A First Look at Site Design


At this point in our project, our professor instructed us in our first attempt at dealing with a site. Up until now, our design process had been removed from any real sense of location – we knew the pavilion was to be located in downtown Troy, NY (the location of RPI), but we had yet to properly explore how the site was integrated into the surrounding city.

The site chosen (which was the same location across the entire 1st year studio) was located at the end of a block, along one of the main streets of Troy. It had a triangular shape to it, which we had not expected. This unusual shape, and the subsequent layout of the surrounding buildings, streets, and river, posed some interesting challenges. Many of us wished that we had been introduced to the site sooner in the design process, as now we were struggling to marry a design to a seemingly arbitrary location. It was as if we were trying to inject this design into the site, which was not only difficult but felt unnatural. Of course, much of this was probably due to our lack of experience of dealing with a physical location for our designs. The first time is always the hardest. And while being introduced the site mid-design posed it’s own challenges, no doubt we as 1st years would have been even more confounded were we asked to consider it from the beginning.

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Andrew Kim

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Andrew Kim

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Andrew Kim

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Andrew Kim

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Google Street View

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Google Street View

Up until this point, my design had been extremely rectilinear, and the task of attempting to mold this to a triangular space was not easy. For multiple weeks I sketched out different designs and tried to figure out how the entire pavilion would and should come together. I visited the site multiple times, taking pictures and sketching, and each time came away with a new and different idea only to then cut it up and remold it back in the studio. I suspect that this whole procedure is indicative of the design process itself, and while there were many moments of frustration and a loss of how to proceed, overall it was quite enjoyable to work through the entire project and see it’s evolution to a finished pavilion.

To assist us with our site considerations, we were asked to draw up a “Site Drawing” that would explore the various parts of the site and how they might relate to our design. Using a birds-eye view/plan of the site, we then addressed the various movements of the site using different types of lines – this included things like city grid, pedestrian and vehicular flow, light and shadow, and finally how they might be married to our own movements. It was an exploratory take on how the movement of the site and city might meld and form with the movement of our design. Needless to say, many of us found this very difficult, and due to time constraints some of us (myself included) were unable to finish the site drawing. I have uploaded my drawing here to give a sense of my exploratory process, with the caveat that it is far from a completed state.

The Site Drawing, attempting to explore the various movements of the site and how they might relate to my design.

The Site Drawing, attempting to explore the various movements of the site and how they might relate to my design.

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