BIRMINGHAM, MI RESEARCH
The advance design studios had a profound influence my graduate level career. I was given the opportunity of aligning myself with an architectural focus depending on the studios I selected. I strategically selected two design studios that were similarly focused on mixed-use architecture. Choosing two studios that aligned allowed me to develop my skills throughout the entire year as opposed to dividing the year into two various unrelated studies. The studio focused on exploring how the implementation of mixed-use architecture can influence the urban fabric of the immediate surroundings. Although I had chosen the studio specifically for its architectural focus I previously had very little experience designing large scale mixed-use projects. The alteration of scale provided me the opportunity to design a project that enhanced human interaction with the built environment on many different levels.
The studio commenced with precedent studies on mixed-use projects that combined a variety of programmatic functions. Precedent projects were presented each week allowing me to be exposed to a variety of unique projects across many geographical regions. While completing my precedent studies I began to draw influence from Steven Holl’s writing in the book Parallax. Holl’s spatial exploration informed many of design decisions. Upon completing precedent studies I transitioned into a team site analysis project. Collaboratively we decided what our individual strengths were pertaining to site planning and delegated the work accordingly. I began to focus specifically on mapping conditions that existed within the context of the site. The conditions I focused on were figure ground studies, site views, site connectivity, and zoning. As our studies progressed we began compiling a document that could be referenced as the semester continued.
After the two research components of the design project were completed I was equipped with the skills required to begin my site design strategies. A large amount of time was spent in this phase because the project area was so large in scale and required close attention to connectivity. The success of the project would be evaluated based on the amount of connectivity created through both the site design and relationship of space within the project. Through diagramming I was able to express the design strategy for enhancing the connection to the neighboring park, single-family neighborhood, and shopping district which that was disconnected by a railroad acting as a barrier. Connectivity was promoted in the project primarily through two ways. First, connectivity was enhanced by creating a ground floor that was more open for public activity. Secondly, through introduction of strategic pockets of public space where movement was allowed despite structure existing on the levels above. Connectivity to the adjacent park and neighborhood was also enhanced by providing more friendly streetscapes and diagonal movement through the site. Areas along the public walkway provide landscaped areas which were abutted by retail spurring more frequent pedestrian activity.
As site diagramming began to progress I was simultaneously considering the placement of each different programmatic elements. The placement of each portion of the program was based on the adjacency of uses on both the immediate site and the outlying context such as Eton Park, and more private Clover Hills Cemetery. The placement of the varying functions such as retail, residential, office, parking, and hotel were explored through crude massing models that portrayed varying functions with the use of distinct colors. The diagramming allowed for exploration of arrangement and relationship without committing to any design features. When choosing the placement of different programmatic components I considered the connectivity within the built form as well the movement through the site.