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UNDERGROUND COMMONS: Humanizing an unfriendly place.

2011 Graduate Thesis Michael Barakat John MacDuffie Woodburn


The South Broad St Concourse

Could this be the new underground commons?


UNDERGROUND COMMONS:

Humanizing the South Broad St Concourse (an unfriendly place).

The Philadelphia South Broad Street concourse is unfriendly. The University of the Arts has no common area. Could these issues two be a match for each other? This was a project about how community, environment, and culture can provide answers to architectural problems.


Underground commons project structure

Historical Study of the Concourse

Observation of users.

Visualizing concepts and interviewing for expert feedback.

Data Mapping

Human Centered Design and Architecture Does the environment shape the man or does the man shape his environment? It’s a question often argued about amongst well, everybody. I wanted to put an end to this argument by creating

an environment that was based in the ideas and thoughts of the community around the project. The Concourse is a place fraught with turmoil and confusion. It is fully functional, but distant from the


Isolating key problems of public space in the area.

Re-Concepting

Presentation of concepts to users and stakeholders. User Engagement

life of center city Philadelphia. In order to connect the South Broad Street Concourse to the life of the city we interviewed experts, the community, and fully embraced the Human Centered

Design Process to create new solutions to the problem of a troubled public space.


City Hall

The Project focus is here


A Look at the Concourse

What is the Concourse what does it do? As you may notice from the photos above the concourse is a strange place. It’s normally pretty barren. You can walk through most of the day and see only a few people. It was built to accommodate high volumes of human traffic during peak hours. But, aside from being a concrete shelter from the elements, there is very little to attract users.

The landscape also varies greatly. Some places are well polished and cleaned several times a day. Others see very little use and are sometimes used in ways beyond the originally intended design. You can see this in the picture of the skateboarder on the top right.


Learning the Concourse

Student and commuter usage map trolley

Student / Commuter

a b

subway

c walks

a b


Concourse

b

c

Exit Immediately / walk to destination

walk in concourse partially to destination

Exit / walk to destination

walk to destination


Learning the Concourse

Nu

m b er of Da

10 min Intervals

ys

Morning Rush Hour

Female Movement Male Movement

Concourse traffic patterns

Broad Street Programs


Learning the Concourse

I Commute through the Concourse times a week. It makes me feel good / bad (circle one). I’m in this area

minutes long. This

space seems dangerous / safe (circle one).

30 Responses


Commuter Perception of the Concourse Dangerous

79%

Safe

21%

Makes me feel BAD

47%

Makes me feel GOOD Safe

Neutral

13%

Safe

100%

40%

67% Dangerous

Perceived Safety

33%

Survey Conducted in South Broad Street Concourse. 30 surveys were completed out of the 310.

{ {

Feeling Perception

Makes me feel bad

Makes me feel good

Neutral

Seems Dangerous

Seems Safe

Neutral


Commuter Travel time through the Concourse

50% 44%

Often 60% Rarely 13% Occasionally 27%

6% 25%

75%

{ {

Travel through the Concourse (weekly)

25% 50% 25%

Travel Duration

The duration of being in the Concourse or the amount of time commuting through the Concourse does not change people’s perction of safety or how it makes them feel. In each catergorgy (often, occusionally, rarely) people’s percption of the space is split in the middle.

Survey Conducted in South Broad Street Concourse. 30 surveys were completed out of the 310.

Often: 10 + times a week

Occusionally: 5-10 times a week Rarely: 1-5 times a week

Spend 10+ minutes in area

Spend 5-10 minutes in area

Spend 1-5 minutes in area


Time in Concourse to Perceived Safety 39% 7%

Safe

43%

13%

Dangerous

7%

50% 50%

50%

{ {

Perceived Safety

54%

47% 40%

No correlation between the amount of time spent in the Concourse to how the Concourse is perceived as safe or dangerous.

Travel Duration

Survey Conducted in South Broad Street Concourse. 30 surveys were completed out of the 310.

Seems Dangerous

Seems Safe

Neutral

Spend 10+ minutes in area

Spend 5-10 minutes in area

Spend 1-5 minutes in area


Time in Concourse to Perceived Safety 61%

Travel through the Concourse (weekly)

Often 60% 49% 25% Rarely 13% 25% Occusionally 27% 50% 75%

25% 25%

Perceived Safety

Only correlation here is how occasional commuters perceive the Concourse to be dangerous.

{ {

Survey Conducted in South Broad Street Concourse. 30 surveys were completed out of the 310.

Often: 10 + times a week

Occusionally: 5-10 times a week Rarely: 1-5 times a week

Seems Dangerous

Seems Safe

Neutral


This is not a bench. Space Problems around the Concourse: University of the Arts

The problems that the South Broad Concourse could Solve. The Concourse has loads of problems, but many of them stem from the lack of steady population. If the Concourse had a population maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad place. But building a long lasting user group for meant looking outside the Concourse

for a demographic that would stay. After looking in the area we saw that the University of the Arts had a need for space. We also saw that between Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square park there are no relaxing public leisure spaces.


A better concourse needs to do three things in Center City.

City Hall

MultiFunction

Connect Broad St

Walnut st

Adapt Human Centered Design and Architecture To accommodate other users what would the South Broad Street Concourse need to become? It would have to be a place that reflects the needs and desires of the community. The map above is an expression of the different concentrations of the various

businesses and building types in center city. A successful concourse design will have to take these synergies into account. It would have to connect to them, adapt to them, and provide multi-functionality to the users.


Concepting

Artificial Hills on Broad Street

Artificial Hills on Broad Street

Underground Road for Cars

Who is buying in? Project partners and stakeholders. Project concepts ranged from creating artificial hills onto Broad Street (thus allowing for higher ceilings in the Concourse), inverting the Broad Street and the Concourse (having the roads all underground), to ideas of creating the area into an actual cave. We chose a group of potential stakeholders that could potentially buy-in to developing the South Broad Concourse. These initial

concepts were then visualized in the form of renderings for each stakeholder: Parks Association, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and For-Profit Development Corporation. These concepts were not solutions to the needs of the City. Later, the feedback we heard from the populace at UArts transformed our final design concept. They looked like the ideal Concourse partner.


Stakeholder Scenarios

Parks Association

Mural Arts Program

For Profit Development


Final Concept

The Underground Commons Humanizing the Concourse meant tying it into the flourishing natural community of its Center City surroundings. The final idea is the UArts Underground Commons. What makes this different than the typical commons, campuses, and other universities is that this space is public and private. Most other universities have an open

campus but often these so-called open campuses are void of anything beyond the universities’ needs. They do not mingle with the surrounding community. This underground commons allows for UArts to have a truly open campus that would enable the surrounding community to feel apart of the community at UArts.


A place for walking

Concerts and dancing

Inflatable Bubble Rooms


How Does it Work

Deflated Inflation Equipment

Deflated Membrane

Inflatable Rooms There are three components to the system: a path, temporary objects and rooms, and permanent objects and rooms. The path holds the system together. The programs, activities, of the buildings on the street, shape it and its shape reflects the magnitude of the synergies. Along the path are permanent and temporary structures that adapt to the changing path. The structures are inflatable bubbles. The bubbles inflate for use as a room, and can then deflate when more area in the Concourse is needed for other activities. The bubbles contain resources for the University of the Arts. Two of them are permanent, and house a Student Union and a Performance area. The other bubbles are temporal areas that collapse when not in use. Around the area are seating units that can be moved for different vantage points. Around the path are open spaces with features that offer users the ability to treat the space like a typical outdoor park. Full Spectrum light, moss columns, and even artificial grass will bring this natural feeling into the Concourse.

Inflating

Functional

Fully Inflated Membrane


Moss Walls and Columns

Weekly Misting

Moss

v

Moss can drastically change the appearance of a space because it can take the shape of whatever surface it grows on. Thus, it creates a profound texturing. Moss needs four things for successful growth. Fortunately the Concourse has most of these things naturally: Moisture, shade, humidity,

Water Retaining Bonding Agent

Concrete

and low ph (in the form of concrete). Moss can grow on any hard surface as long as the moss can adhere. This requires a rough surface or bonding agent. One of its best qualities is that it requires very little upkeep. It takes in all its nutrients through its leaves from humidity and moisture. So it only needs a weekly misting.


UNDERGROUND COMMONS:

Response, feedback, reflections, and the future. When the project was presented to the community it was very well received. They had been waiting for an intervention from someone for a long time. But, for many it was still hard to see past the South Broad Street Concourses many problems. At this point, this concept for could fulfill any potential needs of the University of the Art’s future. In order to enact this project, we realized the importance of having the local community and constituencies to buy in to the project. The next step would be to present this project to real stakeholders to get more feedback, support, and capital to make the Concourse a better place for everyone.


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