takes advantage of its neighbors without imposing on them.


A floating landscape gradually rises up between two buildings. It is foreign in the
streetscape, but simultaneously seductive. It tempts a journey to the top to discover a new
vantage point over the street. Through its expanded metal surface, activity is visible below.
Only accessible from the other side of the alley, the space below is cavernous yet inviting,
a shelter from the sun, a moment to get away from the busy street.

FRICTIONAL re-unites the public and the private in the urban alleyway. Giving space to the
occupants of the adjacent buildings to engage the alley—accessed through their windows
much like a fire escape—and multiplying the space available to the public. There is a
productive friction between the private occupants using the space as their back porch and
pedestrians using the alley for recreation. The landscape allows for a series of new
gathering spaces, each with their own character and sectional qualities—the slope, the hill,
the valley, the cage, and the cave.

Once architecture’s primary tectonic, friction is seldom employed as tectonic today. Taking
advantage of the unique site condition presented by an alley, pinned between two buildings,
this project creates sectional spaces through the use of friction. The floating installation
doesn’t mechanically fasten to other structures in any way. Compression fittings hold the
entire structure to the adjacent walls. Rubber on masonry provides one of the highest
coefficients of friction.

While represented as a singular proposal, FRICTIONAL can be employed as a system that
can adapt to any site’s peculiarities, both spatially and structurally. Spaces can be
optimized for views, site intensities, and neighborhood dynamics. The joist spacing can
accommodate existing windows and the joist length can accept variations in the alley’s

The system itself is simple – heavy gauge steel studs are retrofitted with welded caps,
threaded rods, and rubber-faced pressure plates, functioning as friction joists (the
horizontal relative of compression columns). Between them, curved metal studs are placed
36” on center. Large sheets of galvanized expanded metal are fastened to the surface of the
structure, providing a structural skin for occupants to inhabit.

At the conclusion of the installation, the metal studs and expanded metal are repurposed
and the building is left unaltered, leaving no trace except the memory of its inhabitants.


AIA Tennessee and River City Company

Urban Infill, Gathering / Social Spaces

2016 Competition Proposal

Chattanooga, TN

Design Team: 
Kyle May