Alongside our work for clients, MODU launches initiatives as a catalyst to design for better futures. We work as creative entrepreneurs, engaging in issues important to us with proactive and social ventures.

Second Life is an initiative to transform overlooked or leftover urban properties. Whether abandoned, incomplete, or simply left over, properties are given a second life, turned into weather-adaptable places for work and learning. Instead of public facilities, they become collective spaces organized by the people who use them.

Our design strategy has been tested with Platform, a project in Milan. While that project reimagines an incomplete structure, Second Life broadly identifies leftover urban sites that have been undevelopable. More than adaptive reuse, our strategy of “rebooting” activates overlooked properties, empowering neighborhoods and their communities.

Second Life Think-Tank
Each MODU initiative, sometimes for a project, has a tailored, cross-disciplinary think tank based on our needs. We have assembled a unique team for the Second Life think tank, working across disciplines to enact a new future for urban work and learning.

Architecture, Urban Design: Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem, MODU
Landscape Architecture: Kristi Cheramie, Ohio State University
Physics, Climate Science: Christoph Meinrenken, Columbia University Earth Institute
Urban Sociology: Gordon Douglas, Institute for Metropolitan Studies  


Platform / Milan
American Academy in Rome
Urban Revitalization 
2017 / 5,000 sq. ft.

Rapid social change and technological advancements are transforming the way we work and learn; redefining roles and reshaping workspaces. Platform is an open-air building designed for the future: a test pilot for revitalizing incomplete urban structures. Its occupants interact, with minimal barriers, in an ever-changing environment that is part workshop seminar, part urban plaza, and part co-working office.

Collaborators: TransSolar (Climate Engineering), Kristi Cheramie (Landscape Architecture)

A new future is given to an incomplete concrete frame, one of many on the outskirts of cities in Italy, transforming it into a social place for learning and collaborating. Designed by Italian architect Aldo Rossi to be a train station, the reimagined open framework encourages dialogue between strangers and interactivity among colleagues. The “interior” contains a variety of adaptable spaces — the Workshop Line, Learning Plaza, Tower of Air, Room of Doors and Multi-Stages — for both individual and group endeavors.

In the past, workers would aspire to a corner office with a view. Instead, Platform offers them an exciting alternative: a view without corners. The unique climate of Milan allows for an open building envelope; the concrete frame surrounded only by a metal mesh. Within, micro-climate design offers a range of thermal conditions, each with its own social collectivity. In the warmer months, climbing plants overtake the mesh, creating verdant and shady workspaces. As the temperature falls, solar heated furniture and radiant ceilings directly warm people without wasting energy by warming the air around them.

Workshop Line (Top), Multi-Stages (Bottom)
Tower of Air (Top), Room of Doors (Bottom)

Project Team: Rachely Rotem, Phu Hoang, Daniele Bobbio, Shu Du,  Margarida Osorio

Copyright 2017 by MODU Architecture, PLLC