Mid Reviews Spring 2012

The big comment for all sections is the site. In general no one designed it. The structure was essentially isolated in a sea of white non-definition. Don’t lose heart! This is not uncommon, and is a mistake I’ve made myself. But it is time to address it.

Think of the site as a series of outdoor rooms. The site needs to be programmed and detailed in the same way as the building. There may be a difference in materials, but ideas about how to shape space, and accommodate use are more or less the same. While you can think of individual kinds of plants and trees to use, what is more important is the spatial intent behind your choices. What shapes and textures do you want? Much like your building material choices, the idea behind your project and the feeling you want to create is the primary motivation.

Diagram the uses you wish to incorporate into your site design. Think of the scale and massing. Do you have a large open space defined by a colonnade of trees? Do you have a series of small “rooms” that include furniture like benches and tables? Do you incorporate water elements? What about the furniture of use: drinking fountains, trash, recycling, bicycle racks, signage, and a host of other functions. Parking lots and walkways can get photovoltaic canopies so that the site is an energy generator. Is there a way to tie these elements together to form a whole? Trees are not just shapes on a plan, they can be used spatially. They are also zoning requirements – one tree for every 25′ of lot frontage. Trees and vegetation are effective tools in mitigating various environmental effects – western and eastern sun, enlarged tree pits act to mitigate storm water.

In general, I tend to push more for a complete project. Some projects may not be as fully developed conceptually as might be desired. I could keep the work in a perpetual state of conceptual refinement for years, but I do not feel that is the intent of the comprehensive design semester. I therefore push forward rather than stand in place. The intent is that all students demonstrate at least competency. As I said at the beginning, there are three levels of accomplishment: solve the problem; create order; make poetry. I suppose that I should probably turn that upside down. Why shouldn’t the making of poetry be the minimum level of achievement? I suppose it is out of consideration for poetry. We aren’t all poets, nor should we be. I’d rather have the problem solved well than have bad poetry. Of course that is more a comment on my lack of prowess as a teacher than on the ability of the students to be poets.


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