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reconnecting the interstitial


reconnecting the interstitial A thesis presented in partial fulfillment for the degree Master of Design in the Department of Interior Architecture of the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island. Michelle Duesterhoeft 2013

Approved by Master’s Examination Committee:

Liliane Wong, Head, Department of Interior Architecture, Thesis Chair

Jeffrey Katz, Senior Critic, Department of Interior Architecture, Thesis Advisor

Skender Luarasi, Critic, Department of Interior Architecture, Thesis Advisor

Wolfgang Rudorf, Critic, Department of Interior Architecture, Thesis Advisor


abstract Interstitial space in cities are often forgotten, lost between the stratification of historic urban fabric. These gaps are currently underutilized, often used as transient circulation routes for people passing through. Architectural intervention within this fragmented historic fabric is vital to creating destination within these underused routes and reconnecting these paths with their surroundings. The Chace Center Stair is currently surrounded by vibrant student life, but remains widely underutilized. The experiential qualities within the current procession are nonexistent, providing an undifferentiated and monotonous experience to users. The reuse of this stairway seeks to inject life back into its surroundings and form new relationships between path and event. By reinventing the social heart of RISD the circulation through this part of campus is transformed from a vector to a space: the stairs becoming woven into a network of new events. These interwoven spaces will be discovered and revealed and one’s perception of them will be heightened through the constant flux of activity.


List of illustrations [18-19]

Providence Historical Society; Sanbourne + Historic Maps

[22]

William T. Aldrich Architect. “Rhode Island School of Design Museum Fragment-South Elevation.” 1925. RISD Archives and Special Collections. “Memorial Hall when built” Newspaper Clippings from the Sunday Journal. 1951. RISD Archives and Special Collections. “Memorial Hall Today” Newspaper Clippings from the Sunday Journal. 1951. RISD Archives and Special Collections.

[23]

William T. Aldrich Architect. “Rhode Island School of Design Museum Fragment-Court Enterance Details.” 1925. RISD Archives and Special Collections. “Proposed Renovations” Irving & Hayes Associates Architects. 1981. RISD Archives and Special Collections “College Hill-RISD Central Congregational Church Detail” Flick River. Accessed 12/2/12.


[24-25] William T. Aldrich Architect. “Rhode Island School of Design Museum Fragment-Plot Plan.” 1925. RISD Archives and Special Collections. [40-41] “Steps of Providence” Machado + Silvetti. Accessed 04 Dec 2012. [http:// www.machado-silvetti.com/projects/ steps_of_providence/index.phpl] [42-43] “Spanish Steps, Rome” National Geographic. Accessed 18 May 2013. [travel.nationalgeographic.com/ travel/365-photos/spanish-stepsitaly/]


contents Abstract List of Illustrations

introduction [1.1] Overview [1.2] History [1.3] Site Morphology [1.4] Site Analysis

16 18 24 32

Design development [2.1] Circulation as Space [2.2] Programmatic Goals [2.3] Conceptual Framework

40 44 48

final Drawings [3.1] Plans [3.2] Sections [3.3] Renderings Endnotes Bibliography

58 66 72


introduction [1.1] Overview [1.2] History [1.3] Site Morphology [1.4] Site Analysis


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OVERVIEW This intervention takes place within the Chace Center Stair and surrounding RISD buildings located in Providence, Rhode Island. The buildings are currently business and assembly occupancies, with the stair occupying the inbetween spaces. The stair serves as a connection artery between Benefit and Main Streets, giving one access to RISD educational buildings, it’s museum and gallery spaces, and also serving as a space for RISD, the Museum and the community. This block is located in a C-2 [General Commercial] District, intended for commercial areas that serve city wide needs for retail, services and professional office establishments. There is an I-2 overlay intended to permit higher education institutions and their expansion in a planned manner, while protecting the surrounding neighborhoods.


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[1.1] Overview


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history The Chace Center stair, which runs from Main to Benefit Street, act as a passageway through a dense block of buildings. Although the stair path in its current state was built in 2008, the stair and surrounding structures have been expanded multiple times, eventually becoming 5 museum galleries and 3 academic buildings over the course of 150 years.

1852

1919

1926


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[1.2] History

Memorial Hall, which runs adjacent to the upper portion of the stair, was designed in 1852 by Thomas Alexander Tefft. Originally it was the House of Worship of the Central Congregational Church of Providence, which occupied the building from 1852 to 1893. In 1902, Eliza Radeke, Stephen O. Metcalf, Jesse H. Metcalf, and Manton B Metcalf gifted the building to RISD and in 1903 Architects Messrs, Hoppin & Ely remodeled it in memory of Harriet Deshon Thurston Metcalf. The central Power plant, which sits on the lower part of the plaza, was built in 1914. In 1915, both the Metcalf Building and the Bank Building were built along South Main, which now house studio and shop space as well as the RISD 3D Store. The Eliza G. Radeke building was added to the Museum in 1926, and houses permanent collection galleries. It also makes up a side of the upper portion of the North Stair. In 1937, the College Building was erected adjacent to Memo-

1939

rial hall on Benefit Street, encompassing the entire south side of the block and becoming the other side of the South Stair. Until the Chace Center was built, the stairways were not thoroughly planned. On the Radeke side there was a steel ladder to bring one down to the first landing and the ground was sloped and inconsistent. The two sets of stairs went down along the sides to the back of Memorial Hall for basement access. From the back there was a drop off and limited access to a parking lot (where the Chace Center now stands). In 2008, the Chace Center opened with 6,000 square feet for special exhibitions and a Museum entrance on Main Street. This addition not only allowed for a street presence on Main Street, but also completed the passageway from Benefit to Main with additional outdoor space between the back of the Chace Center and Memorial Hall.

2013


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1852

1914

1926

1937

2nd Congregational Church of Providence

Eliza G. Radeke Building

Central Power Plant

College Building


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[1.2] History

1915

1915

Bank Building

Metcalf Building

2008

2013

Chace Center

Thesis Intervention


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dotted line shows stair path today


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[1.2] History

highlighted area shows benefit street stair entry today


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site morpohology 1926:

The site was only partially formed by Memorial Hall and the Radeke Building. The College building was built and there was an existing building where the Chace Center stands today. The access points are largely the same, and it can be assumed that the driveway was originally meant to service the mechanical building that sits where the covered outdoor space is.


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[1.3] Site Morphology


2002:

The site is almost complete except for a parking lot where the Chace Center currently stands. The stairways are old and not well planned; the ground plane is uneven on the two sides of Memorial Hall.


[1.3] Site Morphology


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2013:

Existing Conditions.


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[1.3] Site Morphology


30

demolished stair path

2002: Site Section

2012: Site Section

2013: Site Section


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[1.3] Site Morphology

2013: Cross Section


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access There are 14 points of access directly onto the stair or it’s path. These access points come from a mix of gallery, studio, classroom and lobby spaces. Currently there are no egress issues with stair width or occupancy loads. The stair is 17’2” at its widest point and 4’ 8 1/2” at its narrowest While there are many access points, there is still not that much foot traffic despite its adjacency to so many destinations. The buildings sit on a city block surrounded by 2 one-way streets and 2 two-way streets, one of which serves for emergency vehicular access. All the site utilities are accessed from the other buildings and while there is infrastructure below connecting to the buildings on site, the stair does not have its own infrastructural system. It is integrated into the existing systems through the drainage grates on the stair platforms. The site is fully accessible and has no environmental or contamination problems. There are exterior two event spaces that are situated in the most accessible areas of the site: at the base of the largest stair and the platform between all of the access points.


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[1.4] Site Analysis

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ACCESS / CIRCULATION POINTS

private access:

Classrooms, Studio Space, Offices

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exterior event space

public access:

Museum, Galleries, Event Spaces


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context + materiality This space has evolved over time and there are many structural materials underneath the stair. These include the Radeke brick shelf, a newer retaining wall and concrete lifts to support the most recent construction. The stair and it’s platforms are all poured concrete, and the structures that are adjacent to the stair are a mix of different bricks and stone. The site posseses specific qualities of layering and repetition. Layering can be seen through the buildup of materials and new structures piercing the old. Views beyond the site, through narrow slots and openings along ones journey reveal the layered city beyond. Repetition is felt by the rows of brick and stair during ones procession through the space. The overhead lighting also creates repetition, through multiple lights strung across the narrow gaps and recessed in the ceiling of the large expanses of the path.


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[1.4] Site Analysis


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INT ERS TICE INT

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existing boundaries

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Interstice:

V AT

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ELE V AT ION

Approaching the existing space on this block based on the Nolli Plan illuminates a new relationship of intersections and circulation routes, as opposed to the isolation of each building as its own entity. This new interpretation of figure/ ground relationships reverses the typical role of the diagram—what was figure becomes ground, what was ground becomes figure, and allows the boundaries between the two to become blurred.1 ENT RY P TS

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[1.4] Site Analysis

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vehicular access:

edge opportunity:

card access: entry points:

platforms:

cores:

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design development [2.1] Circulation as Space [2.2] Programmatic Goals [2.3] Conceptual Framework


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circulation as space Steps of Providence, 1978 Machado + Silvetti “The overriding aim of our design has been to create tangible, positive, urban space where presently there exist only voids and leftover areas. In so doing, existing open spaces have been redesigned into gardens, squares, and circulatory axes, while the new structures of the project have received careful consideration within their respective specific contexts in order to afford them operative roles as generators of new public spaces”2 —Machado + Silvetti This project seeks to solve functional problems of inaccessibility and connections with expressive means. The stair becomes more than circulation, it becomes a crucial link, a thematic moment and most importantly a new space.


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[2.1] Circulation as Space


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Spanish Steps, 1725 Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi A competition was held based on dicussions on how to urbanize the steep slope between an embassy and two churches. The steps formed a symbolic and physical link between the king of Spain, whose embassy lay at the base of the hill, and the Catholic Church and the papacy, which had its headquarters in Rome. Throughout time they have developed into lively public space used for gathering, relaxing and events. These steps solve sectional difficulties through neccessary circulation and link various buildings together while at the same time acting as an important urban meeting space and destination.


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[2.1] Circulation as Space


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programmatic goals A typical college campus is usually contained within a certain area and is understood as it’s own entity. RISD’s campus is unique in that it expands throughout the fabric of the oldest part of the city. It’s buildings and facilities have grown around and within the original buildings of Providence.3 Although this creates important relationships between RISD and the city, it causes parts of campus to feel isolated. It also creates a scattering of different social spaces as opposed to having a large centrally located space, such as the role the student union plays in typical college setting. The adjacent map shows the relationship of RISD to Providence as well as the campus social spaces and their relative sizes.

typical campus

risd campus


45

[2.2] Programmatic Goals

carr house the met

watermark cafe

portfolio cafe

fleet library


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The programmatic goal for this thesis is a social activator within an otherwise underutilized space. The site of my intervention is at the heart of RISD’s campus. The stairs surround Memorial Hall, which is the oldest building of RISD’s Benefit Street holdings, acquired by the school in 1902. Memorial Hall became a social hub for the student population, acting as a bar and thriving gathering/event space. It is currently used as a prominent lecture, social + campus organization meeting space, but lacks in space and flexibility for the current needs of the school. Taking cues from case studies as well as the RISD campus planning committee, introducing a new campus heart underneath Memorial Hall will serve as the catalyst to activate the stairs and reconnect them to their surroundings. At a larger scale, providing this space will reestablish a central gathering place for the campus as a whole and work to dissolve the isolation between individual departments and buildings.


47

[2.2] Programmatic Goals

new social heart


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conceptual framework

This new route is not a linear sequence with a fixed beginning, middle and end, but a multiple sequence that can be accessed or departed from at many points.4

Using the stair path as a starting point, my intervention inserts new program into this space and creates connections between new events, existing space, and the stair itself. ‘Event’ in this case can be used to describe specific programmatic elements such as student galleries, lecture/ meeting areas, and a student bar as an ode to the Tap Room and the building’s history. The routes between these new event’s become flexible, unprogrammed social space for students. Inserting a social stair creates a bold gesture that reorients the user to this new excavated campus heart. This occupyable stair plays on the notion of circulation as space, as it can serve multiple purposes, from student lounge, to lecture to performance seating.


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[2.3] Conceptual Framework

existing space.

Undifferentiated. Monotonous. Periodical.


SPACES OF STRUCTURE OR MATTER. SPACES FULLFULL OF STRUCTURE OR MATTER. 50

VS.

UNDIFFERENTIATED VECTOR:

INTERWOVEN SPACE:

MONOTONOUS UNDIFFERENTIATED SPACE MONOTONOUS EXPERIENCEINTERWOVEN INTERWOVEN VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE UNDIFFERENTIATED SPACE EXPERIENCE MONOTONOUS EXPERIENCE SPACE VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE VARIETYSPACE OF EXPERIENCE The site has existing exterior gathering spaces utilized by the museum for gallery openings or summer events. There are also two gallery spaces in Memorial Hall that are disconnected from the majority of students, as well as the abandoned library in the College Building. By taking advantage of the vertical circulation that already exists onDESTINATION site, these spaces willPASSAGE DESTINATION PASSAGEcreate a continuous link to EVENT the new path, reconnecting what would norSPACES CONTENT EVENT SPACES CONTENT mally be discontinuous activities and routes.5 SEATING SEATING These connections provide new relationships between circulation and event, in which the programmatic interstice plays an essential role.6 By excavating down to the level of Main Street and utilizing existing vertical circulation, this project creates more accessible routes through an area of campus that is difficult to traverse because of its dramatic elevation change. Through reveals into adjoining spaces and screening elements to denote the path beyond, the users perception of surrounding activity is heightened. This intervention blurs the boundaries of buildings, walls, and ceilings, creating circulation as an interwoven space rather than a vector and provides users a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations.7

ACTIVITY POINTS POINTS + CONNECTORS ACTIVITY + CONNECTORS


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[2.3] Conceptual Framework

Reconnected Social space.

Interwoven. Eventful. Continuous.


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EXISTING

INSERT NEW EVENTS

UTILIZE EXISTING SPACE

CONNECT WITH EXISTING CIRCULATION ROUTES


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[2.3] Conceptual Framework

INSERT GRAND ENTRY + SOCIAL STAIR

CONNECT WITH FLEXIBLE SPACE

REVEAL PATH

RECONNECTED


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01 Interstice

Using the initial site interpretation based on the Nolli Plan, the layering and interconnectedness of the new path becomes legible. The intervention weaves the existing site together, emphasizing its role as a space in itself.

04 Floor 0

07 Floor 3


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[2.3] Conceptual Framework

02

03

05

06

08

09

Cores

Floor 1

Floor 4

Floor -1

Floor 2

Entry Points


final drawings [3.1] Plans [3.2] Sections [3.3] Renderings


+3THIRD LEVEL N RECLAIMED Gallery Space

connection Old Library


[3.1] Plans


+1first LEVEL N removal Painting Studio

insertion Social Stair


[3.1] Plans


0GROUND LEVEL N excavation Crawl Space + Stair

insertion Social Stair, Galleries, Lounge


[3.1] Plans


-1LOWER LEVEL N excavation Total

insertion Lecture, Film Screening Space, Bar, Connection to Theater


[3.1] Plans


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[3.2] Sections


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69

[3.2] Sections


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[3.2] Sections


[3.3] Renderings | Ground Level Exterior


[3.3] Renderings | Ground Level Entry


[3.3] Renderings | Ground Level Entry


[3.3] Renderings | Lower Level


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endnotes 1. Tschumi, Bernard. Event-Cities (Praxis). [Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000.], 489 2. Hays, K. Michael. Unprecedented Realism: The Architecture of Machado and Silvetti. [Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press: 1996.], 129 3. Hays, Unprecedented Realism, 129 4. Tschumi, Event-Cities (Praxis), 409 5. Tschumi, Event-Cities (Praxis), 298 6. Tschumi, Bernard. Event-Cities 2. [Cambridge: The MIT Press: 2000], 13 7. Schultz, Anne-Catrin. Carlo Scarpa Layers. [Stuttgart/London: Edition Axel Menges: 2007], 13


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bibliography Tschumi, Bernard. Event-Cities 2. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000. Print. Tschumi, Bernard. Event-Cities (Praxis). Cam bridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994. Print. Schultz, Anne-Catrin. Carlo Scarpa Layers. Stuttgart/London: Edition Axel Menges, 2007. Print. Hays, K. Michael. Unprecedented Realism: The Architecture of Machado and Silvetti. Princ eton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996. Print. Lavin, Sylvia. Kissing Architecture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. Print. Iwamoto, Lisa, Digital Fabrications: Architec tural and Material Techniques. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press. 2009. Print. Spuybroek, Lars. Nox: Machining Architecture. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2004. Print. Spuybroek, Lars. The Architecture of Variation. London: Thames & Hudson, 2009. Print.



Thesis Book