Thesis Project Wrap-Up

Here are a few shots of the 1″ = 500′ city-scale model I 3D printed earlier in the semester with the plug for the neighborhood site to the east of downtown.  Existing highway and mass transit connections are highlighted, particularly those running through the northern and southern ends of the site.

When I presented the project last Wednesday to a jury of three critics (one faculty member and two professional architects from a firm in town), they felt that the thesis topic of re-understanding how American neighborhoods intertwine with American metropolises was rich.  Their main critique of the project was that it lacked a true neighborhood identity–the buildings, which were intentionally left as massing, did not visually articulate a reason for them to be occupied.  While this critique was valid, it would essentially be the next step to this individual urban design project.  The critics understood that this urban design work was essentially a case study of what the thesis argues and felt that it could be readily applied to help understand what I wrote before and ways that the typology of the American neighborhood could continue to develop.

While designing at a scale like this was something I had never done before and it was something that I spent a solid chunk of the semester merely getting used to working at, the final product is something that I feel is not only a sound project to stand on its own but also validates the goals of my thesis document that it could.  Yes, American neighborhoods are all about identity, and in many cases American cities are simply too young to have the richness of cultural heritage that strengthens the collection of buildings making up the metropolis.  Can the American city reach this point?  Certainly, but it requires a new understanding of how urban planning, zoning, and building components can come together to ensure longevity and the interests of the people.  The United States deserves design appropriate for a democracy of its kind, and those who control the future of architecture and planning in the United States should readily embrace this fact.

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