Habitable Station

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Habitable Station
Tran, Anh
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
University of Florida
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Subjects / Keywords:
Airports ( jstor )
Architectural design ( jstor )
Architectural education ( jstor )
Cities ( jstor )
City squares ( jstor )
Civics ( jstor )
Public domain ( jstor )
Subways ( jstor )
Transportation ( jstor )
Transportation infrastructure ( jstor )
Undergraduate Honors Thesis, Architecture


If there is one thing that mid-modernist conventions successfully create, that would be the dissatisfaction of the segregation of structure from one space to another. Whether closed off in claustrophobic, labyrinthian subway stations or found themselves meandering in a residential complex’s corridor, anxiety-ridden urban dwellers feel the alienation and the isolation of contemporary urban life. Typically, groups of commuters are locked in a grid of city’s transportation blood veins, while the axial passages in each transportation node seem to lead nowhere, suspending city’s inhabitants in a modern purgatory. In response to the social injustices and isolation of postwar urban society, this study aims to find spaces that nurture interactions, encourage walking, generate floor-to-floor, floor-to-ground, and ground-to-subterranean relationships, and maintain human sensibilities in spatial experiences. Operational strategies range from the significance of the Scala di Spagna in Rome, which is fundamentally a part of Virilio’s the function of the oblique, to a study of Paley Park, and Penn Station in Manhattan. It is also a study of civic spaces in Manhattan itself through the eyes of artists, and theorists who react against the anonymity and repetitiveness, emanating from the spartan characteristics of modern architecture which usually results in desolate, bleak spaces. ( en )

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Habitable Station Refocus on Spatial Qualities of Civic Node s in Public Domain Anh Tran University of Florida April 2016 An Undergraduate Honors Thesis Presented to the School of Architecture and the Honors Program at the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Design in Architecture with High or Highest Honors


2 2016 Anh Tran. All rights reserved.


3 Acknowledgements finishing up my work at the University of Florida. I thank my design professors that have guided me the way into the world of architecture teaching me the art of thinking and making : Professor Lisa Huang, Mark McGlothlin, Stephen Bender, Albertus Wang, Bradley Walters, Jason Alread, Michael Montoya, Stephen Belton, Charlie Hailey Lee Su Huang and Hui Zou I thank especially to Professor Bradley Walters for not only b eing my thesis advisor but also having been a big part to my education and career providing know how s writing recommendation letters, responding to my concerns, and more importantly teaching me the poetry of architecture. I thank Jonah Greenwood, a great thinker, a partn er, and a friend for many days and nights of discussions /arguments without which we w great radical approaches. To all my friends in architecture school I thank you for making Gainesville a home away from home. I thank my Mom, Dad, Brother, and Sister in law for giving me a family.


4 Table of Contents Abstract ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 5 Contemporary Cities Revolve around Infrastructures ................................ ................................ ................ 6 The Rise and Fall and Rise of Pennsylvania Station ................................ ................................ .................. 7 Non Places: The Vulnerability of Modernization ................................ ................................ ........................ 9 ................................ ....... 11 Ope rational Strategies Circulation ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 15 Human Driven Designs ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 22 Work Cited ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 23


5 Abstract of Undergraduate Honors Thesis Presented to the School of Architecture and the Honors Program at the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Design in Architecture with High or H ighest Hono r Habitable Station Refocus on Spatial Qualities of Civic Nodes in Public Domain By Anh Tran April 2016 Thesis Advisor: Bradley Walters Departmental Honors Coordinator: Mark McGlothlin Major: Architecture If there is one thing that mid modernist conventions successfully create, that would be the dissatisfaction of the segregation of structure from one space to another. Whether closed off in claustrophobic, labyrinthian subway station s or found themselves meandering in a residential anxiety ridden urban dwellers feel the alienat ion and the isola tion of contemporary urban life Typically, groups of commuters are blood veins, while the axial passages in each transportation node seem to lead nowhere, suspending purgatory. In response to the social injustices and isolation of postwar urban society, this study aim s to find spaces that nurture interaction s encourage walking, generate floor to floor, floor to ground, and ground to subterranean relationships, and ma intain human sensibilities in spatial experiences. Operational strategies range from the significance of the Sca la di Spagna in Rome, which is fundamentally a part of a study of Paley Park and Penn Station in Manh attan It is also a study of civic space s in Manhattan itself through the eyes of artists, and theorists who react against the anonymity and repetitiveness, emanating from the spartan characteristics of modern architecture which usually results in desolate, bleak spaces.


6 [Contemporary Cities Revolve around Infrastructures ] Cities have long been understood in their capacities to host and shelter human activities from storage to housing, as well as they are internally and externally criss crossed and linked by the circulation s of people, vehicles and objects In that sense, t he form of a city always has been and always will be an indicator of the state of civilization. Historically, settlements began with people gathered around resources which were typically water bodies. Movements in and out of those dwelling clusters tended to be restricted to walking. Twenty minute walking distance urban forms which are call ed neighborhood s these days, could be found all across medieval European, and Asian cities. The growth of population and rural urban migration require cities to grow horizontally and vertically. The advancements of mobility facilitate the growth of city territories. The more radical the changes in transport technology have been, the more the alterations on the urban forms and spatial pattern s From foot to horseshoe to wheel. Fast forward through the time animal based transportation was still a primary way to commute to the other end of the spectrum, the dispersed urban forms often found in Australia, North America which were built recently, introduce automobile dependency. People started to move fast er from point A to point B with the efficiency of the auto network model In a world where urbanization is produced by capitalism and consumerism transport infrastructure s appear as the backbone of cities. They serve as motor s of economic development While transportation infrastructure s remain their crucial role, nowadays, also evident to observ e the growth of digital infrastructure s in this generation and future generations to come The impact of digital services and digital economy seem to have a wave of their own momentum. Investments are placed in research and development to construct and maintain the infrastructure s that support the digital ecosystem. As a result, regardless of whether the world is building infrastructure s for physical or virtual realms, infrastructure networks are among the most complex and significant design tasks today. The design of infrastructure s inherently influences the way occupants inhabit There are downside s and the cultural degradations emergin g fr om generic infrastructures which are non In that context, the aim of this paper is to study the qualit ies of space s in current state of transportation infrastruct ure s at a starting point which may feed into other future studies on quality of spaces in different kinds of infrastructures in digital age.


7 Stations, as nodes of transportation where flocks of urban tenants breezing in and out suffer from the lack of spirit injected ; cultures, and experiences from the lack of sensitive designs. There are potential solutions. Once married with architecture, mobility and transport infrastructure s can meaningfully integrat e territories, reduce marginalization and segregation, and stimulate new forms of interaction. This theoretical approach leads towards re conceptualizing mobility and transport infrastructures as sites for potential meaningful interaction, pleasure, and cu ltural production. The outcome is a theoretical argument for the exploration of a few operational strategies in order to point to the importance of urban mobility in creating cultures of movement. [ The R ise and F all and R ise of Pennsylvania Station ] Completed in 1910, Pennsylvania Station ( Figure 1 : The Original Penn Station, 1910 1963 ) was built by Pennsylvania Railroads hence the name. The grandeur monumental structure of steel and stone was one of the largest, finest classical landmarks served as a preeminent gateway and an important The fact that a hotel proposal above the station was eliminated from th e scheme manifests its commitment to design principle which was to make this piece of architecture a place, not a business plaza. Streamline of traffic flow ed amidst the light filled, barrel vaulted concourse, though tolerate d no ornamentation exposed the intricate steel patterns representing the architecture of its time. Profit motivation had demonstrated its domi nation over precious materials through an act of civic vandalism Sadly, i t ceded to the economic st rains after mor e than fifty years only to be demolished and replaced with modernist mediocrities, Madison Square Garden which was designed to be profitable, not monumental. Carl Condit expressed his disappointment: The interior space consists essentially of two parts, a large ticket lobby embracing a much greater area than is necessary for the moving traffic, and a combined waiting room and concourse that is an insult to the user: it is too small, too low, contains too few seats, and provides access to all train gates in such a way as to guarantee conflict and confusion. The decor might be unappetizing to unspeakable. 1 There are numerous attempts/proposals to remove Madison Square Garde n to bring light and air into this underground purgatory and most important of all is to create new spaces worthy of New York attuned to a civic hub in the spirit of the original Penn Station. 1 Condit, Carl. The Port of New York. Vol. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1981. 253 255.


8 Figure 1 : The Original Penn Station, 1910 1963


9 [ Non Place s : The Vulne rability of Modernization ] modernization which results in the contemporary urban scheme that values the pragmatic aspects of fast speed mobility, and transportation infrastructures which in turn result in an action of generic filling with non is not merely as a product but a tendency: letting architecture speak the same language with capitalism/consumerism, and letting modern forms of transportation dictate urban inhabitants to move through cities fluidly, not to dwell. Koolhaas gives us charcoal drawings by Hugh Ferris ( Figure 2 : Metropolis of Tomorrow by Hugh Ferris featured in Koolhaas's Delirious New York ) dating from the 1920s that predict the Manhattan that would result from chaotic profit driven growth controlled by the grid and the 1916 zoning law. It is a Manhattan of towering skyscrapers with dramatic setbacks and nearly limitless central towers, the epitome of Manhattanism where human figures are nowhere to be found or to appear in an anxious scene with an eerie placidity soullessness Figure 2 : Metropolis of Tomorrow by Hugh Ferris featured in Koolhaas's Delirious New York


10 Junkspace is not merely referring to leftover spaces reserved for HVAC and mechanical elements but is the byproduct when utilitas becomes the only focal point of design, which represents the true product of modernization (not modern architecture) A major part of the urban experience is the experience of the public domain. In addition to providing for a variety of ways to get from one place to another, the public domain provides many spaces for a wide range of additional functions and activities. Both planned and spontaneous, these uses, together with access, provide what can be described as the glue that bonds people together as well as all the individual parts that make up the city. One of the most striking features of contemporary public domain and public spaces is the existence of generic spaces like hotels, airports, malls, freeways, fast food outlets, complex corridors, elevators etc. Such spaces are unavoidable in the course of daily life because of cities and buildings today are structured around them. As Marc Auge states in his book about non place s In the airport I feel a sense of dislocation, it comes, I think, from knowing that there are hundreds of airports just like this one all around the world. I cannot be intimate with a location that is constantly repeated because it does not exist as an individual place. The structure of the airport does not require individual ity in order to function. Its production of repetition and homogeneity is the basis for its efficiency worldwide because it creates an order through which people's movements can be controlled smoothly 2 Those places have become sp aces of transition junks pace They usually carry spaces. People move in and out without experiencing them as meaningful moments to be inhabited. People come to the airport in order to leave. They pass through a series of hall ways in such a hasty pace with anxieties to get to final destinations. can ran ge anywhere from an international airport to a local subway stop. A non place, as Auge describes it, is not relational, historical or concerned with identity. Auge, therefore, sees a non place as a product of supermodernity: a quality of living in a state of excess. Auge claims the dislocation senses at the airports for it not to be culturally, or historically bound. The airport is what Auge calls a non place. His sensitivity is spent toward the overwhelming of sameness and the type of spaces that would not exist of and for themselves. Auge describes how we need to consume experiences, and 2 nity. John Howe (1995), 84.


11 how we are collapsing time and space (by the speed at which distance is travelled and the relative ease at which we move from place to place) in order give value and meani ng to events. In parallel to Koolhaas and Auge, Amos examines s uch matters His provocative questioning method provides a way to evaluate spatial qualit ies He point s out the distinction between human and non human spaces or designed and non designed spaces. Space, as he categorizes, can be defined by different groups affected by training, previous experience, adaptation, memory, and cognitive categories of the group w hich is usually between designers and non designers who see space in very different terms. As a result, desolate look of a typical large scale mid century modern plaza can be s ome urban inhabitants. Rapoport also sees open ended grid system as an attitude to nature, to the future, to process, to the environment, and to men. and Paley Park: a Study of Spatial Qualities ] Side effects of contemporary urban life ha ve been subjects for many Social Realism artists. George ( Figure 3 : The Subway painting by George Tooker (1950) ) de picts an urban version of Limbo seven walled castle ( Figure 4 ) within which a brink of grief is found a place of sorrow with out torment There is no punishment here, yet sadness. version is where everybody tends to have a bland sameness getting in lines with creepy, precise portrayals of angst, and isolation of urban life. His capturing of anxieties manifests the disu nion of urban infrastructures. The subway s eems to be lit by the dismal, wre tched hopelessness and the flatness of abysmal artificial ligh ting The steady impersonal light renders everything in cold anonymity. It lacks the sparkling tranquility of natural lights. Going along with the lack of hierarchy in spaces is the equality of tones and atmosphere in the painting. There is a kind of desolation in the way in which the uniform glare of multiple light sources that eliminate s the praise of light and shadow. c laustrophobic spaces defined by industrial materials : concrete and steel in their brutal form s of cages show the absence of design attentions. Multiple vanishing points seem to embody the loss of direction which also evidently appears in the faces of subway users.


12 Figure 3 : The Subway painting by George Tooker (1950) Figure 4 : Limbo in Dante's Inferno places concept condemns the constant movement and the speed of life in urban context which presents in the way s many of mentioned types of spaces are designed, it raises a question of what would be the elements that add up to the desolation of those spaces? What causes t he lack of culture, spirit, and meaning ? Auge describes how we need to consume experiences, and how we are collapsing time and space. Concepts such as non place s and placelessness can provide planners and designers with new insights to better capture the essence of place s Those spaces tend to lose a sense of human scale.


13 small vest pocket park in midtown Manha ttan ( Figure 5 ) developed by William Paley T he park has always been a success for several reasons For one, it is located directly on the street so that people are attracted to look in and enter. Also, i t has moveable chairs and tables that let people be comfortable and have s ome control over where they sit Paley waterfall provides a dramatic focal point a nd a reason to enter the park. It blocks out the noise of the city and creates a sense of quiet ness and privacy. There's adequate shade in the summer from the trees, though they allow a beautiful dappled light to pass through their leaves not to dim, not to bright The park manifests a sense of human scale in tactile level comparing to the two six hundred foot buildings on both sides. It generates a green pause every New Yorker craves for. First and foremost, Paley Park subway painti ng addresses It also shows that there are another set of designers out there who are interested in making good spaces which are responsive to context by paying attention to details and awareness to the spirit they inject into the spaces. is a eulogy that is then being sung to artificial light even if it means that he has to produce unsubtle, assertive art to depict its ugliness Beauty of his art is in the ugly truths he paints is subdued whereas the park embrace s every bit of seasonal changes, of day and night, of sounds and noises. T ree canopies help defining an ephemeral edge above hiding the two six hundred foot vertical walls which would only make the inhabitants feel los t in space Green walls and water screen characterize the textures of the place in comparison to uncharacteristic mass production. The little known Paley Park is, therefore, far more c onsistent ly designed Paley Park becomes a nub that contains cultures, meanings. It slows the speed of passersby, the speed of movement. People inhabit the park in such a mellow manner. Paley Park serves as an instance for the type of pauses cities and transport infrastructure s need.


14 Figure 5 : Paley Park, Manhattan, New York Figure 6 : Paley Park Section Figure 7 : Paley Park Plan


15 [ Operational Strategies Circulation ] One of the downsides of the modern architecture is the disconnection of floor to floor, floor to ground, and ground to subterranean relationships. Re thinking the way we experience and interact with architecture was not uncommon in the A vant G arde European architecture communit ies were however, was suggesting something that at the time was deemed ridiculous and radical In fact, their fundamental approach in dealing with tectonic systems is an add York which is more or less a diagnosis than a solution. The idea was to tilt the ground in order to revolutionize the old paradigm of the vertica l wall. In fact, being inclined, the wall becomes experienc e able and so are the cities imagined by the two French architects Paul Virilio and Claude Parent ( Figure 8 ). The oblique is fundamentally interested in how a body physically experience a space. The slope implies an effort to climb up and a speed to climb down; this way the body cannot abstract it self from the space and feel the degrees of inclination. It presents itself as an example of a cryptic architecture steeped in metaphors and complexity. 3 Virilio saw the current modern city as an he vertical horizontal stationary position no in the inclined plane, in order to situate itself on the new plane of human consciousness. Failing that, all ar 4 The fluidity mentioned here is the space to space permeability which counts human body even stair treads and risers as measure s as oppo sed to the fluidity of mobility/transportation in larger scale of cities. Figure 8 : Virilio's Sketches about the Oblique Function 3 Virilio, Paul, and Claude Parent. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996 France: Les Editions de l'Imprimeur, 1997. 19 24. 4 FBUA Bursary Report (2010), 13.


16 have never been able to combine the 5 Virilio and Parent challenge this model of hat vertical architecture so often takes refuge in the staircase, in the bridge, in the dam or the highway interchange, for it found there an exercise, whilst in the case of habitat it remained doomed to the 6 In particular, stairs in this strategy can exist by themselves as moment s of inhabitation rather than they only serve as vehicle s Then the question would be that if every circulation space should be habit able ? The answer is yes and no. There is hierarchy in circulations and the nature of that each particular circulation which are addressed in its dimensions, function, significance and its relationship to context etc. so no However, each space, even circula tion space should be carefully thought out so that it at least carr ies the same spirit of the project it is in the spirit of the space it creates for the fight against non places so yes T he bottom line is that designers should be aware of what circulation spac es can offer rather than their obvious function then to use them strategically to enhance space to space relationship Virilio and Parent see a future where both architecture and circulation between spaces, communities and civi c nodes come together. This in turn would promote communication between the users T hrough the use of the oblique, habitable circulation would provide the solution to the stagnant state of crisis that the urban dwellers are currently experiencing More of ten, such strategic planning shows general ambition in turning potential drawback into an asset, and use the arrival of the network s /infrastructure s as an opportunity for a project to enhance public realm by providing a convincing mixture of activiti es, open spaces, and amenities. It potentially changes the current connotati ons of transport infrastructure s in which stations as civic nodes are subject ed to refocus. Instructed by Professor Michael Montoya, t he following collaborative studio project with Jonah Greenwood for Architectural Design 7 ( Figure 11 ) investigates the function of the oblique on a site in TriBeCa Manhattan as it is one of a major node s in New York subway network from downtown to uptown where there is an opportunity to fusion transport infrastructure s and architecture in an attempt to solve the problem of segregation in verticali ty and the floor ground subterranean relationships The project is to renovate an existing station. The street is treated with joints that 5 6 Ibid. 17.


17 subtly feed these people down into an open and inviting subway station to the south, or a n intimate performance space to the north inside the building footprint. Greenery extends from the south to the broken ground level which allows natural light to be filtered through. The theater six levels above forms the vertical boundary of the performan ce space, leaving it lofty yet tightly bound to smaller scale street and program elements. Scal a di Spagna in Piazza di Spagna, Rome ( Figure 9 ) which fundamentally the function of the oblique, bind the retail spaces across the first six levels at the micro scale, and become driving spatial events at the macroscale. Rome, which many can attest, is a city of hill. Sca la di Spagna helps connecting Trinita dei Monti, an architectural gem of its kind high up on the hill, back to the piazza right below which also house s the Fontana della Barcaccia A total of 138 steps r i se in tiers from the piazza to the entrance of the church. The finished staircase is actually a bit off center from the church towers, which g i ve s it an even more graceful appearance N ot only connect ing the two spaces the steps are designed for inhabitation an interruption in the fabric of the immediate Roman neighborhood Historically, the steps, which were to commemorate a peace treaty between Spain and France, also served as a meet and greet place for the Romans and visitors for generations. The spirit of the place has not been lost since. The ground joint between the tower and the subway station is an attempt to achieve exactly that.


18 Figure 9 : Scalla di Spagna Rome


19 Figure 10 : The Site in TriBeCa, Manhattan (Orange)


20 Figure 11 : Ground Joint Section for Tower Project Investigating the Oblique Function Figure 12 : A Diagram of Ground Joint


21 Figure 13 : Ground Joint in 3 dimensional


22 [ Human Driven Designs] The fundamental purposes of modern architecture are limited to such right concerns as shelter, security, function and so on. All of them are important, but not enough for a truly sustainable architecture because of the ignorance on what sustains us psychologically and culturally. The existence of Paley Park, and the efforts to redesign Penn Station shows redemption for good spaces which may six hundred foot building filled with opportunism, but not. The gain is immeasurable. The park evidently provides cultural hub though small yet infused with s set. The Penn Station case manifests that architecture has been lost for many reasons only to be found again, to be reconstituted for us to expand our understanding of it tackle the dark, ugly side of what appears /is believed to cater for the good of humanity. Our relationship with architecture is so intimate and pervasive in the settings of our lives that it sustain s us and shape s us. Therefore, architecture must provide differentiated spaces for different activities, and it must articulate them in such a way that emotional content of the particular act of living which takes place in them is reinforced. In the midst of the many large sc ale societal and technological transformations, there is a need for design approaches that respect human values and needs and are able to integrate multiple perspectives into design in order to work for outcomes that are interesting, feasible and sustain ab le i n all senses of the te rm For this purpose, this paper discuss es a possible approach to the design of stations, parts of transport infrastructure s that is driven by human and social values, is collaborative in nature. As human scale is being used as a tool of gauging, not only literal dimensions, but also emotions that human are capable of evoking as spaces are being experienced. Human scale and speed, therefore, should be carefully considered. This human driven design approach should focus on the earl y phases of design, be strongly future oriented and aim to contribute to the efforts of seeking good spatial qualities. This paper serves as a beginning for later more detail oriented experimentations and investigation s on future projects to come.


23 Work Cited Geoforum (2008). 438 451. Auge, Marc. Non Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. T rans lated by John Howe (1995). Buchanan, Ian. "Non places: Space in the Age of Supermodernity." Faculty of Arts Papers (1999). 169 176. Condit, Carl. The Port of New York Vol. 2. ( Chica go: University of Chicago Press 1981 ) 253 255. Guggenheim, Michael. Re shaping Cities: How Global Mobility Transforms Architecture and Urban Form London: Routledge, 2010. Urban Mobility as Meaningful Everyday Original Articles, Volume 4, Issue 1 (2009). 139 158. Koolhass, R em Delirious New York: A Retr oactive Manifesto for Manhattan. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978. Simino, Sarah. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1999. American Art Vol. 16, No. 1 (2002). 60 81. FBUA Bursary Report (2010). Virilio, Paul, and Claude Parent. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996 France: Les Editi ons de l'Imprimeur, 1997. 19 24. The Journal of Aesthetic Education : Vol. 4, No. 4, Special Issue: The Environment and the Aesthetic Quality of Life (1970): 81 95. The bus station has monolithic look with permeable edge s negotiating stereo tomic and tectonic structure. Its forms not only adapt s to the sectional change of the site but also mimics the Uniformity in design language refashion the ideas of vertical edges, benchs, stairs, and columns. Gaps in between allow the structure and the space to breath with air and light. The desert appears to be a single boundless entity which generates a feeling of lost in vastness. The refugio provides shelter and interruption against the immensity of sky and earth which also present to be seamless and scaleless. Wind movement builds up layers of sand dunes from which the project explores the contrast of void and mass. The void is defined by te ctonic elements giving scale and protection to inhabitants.


24 To draw here is not to illustrate the "pictures" of subjects but to "draw out" their essence, logic mechanism, or spirit behind whether the subjects are precedent projects, objects, places, spa ces, or approaches. The purpose is to explore. Located on an empty lot surrounded by historical edifices, the project yields a green space not only for the verticality of the churches nearby to be appreciated/observed, also to provide a pause the neighbo rhood needs. The property could have housed more office spaces. The gain is immeasurable Located on an empty lot surrounded by historical edifices, although the property could have housed more office spaces, the project yields a green space not only for t he verticality of the churches nearby to be appreciated/observed, also to provide a pause the neighborhood needs. The gain is immeasurable. Hierarchy