Jan '05 - Sep '06
I just wanted to respond to Steven Ward and Pixelwhore's posts, which I do appreciate. It's interesting that none of the four professors I've got now thanks to this ridiculous rotating thing have really brought up the urban wall topic. One of my past professors was very big on the urban wall and street edge though, so it was on my mind a bit. However, the "overt crits" were definitely helpful and brought up some things that as I said my professors haven't brought up yet anyway, and some things that I have neglected to address or consider.
As far as the urban wall and orientation of the building on the site, as of yesterday, it has changed and returned more or less to how I had originally. I had to change this after we realized that the folks who built the site model, which I based my initial site plan on, had cut out the site in the wrong shape. This caused me to change the angle of the building on the site to not align as closely on a north-south axis and caused a larger front plaza (for lack of a better word at the moment) and a smaller rear courtyard. This was something that's been bugging me for awhile and after the comments from a couple days ago I decided to go back and adjust the building to fit the original orientation, as seen in the image below.
However, I do disagree quite a bit about the urban wall condition along this stretch of Huntington. In my opinion, there is no urban wall anywhere between Brigham Circle and the Symphony end of the Northeastern campus (except for some pockets such as the MassArt building, the Marino Center, and much less successfully in the new 555 dorm at Wentworth and the Harvard building that is actually on Huntington). The whole probably mile-long stretch of Huntington Ave between Brigham Circle and Symphony is a mix of bland high-rises, setback campuses and institutional lawns, parking lots, gas stations, blank residence walls and a precious few low-rise buildings forming a true urban wall. Even the fire station directly next to the site is set back from Huntington twenty feet, as is Baker. This is why I did not and still do not feel a responsibility to conform the building to an urban wall. That having been said, I do think that generally speaking the urban wall is something vital to a positive urban setting and something sorely lacking in many American cities. I've included some photos of the area around the site that I think illustrate the lack of an urban wall.
I also agree that the significance of the MFA warrants its deviation from the urban wall (again, however, there is no true urban wall in this area as far as I can tell), but this principal is also presented in Whitaker's Architecture and the American Dream using a house on Martha's Vineyard as an example of acceptable deviation and Lincoln Center as an unsuccessful example. In my design as it stands now, the triangular tip of the building will be twenty feet from the road, matching with the fire station, and will be angled back slightly (about fifteen degrees). However, as I was planning (but not showing) before, I'm hoping to have a small plaza out front with trees, also set back twenty feet, and raised planters and benches forming a slightly more ambiguous urban wall, as shown in the scanned sketch site plan above. That site plan is still pretty sketchy and has a number of things that need to be worked out still.
The sunken courtyard will also be enlarged quite a bit by the new orientation and will include a larger raised planted area behind it. This, I hope, will create a sort of buffer between the parking lots to the rear (south) and west of the site, while returning some greenery to the site. These parking lots aren't shown on the site plan I posted last time, which I think made the site look larger than it really is. And to the point of putting the "open" facade on the rear, I did this after considering doing the opposite. While I do think eating on the street (of course as with all Wentworth design projects--including a bus shelter project, a cafe with outdoor dining is part of the program) is a nice thing, I don't find this area of Huntington to be particularly suited to it. Directly across the street is a gas station, for example, and I think the lack of an urban wall and the real sort of urban retail-oriented density is missing here. That, plus the desire to work with the idea of public vs. private led me to put that area on the rear, but sunken, because I agree that the parking lot doesn't make for a very nice enviornment either.
Finally, the band around the building is actually not meant to be a "slash"--though I can see how it appears that way in some of these representations--but rather as a band wrapping around the building. The geometry of it is entirely based on the internal grid and layout of the building, rather than external factors. However, it does help externally by creating more of a visual division between the "front" and "back," as well as blocking some of the western afternoon sun from the courtyard and open face of the building.
Sorry this is so lengthy and sort of rambles on without much direction, but I hope it addresses some of the points you brought up. I'd love to get more feedback. Also, I agree that Edwards/Rodgers are the best dorms on campus and hopefully the new president will be more receptive to that notion and in less of a rush to knock it down and build a bunch of new fake Wentworth Halls around campus. I'm also not sure if that frat is there anymore. It's a real shame if it's not.