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    Midterm Review

    By Chili Davis
    Nov 3, '06 11:16 PM EST

    Our studio held its midterm review this week. It went better than I had expected. The presentations went in alphabetical order, and due to an absence, I went first. My project was as far along as most in the class. There were a few that were quite a bit behind. I had a good idea who they would be though, as it is hard to get much done when you're never in studio. On the other hand, there were a couple that were near completion. I don't think this was of any advantage, however. It seems when you spend a lot of time on renderings and boards you tent to forget about the architecture behind the project. Anyway, I think my review went quite well and gave me some much needed direction. The one major problem I am having is how to address the facade of the buildings. This seems to be a common obstacle in all of my projects. I guess it is something I will have to work through in the next few weeks.

    Above is a sketch perspective of my project. The building in front houses retail on the first floor and office spaces on the second and third. The building in the back houses dining on the first floor, offices on the second and third, and lofts above. There are two circulation shafts in the back of the building, and the two are connected with an atrium that spans the axis of the building to allow circulation from two very pedestrian laden corners, one near Comerica Park, and the other near Harmonie Park.

    This is a perspective from the other corner. Here you can see the vertical circulation shafts. Below is a list of comments from the critique on my project. Any additional input you may have is always welcome.

    -Make sure to include 2 stairs
    -Make retail space more prominent
    -May need more retail space
    -Dining doesn't require as much street exposure
    -Building lobby is a little too big
    -Office floors need more access to elevators
    -Elevators need a security system or a separate elevator is needede for residents
    -Provide restrooms on every floor
    -Move stairs to core to make corner space loft
    -Orient lofts to maximize views
    -Don't be so rigid
    -Raise ceiling to give more space
    -Make sure the front building isn't too small for the streetfront
    -Curb radius is between 15' and 20' at corners
    -Moving people through the center of the building takes people off of the city streets, like a shoping mall
    -Raise atrium to make circulation space more defined
    -Define public/private spaces

    It may be difficult to comment without floor plans, but I would like to develop these a bit before posting them. Stay tuned...


    • cvankle

      One thing to always consider when doing a project with different uses is how these uses are going to interact. How do you seperate the public, private, and interstitial spaces, or do you at all? It seems to me that circulation would be a major factor with people going to retail, offices, and housing within the same complex. Is there a way to articulate this?

      I was also wondering why you have the small gap between the two buildings? I'm sure you explain it in the plans but it could be an uncomfortable space, only looks to be 5-6ft. wide judging from the width of you doorframe in that perspective.

      Thanks for sharing the project, seems like you have a pretty good start with it. Would like to see there a overall concept you are trying to explore with this project?

      Nov 4, 06 1:55 am

      you're in school - make it crazy

      Nov 4, 06 4:44 am
      Chili Davis

      The gap between the two buildings is actually 12' wide and it's the 3 story atrium. This hasn't been fully developed yet so you can't see it in the images I posted. This atrium space is intended to move people from the main entertainment district in downtown Detroit (Ford Field, Comerica Park, Fox Theater, Opera House), to a secondary entertainment district beyond our site (Harmonie Park, Greektown Casino). This was actually what was driving the form of the building and it is somewhat of a concept of this project, bridging the two entertainment districts.

      Nov 4, 06 8:31 am

      My very first thought was: "I can't really critique this without knowing the concept--the ideas behind it that gave rise to its form." I don't need so much *plans* to give meaningful commentary as much as *ideas* to know where to start. Right now what you have shown is a massing model. Why did you choose those masses? Why two? Why pancake layer floors?

      The comments your crit produced are, I'm sure, plausible functional considerations. However, anyone can make a building that simply *works*. (Has the proper number of elevators, the right size of lobby, etcetera.) It doesn't take years of architectural schooling to satisfy code stair requirements. Why spend time addressing these needs, only to end up with a building like any other at the end? What will make your building *special*, beautiful, thought-provoking, disturbing, different from a building anyone else could reasonably put together on that same site?

      Nov 4, 06 11:26 am
      This was actually what was driving the form of the building and it is somewhat of a concept of this project, bridging the two entertainment districts.

      Ok, I just read this statement of yours. Think about that for a moment.

      Your concept, as expressed in that massing model, is a vehicle for people to simply pass straight through your building and rush out the other end. In fact, they don't even need to *enter* the building in order to (theoretically) run from one section of town to the other. (Why they would be doing this in Detroit, on foot, is a question in and of itself.) Why don't you want them to stop in your building? Can your building be something that would actually make people want to linger? Maybe the concept of "bridging" doesn't need to be a literal space where people can run straight through to their next destination.
      Nov 4, 06 11:32 am

      myriam brought up some good points, and if this 12' wide corridor between the two buildings is to create a pedestrian link between the two entertainment districts what can you interject to make it a useable space.

      or, how can you make the space read as something to walk through. when i look at those drawings i do not see that as a public way and if i was walking down that street i would never assume that was the purpose. so first off, you need to make the gap larger - then you need to determine how the two buildings facing this gap will play off one another, how will they respond to each other?

      is there some geometry, or even a third axis that may cut through these spaces that can start to carve out your two building masses?

      what is the density of the pedestrian circulation? what patternings can be observed when the pedestians are at it most dense? less dense? how will your building respond and why?

      how can your architecture create enough of an intervention so that the pedestrian traffic knows to move through there, way-finding - could your retail building be rotated and block the street, forcing people through the interstial space? what will that mean for vehicular traffic? will the vehicular now have to pass through the building?

      you need to ask yourself who are your users and how are you responding to them

      looking at your drawings, this interstitial space is really the most promising, and then i see you have placed the entry into the taller building off to the side?

      also, unless it is a requirement of the studio, try to stay away from cornering yourself by drawing floor slabs and symetrical stair tower, and if you do draw them make sure they are to scale - your stair towers are too wide and not deep enough to read as stairs, they appear to be a window bay on an apartment building (unless the circulation of the stair is along the axis of the building, which might be cool)

      keep up the good work

      Nov 4, 06 10:19 pm

      security in that little passageway worries me, especially at night. How have you addressed that?

      Nov 5, 06 12:21 am
      Chili Davis

      The passageway is actually within the building, though it may not read as such in the drawings above. The openings along the side of the building is actually access to the underground parking garage. The main entrance to the building is in between the two large volumes. The stair towers contain both a stair and an elevator shaft. The attempt at "bridging" the two entertainment districts is to give the pedestrian an alternative to the standard route. The first floor will contain both retail and dining in an attemt to hold people within the building once they have entered. The district housing Ford Field and Comerica Park is a much more widely used area, and this building is being designed to draw people from this area to the less popular Harmone Park area by creating an attractive environment for people to bisect. All of the projects in the class are well designed and creative builidings. They all work in that respect. The goal of this project is to create something that will give something to the city of Detroit. More outwardly focused than inwardly focused. Below is another image of the building. Keep in mind it is still very rough. I have included the atrium space in this image, in the hope that it will give you a better idea of the circulation space I am proposing.

      Nov 5, 06 12:13 pm

      What about your building itself will make people want to go to it--NOT the stuff that's held inside it? Remember, shops close, at least every night, sometimes permanently, and are no longer 'destinations'. Anyhow, you are an architect, not a developer. The same shops could be housed in any other building. What about your *building* will attract people?

      I'm not trying to be an ass, I'm trying to make you think outside the normative "I have to house XY programming in Z city block" mode.

      And on a more mundane note, I think pedestrians are gonna feel wayyyyy out of scale at the corner entrance to the atrium that you show in that last image. Can you stick a little person-sized stick in that model? I'm afraid they're gonna feel like the building is towering over them.

      Nov 5, 06 2:54 pm

      i like it better with the passageway not enclosed...that's whats unique about the project...everything else is slab

      Nov 5, 06 3:23 pm

      make something spectacular out of that passageway...

      Nov 5, 06 3:36 pm


      i've tried the whole day today to resist adding more comments...but you better do some spectacular shit in that passageway...

      Nov 5, 06 8:13 pm
      brian buchalski

      you're young but your project has a surprisingly lack of both innocence & romance. remember, this is your average detroiter:

      show daring and, as my most eminently detroit of friends says, "start thinking negro"

      of course, if you can't manage that...then just make the facade Second Empire and be done with it. example:

      Nov 5, 06 10:49 pm

      dude, your project is the passageway...\m/ <<<<---overdoing it for sure

      Nov 6, 06 4:19 am
      -Moving people through the center of the building takes people off of the city streets, like a shopping mall.

      ^from your critics' comments. this is the one to which i'd ask you to pay a lot of attention. do you want the effect of adding a building at this location to lower the pedestrian activity on the sidewalk? if not (and i'm assuming you don't), how will you make it the job of the street-facing piece to ADD pedestrians, i.e. become a draw? this is probably as much a programmatic question as anything else. if you just say retail, you're not there yet.

      the lower volume will have to be programmatically transparent, even serving as a filter between your middle passage and the street. this raises issues of security/control points,etc for retail but maybe not for some more social functions. you want it to act like a big filter, allowing people to move in and out.

      once you've determined what this !incredible! thing is, and define it in relation to the passage (transitions, distinctions,etc. - and dammson's right), the job of the tall building may simply be backdrop.
      Nov 6, 06 6:52 am
      Mulholland Drive

      Chili...I appreciate your courage in posting your mid-review project on your school blog. Unfortunately, based on what your have written, I think your critics are not doing their job.

      With a familiarity of most of the work that comes out of LTU, I am sure your project will end up being wildly successful in all the practical and functional considerations...but at the end of the day, an architect must provide much more than that. The dimension that I believe is profoundly bankrupt in your project, evident in what you have described and presented above, as well as your over-simplified and almost stand off-ish blog entries (Compuware Building / Ahhhhh, Detroit.) about Detroit...hints at a complete and utter lack of imagination and vision of what your building could provide for downtown Detroit...

      "Moving people through the center of the building takes people off of the city streets, like a shopping mall"...?! I echo Steven Ward's comments, but to me this critic comment is not something that leads me to believe that your alley is not a good design decision.

      May I suggest that an everyday urbanism and social infrastructure position, based on my own experience from living in Detroit, is what is sorely lacking from your scheme. May I suggest that instead of designing a dreary, dead-space think more in terms of what Detroit needs that most other cities/urban centers take for granted...such a grocery store. An urbanized, multi-level grocery store will challenge you architecturally and will activate your project with something to make it interesting and worth talking about...let alone force you to state a personal position of what you are trying to provide for people and open a discourse of what architecture and urbanism could be for downtown Detroit.

      Lastly, lose the Sketch-Up program as it appears either "you" or "it" is making your project completely banal. To put it bluntly, it is a lazy program that doesn't demand any sophistication or complexity from the user...and your project needs more sophistication and complexity. You are in school for christ sake...get dirty, take risks, immerse yourself in the fear and excitement of learning and creating something that you don't know already.

      I look forward to your response and seeing how your project progresses over the next few weeks.


      Nov 6, 06 9:51 am
      brian buchalski

      i agree. it's a pain in the ass doing second empire via the sketch-up program.

      Nov 6, 06 12:33 pm

      I agree, keep people on the street. Maybe connect the buildings at the upper levels to have a raised courtyard at a higher level, but fill that in on the lower, so that their base level is really one building?

      Also, I feel like having one building have shops on the ground and the other have restaurants on the ground is arbitrary and counter-productive. Mixing the two lets people shop while they wait for their table, which makes business owners happy, which keeps the building full of people paying happy high rent, which makes the owner happy they chose you as the architect. OK, so I know you won't really get into that bit as much, but just extrapolating to help you see relationships like this for future reference.

      Nov 7, 06 12:40 pm
      maya mcdifference

      extrude extrude extrude, print! whew that was easy.

      Nov 16, 06 6:16 pm

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