Redefinition of Urban Viewing and Interaction through an Architectural Framework

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Redefinition of Urban Viewing and Interaction through an Architectural Framework
Hurcomb, Melissa
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Subjects / Keywords:
Architectural design ( jstor )
Atmospheric circulation ( jstor )
Cities ( jstor )
City blocks ( jstor )
Cultural studies ( jstor )
Grade levels ( jstor )
Theater ( jstor )
Urban design ( jstor )
Urban research ( jstor )
Viewers ( jstor )
New York (State)--New York--Hell's Kitchen
Undergraduate Honors Thesis


This thesis proposes an approach to the design of an 800 by 200 foot block of a densely urban area in Hell's Kitchen, New York.Despite New York City's dense population, the amount of personal interaction or casual encounters is limited. This could be due to the busy environment that New York City is known for,or maybe the rigidity of the organizational structure doesn't provide a stimulus for positive interaction. Through the discussion of design methodology, analysis of city and cultural context, theoretical approaches to urban design, and research into program reorganization, one can develop a strategy to design architecture that can frame and house these interactions. ( en )
General Note:
Awarded Bachelor of Design; Graduated May 4, 2010 summa cum laude. Major: Architecture
General Note:
Advisor(s): Bradley Walters
General Note:
College/School: College of Design, Construction and Planning

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University of Florida
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Copyright Melissa Hurcomb. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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Redefinition of Urban Viewing and Interaction through an Architectural Framework The project is a proposal for the redesign of an entire New York City Block within and focused on the need to get to the destination as soon as possible. A nd although millions of people walk pa st each other every day, very little communication occurs. This brought up the question of how architecture could be used to invent or catalyze more positive and new interactions among Through the discussion of design met hodology, analysis of city and cultural context, theoretical approaches to urban design and research into program reorganization one can develop a stra tegy to design architecture that can frame and ho use these interactions. Design Methodology process develops imagination while imagination is conceived in terms of concrete material. Only by progressive organization of outer and inner material in organic connection with each other can anything be produced that is not a learned document or an illu stration of something familiar. 1 T his philo sophy fueled the design of the D7 N ew York project. P rocess became a way to navigate through imagination. I took t he idea of viewing and heightened perception, which was derived from being in the context, and t hen I separated myself from the history of forms to create something new that allows me to reflect on my idea. This process of detachment allows for clear and uninhibited thinking for a design solution to the proposed 1 Dewey, John. Art as Experience New York: Minton, Balch &Company, 1934.


condition. Thinking through making is a process that can form a new way of looking at urban space in the city of New York. Analysis of city and cultural context The analysis of New infrastructure as well as research into how to intervene into such a dense urban context without adding to the rigidity of the existing structure, prompts a relevant and beneficial proposal for the city and the developer. The initial problem in this project was the she er volume that comes with an entire city block. The current project proposed for our block had an estimated floor to area ratio of 1:9. Knowing the density of commercial and residential units within New York City and the we had to have an FAR close to that number for the project to be realistic enough to fit into the context while creating an interruption to the rigidity of the New York block system. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of square footage.


We thought that the solutio n to this problem could be explored best in sectional and circulation studies of the city as shown in Fig. 2 a and 2 b. The diffe rences in the scale of streets, the change in building density as on the heavy pedestrian path ways areas of green space, change in building heights, as well as possible itineraries through the city were all things taken into consideration for the analysis. Figure 2 a Figure 2 b A major part of the circulation of the city is the underground subway.This was taken into account when determining the depth and how much to carve into the ground. Since Kitchen has few subway stops, the main circu lation of the project occur s on or above grade level.


To promote interaction beneficial to the context, sectional explorations were influenced by view, sunlight and cir c ulation Fig. 3 is formal sectional studies. Fig. 4 a and 4 b demonstrate sectional studies of view and circulation within the block. Fig. 5 is a plan diagram and relationship between view and circulation. Fig. 6 demonstrates studies of sun conditions on the site. Figure 3 Figure 4 a Figure 4 b Figure 5 Figure 6 After visiting the city one discovers the pace and feeling experienced within it W ithin a dense urban area like New York City, a person experiences the paradoxical feeling of isolation among the masses This paradox comes from the fast pace of the city and the constant movement that limits interaction between individuals. This experience of isolation heightens


sense of sight and perception of sp atial conditions emphasizing the importance of v iewing. After recognizing the importance that sight has on one s perception and bearing within the city some analysis diagrams were created that explore the types of viewing that occur within the city between individuals and the buildings that envelope them See Fig. 7 Figure 7 We saw the potential for architecture to frame such views generating interactions between individuals Fig 8 a is an initial investigation of existing architectural frames Fig.8 b, c, d and Fig 9 shows the evolution of our intervention creating frames for interaction The juxtaposition of programs and the activated ground plane as well as the porous facades all create an environment that promotes visibility and connections of individuals. Figure 8a


Figures 8 b, 8c, 8d From the analysis of the city infrastructure public spaces and areas of high density we were able to determine where programs and main foot traffic areas within the block should be located. See Fig. 10 Figure 9 Figure 10


The tallest of the three towers on the block is a hotel and is placed on the eastern half of the block that is closer to the dense city fabric to relate back to the city and become an icon for our block. Also, the e xisting section of the surrounding context allowed for placement of towers for optimum views and sunlight. The residential towers are placed slightly shifted from one another to allow for more viewing choices. The residents have a choice to view beyond or at the other towers. The western faade fac ing 11th Ave and De Witt Clinton Park maintains an openness that parallels the park across the street. Contrary to the Western faade, the Eastern faade facing the city has more density of programs at the street level. This is relating to the already high volume of activity at the street level in the downtown of Manhattan. See Fig 1 1 Eastern faade and Fig 1 2 for p ark faade Figure 1 1


Figure 1 2 Theoretical Approaches to Urban Design The decision to provide two main East and West entries into the block and 2 smaller entries on the North and South side The Death and Life of Great American Cites ideology of Eyes on the Street i 2 the design maintains a permeable street edge whose visual permeability invites the public in. The entrances on West 53rd Street and West 54th Street further break down the monotony of the ri gid city block. Providing breaks within the 800 sq. ft. gives the occupant more routes to choose increasing the interaction between individuals This increase in the density of people and interaction and the withdrawal from the idea of 2 Jacobs, Jane. Life and Death of American Cities. New York: Random House, 1993.


distinct programmatic zonal planning can generate a lively atmosphere within the city. The ground planes fold up to allow for pedestrians to enter the block from the side. The E ast entry of the block allows the occupant to walk along the rising gro und plan e on the upper level of the circulation or slip between the planes and continue on grade level. Also, if one continues on grade level one can walk across the width of the block to reach the other street, allowing for a more fast paced itinerary and different form of interaction Fig 1 3 sho ws the side entry into the block. Figure 13 Fig. 1 4 and 1 5 are exploded axonometric diagrams showing circulation and its relation to program within the block.


Figure 1 4 Figure 1 5 Programmatic reorganization material comes from the public word and so it has qualities in common with material of other experiences, while the product awakens in other persons new perceptions of the 3 that holds the placement of elements in the design together The idea s of the viewer becoming the viewed and the reevaluation of programmatic relationships create new perceptions of common programs. The architectural language developed allowed for an 3 Dewey, John. Art as Experience New York: Minton, Balch &Company, 1934.


overlap and permeability of activity that could encourage visual and physical interaction Fig. 1 6 is an exploded axonometric of the block. Figure 1 6 The street level of the city is highly active. T he idea of disorientation among the masses that one feels in the city was materialized by raising the main circulation piece above grade. This gives one the feeling of being underground while actually at grade level. This repositioning of the activated gro und allows for new possibilities between programs, buildings and people. This continuous, ribbon like ground maintains a fluidity that emphasizes interaction among occupants. These planes fold at separate locations, creating splits in the ground that allow for unique views into what programs and activities occur below. It sets up a language that allows for new interactions between people passing through and lingering within the block. In some cases the ground folds up and leads you into a gallery or splits to reveal a performance below ground. The flexibility of the folding ground plane allows for more opportunity for programs to intertwine or overlap, therefore increasing the overlap of interactions. The redefinition of relationship s between pieces of program and views allows for the redefinition of interactions connecting


occupants. Fig 1 7 is a section showing the interaction of the ground planes and how it can connect the various programs. Figure 1 7 A raised public ground elevates circulation, creating a slower pace than the one found on the streets just a few feet below. This provides a unique perspective for occupants while simultaneously making them an event to watch from below Juxtaposition of programs can set u p new atmospheres that promote n ew interactions to take place. For instance, the viewer of a theatre or fashion show becomes the viewed and a dance club becomes a background for the runway The new atmospheres created can


cause new reacti ons and higher visibility into volumes will attract viewers to become participants. Figure 1 8 below shows the fashion show at the top of the hotel tower. The people walking above looking down at the show and looking ahead at the dance club have the opportunity to view and choose their destination. Figure 1 8


A pool on the ceiling of a gallery allows for a new experience of light, showcasing the art in a new way, also having views of the city, to the north and south, as a context for the artwork to be showcased Figure 1 9 is an image of gallery with the pool reflecting light below Figure 1 9 Central to the intervention is a theatre that is visible from multiple vantage points. You have the traditional view of the audience watching a performance. Then because the theatre is located partially underground the upper ground plane splits providing the possibility for individuals above to view the audience and the performance as wel l as the


people walking outside of the theatre A secondary performance space is suspended above the main stage, providing an additional attraction that may be viewed from below and also from the 11 th Avenue faade. Figure 20 of the main theatre volume. Figure 20 On the interior of the block we decided to place practice dance studios. The p ractice studios are situated to face the center of the block, placing performers on a n informal stage for others within the block to view. The practice rooms were also placed


facing the interior of the block, so people and interactions would be drawn from the street edge inw ard into the center of the project Figure 21 on the elevated circulation facing the dance studios. Figure 2 1 The gallery space is elevated above an entry ramp that places multiple shops within. As you walk to get to the entry of the gallery, you pass through a field of hectic, noisy shops and then arrive in a serene and peaceful atmosphere Both programs are about vi ewing but placed above one another they highlight the different experiences that each program encompasses Figure 2 2 a and 2 2 b s h ow preliminary renders of the ramp leading toward the gallery.


Figure 2 2 a Figure 2 2 b Conclusion My self evaluation of the project would be to design and resolve the apartment towers but with more time I would reevaluate the divis ion of spaces within the two towers. Also, a critique of the project was the placement of the housing towers in relationship to one another. The critique was to shift them so each tower had a clear and direct view of the river. The intention of the project was for the two towers to be slightly shifted so the viewer has a multiplicity of views, either toward the water or toward the other tower. The project was a proposal for a rethinking of the role of architecture to frame and create new connections among p eople. The process of context analysis and research into theoretical ways of developing an urban project is what led toward r eestablishing the ground plan, creating permeability of entire block, increased routes of circulation and juxtapos i ng the program s as tools to invent a new type of New York City block.


Bibliography Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch & Company, 1934. Frampton, Kenneth. Studies in Tectonic Culture: The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001. Gregotti, Vittorio. Inside Architecture. Chicago: Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts ; Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 1996. Harries, Karston. The Ethical Function of Architecture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997. Hays, K. Michael. Architecture Theory Sin ce 1968. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998. Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of American Cities. New York: Random House, 1993. Kipnis, Jeffery. Strategies in Architecural Thinking Forms of irrationality. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 1992. Tschumi, Bernar d. Architecture Theory Since 1968 The Architecural Paradox. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1975.