I started off with three concept diagrams for the dreaded Pantops Shopping Center site. Then I chose one from which to build a framework plan and a 3D build out. Here they are:
In all three schemes, I wanted to maintain a strong line of site from the north end through the tip of the peninsula, where there will most likely be a more cultivated park tucked into the natural area surrounding the river. On the east side, a steep slope precludes building, but between the slope and the floodplain area I sited an urban farm to provide food (and experience growing it) for the residents.
- The main goal here was to reorient the buildings in the opposite direction of their current state. Now, all the storefronts in the shopping center look inward toward an ugly sea of asphalt (planner-speak for parking lot). It would be super cool to have buildings, especially residences, that take advantage of the natural beauty surrounding the little peninsula by peering out onto the river. For this reason, the density is concentrated along the central spine, with the higher buildings in the middle and lower buildings on the edges so you can see past them from the top to the river. Sort of like a less-ugly Roosevelt Island stepped approach.
- I wanted to focus on interesting block sizes, so I chose a square with a courtyard in the middle that could be used for recreation or edible gardening, depending on the character of the space in the buildings (commercial, residential) and users’ preferences. I expanded on the park on the northeast end that appears in the first scheme to create a dialogue with the end of the peninsula as well as a hierarchy of green spaces with the sizing of the courtyards.
- I thought most about traffic circulation in this scheme, creating a green spine and allowing for heavier car circulation around the darker lines. The hatching denotes building height for these blocks, and I hoped to buffer route 250 and the east side of the site with taller buildings.
One of the biggest lessons I took away from this exercise was the importance and difficulty of a seemingly simple concept: scale. I’m doubtful that I’ll ever be master-planning greenfield sites (I hope not, anyway), but it’s important to keep in mind the size of a block or street. I started out with concepts that had too many small blocks, apparent in my first three concept diagrams below. After choosing my diagram, I spent a significant amount of time making sure my blocks were at least 200 to 250 feet in each direction, with buildings sized from 50′ by 50′ to 30′ by 150′.