Nicholas Moen

Nicholas Moen

Portland, OR, US


Masters Thesis


The current model of an urban mixed use development in post-industrial cities is weak and limited. Often this redevelopment manifests itself as the complete exile of the industrial function and the imposition of a new, tidy, evenhanded residential or commercial environment reminiscent of suburbia.  That is, one solution repeated over and over again without regard to the
specifics of place, history, or (ironically) programmatic diversity.  I believe the typology can be more diverse, be more location specific and more interaction can occur between the varied uses within the redevelopment of an urban block.

Foundries, machine shops and railroad thoroughfares thrived in Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward district until the 1960’s.  Over subsequent decades the neighborhood’s urban density eroded, but it’s blue collar heritage remains a foundation of Milwaukee culture.  A new generation is now rediscovering the neighborhood’s potential, but its rebound is dominated by homogeneous blocks of condominiums concentrated in the nearby third ward.  The fifth ward remains an automobile passage with abandoned warehouses and large plots of empty land.
Rethinking the segregation and evenhandedness of typical mixed use development, this thesis draws it’s inspiration from the Fifth Ward’s industrial past. A mixed use program holds light industrial and commercial businesses, which merge together along the length of an architectural coil to form unexpected juxtapositions of activity, connections to the life of the street, and a sense of urban space only achievable through density and enclosure.  By blurring the conventional boundaries of program, space, and interiority, the project creates raw and challenging experiences reminiscent of the neighborhood’s manufacturing past.

At the same time, the urban response acknowledges the neighborhood’s new role by contributing to a rich pedestrian experience, which questions the polite and predictable landscape of suburbia and other urban developments.

The project is sited at the Northwest corner of South First Street and Pittsburgh Ave., where it accommodates a bicycle frame factory, a bike shop, a bar/restaurant, a custom and vintage lighting showroom, and a small number of rentable studios.  The melding of programmatic parts, the articulation of terraced outdoor dining and display areas, and the geometries of the site channel the ground plane into an upward spiral.  Spaces overlap through the formal mechanism of a long, thin, ramped floor, which coils on top of itself to bring the bustling life of a new urban neighborhood deep into the building.

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Status: School Project
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin