27 May 2011

07 May 2011

Half Empty or Half Full?

The built environment interacts with people everyday. A designer is capable of enabling experience - a powerful tool that shapes attitudes and culture.

A year has past since presenting my thesis. There is room for improvement. Although the project calls for low-tech applications to combat blight, additional exploration into other lamp choices could strengthen the intervention. With that, closer examination of scrims on each vacant property and their material interaction with light may create further enlivenment with these spaces. Despite their evening transformation, understanding how these interventions become visible in the day would enrich this with another level of detail.
    Aspects with design implementation need further exploration. Details with urban policy, providing outreach to vacant property owners on installation, and how these interventions receive power to have yet to be addressed. City codes and zoning from the departments of building and transportation may help guide the direction of the project. As a result, the design may be able to spark new policy which would address renewal within these blighted areas.

    In conclusion, the role of the inspire lighting designer re-examines the temporal permanence of vacant properties and initiates discussion on how they can work. To be sure, this is not a perfect job. Design strategies for places with a smaller ratio of vacancy in a spread out area would require a different approach. However, Franklin Avenue allows all three of these typologies to be explored. Light has the potential to allow the public to reconsider how a space can be reused, thus becoming an agent for change. The intervention creates a temporary spectacle that hopes to inspire the community, future policy makers, urban planners, and lighting designers to move towards providing a positive contribution to the neighborhood.

Studio Project

fig. 24 Plan view of Site Interventions along a relamped Franklin Ave.

Communities must recognize that neglect is a human behavior, which feeds into the negative perception that vacant properties often receive. The concentration of these properties along Franklin Avenue represents the opportunity to redefine this stretch in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

After analysis, it was determined that each of the three typologies would address certain planar features that would become visibly apparent:

What is attractive about the project is the strategy that allows a community group or business improvement district to implement the intervention through low-tech means. Using linear strip fluorescent fixtures and modified construction materials allows laymen or construction workers to use the approach detailed below. Easy assembly allows the designs to be installed and disassembled after the property becomes transformed from its vacancy [Appendix B].

fig.25 Zoning Diagram

fig 26. Safety Orange is the visual color component 
in project (Photo courtesy of jphilipg on flickr.com)

There is no gratuitous decoration for effect in any of its moves. Instead, its minimal reliance on additional structure permits the properties to bare their honest condition. Pedestrians know an eyesore when they see one. The desired reaction inspires one to capitalize on the opportunity at hand – the chance to implement a program that would positively contribute to the community. In order for these interventions to contrast with the streetscape, street fixtures adjacent to any vacancy would relamp from the current 250W HPS lamps to a lower wattage HPS – 100-150W [fig. 24].

As a result, an extraordinary sequence of illuminated planes would be revealed along the evening streetscape. The site’s twelve blocks divide into four zones. With timed controls, each zone will light intermittently over a 15-minute period at the start of each hour after dusk [fig. 25]. Drama unfolds as vacancies briefly reveal themselves and then return to their current status quo.

Moreover, the color, safety orange, plays a vital role in tying the project together. Safety orange is typically used in the United States for construction zones, traffic cones, barriers, and other signage devices [fig.26]. As a painted element, the color reinforces the transformative condition when orange light is relected onto highlighted surfaces.

Design Process

fig. 17 Plan view of Franklin Ave. Vacancy Typologies 
with their Contagion Effect

Analysis of Franklin Avenue was divided into three phases and studied the corridor at both macro and micro levels. First, mapping each vacancy type with their contagion effects, in plan and elevation, provided a visual and graphic description [fig. 17 and 18]. 

fig. 21 Details of Franklin Ave. 
Vacancy Typologies with their Contagion Effect

Second, a closer study noted property details, state of condition, size, etc [fig. 21].
fig. 22 The Material Phenomenology of 
Vacant Properties (Photos by author)

fig. 19 BLOCK F EAST: 609-631 Franklin Avenue
Plan view AGI Analysis, Elevation, and correlated 
subjective analysis 

The third phase looked at each property subjectively and referenced phenomena based on initial observation of material conditions [fig. 22 and 24].

fig. 23 Subjective Analysis of 
Franklin Ave. Vacancy Typologies 

This study was conducted during both day and evening hours to understand how vacancy might negatively inform pedestrians and the community at different times [fig. 19 and 20]. Onsite measurements with computer illuminance studies using the lighting analysis tool AGI confirmed that empty lots visually become dark voids in the night streetscape. Their condition receives less illuminance from available street lighting. In vacant lots, trash is strewn while shadowed walls provide open canvases for graffiti. Construction barricades, metal roll down gates, broken glass, and litter reinforce a canyon of shuttered storefronts.

Over thirty vacant properties have been documented in varying states of vacancy [Appendix A]. Closer examination in the material phenomenology captures the essence of blight [fig. 23]. Abandoned lots are fenced with chain link and barbed wire. As the recession has halted their development, construction sites are neglected. Empty buildings are distressed from lack of maintenance on the exterior. Similarly, storefronts for rent are locked and shuttered with metal roll down gates. In summary, the blight along Franklin Avenue encapsulates the phenomenon that many American cities must encounter.

Understanding site context of the site and its ethnography was vital to inform the design for this section of Crown Heights. Living within the neighborhood immersed me in everyday interactions as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or vehicular rider.

Objectives were outlined as such:
• Provide a temporal and temporary intervention that reclaims and activates a vacant lot.
• Re-imagine the role of the lots and promotes its de velopment potential.
• Create a positive experience for Crown Heights.
• Enliven the pedestrian experience at all times of day.
• Establish an integrated methodology of addressing three types of sites along Franklin.
• Allow a structural/artistic intervention that
capitalizes on both day and electric lighting.
• Compliment the mix of commercial and residen-
tial units.
A matrix of questions were formulated to help guide the design process:
• What is the benefit? For whom?
• How would success be measured?
• When and what is lit? How long will each inter-
vention be maintained?
• Does the intervention repeat itself in other locations? How? When?
• What approaches are used to address the conta- gion effect?
• How is the intervention perceived from differ- ent vantage points, transversals, and times of day/ seasons?
• How can walking these sites become pleasant/ welcoming/inhabitable?
• Can this be modular, customizable – applicable to each other?
• Will these repurpose/innovate current materials or require new?

Project Cabrini Green

The last highrise