All posts by Bernardo Almeida Barra

DESIGNING FOR HUMAN AND WILDLIFE USERS

To be published in LA+ Journal.

In thirty to forty years, seven out of ten people will be living in a city, making interaction with urban wildlife a daily possibility for seventy percent of the population (qtd. in Binay, “Coexist”). As urban populations rise and development takes over wilderness environments, the wildlife that inhabited those environments gets displaced or absorbed into the urban wildlife population. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a study in 1978 commenting on historical practices of urbanization pointing out how wildlife has been given little to no consideration (Leedy, 7). Since then, U.S. urbanization has only increased. Because of the disturbance in the natural ecosystem, so-called nuisance species – rats, raccoons, and pigeons – have increased in urban environments while other species’ populations have plummeted. According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, by the year 2050, the continued expansion of U.S. cities will consume land the size of Pennsylvania (ASLA para. 1). The article goes on to say, even with the existing wilderness areas, many habitats are already too small to sustain wildlife populations. Interaction and necessity for accommodation of urban wildlife is an undeniably growing reality.

As the practice currently stands, architecture is designed with the human user in mind. In the hierarchy of design, human needs should remain primary, however, wildlife accommodations should be a serious consideration. Humans and wildlife can coexist in an urban setting. We are reliant on them as pollinators, reliant on the plants they pollinate for clean air, and reliant on clean air to breathe. Beyond physical survival needs, interaction with urban wildlife adds a dimension of comfort and inner peace to an urban resident’s quality of life. A shift in the mindset of the urban population is critical in order to enact real change. Urban renters and owners must develop an appreciation for coexisting with local wildlife, politicians need to recognize the value of enacting government funded parks and public spaces that encourage interaction with urban wildlife, and current and future business people need to see the importance of putting money and time towards designing for urban wildlife. Urban wildlife in New York City is not a nuisance to exterminate; it is an opportunity for responsive architecture and landscape design.

 

greenroof in Switzerland

“Cantonal Hospital of Basel, built in accordance with the city’s new guidelines on green roofs and urban biodiversity.” -Brenneisen

Image by Diane Cook & Len Jenshel

 

There is a clear need to raise community awareness regarding interaction between human beings and wildlife. This interaction has been unappreciated by many New York City residents, but has become a recognized need by others. Awareness of the necessity to help sustain and appreciate urban wildlife should be fostered among urban renters and owners. To create an environment of coexistence between urban residents and urban wildlife, there must be wildlife accomodation put into the design of residential buildings in New York City. The focus in the urban residential sector should be providing interaction between wildlife and residents through creating sustainable local wildlife habitats. Switzerland has recently been at the forefront in plans to include wildlife in residential buildings. This has been implemented mainly in the city of Basel and is one of the only cities in the country that is implementing this guideline as law. The inhabitants of New York City, both humans and wildlife, would benefit from adopting a similar mindset. The plan in Basel includes designing green roofs as habitats and includes welcoming wildlife in these spaces. The guidelines provide research about varying substrate depth necessary in maintaining diverse species of local wildlife. There are limitations in green roof design given the harsher sun, wind, and weather at higher elevations, but incorporation of varying substrate depths and constructed enclosures provide a more suitable habitat than shallow, uniform green roofs. They are implementing this law, with provided guidelines, which states that every flat roof in the city is required to be “green” (Brenneisen, para. 1). By doing this, designers and developers will be forced to include this important aspect in the building design and accommodate wildlife while fostering public interaction. The general idea is to create these “green” roofs in order to recreate the habitats of the animals that would be living in the area taken over by development. By creating these habitats, the animals will live in spaces that are known to them and the interaction between the urban wildlife and the urban dwellers will have a natural platform. Guidance is provided to the creation of different plants and animals’ habitats on theses “green” roofs through stipulations in the law. It is clear that there is a need for the creation of different spaces that accommodate wildlife into residential buildings; it brings the opportunity to coexist directly to the urban dweller’s home.

 

Trace

TRACE Installation at McCarren Park

Image from Binay Master Thesis

 

Government owned public spaces and parks should be sites for continued interaction and education for the public. There is a need to create habitats for wildlife in public lots and parks to increase awareness of nature’s plea to coexist. Turkish born and raised NYU design student, Rona Binay, did her master thesis on the interaction between wildlife users and human beings in public spaces. She talks about the idea of making small changes to shift the general point of view regarding the accommodation of wildlife users in the design of public spaces that are primarily intended for human use.Wildspotting is a phone application created for the main purpose of documenting interaction between urban dwellers and urban wildlife. In this app “users snap pictures of an urban animal they encounter, and upload them to the platform along with quantity and specific location” (Binay, 17). Then people can enter the app and see what species are near by them and what animals they have to opportunity to interact with. This phone app is mainly design for the New York City area and the urban wildlife that exist in there. This is a great example of how there is project that focuses on the wildlife living next to humans and how the interaction happens. Another Binay design that is already being implemented in New York City is TRACE in McCarren park. The mission behind TRACE is offering the public a platform for conscious interaction with urban wildlife. Installed in public parks, the urban dweller can approach a clear board and quite literally trace the nature and wildlife they see. It is a simple, kinesthetic action that increases awareness of the wildlife around.

 

08-biodome-oak-savannah

Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California

Image from BIG gallery

 

Lastly, commercial buildings in New York City should also incorporate wildlife planning into their design. Designing for both humans and wildlife users in often overlooked. Architects and landscape designers should maintain the idea of designing for human beings as the main purpose of an architectural proposition, but wildlife accommodation should also come into play when designing a building. For instance there is a proposal by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) to design a new Google Headquarters located in Mountain View, California that incorporates sustainable habitats and wildlife interaction through restored wetlands. They intend to design flexible workspaces that meshes outdoor with indoor instead of having a permanent structure with a single purpose (Alternative Energy, 5). There will be an interaction between outside spaces and users in the ground floor. Parking lots will be consolidated and there will be a revitalization of native ecosystems including wetlands and wildlife. This building clearly shows an example of how to commercially design for wildlife and human users to interact. BIG included wildlife habitats specific to the Mountain View animal population, but firms designing for New York City should research the ramifications of their design and consider how to accommodate the local wildlife they are displacing.

The other side of this issue will argue that the possible benefits of integrating wildlife into the world of architecture is not worth the financial sacrifice. Paying for the design and construction of a landscape that supports multiple local species is inevitably going to be more expensive than throwing in bulk discount trees every 50 feet. The market order of value would only focus on the design of the building in response to human needs. Everything else, including wildlife accommodation, would be viewed as an extra expense and not easily financially justified. Responding to this argument, part of what makes standard practice so much more affordable is that it is incorporated in bulk manufacturing. The only way for manufacturing norms to change is for demand to change, and for that to happen, designing for wildlife needs to become standard. On a broader scale of morality, civic duty to preserve habitats should undoubtedly outweigh any financial gain.  

Interaction and necessity to accommodate wildlife in residential, government subsidized public, and commercial buildings is a growing reality and there are some projects in which they take into account this issue. The examples mentioned above enrich the environment cohabited by humans and animals. Residents and the general public in New York City need to develop their appreciation of urban wildlife. A change in public mindset is necessary for architects and landscape designers to be presented with the opportunity to design new and innovative spaces for multiple kinds of users. Designing for urban wildlife must be considered in New York City in order to take advantage of what this new interaction might bring to urban society.

Sources:

Alternative Energy. “Google Biodome: New Headquarters to Blend with Environment.” Alternative Energy. Ed. Alex Ramon. N.p., 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2015. <http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/google-biodome-headquarters/>.

American Society of Landscape Architects. “Designing Neighborhoods for People and Wildlife.” Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes. National Endowment for the Arts, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2015. <http://www.asla.org/sustainablelandscapes/Vid_Wildlife.html>.

Binay, Rona. Masters Thesis: COEXIST: Mixing with Urban Wildlife.Products of Design. SVA NYC, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2015. <http://productsofdesign.sva.edu/blog/rona-binay-thesis>.

Brenneisen, Stephan, and University of Applied Sciences Wadenswil. “Space for Urban Wildlife: Designing Green Roofs as Habitats in Switzerland.” Urban Habitats: n. pag. Web. 23 Oct. 2015. <http://www.urbanhabitats.org/v04n01/wildlife_full.html>.

Larry, Beth, and U.S. Forest Service. “Urban Research Monitoring Wildlife in Urban and Urbanizing Areas.” Feb. 2013. Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

Leedy, Daniel L., et al. Planning for Wildlife in Cities and Suburbs. Ellicott City: Urban Wildlife Research Center, 1978. HathiTrust Digital Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015. <http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015086433680;view=1up;seq=3>.

 

Featured Image of Central Park towards 5th Ave by Ed Yourdon.

DD REVIEW FOR JOHN SHINOGLE

I was assigned to attend to John’s review and make comments on his work. His concept for his project is basically the shape of the apparatus bays and the orientation of them. He did a lot of site manipulation regarding the extension of one of the roads of the site and then he shaped his building based on the orientation of the apparatus bay sizes going hand by hand with the extended road. He has some interesting aspects in his project. One of them is the idea of having the residential area on a second level, above the apparatus bays and storage areas. By doing this, he had an interesting view from the residential area, looking down into the apparatus bay. I think that this idea is really strong because there is a clear emphasis in the views and the connection between the upper floor and the apparatus bay. Regarding daylight and natural ventilation, John decided to go with the idea of having a glass roof above the apparatus bay that brings sunlight into that space and also there is an opportunity for natural ventilation if that roof has operable windows to some extent. He also tried to address the idea of circulation, especially for the fire fighters on how to get from the residential area into the apparatus bay in order to maximize efficiency. I think that the comments on John’s review were both positive and negative but all of them helpful in order for him to move forward regarding the next steps of design process even though we don’t have a lot of time until the final project is due.

Regarding John’s board and presentation, I think he did a great job in terms of board composition including drawings both in plan and section, diagrams that explained his concept in a clear way, two perspectives showing important spaces of his building, and a site plan that addresses the connection between his building and the landscape and how is the making that connection. I think that in terms of the perspective that he showed in his review, for the next one I will make them bigger so they can occupy more space in the boards and emphasize its importance. I suggest to John also the idea of having a perspective form the second floor, overlooking the apparatus bay because I think that space is an important one in his project and it will be good if that space is emphasized in a good way. Also other suggestion includes the idea of making the diagrams in a different way. I think that the diagrams that John showed in his review were very clear but at the same time very simple. Maybe for the next review he can try making them as axonometric and include more information. Also one other thing that John did a pretty good job on is including pictures of precedents. I think this is a very important aspect that a lot of people don’t pay close attention to. Including precedents in any presentation shows that the designer took the time to investigate projects that presented similar ideas to have he/she wanted to do. It makes the project look better and stronger.

Like I previously mentioned, there were positive and negative comments that the reviewers had for John’s project in his review. They often expressed the simplicity of his design being a positive aspect and how he look part of site manipulation and building placement in a good way. Some of the other comments included the articulation of the elevations in order to show the building as a continuous bar. They mentioned that in plan view, his project shows a clear continuous bar going from one corner of the building to another. That idea was not expressed in a good way in the sides of the building and that is one of the things that John has to work on. Also they mentioned the idea of having a big massive circulation on the second floor and the idea of having the roof also served as part of the second floor and not only the first one. One of the other aspects of his building that they focused on was the extension of the road in order to create boundaries for the site in the area of his building. They said that there is a really tight space in between the edge of the building and the road in order for the trucks to maneuver and get out of the building or get in. He has to articulate that space in a better way and give more space for the trucks to go through the road and get inside or outside the building in an efficient and fast way. The reviewers, especially Jamie Cooper, kept talking about the facades of John’s building and that they don’t express the same idea that the roof is. Focusing on the fire trucks side façade, they mentioned that it was kind of simple and not articulated in a good way and that he had to rethink this approach to that. They suggested the idea of articulating the bay size (or door) all around the building and make it speak the same language. Regarding natural ventilation and sunlight, they suggested the idea of having solar panels in the roof for light and electricity and in that way make the building serve as a sustainable place as well.

I think that the reviewers gave John good feedback in order for him to move forward on his design. I think that they focused more on the articulation of the facades and how to make the building speak the same language in every part of it. They also focused on how is John treating the connection between the building and the site, and they said that he might want to consider that aspect and make it look more clear and better. I think that the organization of the landscape is simple and clear but maybe John will want to emphasize more the circulation paths of the users around the building and the connections from the doors of the building to the landscape and the outside spaces. Overall I think that John’s project is strong and clear. His concept is clear and the way in which he treated all the parts of the program to fit his concept was done in a good way. Like all projects always, there is some stuff that has to be change or modified to make the project stronger and to look better. I think that if John takes the advise from the reviewers on how to move forward and the things that he has to change in his project, he will make his project stronger and better for the final review.

DD DESIGN STATEMENT

Our site is located in the Greenpoint area more specifically on the Bushwich Inlet in Brooklyn, NY. This area is surrounded especially by industrial buildings and some residential as well. The site is defined by two roads (Franklin Street and Quay Street), which intersect with one another in order to create an interesting corner condition.

The everyday life of a fire fighter includes interaction with people and work for the community in order to save as many lives as possible. There is a need for spaces where people can interact with one another and share. My proposal is to build a structure along the two main streets of the site and create exterior courtyard spaces were the firefighters could interact with other people and between them. The focus of my project is this main courtyard that connects the apparatus, residential, administration, etc. parts of the program together in order to create interesting condition were people interact with one another. There are two types of people experiencing that courtyard space. People that experience it in an every day basis like the fire fighters and also people that come into the space as visitors or not every day users.

The apparatus and residential part of the program are located in the north part of the site, with curtain walls that face the exterior courtyard as well as the nice view of the Manhattan skyline. Basically everything that faces this courtyard will be glass in order to have that connection between the inside and the outside. The idea of extending the roads of the site in order to create spaces between parts of the building was also addressed. Every part of the building emphasizes the exterior main courtyard as well as the other exterior spaces. A training tower is also part of the design intention in order to emphasize the process that a person has to go through in order to become a fire fighter.

 

Featured Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Stockh_1930_9a.jpg

SCHEMATIC DESIGN REVIEW – CRISTINA DIFAZIO

Designer: Cristina Difazio/Reviewer: Bernardo Almeida

I was assigned to attend to Cristina’s review and make comments on her work. I think so far, Cristina’s project was good in the sense of the aspect regarding public vs. private spaces. Her design is based on Louis Khan’s concept of servant vs. served spaces. The idea of the transition between this spaces and how the spaces are organized was very interesting in Cristina’s project. Her idea was based on how to organized this spaces and how to apply this concept of serve and service to a fire station in a good way. She tried to address the idea of circulation, especially for the fire fighters on how to get from the residential area into the apparatus bay in order to maximize efficiency. I think the comments on Cristina’s review were both positive and negative in the sense for improvement but also highlighting important aspects that she had achieved.

Regarding Cristina’s board and presentation, I think she did a great job in terms of board composition including drawings both in plan and section, diagrams that explained her concept, a perspective to show an important space in her project and also a site plan that showed the integration of her building with the landscape. I think in terms of the diagrams I will suggest that for the next review, she could include more information on those and also make her more clear in order for the drawing to speak for itself, how it is supposed to be. I think overall her plans and section were very clear in terms of line weights and also poche. It was very important for Cristina and also for the audience of her review to include the site and context on the first floor plan. I think many of us sometimes don’t think too much about that and I think it is a crucial aspect to consider because it makes a clear understanding of how the building connects to the landscape and vice versa. I think the most important part of her board was the idea of including a picture of her precedent as part of concept explanation and analysis. This is one aspect that sometimes some us of let it pass and don’t think about the importance of including a precedent image on our presentation. Even though some us mentioned it during our presentation, I think it is extremely important to show a picture in the board in order to use it as reference while explaining and talking about it.

Talking about Cristina’s concept idea for her project. The concept that she explained it at the beginning of her review was well composed and explained in a clear way. The idea of servant vs. served spaces is an interesting idea that Cristina proposed but she has to change some things in her project in order to make it stronger in terms of idea and also in terms of architecture as a whole and how to address the site and the building as one. She explained in a clear way how she designs the building in order for the important circulation spaces to make sense. She addressed an important part of the project, which is the boat dock, and how do fire fighters get from the building, through the landscape, into the boat dock. I think she designed it in a good way by locating it in a clear, rectilinear circulation from the dock to the building. One aspect the critics comments on Cristina’s project was the fact that in this building the part of the 2nd floor were all the residential spaces are located it is kind of weird designed. They commented that users could get kind of lost in the second floor and that there is not a clear circulation happening. They suggested making the layout in the second floor cleaner and simpler emphasizing simplicity as Louis Khan conceptual project. In her project, by looking at the plan, she had these vertical strips that acted like volumes with spaces on the inside for program allocation. According to the critics, these volumes look like an important aspect on the project, especially in plan view, and should be emphasized and should read strongly. Cristina’s project includes an A, B, A, B structure with this vertical strips but she needs to allocate program inside the building in a more consistent, simpler and efficient way. This structure is clearly shown in the first floor and it was suggested to her to bring that idea to the second floor as well.

The reviewers talked about the idea of walking into a building and are impacted by something regarding architecture. Some design or focus point on the entrance of a building is essential to gather the users’ attention and make it a welcoming building. One of the reviewers mentioned the library by Kahn which has a open space in the main lobby of the building and makes the people look at the books from the far away distance and bring the people and make them see the books as a main focal point. So they mentioned the idea of coming into the building and looking at the apparatus bay and engines as a main and first focal point when arriving to the main lobby. I think that Cristina’s project emphasizes the idea of serve vs. served spaces.

I think so far I have mentioned some positive aspects about her project and also some aspects that she can improve by taking the good suggestions that the critics made during her review. Other important aspect of her proposal that was discussed during her review was the connection between the building and the landscape on the site and if there is site manipulation in terms of contours at all. In Cristina’s project, she has thought about the idea of designing the landscape and incorporate to the building some how but I suggest that she revise that aspect more closely. She mentions that she came up with the plan of her building by using a structural grid based on the program sizes. What she has right now is a attempt of organizing her landscape and make it work with the circulation of the building. I think that she is not following the same idea of the building, in the landscape. One suggestion could be to use the same grid for the landscape and design spaces in the outside in order to have like a kind of established circulation among the whole site and treat the building and landscape as one element. One thing that was kind of confusing in the first floor plan was the intensity of the colors used in the landscape design I suggest that Cristina could use lighter colors and maybe be more sutil in terms of showing her design idea for the landscape and make the building stand out in both plans and sections. I think overall Cristina has a good project with a clear idea and a good precedent but she has to work out some of the small aspects mentioned in order to make her project stronger and better.

SD Project Statement

Our site is located in the Greenpoint area more specifically on the Bushwich Inlet in Brooklyn, NY. This area is basically surrounded buy industrial and also residential buildings that shaped the area that we see today. The site is defined, in a clear way, by two main streets of the area (Franklin Street and Quay Street). These two streets create an interesting shape in the site. My proposal is to build a structure along those two roads by emphasizing the intersection, and create pavilion like structures that emerge from this main one in order to create exterior communal spaces. According to the information gathered in the site visit, they want a firehouse that addresses communal activities and interaction between the firefighters and the users.

By emphasizing this void spaces created by the structures, the firefighters and the building users will have spaces for sharing and transitional spaces that connect two main spaces together to provide the feeling of unity. The idea also is create a building that emphasizes these connections by using transparent materials such as glass and other similar products. The courtyard/exterior spaces created will be design in a way that serve, as communal spaces were people could gather around and share.

Training is also an important part of in the process of becoming a firefighter and this aspect will have an important space in my design to emphasize its importance and the idea of good preparation.