EET 03 - 21 - 2010

The past few weeks have been great inspiration for my hometown project because of the incredible and seemingly innate lifestyle that Europeans lead in terms of moving through and exploring their cities. It was refreshing to reenter a part of the world where the main mode of transportation is no longer the vehicle, but rather walking, biking, and mass transit. It is just so natural to this part of the world; nobody thinks twice about walking to their destinations, it is just the way of life here. And that is the type of attitude that I think we would all ideally like to exist on our hometown project sites. As difficult as it will be to change the mindset from a vehicular to a pedestrian way of life, it is essential for planning for the future as well as the way that I care to approach this project. My site is incredibly walkable in terms of the size, barely eight blocks form end to end, but people do not seem to extend their walking journey from the downtown strip west through my site, most likely because it does not have the same pedestrian-oriented features that other areas of downtown La Grange exhibit. And after visiting some of these European cities that not only feature but highlight and celebrate the incredible way that pedestrians navigate their way around the city, I want to recreate and adapt some of the same principles for my site and invite the same vibrancy that these pedestrian-filled areas bring to a city. This is a big part of the master planning stage of my project, the phase that I am working on and fine-tuning at the moment. A big component of making my project successful is creating a place that people will want to walk through, explore, and spend time in. Going along with that, designating the proper uses for many of the commercial buildings so that the uses are more oriented toward the pedestrian and most especially, the commuter using the Metra system into Chicago, is essential to return users of this site. That is why the master planning is so important. The aim is to design a place conducive to the most active users of this area, as well as those who live within walking distance. Promoting this walkable lifestyle reminiscent of everything that we have seen in Europe is integral to my project. More than just the streetscape design, outdoor gathering spaces are also an important feature in these pedestrian-oriented cities. One thing that I have noticed is how important the town square is to many of these older cities. It is a place of recognition in the city, a landmark destination, a meeting place, and a gathering place. This important pedestrian area is something that La Grange lacks. My project includes developing a plaza space adjacent to the downtown train station that can hopefully act as this "town square" space as well as create a great urban aesthetic for people getting off the train. Playing off of the town spquare near the downtown station, I am redeveloping and expanding the green space surrounding the Stone Avenue station on the west end of town. It currently features a small and underutlized park space that does nothing to showcase the historic architecture of the train station. By redesigning the park to really draw attention to the station, I think people will be more inclined to enjoy the beauty of the building and the surrounding space. Aside from developing these main park spaces at either end of the site, there are opportunities for pocket parks and plazas that can be used to create a network of public spaces, drawing people through the site. The phase that I am currently working on is going into detailed site design of these main outdoor spaces and establish a strong network of connected spaces while trying to incorporate some of the modern urban design that we have seen with the historic nature of my town's design. And the next the next phase to work on will be to look in-depthly at the design of the La Grange Road train station as well as both outgoing platforms and try to incorporate the incredibly identifiable and historic design features of the Stone Avenue Station. It is such an iconic element in La Grange, and I think that the poor design of the other stations takes away from it.

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