Concepts of Landscape
DGC 03 - 14 - 2010

The Swedbank building in Vilnius, Lithuania is one of many projects that are attempting to redefine the traditional conception of landscape as fundamentally separate from architecture; a filling piece or escape from the labyrinthian city. Instead, these projects envision landscape to a much more fully developed potential; seamless integration of landscape and architecture. Typical interface between buildings and sites is laughable to typically uninspired, as a building is often concieved as that object of primary importance and the site development as an unnecessary expense. Although the Swedbank building is an office building, the interaction between site and building is personal, functional, and beautiful. The design attempts to redefine the idea of a plaza by utilizing the roof space of the lower structure, which acts as an intermediary between the upper and lower levels as a peninsular plaza, both directly connected to existing grade on the north and rising above it several stories on the south, overlooking the river and old city of Vilnius. Acessibility is provided at various points from the street and grade below, which slopes down to meet the river several hundred feet beyond, although no direct access from the building itself could potentially limit utilization of the space. The wooden decking and liberally distributed large planters soften the space while adding color and variety to what could have easily been a monotonous and ugly black tar roof, utilizing the roof of the structure and making it a visual amenity. Although the space consists of large areas of decking underfoot, the planters break the massing of material and the aerial view of the space in relation to the grass-lined banks of the river is sure to provide a much more reasonably proportioned view of the plaza space. In addition to fracturing potentially overwhelming open space, planters also provide seating on a concrete lip, but don't sit there unless you enjoy a dirty butt. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of perception of the space is varying sightlines from ground level and plaza level when approached from above; both convey an entirely different sense of use of roof space and the relation of the upper and lower levels of the complex. From below, the building seems seemless; the lower level melds into the upper level and tower, while from above the lower part of the complex is not even visible. The space is specifically designed to introduce users to as much of an open, non architecturally defined environment as possible; although towers define one side of this space, the other three sides are open to the air even though they are all situated directly on top of office windows and service entrances. This positioning allows the entire south facing part of the complex to maximize views of the banks of the river and simultaneously provide a usable open space with open vistas and plentiful sunlight. [Caption 001: Top; view from the plaza itself is open on three sides with a view of the contemporary tower of the complex on the fourth. Varying constructed topographies and raised planters provide varying potential for visual and social experience of the space. Bottom; view from the ground level gives the image of seamless architecture, providing a platform for integral open space above.] [Caption 002: Pedestrian circulation is provided for on each side, both from the road and riverbank side of the complex. Ramps provide easy access as well as a visual and functional growth out of the surrounding site.

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