DGC 02 - 26 - 2010

A big idea is a scary thing. It has the deadly ability to redefine an entire site design in a single stroke of the pen and attempts to contain a multitude of programs and schedules inside one abstract, blobular skin. Perhaps the most difficult characteristic of the big idea is that it most often rejects a certain portion of the project site that doesn't quite fit into the framework of the concept; the big idea applies to the most visible and important (as defined by the designer) parts, but what about the little leftovers? The forgotten chunks? If they aren't arbitrarily covered in trees, they probably become an awkward parking lot or the place where the dumpsters are put. My experience with the imposing big idea has been, I suspect, the same as that of most other designers. So many projects that had so much promise, but were only 95% good because we just didn't know what to do with that other 5%. My hometown project is currently in the situation-- how can the big idea be reconciled with awkward peripheral spaces? One of the primary concepts deals with the relatively simple idea of extending existing neighborhood streets into the site and using this new geometry to extend the existing fabric to the nearby Trail Creek and developing architecture within this framework. There are, of course, spatial irregularities within the project site that aren't quite able to fulfill the goals of this big idea. Several bends of the creek mean that neighborhood streets don't extend directly to the site's border or stop far from it. This presents two options; extend the street geometry into the street, establishing a new, tangible connection to the project site but potentially destroying existing housing, or adapt the spaces which lack street correspondence to become a distinct group of spaces with unique programming and design intended to bring them to life. Is it better to extend the fabric and apply the big idea to the entire site, or adapt the big idea so that it is able to adapt as well as establish several unique districts, nodes, or landmarks, among the greater conceptual framework? In Image 2, a basic conceptual framework for the site is illustrated; black arrows extend from neighborhood streets into the site, creating corridors connecting a new riverfront with existing neighborhoods. However, much of the site, mainly the peripheral areas, do not have potential for extension of existing corridors because of no existing connection to one on either side, making it necessary to utilize one of the two options earlier discussed; make the site adapt to the big idea, or adapt the framework of the big idea to the site. The areas shaded in black located at the end of the tooth landforms are intended to be residential and some recreational development because of proximity to existing neighborhoods, but the red areas are difficult to rationalize as sites for this kind of the development mostly because of the lack of connection to the surroundings. My inclination is to begin to define these peripheral areas through program and geometry separate from that of the rest of the site, providing divisions of built environment and open space most suited to establishing a balanced living environment. Image 1 represents a conceptual development of one of the concepts meant to diversify this living environment. An abstraction of the larger design concept but programatically independant, these smaller teeth increase the length of the riverbank significantly and provide opportunities for public and open spaces, places for recreation, active programs, and transition between hard and softscape environments.

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