Lasse Rau

SMArchS Urbanism

Lasse Rau (he/him) is an architectural scholar that researches the history of ecologic and economic models and their subjects within modern planning. He is currently teaching modern architectural history at the Rhode Island School of Design and a foundational studio through an environmental lens at the Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Lasse earned a Master of Science in Architecture Studies from MIT, where he was awarded the Highest Academic Achievement prize and served as the department’s Teaching Development Fellow for the year 2021-22. His thesis, On Viscous Grounds: Planning for Friction across the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, 1968-1981, relates environmental policy, worker housing, and Native land use mapping. His studies were supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). 

At MIT, Lasse has held teaching and research positions on collective housing, urbanism, and climate risk. He worked on a Dar Urban Research Seed Fund project on affordable housing for the Leventhal Center of Advanced Urbanism (LCAU). Prior to MIT, Lasse studied architecture at TU Berlin where he co-taught workshops on digital representation and drawing. He has worked professionally for 51N4E in Brussels, BE and Sam Chermayeff Office in Berlin, DE. 

Dudley, Hardin & Yang, Inc., The Composite Building’s Four Modules in Barge Transit, Photographic Print, The Northern Engineer, Vol. 06, No. 3 (Fairbanks, AK: Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fall 1974).
Thesis in the SMArchS program. Advised by Dr. Arindam Dutta, read by Dr. Timothy Hyde.

This thesis interrogates the planning and mediation processes of environmental protection, temporary worker accommodation, and indigenous land claims prior to, during, and after the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in the mid-1970s. By studying three different evidentiary regimes, this thesis posits that the viscous grounds of these environmental, architectural, and cultural terms were modeled to be included as frictions in a predisposed system of planning. Unraveling at the height of cultural shifts around gender, indigenous identity, and conservation, the planning of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline represents a shift in the negotiation of infrastructures from a regulating process of approval to a calibrating process of expertise, coercion, and predisposition.

Revealing the pipeline as a paradigmatic infrastructure valued in terms of the viscosity of oil, the thesis argues that it provided the solid grounds to negotiate the far more fluid externalities of environment, comfort, and cultures. Its process of mediation is read as bringing different types of mobility to clash: The fixity of the pipeline, the fluctuating uncertainties of boom-and-bust cycles, the shifting grounds of environmental protection, the temporariness of workers and their accommodations, and the relationship of indigenous Alaskans to land. Situated amidst these regimes of temporality and tenure, this thesis analyzes three discourses that protruded from their clash: (1) The management of the environment and its crisis through economic models, new legal systems, and corporate publicity, (2) The urban and architectural control of culture within workers’ housing owing to the biopolitics of comfort, and (3) The trading-off of indigenous knowledge through anthropological mapping of native land use. In doing so, the thesis submits planning across the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and its aftermath as a force that valorizes the contractual relationship between states and their subjects.
Online repository for the thesis projects of the Master of Science in Architecture Studies cohort of '2022.
Designed and implemented by Lasse Rau.