpectedly granted me the opportunity to engage with a multitude of people interested in the expedition. For me, it is a fantastic way to frame my thesis outside of the college and into the world.

The video below is from the Fox News Morning Show. Please fast forward through the commercials to view the full conversation.

mapping population density

Mapping generated from GIS software that shows population density using 2007 census. It is interesting to note the proximity of population density to the worlds mountain ranges. Specific analysis is most clearly shown across central Asia.

Drawing Source: Andrew McCarthy (GIS Software) / Date: 1.6.2012 : 1342 / Location: Ann Arbor, MI

mapping mountains

Mapping the worlds mountains was generated using GIS software. Point source information can be speculated with extreme climates being drawn using the color ‘grey’.

Drawing Source: Andrew McCarthy (GIS Software) / Date: 1.6.2012 : 1542 / Location: Ann Arbor, MI