Friday, January 25, 2008

Our First Real Site Visit

And were off. . .

We had our first real site visit as a group yesterday and we got to meet with both the owners and the architect of the building. I'm going to try and set up a separate 'Project' page which will explain the particulars of D.Build 2008 in more detail but I'll give a little synopsis right now. The project is essentially a lounge / common space for an apartment building which is run by the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter which is a great organization that helps the homeless find "food, shelter, counseling, employment and a home." NCS primarily provides housing for adult homeless and this is their first attempt to provide support specifically for teenagers who are aging out of the traditional foster system.

So the building is designed to serve kids 18-24, there are 46 units and there will also be lots of counseling, vocational and job training as well as on-site computer and business training. I'm not sure when the first kids will be moving in - we were hoping that there would already be several residents living there and that they would be helping to shape our decisions about program and use, but it looks like there won't be anyone living there for at least a couple months if not longer. Hopefully a lot of the kids will be moved in by the time we begin construction however, because we are hoping to engage them in the actual fabrication process. We'll see.

Anne Teisher, David Lewis [the D.Build Director], Stephen Lisner and Randy Wood [the Architect].

So that means we are pretty much on our own right now as far as suggesting specific uses. We did met with Anne Teischer and Stephen Lisner (from NCS) and talked with them about what they are hoping to use the space for, but they are very interested in letting use determine the use and program as much as possible right now. It seems to me that they are really just after a nice, relaxed spot for the residents to socialize and hang out, since the building right now has very limited communal spaces.

In addition to hangin' out, Anne and Stephen are hoping that we can add in space for the residents to participate in The Growing Connection (TGC) where residents would grow produce and then sell it at local farmers markets. The rooftop aspect of the project certainly adds another dimension in that it allows us to engage in environmental considerations and forces us to consider things like stormwater, green-roofs and roof-gardens, views, noise, light and of course the weather.

What can you say? Its there and it ain't movin.

Inside one of the Units. The groves in the ceiling are because this building is a concrete-plank structure.

View North from on-top of the Bulkhead.

It was a very interesting visit and it was great to meet with Randy, Anne and Stephen and get their take on the project. So the next step is for each of us [there are 14 all together in the D.Build this year] to take a first stab at a gestural model and sketches for Monday. After that we will be breaking into 6 seperate groups and producing a more refined version for another week. Then we whittle our way down to 3 nice versions which we'll present to Anne and Stephen on Wed Feb 20th. I know. Thats only like 3 weeks from now! Its gonna go fast too.

Sooo... I'm gonna get back to work. I'm just trying to wrap my head around the green-roof thing right now. I'm not even sure what my attitude is towards them yet and right now I'm pretty much just full of questions not answers? Do you highlight the artificiality of a green roof of attempt to make it read as 'landscape'? Should you consider them as infrastructure or aesthetic? What kinds of materials are appropriate? What kinds of materials are allowed (Fire codes and such)?

And what about the 'Common Area' aspect. How do you avoid the Dorm Lounge Ddisease where there is some dumpy 'common space' with a big-screen TV, garbage in the corner and not a soul using it? What is the best way to allow people to utilize a common area without forcing them to give up all privacy? How can spaces allow people to have both their own private chunk but also be connected to a larger communal zone that they can choose to enter into or withdraw from easily?

Anyway . . . just some thoughts. I'll post some sketches and drawings over the weekend as I get moving and by Monday I'll have at least the beginnings of a design . . . whether its ready or not!

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