The final walk...

Gay Street Bridge, Knoxville, TN

So, this is it, the count down to the end of the semester. If studio is the collection and presentation of all of the knowledge and skills that I have been taught this semester and last summer, then I have a full plate ahead of me for the next three weeks. For project five, our final project, we have been located in the ‘Old City’ in north Knoxville. We are to take an over sized, run-down parking lot that is surrounded on three sides by old buildings and one side by a major road, and turn it into a park of some sorts.

Well, I guess ‘park’ was never specified as the end result. So now I find myself wondering if I can challenge the traditional idea of how to use open space within a city. What is the best use for such a centered piece of land?

There are so many places to start. Recently I read a portion of ‘Site Matters-Design Concepts, Histories, and Strategies’ edited by Carol J. Burns and Andrea Kahn. The portion that I read spoke directly about the development of a lexicon for landscape architecture and how this activity changes the way designers perceive the ‘site’. While I am not typically one to enjoy such dry reads, I did appreciate the exposition on the topic.

I will speak about this reading in the context of our site. I would be remiss to conceive a design that only addressed the immediate and obvious issues about this site, for instance, the dominance of under-used parking spaces and the obvious defiance for the needs of the surrounding city. This problem is surface level. It is elementary and fails to search out the greater contextual problems that are presented and the problems that are not immediately presented (i.e. historical representation or ecological sensitivity).

When one looks at the site through different lenses they see the problem more clearly. It is difficult to focus one’s lens in today’s design world. As a beginning designer, I find myself inundated by the numerous design theories and styles. One can view a site in an eco-revelatory manner or one can view it as a socioeconomic stimulator as did Henry the IV in France.

However I chose to view this site it must be in a more advanced manner than I previously would have. Again, if this project is to be a showcase for skills and knowledge learned this semester and this past summer then I will possibly be addressing some of the following:

            *basic landscape construction methods (grading, drainage, details,

walls, possibly wooden structures, technical drafting skills)

*concepts of landscape design found in my readings for history (Chinese,

Japanese, early Americas, Egyptian, renaissance France and Italy,

Rome, etc.)

*plants (the appropriate use of these plants and basic design considerations)

*concepts in form, scale, using drawing techniques for the design process such as sections, how time will change my design and drive emotive experiences, site inventory and analysis, programmatic creation, conceptual design methods, representational skills, the site details, how I dress the site with materials and how those materials will inform the user of the program, and how paths, portals, and spaces all come together to make a place.

Above all, if I cannot make a place, all is lost.

So, here we go.