All posts by Kate Stuewe

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 PEER REVIEW FOR IAN HSU

Appeals to the Hierarchical Orders of Value

Ian Hsu engages an interesting combination of appeals by pursing the industrial order as well as the inspired order of hierarchical value. In his pursuit of the inspired order, he uses glass boxes as dividers between various programmatic uses. The design of the glass boxes find their roots in the inspired order; allowing ample light and connection with endless sky. Accomplished with soaring seamless glass, the inhabitants interact with the immaterial. In these glass enclosures the most noteworthy part of the experience is the sense of warmth and white light. In one way the user is enclosed by the structures to the east and west, feeling a sense of restriction and comfort, but then the sky above is endless. This combination of blocking out the context on the street level and creating no limits on the context above normal eyelevel disconnects the users from the surrounding street context, and allows them to only connect with the surrounding environment through sky views. Through this intention in planning scale and material, Ian appeals to the inexpressible and ethereal.

A seemingly contradictory appeal is that of the industrial order. Finding its mark in the dignity of tangible work, the principle of efficiency, and the standard of high function and organization, industrial appeals, at face value, seem to clash with inspired values. From the information on Ian’s design I have presented so far, the obvious assumption would be that he was not interested in making industrial appeals. However, his glass enclosures that create an ethereal experience double as direct solar gain greenhouses. The soaring seamless glass allowing in ample light and warming the space for the unique experience of the user also cuts down on HVAC costs. Efficient. The location of the greenhouses as anchors for the other building functions allow for the users disconnect for street context and connection with endless sky also give the greenhouses a perfect location to naturally radiate heat into the adjacent apparatus bay and residential areas. Well organized. Depending on how you frame the design intention behind the glass enclosures they can be viewed as contributing to both inspired and industrial appeals.

Synthesis and Analysis of the Critiquer’s Comments

Going off of this theme of duality of function in a space, one reviewer argued that there are many missed opportunities for continuing this theme throughout the rest of the layout. Ian included a large paved outdoor area south of the apparatus bay. In his current design it serves merely as a continuation of the access route for the firetrucks and an outdoor washing area for the trucks. Its program is strictly related to the operations of the fire vehicles. This space, which encompasses hundreds of square feet of land, could double as an outdoor patio space for the enjoyment of the firefighters. They could use it for barbeques and get-togethers with family and friends. It could be incorporated into the residential area to the east of the apparatus bay. It could connect to the park path and in doing so create a more fluid connection between building and site.

Another opportunity to develop site, that Malcolm mentioned during the review, is the green space enclosed on two sides by the residential building and on a third side by one of the glass enclosures. It opens up to a view of the inlet, but is bordered on the south by apparent dead, white space on the site plan. Any direct connection to the inlet is cut off by the access drive for the fire trucks, so the green space functions almost as a courtyard. Ian has currently decided to leave the design of the courtyard ambiguous, but the strength of the building’s integration with the site would be greatly enhanced by a more developed design for that greenspace. As mentioned during my discussion of the paved area outside the apparatus bay, the green space could be incorporated with the paved area to create a more fluid use of outdoor space. Part of the courtyard could be enclosed within the greenhouse to enhance the edgeless, ethereal feeling of the glass enclosure space. Also, being that it borders residential program like a large kitchen, part of the greenspace could be devoted to a vegetable garden for the full time firefighting staff. And if Ian decided to connect the courtyard with the paved area and the park path, the garden could become a space open to the community.

Another point brought up in review by Christine was the issue of scale. The greenhouses are currently at two different scales although they are serving the same function. They interact with the surrounding buildings differently because of their differing heights. One of the greenhouse enclosures cannot even be seen from Franklin Street because it cuts off after the second floor and the surrounding buildings continue higher. If Ian’s concept is based around these anchoring greenhouses that create an ethereal experience for the users, then he might consider making them more of a statement structure. He could accomplish this simply by increasing the roof heights of the greenhouses so that they are visible from every elevation. I would also like to throw out the opposite suggestion for consideration; Ian could decrease the scale on both of the greenhouses and make an effort, with the placement of the surrounding buildings, to visually close the glass enclosures off from the public streets on the north and east. Instead of making them statement structures he could make them understated hideaways. Two secret sky-filled spaces tucked between hulking, old-world industrial buildings. But regardless of which direction he chooses to take his greenhouses, I would still suggest connecting them to greenspaces in a more fluid way.

Technical Comments

Because of the interactions between many separate spaces, a massing model or axonometric diagram of the basic programmatic layout would be helpful. I would also suggest that Ian develop his wall section even further because it currently does a great job of communicating accessible space within all the levels and if developed further could be a statement drawing on his board.

 

Featured image Bauer Hall by architect Moore Ruble Yudell.

DD PROJECT STATEMENT

Located on the Bushwich Inlet of Brooklyn, NY, the site for a proposed fire station serves as a link between an industrial sector of Greenpoint Brooklyn and residential towers now lining the East River waterfront. The existing brick warehouse meshes with the industrial aesthetic and history surrounding the site, but resists the expanding residential communities. By preserving elements of the existing warehouse opportunity for interaction between the old industrial sector and the new residential sector arises.

Coming from the industrial north side of Franklin Street and Quay Street, the apparatus bay protrudes through a perforation in the existing brick wall. Through massive scale glass bay doors the passer-by can peer in at the firetrucks standing at attention and the firefighters hard at work. Through the apparatus bay, headed towards the western end, program moves from mechanical to residential. Allowing firefighters to have a productive work area adjacent to a middle section of secluded resting quarters that flow through to a space for relaxation and daily living overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

Approaching from the park on the southern border of the Firestation’s site, the user follows a park pathway bridging over the inlet’s freshly rehabilitated wetland and through a perforation on the southern existing brick wall. The pathway flows in and out of the preserved warehouse space that is filled with flexible divisions. Coming from this direction, the user is presented, not with mechanical function, but with public program. Here, pedestrian scale of doorways and walkways encourages a welcoming atmosphere. The user can enter a public lobby, participate in public fire safety education, look out over the wetland wildlife, or visit the Monitor Museum.

User interaction with both the preserved north and south brick walls provide connection between the industrial and the residential, old and new, but in ways specific to opposing programmatic needs.

 

 

Personal featured image.

Schematic Design Review: Caroline Wilson

Caroline Wilson’s work, Reaching for Sustainability, is dominated by appeals to the civil order of value. As the title suggests, Caroline seeks to incorporate sustainable strategies into every possible element of her building. She has skylights that aid heat gain and shallow green roofs that collect rainwater and naturally cool the apparatus bay. This reduces the need for heating and air conditioning. There are sustainable strategies on top of the firefighters living quarters as well. An angle towards the west on the firefighter’s roof allows for a natural collection of rainwater through gravity. The angle allows for another sustainability device: Caroline states this is the way “to accept the most sunlight using photo-voltaic cells placed on the roof.” Her design focus on sustainable practices through site planning and programmatic decisions reflect her goal of creating a sustainability driven building.

Hierarchical Order of Value

The way Caroline went about her fulfillment of the civic order leaned towards coupling appeal with the industrial order rather than the inspired hierarchical order of value. When focusing on sustainability, two options of execution arise. The designer can lean towards the ethereal expression, in which they might dream of a power producing city, where the buildings continuously make more energy, leaving no carbon footprint. The mode of transportation might be harmless to the environment, and even aid the life and migration of the wildlife cohabiting the space. Or they can lean towards satisfying a desire for efficiency. In Caroline’s approach to satisfying the civic order she shies away from the ethereal and tends towards fulfilling elements of the industrial order. She uses a narrative of sustainable building to highlight efficiency and planned long term payback on investment; payback not being in financial capital but in ethical capital.

In order to highly value the civic order, this firehouse proposal sacrifices in the market and inspired orders. As previously discussed, Caroline focused on appealing to the industrial rather than the inspired order of value in her design of a sustainable building. I would venture to claim that the inspired order and industrial order are mutually exclusive given that the inspired order thrives on dreamlike imagination and the industrial order is rooted in practicality. The test for the industrial order is trial, and trial is not feasible without substance. The inexpressible and ethereal nature of the inspired contradicts the trial nature of the industrial order, therefore, Caroline’s focus on fulfilling the industrial order sacrifices stake in the inspired order. Similarly to the contradiction of the inspired verses the industrial order, Caroline’s focus on sustainability within the civic order dampened her ability to appeal to the market order of value. Sustainably strategies hold value in the civic order because of their demonstration for a just cause, however they skimp on their appeal to a financially driven order. The upfront costs and added infrastructure that make many sustainable strategies possible take away from the building’s short term financial flexibility. They are an investment that may or may not pay off in a strictly fiscal sense. Caroline’s design strategies do a great job of appealing to the civic order of hierarchical values but with her focus on simultaneously satisfying the industrial order, she sacrifices fulfillment of the inspired and market orders of value.

Board + Drawings

Caroline’s drawings utilized color and line weight well. Color choice was appropriate and helpful in reading her drawings. Line weight read without much effort on the audience’s part. She provided a roof plan that mapped out the varying sustainable strategies used on the roof surfaces. This drawing went beyond the schematic design requirements but was crucial in providing a deeper understanding of the project goals. I applaud her initiative and encourage her to develop her building’s roof plan further. She should consider making it a key drawing with obvious time and effort put into it; the roof plan could be a focus of her presentation.

Comments on Reviewer’s Comments

One of her reviewers commented on how well her building read in section and I agree. Plans are needed to see programmatic layout but her one section was ostracized in the bottom right hand corner. I would suggest not treating her sections as an afterthought. Her plans were well done, but her section could be brought up to that level of rigor. In section, the angled opening towards Franklin Street makes sense because it welcomes the public off the street and then subtly funnels them down as program becomes more and more private. The entrance on the east end in contrast to the openings on the west end work well in implying a hierarchy of space. I suggest Caroline develop her longitudinal section further, paying attention to the poché spaces created by her various angles. Also, she might consider creating a series of transverse sections that move through her building from east end to west end. Those sections would help explain the intended hierarchy of spaces and elaborate on the movement through her building.

Using the building to break up territory would increase the strength of Caroline’s proposal. A reviewer remarked, currently her building feels out of touch with the site. I suggest she could rectify this by anchoring her building with her community garden. She might consider using the garden, not as a green polygon, but instead as a pathway in itself that widens and narrows as the land and building meet in new ways. The community garden is a substantial factor in her appeal to the public and to sustainable practices; it could strengthen her concept to heavily focus on integrating her community garden with the layout and circulation of her building. The photo-voltaic cells on the roof of the firefighters living quarters makes sense programmatically. Caroline might consider realigning the angle of the roof to the south in order to capture as much sun as possible. That might entail reorienting the entry way to maintain the hierarchy of spaces created below by the angled roof, however, given the focus of her concept, maximum sustainability should remain the driving force in design decisions.

In Conclusion…

Just as Juan said, “If you’re going to claim sustainability as your concept, you’re going to have to go sustainability crazy. Then we’ll buy it.”

 

Featured image from personal photos – Work by Caroline Wilson

Architectural Critique

In Paul Jones’ piece The Sociology of Architecture and the Politics of Building: The Discursive Construction of Ground Zero he uses Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, Berlin and The Freedom Tower as evidence to his argument; despite the architect’s attempt to design for the community’s collective identity, the symbols used are often too convoluted to appeal to the public without explanation. In regards to the Jewish Museum, Berlin, Jones’ discusses the abstract symbolism used to evoke emotion. Being the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, the abstract symbolism is appropriate. However, Jones claims it still requires explanation if the architect has any hope of the public understanding his design intentions. An example we found of symbolism that requires explanation is the Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial. The memorial is a part of the larger Constitution Gardens. The original architecture was done by AECOM with Joe Brown, FASLA as landscape architect. The semi-circle of stones were put into place in the original design. PWP completed the redesign in 2012, focused on making the lake storm water runoff infrastructure. But going back to Paul Jones’ thesis of symbols being lost without explanation, AECOM and Joe Brown, FASLA were attempting to convey the bravery of the 56 Signers. Those stones could have been their tombstones had events turned out differently. Paul Jones argues for the difficulty in capturing the public’s collective identity because no group has perfectly aligned goals, no culture is monocultural, and the public can read into architectural symbols. Unless they are instructed in what a symbol is communicating, they will read their own meaning.

Markus Miessen gives evidence for his argument; architecture reflecting public memory should not be based on one man’s ego. Miessen quotes Libeskind, saying, “Discussion is part of a civic process. If a people don’t discuss a building they don’t really care about it.” However, when an article by Herbert Muschamp appeared in the New York Times that was not in support of Libeskind’s proposal, he responded with a letter to the editor that appeared in the New York Times stating that Muschamp’s article was “over the top” and advised readers to send in letters that jeopardized Muschamp’s career. This exemplifies the reality of Daniel Libeskind’s opinions regarding the discussion of his own architecture, proving, despite claims to the contrary, Daniel Libeskind does design based on his ego.

In his interview, Frank Gehry asserts $40,000 was not enough money for himself and his team to take on the World Trade Center Memorial proposal. Although he is trying to better professional practice by making this point, he chooses a poor time and topic to make that point on. Regardless of his intentions, he communicates that the World Trade Center Memorial was not worth his time due to the lack of decimal places in the competition stipend. After revealing he was in NYC the day the planes hit, he appears unpatriotic and without empathy for the families who suffered losses on that tragic day.

Architectural Critique Presentation

Featured Image by Studio Libeskind