Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

I graduated in 2013, but still blog here once in a while.

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    Live Blog - Ceri Edmunds, "Consolidation: The suburban shopping mall as a paradigm of public space."

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    May 17, '13 2:01 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,


    1:10: Ceri Edmunds is presenting.

    "This project places the shopping mall into anatagonism with the suburban residential. This project seeks consolidation..."

    At the bottom level are loading docks and parking; the loading docks service the three voids. Above this are the shopping layers, parks, and a mat layer of housing at the top layer. The park is mostly open to the air.

    IR: On the one hand you started being critical of the mall space. How far have you challenged that vision?

    CE: Obviously it's kind of a legal issue and not only an architectural one. But my intention was to create an environment that was so unpalatable to be entirely privatized that it would create a precedent--

    WJ: You mean, financially unpalatable? Why couldn't it just be a gated community? To me, there's a lot of volume enclosed; why does the whole thing have to become architecture--why couldn't you just put a suburb on the shopping mall roof; that is, why do you need this to all be an outdoor experience?

    PSC: You don't have units on top of each other do you?

    CE: The slope is a strategy to allow for this density, so that they're not all closed in [but have access to light, air, and views...]

    Nana Last: What prevents the houses from becoming private too?

    Harry Cobb: Why does the parking lot extend so much--why doesn't the community on top become bigger?

    CE: In terms of how you'd experience it, I think it's as close as it would be otherwise. It's denser than a typical suburb. Just over 300 houses here.

    HC: Why is it limited to single-family one storey houses?

    CE: I think it was to account for the demographic of the area, and make it a modified suburb, but offering the same qualities as a surburban house.

    IR: I don't think you have a radical revision of the problem of the shopping mall. [The residential] is just an icing. There's an issue with the publicness which I think [Nana Last] suggested. You have the same problem that BIG has, which is the problem of the edge. When you raise up the suburban condition, how do you deal with the edge?

    CE: I think that critique would be correct if this were urban, but it's suburban...

    Catherine Ingraham: Is there an economic model being promoted here between the residential and shopping--is there a benefit from living on top of the mall or a benefit for the retail?

    CE: The residents would have a lot of amenities; they're closer.

    CI: What does that get you?

    HC: How do you get into these houses?

    CE: There are driveways--not interior, but within the mas of the house.

    HC: I'm realizing it's a much more complicated relationship...These people are literally living in a shopping mall.

    PSC: Yes, Harry: up top you have a conventional suburban experience and below, a totally different experience.

    CE: ...I felt that people would feel overwhelmed by being completely surrounded by the public realm.

    PSC: It's both gated and non-gated; that's interesting. You have two publics.

    IR: Who is the owner of this column?

    CE: I would say it's the state.

    CI: Not the state!

    CE: Right now, suburbia demands to have no state regulation, and that's what leads it to be a complete mess. I'm suggesting that in these focused instances, the state makes one tiny effort to design something with intention.

    Rodolphe el-Khoury: For 300 units?

    CE: Not only for 300 units, but for all the people who visit the shopping space and experience a more contested public space.

    WJ: I think there are answers to all the questions that have been asked.

    CE: I accept that; I could have gone to a more legal direction.

    WJ: Not legal, but economic, spatial, architectural...You could stipulate that the density would be no greater than in a typical suburbia and you'd pay for all this over time from the leases on the shopping center.

    CE: The volume of air is certainly no bigger than Mall of America.

    WJ: But shops don't like that open vertical space over the shops themselves; it's a distraction for shoppers. This is more like a market.

    REK: I think you are in a strange area now. It's not transformed enough...

    IR: I don't know who's going to live there. On the one hand there's a picturesque landscape, and then you are submerged into this other space. It's a very graphic project, but unfortunately that's where it remains.

    CI: In the American suburb, the street was never public.

    IR: But still, every car could go there.

    CE: I'm sorry, Inge, but that's not a great public space. It's a small difference to put that street within a gated community.

    IR: But why base your project on that model then?

    HC: I find it a fascinating project as architecture. It is certainly not a revolutionary social proposition. It's actually putting together the idea of a gated community with the idea of a shopping mall. I believe there are 300 people who would be interested in living here, and that it could produce provocative results. It's engagingly done; I like how they go down...

    PSC: What about this idea of putting face-to-face the very private form of housing with the public?

    HC: I'm interested, I think it would be a wonderful experiment if anyone could afford it. But it should not have been presented as a social project.

    WJ: Harry has now engaged with it as an architectural proposition. I would only ask that--this approaches a sublime condition at this scale. I feel that it was a strategic error to go for a more naturalistic with the massing, instead of seeing how the slope of the plates is generated by the units.

    NL: [Instead of having the project set off as an island], the structure should be cut, allowing people to see these layers and allowing people in the suburbs to walk right in to the market as if it were a real market. That would only have to happen at one edge.

    PSC: Thank you very much.




    P.S. PSC is now forbidding the critics from taking a long lunch break; our lateness will be made up by having them eat their sandwiches at the next jury if necessary.

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About this Blog

This blog was most active from 2009-2013. Writing about my experiences and life at Harvard GSD started out as a way for me to process my experiences as an M.Arch.I student, and evolved into a record of the intellectual and cultural life of the Cambridge architecture (and to a lesser extent, design/technology) community, through live-blogs. These days, I work as a data storyteller (and blogger at in San Francisco, and still post here once in a while.

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