Choosing a Site Part 2: The Parti

One of the biggest challenges I had to face with the designing of the artist residency was dealing with the parti – in other words, how the building and site are organized. How should people move into, out of, and around the space? Where should the different programs be located? What kinds of governing geometry should be used?

Not really knowing how to begin challenging these questions, I started with a simple box-frame of spaces inserted into the landscape. This approach was very crude and in hind-sight perhaps should not have been used. However, up until this point I had yet to actually design a proper building with specific programmatic requirements. While the “brute-insertion” technique may have ultimately been a poor choice, I learned a lot from the process and how I might better approach it in the future.

To begin, we were all provided with a list of the different programs needed within the space, and what kinds of (rough) square footage they required – this included things like living space, museum spaces, parking, administration, bathrooms, etc. Each project had to include housing for eight artists. Each artist needed at least 400 sq ft of living space, and a 400 sq ft studio. I originally wanted to have two large, shared studio spaces, with four living quarters clustered around each. In the center of the two would reside the dining and communal spaces (such as a computer lab). We also had to include public space as well, where visitors to Storm King might go to see examples of the artist’s work, etc. I wanted to make sure that these spaces were kept separate, as I did not want the public to disturb the artists. Originally, I was unsure where to put the different exhibit rooms, and so I essentially just stuck them under the ground behind the main building. Clearly a poor choice, but this is just the start of the project you must remember.

I knew from the get-go that I did not want my residency to be the “main attraction” of the site. Artists who came would come because of the beautiful Storm King at large, and so I felt that my building should help facilitate this (and their subsequent work) and not intrude on their experience. Ultimately (with the help of my professor – otherwise I may have built something extremely timid), this changed a bit, although the basic idea of making it meld into and form from the landscape stayed throughout the project.

Below I have attached some preliminary drawings that I attempted to put together to illustrate my intentions. As the project changed quite drastically over its tenure, these drawings were never actually used in the final presentation – however, I have included them here to help illustrate my point.

Preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right)

Preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right)

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Beginning Phase 2 – Choosing a Site

At this point we had completed the “Sculptural Analysis” portion of our 3rd studio semester – now it was time to dive into the second portion: designing an artist residency. This section of the class consisted roughly of two phases – one before our midterm, and the other between midterm and finals. The first of these two (phase 2 of the semester), was driving mainly through our exploration of a “parti”. This included attempting to interpret what a parti consisted of and how such a system might integrate into our previous sculptural explorations of phase 1.

But before we could begin any of this, first we needed a site. This particular artist residency was set to occupy a space at the near-by Storm King Art-Center. Located in New Windsor, NY (~2 hours south of Troy, NY / RPI), Storm King is essentially a sculpture garden, but laid out over nearly 500 acres of woods and fields. Most of the sculptures are permanent to their site, with many built/designed by the artist specifically for Storm King. Currently their exhibit boasts over 100 sculptures, including pieces by noted artists Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, Sol LeWitt, and Roy Lichtenstein. You can find out more at their website: http://www.stormking.org/

For our particular section, we were instructed to choose a site situated near the main museum building. This was intended partly for ease of access, but also because the museum building sits on a hill overlooking the rest of the fields, and working with such a hill would require us to take into consideration other landscape factors.

Part 2 of this post will discuss my approach to choosing a preliminary parti /organizational system for the residency.

Final Pavilion Part 1: The Design

With a basic design in hand, there was only one more major hurdle to tackle: how should I make this into a pavilion? I had an idea – an inhabitable, interactive pod built from modules and locked in place by a centralized key – but now I needed to think bigger. How many of these pods should I have? How might they engage the site and each other? How then should a complete pavilion be formed?

At this point, the process simply boiled down to refining the design, and then expanding it to fill the site. I decided that even more opening needed to be done – the pods were still too constricted, and there was still too much wasted space. I blew up the scale – each module now sat at 6′ tall, 3′ wide, and anywhere from 6′ to 24′ long. After stacking these modules 2 to 4 stories high, I removed even more surfaces, opening the interior up further and allowing for a more natural flow through the space. I added stairs for accessibility to higher levels. Even the keys themselves changed – I created only one design, which was then rotated to sit differently within each pod. I found that the distinct modules slowly began to disappear, allowing for a more consolidated design within each pod.

Next came the site – I needed a way to activate the pavilion’s location, allowing for a complete and thorough interaction between ground and structure. Yet the decidedly rectilinear forms of my pods continuously clashed with the rigid triangle of the site. And then it hit me: Rather than fighting this juxtaposition, perhaps that’s how the pavilion wants to be. The reason the site is so triangular is due to an external conflict – that of the two main grids of the city. Most of the city follows a distinct grid pattern – north-south along the Hudson River. But in this section, the river turns slightly to the west, resulting in two conflicting grids. Why not capitalize on this? I laid out five or six pods across the two grids, creating a centralized area encircled by my structures. To help the pods interact even more with the site, I abandoned the idea of them being strictly movable (as that would require a flat and ultimately boring site plan), allowing some pods to sink into or rise out of the ground itself. This created a natural wave across the site, again following the two grids.

Time for some renderings! These are always helpful for me to visualize exactly what I am going to be building before I go ahead and create the final model.

Next up: Construction Time!

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.