by Chelsea Gazaille
I would not have had an architectural thesis at Wentworth Institute of Technology had it not been for Mohsen Mostafavi, an architect and scholar born in Iran. His book, Ecological Urbanism, guided me through the dark depths of my thesis entitled “NuclearNatura: Designing for Extreme Ecologies.”
Big and bright red, this inanimate mentor of mine sat on my desk proudly for the entire semester; no one bothered looking for it in the library because they all knew I had strong possession of it and wouldn’t dare let it go. This book was by far the most influential architectural work for me. All of the questions I wanted to ask, all of the precedents I needed to know of, all of the theories I wanted to dig into about the relationships between the built and natural worlds were in my hands!
Mostafavi tackled the very ideas I needed to support my thesis – ideas no one else addressed with the same ecological implications and longevity in mind. His eye-opening research explores beyond typical sustainability or landscape architecture principles; this is a designer who understands the synergies between people, earth, habitats, and time. I read his name several times a day for months and never even looked up who he was until after I graduated. I had no idea he was right across the river as Dean of the Harvard GSD! So, I like to think he was a distant thesis advisor to me.