Urbanism in a New Mobility Age

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Acknowledgements I would have never been able to complete this thesis alone. First, a thank you to my professors: Lora Kim, Daniel Daou, and Jennifer Lee Michaliszyn. You helped me through this process with a guiding hand and pushed me when I needed it. Second, all of my colleagues in the student body, for being there to bounce ideas off of each other, and for a distraction when it was needed. Third, to all of the authors cited in this book, for inspiring me with your accomplishments. Finally, to my family, for supporting me through everything.
















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Fall Instructors - Lora Kim, Daniel Daou Spring Instructor - Jennifer Lee Michaliszyn Independent Advisor - Brian Gregory V

Design Test Axonometric drawing and two perspectives of my final Design Test. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Abstract: Urbanism In A New Mobility Age Blurring the lines between architecture, public space, and movement In the twentieth century the invention of the automobile completely changed our cities. As the technology of the autonomous vehicle develops, architects have an opportunity to redesign cities in a completely new way by blurring the line between architecture and public space. Autonomous vehicles with collision avoidance technology and electric cars that do not create emissions, provide many opportunities for urban design. Automobiles can share space with pedestrians and other modes of transit with ease; they could even drive indoors. Because of this, architecture, public and domestic space, and spaces of mobility no longer need to be separated. Any public space can be used by someone who is walking, riding a bike, or riding in an AV. Residential architecture will be designed to accommodate the small AV, allowing cars to bring people straight to their front door. Telecommunication will be more common for work, and most goods will be able to be delivered directly to you by an AV for very little cost. Because of this, retailers will refocus on the appeal of their physical space as experience and spectacle. Will site typologies born of car culture and modern architecture such as the shopping mall and the office park become obsolete? Or will they in fact become intensified? Key Words: Urban Design - The layout and fabric of a city Autonomous Vehicles (AV) - Driverless Automobiles Shared Mobility - Non-private transportation systems VII

Introduction Setting The Context Current Statistics and Problems Cars have become an integral part of society in the United States. Currently, the population of the country is at 327 million, while the number of registered automobiles in the country is at 272 million, making the ratio 1.2 people for every car. With almost every single person in the United States owning a car, it is almost as if automobiles and people are a package deal. The era of Modernism and car culture in the 20th Century has left an imprint on the fabric of our cities and on our architecture. Building archetypes such as the strip mall, the office park, and the suburban neighborhood are representative of this. An example of an area containing all three of these is the Golden Triangle, a swath of land on the border of Framingham and Natick dedicated to commercial income for each city. Three square miles full of highways, off and on ramps, office parks and malls such as the Natick Mall, Shopper’s World, and Sherwood Plaza. Places like this exist all over the country, contributing to commercialism, urban sprawl, and the dependancy on the automobile. Automobiles are the invention of a selfish and individualistic society. When they were first invented, they were not purchased due to necessity, they were purchased as a means to gain status and self-identity. The wealthy bought automobiles, and if you didn’t own one, you wouldn’t be seen as high status as someone who did own one. Automobiles encouraged and extended the human desire for self-direction. When you have cars, you must have parking. Parking takes up large amounts of space within cities, whether it is parking lots or garages that take up space that could be used for buildings


or parking spaces on the street that could be used for public space. Despite how automobiles affect our lives now, they have not always been around. Over the past 120 years or so, the rise of the automobile has been steady with the growth of the human race. With this steady growth, there has been a gradual change of the environment we live in.

History of the Automobile The history of the automobile begins in 1893 when it was first invented by J. Frank and Charles Duryea. In the beginning, the number of registered automobiles in the U.S. grew slowly, however as they became more affordable, more people purchased them. By 1910 there were 458 thousand cars registered in the U.S. and by 1913 there were 1 million. In 1916 some of the first designs of parking garages in cities were implemented. These buildings were two story structures that matched commercial buildings and were meant to house multiple vehicles in a non-flammable environment. As automobiles influenced new forms of commercial architecture such as parking garages, they also influenced the designs of famous architects. In 1929 Le Corbusier designed Villa Savoye, a residence with the ground floor shaped around the turn radius of a car. Automobiles continued to dominate as the main mode of transportation, and because of this, more and more infrastructure was dedicated to it. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, the first highway constructed in the U.S., was finished in 1940. By this time, there were over 32 million registered automobiles in the country.

Golden Triangle An aerial view of the Golden Triangle, overlayed with an aerial from the 1970s, as well as a figure ground of the buildings. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).




Automobile Timeline Graph and timeline showing population and automobile registration in the United States from 1893 to 2019. Timeline shows major historical influences of the automobile on the built environment.





(©Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle) (©Western History Collection, Denver Public Library)


Automobiles Moving Forward Eventually, ideas of creating cities designed around the automobile came to life. Urban planning ideas like La Ville Radieuse by Le Corbusier, a divided city connected through large roadways, began to inspire others. One such city was the capital of Brazil: Brasilia. The infamous design by Lucio Costa, finished in 1960, incorporated many ideas that Le Corbusier introduced through his radical city plans, such as the separation of city functions and the connection of these cities through large roadways. As a result, the public interaction in Brasilia is miniscule, and much of the citizens’ lives are spent indoors or in cars. As time went on, cars became a part of everyday life for most people. In 2000, with the population of the U.S. at 272 million, the number of registered automobiles in the country was at 225 million. Roads became more congested, and as a result more land area was dedicated to roads and highways. In 2008, the Katy Freeway in Houston was widened to 26 lanes and became the widest highway in the world. As much as some people want automobiles to just disappear, they are an integral part of the way cities and entire countries are designed now, and that will most likely not change for some time. However, the abilities of automobiles are changing. Technology is providing new innovations of the car that have the potential to entirely change our lives.

Above Aerial photo of Brasilia, Brazil. (©Iwan Baan). Right Photo of 2006 Tesla Roadster. (©DOE).


The biggest technological change on our doorstep is the invention of the autonomous car. More and more states are legalizing the use of autonomous cars, and Google’s Waymo project was driving 25 thousand automated cars in 2017. Electric vehicles are a present and growing technology as well. In 2006, Tesla was at the forefront of this technology, releasing their first fully electric car, the Roadster. Today, there are more than 1 million electric vehicles on the road, and by 2030 that number is projected to reach more than 18 million. Many design firms are already thinking of new urban designs that incorporate these technologies, such as LoopNYC by Edg New york. As the technology of the automobile changes, so will the urban fabric of our cities. Autonomous and electric vehicles provide new design problems and potentials that must be thought about now. If the technology of the automobile changes and our cities don’t, the results could be catastrophic.

Framing Narrative Growing Up

Higher Education

Cars have always affected me in my life, however, I have not always lived in a large city. I grew up in Rochester, New Hampshire, a relatively small city with a little over 30 thousand residents. I grew up on the outskirts of Rochester, with a large yard bordered by woods, neighbors no closer than 200 feet, and various farms down the road.

At 18 I began college, and the environment I lived in drastically changed. I attended school at Wentworth Institute of Technology, a college in the Fenway – Kenmore neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. My choice of environment that I went to school in would eventually affect my views on urban design much more than I could have imagined. Since then, I have lived on campus in Boston for five years. Boston is a unique city, not only by being small enough to (relatively) easily walk from one end to the other, but also by having a public transit system that connects you to most parts of the city and even to some parts outside of the city. Not many cities can boast both of these attributes, and because of this, I was able to explore much of the city without the need for a car.

Up until the day I graduated, I rode the bus to school. On occasion my mom would drive me to school in the morning, but for the most part my commute consisted of a 40 minute bus ride to and from school. During school I was never too interested in getting my license, and at 22 years of age, I still haven’t. In my family, the planning of the U.S. around the automobile mostly affected my dad. Despite living in New Hampshire, he worked as a manager at a paint store in Melrose, Massachusetts. When going to work, he had to drive a little over an hour in one direction. This meant leaving home at 5 AM in the dark and getting home at 6:30 PM in the dark.

My experience studying at college brought me to many other places as well. A semester of my education was spent in Berlin, and various shorter trips took me to places such as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Lyon, Los Angeles, and Paris. Seeing different cities within the U.S. and outside of it gave me different perspectives on what city life could be, and how automobiles affect cities around the world differently.

Rochester New Hampshire Photo of Main Street in my hometown. (ŠJesse Costa/WBUR).


Audience The aim of this thesis is not only to expand my knowledge of urban design possibilities, but to also spark the thinking of other architects and urban designers. There are many problems with our cities currently, and soon there will be many more. However with these new problems there will also be new possibilities. I urge those of you who read this to use the information found in this book to rethink and reframe your own ideas and designs of the urban environment. Streets, despite their ability to separate and congest, also hold many possibilities. The aim of this book is to explore these possibilities with the considerations of new technology coming in the near future.


Wentworth Aerial photo of Wentworth Institute of Technology with Boston in the background. (ŠWIT).

Book Structure Literature Review

Critical Review

When exploring such a large idea, it is best to have a sufficient foundation of current research on the subject. I will go over some of my main sources in my Literature Review.

Finally I will critically review my thesis by refining my methods of research and design, and consider different criteria to be used in my design tests. I will provide my key insights and main questions from my design tests, and then discuss what I will do with these ideas moving forward.

Some of my main sources are born of great minds such as Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs, Wade Graham, Eran Ben-Joseph, James Holston, Jeff Speck, and more. From this research I push forward the ideas of city and street design, as well as design around the autonomous vehicle.

Design As Research Using my research as well as precedents such as the city of Brasilia, I will perform design tests to experiment with new potential solutions that could be incorporated into today’s cities. My first design tests include a conceptual idea, to experiment with criteria without the constraints of a site. Moving on, I explore the site of Shopper’s World, a mall in Framingham, MA. This chapter will also allow me to criticize each design test, and use the failures of each one to move forward.

Closing The main problems are apparent. Automobiles congest cities, control mobility, and their infrastructure wastes urban land. Automobiles contribute to a stressful urban environment and to a society of individualism. Despite all of this, they are not going away, so their use must be reworked. First, the Literature Review will lay a solid foundation of research to begin an approach to these problems.

Outcomes This chapter will act as a conclusion to the Design As Research chapter. I will use it to explain some general thoughts on how my thesis design ended, as well as a walkthrough and indepth explanation of my final design. If you want to skip to the end to see what result I reached, look to this chapter.


Literature Review Urban design as we know it needs to be completely reimagined. For the first time ever, a little after the turn of the millennium, the majority of the world’s population was recorded living in urban environments. Despite this enormous amount of responsibility, cities are still being designed according to urban concepts that came out of the early twentieth century, almost 100 years ago. These urban concepts revolve around one thing: automobile transportation. This can be seen in most cities in the U.S., especially cities that grew largely after the 1950s. How are these cities adapted to the new needs of their inhabitants? Opportunities are becoming present as automobile technology progresses. Autonomous and electric vehicles provide ways to rethink how our cities are designed and how people move through them. Urban concepts of the past can be reworked through the lens of new technology. To accomplish this, I first had to completely understand these historical and influential ideas, some abstract and some realized.

The City and the Car In Dream Cities , author Wade Graham goes over seven different influential city ideas. The most salient of these were the concepts introduced by Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, two world-renowned architects that published their urban ideas in the first half of the twentieth century. Their ideas on the surface seem very different, but actually have a lot of similarities. Graham describes Le Corbusier’s idea as the “slab” city. “…they are ubiquitous, rising straight up like enormous, grid-covered boxes in brick, concrete, or glass, standing alone or stretching for blocks, with an undeniable resemblance to gravestones: slabs. They are usually set back from the street, surrounded by parking lots, fenced-in lawns, and confused

amalgams of sidewalks, planting, and pavement…” i Graham’s description inevitably sparks an image in the reader’s head. Most cities have them, and it is hard to not have a definitive opinion about a slab building, whether it is negative or positive. However the real question is: are they necessary? Le Corbusier thought they were. He designed his first city concept in 1922, calling it La Ville Contemporaine. The city was designed using the idea of the tabula rasa, or blank slate, and was the first time his infamous cruciform towers amidst large and flat green spaces were seen in his drawings. Le Corbusier insisted that density was the answer, and by creating these tall, narrow towers he would be able to have density in his city as well as giving more land area to open and green space. When it came to the layout of the city, his guiding principle was a separation of city functions such as industrial, commercial, residential, and recreational. This separation was possible because of the automobile, which resulted in Le Corbusier’s city being connected by a grid of massive roadways. One can see Le Corbusier’s influence in many cities today, such as neighborhoods in New York City like Stuyvesant Town, or the now destroyed Pruitt-Igoe development. On the contrary, Frank Lloyd Wright thought that decentralization of cities was the answer. Graham goes on to say that Wright saw his city design as “the ‘great metropolis of the future,’ which would replace not just existing metropolitan monsters like New York City, but smaller cities and towns as well, putting in their place a decentralized, unbounded landscape that blended the best features of both.” ii The city contained suburban neighborhoods and other city functions scattered across vast fields. Occasionally there would be an apartment tower located in the middle of a park. All of this was connected by a vast axis of transit, containing multiple lanes of automobile traffic and a monorail. Frank Lloyd Wright designed Broadacre with the help of the automobile. He believed that the abilities of the individual were greatly heightened by it. However, due to this, his urban design was inevitably dependent on it. This raises the question, automobiles are

extremely useful, but how do we use them to our advantage in our urban designs without letting them control us? After Wright released his drawings and ideas for Broadacre City, it began to influence cities in the U.S., and continues to do so even today. Graham gives Los Angeles as a prime example of this stating, “These spreading clusters traced a ring roughly 15 miles from Los Angeles City Hall, linked by an emerging system of freeways, primed again by federal funding, and serviced by regional shopping centers surrounded by enormous surface parking lots built by developers. Modern LA, and with it the growth model for countless other communities and cities across the globe over the next decades, had taken shape.” iii Despite having very different ideas of the right level of urban density, Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright had very similar urban concepts. One of the most apparent similarities is the dependence on automobiles in their designs. Each city design is connected by roadways, and does little to support a pedestrian network of any kind. Second, they each pursued ideas of separation within their city designs. In the case of Corbusier’s city, he believed in the separation of city function, and in the case of Wright’s city, he believed in a spatial separation of people and their residences from the urban center. What happens when city functions and spaces are integrated instead of separated?

The final historical urban example I researched was the capital of Brazil: Brasilia. Unlike the first two cities, Brasilia was realized. The city was designed in the late 1950s by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer and inaugurated as the capital in 1960. Brasilia is designed along two axes, one vertical and one horizontal. The vertical axis contains government and public buildings as well as museums. The horizontal axis contains residential blocks called “superquadras” as well as supporting functions for the residences such as grocery stores, schools, and clubs. These superquadras have a total area of 78 thousand square meters, 15 percent of which is dedicated to the 11 residential buildings located within it. The rest of the land area within the block is dedicated to streets and parking, which take up 30 percent of the land area, and public space, which takes up 55 percent of the land area. The residential buildings within these superquadras are raised up on pilotis, allowing the ground floor to be almost completely open public space. The aim of this design move is to provide more public space to the rest of the community, rather than the ground floor containing more private space. Despite this idea being logical, not many people find the desire to inhabit these spaces. On a sunny and hot day, one would much rather be under the shade of a tree rather than the underside of a building. Brasilia is widely criticized as a city with unsuccessful city life. Jan Gehl criticizes it in his book Cities For People, mentioning how Brasilia is beautiful and interesting seen from above,

Above Sketch of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City. (©Frank Lloyd Wright). Right Sketch of Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse. (©Le Corbusier)


however is clearly undeveloped and unsuccessful on the ground. Gehl states, “…the city is a catastrophe seen at eye level, the scale planners ignored. City spaces are too large and amorphous, streets are too wide, and sidewalks and paths are too long and straight. The large green areas are crisscrossed by trampled footpaths showing how the inhabitants have voted with their feet in protest at the stiff, formal city plan.” iv Most of the criticism for Brasilia is usually pertaining to its failure to live up to its utopian ideals, however some people who have lived in the city stand up to defend it. Farés el-Dahdah writes in his case study Brasilia’s Superquadra that, “From a resident’s perspective, to live in a superquadra implies access to ‘financial stability, home ownership, individual car, schools, cinemas, theaters, clubs, green spaces, viable roads, without traffic, and where physical safety is guaranteed, to go to work and back-in sum, access to the city in all that signifies as a way of life.’” v Despite this defense, it says nothing about the lack of street life that Gehl is criticizing about the city, which can be seen as being one of the most important parts. Another aspect of Brasilia that is commonly criticized is its main design concept of self-sufficient communities organized into a hierarchical urban structure. Both Kevin Lynch and Christopher Alexander argue this idea due to the fact that city dwellers do not commonly wish to be organized into units, and that most would rather have connections to the rest of the city and the options that those connections provide. However, Matheus Gorovitz defends the design ideas of Brasilia in his article Unidade de Vizinhanca: Brasilia’s “Neighborhood Unit” writing,


“Public services in Brasilia (with the exception of kindergartens and elementary schools) are distributed on the margins of superquadras-that is, adjacent to traffic infrastructure-thereby connecting the neighborhood unit with the city at large.” vi In the end it seems that the rational ideas that conceptualized Brasilia were simply not executed correctly. The city does some things well and other things not so well, and is therefore a fantastic learning tool.

Streets and Public Space To consider how cities can use the introduction of autonomous cars to change for the better, one must understand what makes a successful street or plaza. Researching how cities can be more pedestrian friendly is the first step in making them more successful in the future. Automobile congestion is one of the main causes of stress within cities. Studies in Jeff Speck’s Walkable City mention that driving as well as getting caught in traffic causes an increase in blood pressure, higher heart rates, and lower frustration tolerance. Widening streets is a failed solution that has been tried many times by cities across the country. As the streets get wider, people drive more, and the streets become congested once again. Jeff Speck calls this “induced demand” writing, “Induced demand

Brasilia Plan drawing of Brasilia by Lucio Costa, showing the vertical and horizontal axes. (©Lucio Costa)

is when increasing the supply of roadways lowers the time cost of driving, causing more people to drive and obliterating any reductions in congestion.” vii Both Jan Gehl and Jeff Speck write extensively on urban walkability, and mention how an acceptable walk is usually between 400-1500 feet. However, Gehl mentions possible ways to extend this distance writing, “…what is acceptable will always be a combination of distance and the quality of the route. If comfort is low, the walk will be short, while if the route is interesting, rich in experience and comfortable, pedestrians forget the distance and enjoy experiences as they happen.” viii Designing streets and pedestrian routes to be more successful is the first option for making a city more walkable. This can be done by designing “compact, direct, and logical routes; modest space dimensions; and a clear hierarchy for public spaces. Often in urban public spaces, too much land is given to common areas or individual spaces, and the natural flow or hierarchy is not thought about.” ix Giving more meaning to these public spaces is also important. Public spaces can consist of locations of rest, shopping spaces, meeting spaces, spaces for exercise, or spaces for recreation. No matter what it becomes, public space needs to be more than just walking paths. Having various types of building facades and spaces can make a walk more interesting as well. When walking along a street, if not much changes in terms of the facades, the spaces, or the street life then the walk will seem longer.

Sam Shwartz sums up the four aspects of succesful cities that Jane Jacobs writes about in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. He lists them as “(1) a street or district must serve several primary functions; (2) blocks must be short; (3) buildings must vary in age, condition, use, and include rentals; (4) population must be dense.”x Other modes of public transit can also be key to making a city walkable. Both Jan Gehl and Jeff Speck mention transit-oriented development (TOD) as a viable solution to this. TOD is done by designing connections between pedestrian and bicycle structures and light-rail systems or bus systems that connect to the rest of the city. The street itself is an important public space in a city. Even before cars, streets were a part of how you moved through a city. Due to streets being the main connection between places, they became places of intermingling and community, and this is still true despite the domination of automobiles in streets today. This gives streets a responsibility of being well developed public spaces. One important aspect of their development is their size. Jeff Speck mentions that public spaces are more successful when they’re smaller. He mentions that the most successful ones don’t get much larger than 60 yards, or 180 feet. Allan B. Jacobs puts the limit at 450 feet in his book On Streets writing, “For example, it has been observed that,

Embarcadero The Embarcadero is now a wide boulevard shared by pedestrians, trolleys, and cars. (© SoulOf America)


when the small dimensions of places exceed 450 feet (137 meters), spatial definition is weak and becomes ‘more that of a field than of a plaza, despite the great height of the structures.’” xi The ratio between street width and building height is important too. Speck puts the ideal ratio at 1:1, and the max being 6:1 (street width to building height). He also puts the height limit of a building at 4 stories, or roughly 40 feet. Jacobs, however, mentions that the ideal ratio is that of a 70foot wide street with a 30-foot tall building, close to a ratio of 2:1. He also mentions how the space in between buildings can also affect the spatial definition of a street, with the maximum distance between buildings being 10 to 20 feet. The best place to find solutions to creating successful public space in cities is to look at traditional cities. Specifically, how they enclose public space so that it has definition, connection, and links between spaces. Roger Trancik writes in his book Finding Lost Space, “The history of city design shows that exterior urban space, if conceived of as figural volume rather than structureless void, can reverse the unworkable “figure-ground” relationships between buildings and open spaces of the modern city. A lesson we can learn from traditional, preindustrial, cities is that exterior space should be the force that gives definition to the architecture at its borders, establishing the walls of the outdoor room.”xii Trancik compares modernist city designs to that of traditional cities, mentioning


Hilberseimer’s “Ideal City”. The ideas presented in Hilberseimer’s drawings have become a reality in many modern cities. It contains buildings in straight, parallel rows with a separation of pedestrian and vehicular movement. The scale is very different than that of a traditional city, as well as the solid and void relationship of a traditional city. Trancik continues on how public space in modern cities can be improved, writing “In urban design the emphasis should be on the groups and sequences of outdoor rooms of the district as a whole, rather than on the individual space as an isolated entity.”xiii Existing plazas, streets, and parking lots that do not fit into the city should be transformed and reworked into the existing order. Individual buildings must be integrated with public space so that the form of the city does not become separated. When designing the hard space within cities, Trancik mentions three components that make it successful: the frame of the space, which defines the edges and enclosure, the ground plane, such as the materials, texture, and composition, and the objects in the space, such as water features or trees. The transition between exterior and interior space is also key in a successful sequence of spaces. Fusing indoor and outdoor spaces when transitioning between them is one way to create a dynamic relationship of space. Gunnar Asplund’s Stockholm Exhibition is a great example of a glass enclosed space that does this. The spaces are great for northern climates because it extends the use of the public space to all months of the year.

The Ideal City A drawing of Ludwig Hilberseimer’s “Ideal City”. (© Ludwig Karl Hilberseimer)

There are other important aspects to creating a successful street, such as allowing enough space for pedestrians to walk safely and leisurely, as well as making a street as thermally comfortable as possible. Controlling the thermal comfort of an outdoor space can be practically impossible, however, providing shade through the use of trees for when its hot or ample amounts of sunlight when its cold can make a big difference. Finally, providing transparency of the ground floor of buildings along a street can make the street more inviting. Allan B. Jacobs mentions this, stating, “The best streets have about them a quality of transparency at their edges, where the public realm of the street and the less public, often private realm of property and buildings meet. One can see or have a sense of what is behind whatever it is that defines the street; one senses an invitation to view or know, if only in the mind, what is behind the street wall.” xiv

accommodated for. This is an intriguing compromise that still allows cars, but limits their domination of the street. Design characteristics of a shared street could include a combination of connected spaces, physical barriers for cars, and extensive landscaping.

If a street cannot be completely pedestrian, the shared street concept is also an interesting solution. Eran Ben-Joseph writes about this concept in his book Streets and the Shaping of Towns and Cities writing, “That the street is properly a physical and social part of the environment, and is used simultaneously for vehicular movement, social contacts, and civic activities, has long been argued by many authors…” xv The shared street concept eliminates sidewalks and separations within streets. Cars have to move slower, and pedestrians are

Shared Streets Exhibition Road in London is an example of the Shared Street Concept. (©Hamilton-Baillie Associates)


Autonomous Vehicles Autonomous vehicles are slowly becoming a reality. Google already has multiple autonomous vehicle fleets through their Waymo project, and some cities have even begun legalizing their use on public streets. With the use of autonomous vehicles combined with shared streets, urban design and mobility could be revolutionized. However, if city design stays the same, things could get catastrophic. Urban sprawl could increase, cities could become denser, and streets could become even more congested. There are exciting opportunities that self-driving vehicles could provide if city designs change. Some cities are already considering using AVs as public transport. Sam Schwartz writes in his book No One At The Wheel “Cities worldwide have also negotiated deals for autonomous car services like Uber, Lyft, and Via to augment or replace mass transit services.”xvi In Lisbon, an experiment was performed using autonomous taxis in the streets. It took 90 percent fewer autonomous cars to accomplish the same number of trips. The study also found that 80 percent of Lisbon’s off-street parking could be removed and streets could be about 20 percent narrower. On average, cars sit idle 96 percent of the time. The combination of autonomous and shared vehicles could change


this. Public fleets of AVs could be used instead of private cars. When not in use, the AVs could continuously roam the streets, removing the need for parking. This roaming would be possible with electric cars, as their emissions would be drastically lower. If cars could sense the space around them, they could easily avoid people in a shared street, and without emissions, the cars could potentially drive indoors, creating more direct routes and removing the need for street grids. There are many potential downfalls to AVs if they are not managed well. The cost of travel with AVs might drop so much that other public transportation will be made obsolete. Keeping AVs roaming all the time could increase pollution if green energy sources are not embraced fully. Being able to sleep or work while traveling to or from work could potentially make urban sprawl worse. There are also concerns about problems seen around the time that the first cars were invented at the beginning of the 20th century. Sam Schwartz quotes Bern Grush on this topic, writing “‘By 2030, people will realize that the AV will stop for them, so they might be inclined to think, ‘Hey, I don’t have to worry about cars anymore, I can cross anywhere I like, anytime I like.’”xvii The constant starting and stopping of AV’s in cities could make them virtually

Autonomous Vehicles One of the autonomous vans that are a part of Google’s Waymo project. (©Waymo)

obsolete in city centers, and the last thing we want is a dominance of AV’s in cities and more restrictions on pedestrians. Jaywalking laws in the early 1900s were rare. Initially, it was the driver’s job to avoid the pedestrian, not the other way around. Kansas City passed the first jaywalking law in 1912. Streets began to become a place for cars, and it was the pedestrian’s job to avoid being hit. With AV’s, this type of law could become more strict.

lessen the amount of cars in the area. This could also save the interaction between people, as many people will opt for an AV over walking once it is extremely cheap and convenient.

Some concerns are already being realized in cities such as Milton Keynes in the UK, where autonomous pods are allowed on walkways. There needs to be strategies with the implementation of AVs, as they will be designed to be used anywhere, even when moving a short distance. Schwartz quotes Bern Grush again about a possible compromise. “‘One possiblity is creating large tracts of the city that do not have the capacity for cars, with streets that have no motorized vehicles, which would include larger plaza areas that many European cities have had for centuries.’ History shows us that such plazas have provided a sense of inclusion and community that can’t be experienced in a ‘drive-by’ culture.”xviii One possibility as well is creating areas of the city that only contain public or shared AV’s. Removing the presence of private vehicles will greatly


Notes i

Graham, Wade. Dream Cities : Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World. Harper, an imprint of HarperCol lins Publishers, 2016.


Graham, Wade. Dream Cities : Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World. Harper, an imprint of HarperCol lins Publishers, 2016.

iii Graham, Wade. Dream Cities : Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World. Harper, an imprint of HarperCol lins Publishers, 2016. iv

Gehl, Jan. Cities for People. Island Press, 2010.

v El-Dahdah, Farès. CASE : Lucio Costa, Brasilia’s Super quadra. CASE : A Series of Case Studies in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design. Prestel, 2005. vi El-Dahdah, Farès. CASE : Lucio Costa, Brasilia’s Super quadra. CASE : A Series of Case Studies in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design. Prestel, 2005. vii Speck, Jeff. Walkable City : How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. viii Gehl, Jan. Cities for People. Island Press, 2010. ix Gehl, Jan. Cities for People. Island Press, 2010. x Schwartz, Samuel I., and Karen Kelly. 2018. No One at the Wheel : Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future. First edition. PublicAffairs/Hachette Book Group. xi


Jacobs, Allan B. Great Streets. MIT Press, 1993.

xii Trancik, Roger. 2020. Finding Lost Space : Theories of Urban Design. Van Nostrand Reinhold. xiii Trancik, Roger. 2020. Finding Lost Space : Theories of Urban Design. Van Nostrand Reinhold. xiv

Jacobs, Allan B. Great Streets. MIT Press, 1993.


Southworth, Michael, and Eran Ben-Joseph. Streets and The Shaping of Towns and Cities. Island Press, 2003.


Schwartz, Samuel I., and Karen Kelly. 2018. No One at the Wheel : Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future. First edition. PublicAffairs/Hachette Book Group.

xvii Schwartz, Samuel I., and Karen Kelly. 2018. No One at the Wheel : Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future. First edition. PublicAffairs/Hachette Book Group. xviii Schwartz, Samuel I., and Karen Kelly. 2018. No One at the Wheel : Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future. First edition. PublicAffairs/Hachette Book Group.


Design As Research Framing Criteria Precedent Analysis: Broadacre City Broadacre City was conceptualized by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1934. Wright wanted to use the technology of the automobile to decentralize the country and empower the individual. He did this by designing spread out suburban neighborhoods that contained single family homes, schools, and other neighborhood necessities. The neighborhoods would also contain farm lands on the outskirts for residents to grow crops, and apartment towers amidst parks for low-income housing. The entire neighborhood was connected by a system of road connections, and the neighborhood was connected to the rest of the state or country by a large traffic arterie. This traffic arterie contained multiple lanes of automobile traffic, as well as a monorail.

Right Sketch of Broadacre City by Frank Lloyd Wright. (ŠFrank Lloyd Wright). Above Top view of the model Frank Lloyd Wright built of Broadacre City. (ŠFrank Lloyd Wright).


Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Precedent Analysis: La Ville Radieuse La Ville Radieuse was conceptualized by Le Corbusier in 1930. The city’s functions were split up in sections of the city. In the residential section Corbusier designed large, cruciform towers amidst flat, square lawns. Connecting the city together were wide roadways, located on a sublevel of the city to be separated from pedestrians. Corbusier’s city was to be dense and active, but still allow for lots of open space.

Above Axonometric sketch of La Ville Radieuse by Le Corbusier. (©Le Corbusier) Left Perspective sketch of La Ville Radieuse by Le Corbusier. (©Le Corbusier) Below Model of La Ville Radieuse by Le Corbusier. (©Le Corbusier)


Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Precedent Analysis: Brasilia Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, was designed by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1960. This aims to create sustainable residential communities so that further travel is not necessary. The “superquadra” or superblock contains housing, schools, churches, and commercial necessities. These blocks are then interconnected by streets lined with trees, which then connect to the main arterie that connects the communities to the rest of the city. This design takes many influences from both Le Corbusier as well as Frank Lloyd Wright, especially when it comes to using the automobile as a means of connection.

Above Aerial photo of the Brasilia Superblocks. (©Iwan Baan) Above Right Street-level view of a Brasilia Superblock. (©Iwan Baan)


Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Methods When creating my design tests, I used several different methods to experiment with my ideas, initially sketching plans and sections, and tracing over these as I iterated. After sketching, I would use Illustrator and Photoshop to clean up my drawings and bring them to life. As my project developed more, I began to model it in Sketchup. Towards the end of my thesis year, the best mode of representation became the axonometric and perspective drawings. I would export these out of Sketchup and render them in Photoshop.

Above Initial conceptual design test sketch diagrams. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Above More developed Nolli Plan and Section drawings of the conceptual design. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).

Above Early base axonometric drawing and examples of rendered version. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).

Above Early perspectives of the design. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Analytique The aim of the analytique is to represent the most important characteristics of your thesis design with one drawing. My final thesis presentation also acts as my analytique. Along the top of the poster you will find the most relevant research: the timeline of architecture and the automobile, the three city anti-precedents, and a few diagrams showing how we currently depend on the automobile. Below this strip of research are the drawings that best show my final design. Then, along the bottom are four main perspectives throughout the design, acting as something similar to a film strip or sequence.

Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).



Design Tests When designing my initial iterations, I chose to first experiment with a conceptual design, or tabula rasa. This allowed me to figure out the important characteristics of my design, as well as what worked and what didn’t. For a fruitful conceptual design test, I had to set criteria to guide each move I made. Initially, this consisted of the criteria of successful streets I found in Great Streets and Walkable City that I mention in my Literature Review. These books helped me form spaces ideal for lively street life. The streets in my first design iteration are 70 feet wide and bordered by 40 foot tall buildings, roughly a 2:1 ratio. Each building “unit” is broken up in to 36’ by 36’ squares, to provide variations in what stores and other types of buildings line the streets. The first two floors of all buildings were to be made commercial and have glass facades to create a more inviting and interesting street. The center hierarchical space is 300 feet wide with 70 foot tall buildings around it. This would create a large plaza that could contain any kind of public event, but would not be too large that the space would lose its defined quality. Finally, I created smaller inner corridors that would allow autonomous vehicles and people to pass through large blocks of buildings. These corridors were roughly 36 feet wide and two building floors high. Above the two floor corridor, these buildings would cover the entire area of the block. You can see this relationship in the section below. This would allow for a covered, more intimate public space amidst multiple different commercial spaces.The problem with this iteration was that it still contained streets and was designed around transportation. This iteration did not pursue the entire potential of vehicles being able to drive indoors and through buildings. Below A section of the first iteration of my conceptual design test. Above A nolli map of the first iteration of my conceptual design test. Right A plan of the first iteration of my conceptual design test. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Artifact A physical model of my final conceptual design. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


For the next iterations of my conceptual design test, I began to reconfigure the buildings to form plazas. I used criteria discussed by Camillo Sitte on what makes a successful plaza. Entries into each plaza are designed to not continue on the opposite side of the plaza, cutting off a direct sight line through the space. This helps to define the plaza as a space more successfully. Also, designing plazas of different size and proportions adjacent to one another creates a dynamic interaction between them. Once I designed the different public spaces, I began to alter the building heights around the spaces to better define them. The buildings around larger public spaces were made taller, and the buildings around smaller public spaces were made shorter. Finally, I began connecting the buildings on the upper floors, allowing for a network of roof connections to be created. This supports the idea of the roofs of all spaces being a shared mobility space and a public space as well.

Above Second iteration of the conceptual design test. Right Third iteration of the conceptual design test. Below Section Perspective of the final conceptual design test. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA). Across Above Nolli map and roof plan of the final conceptual design test. Across Below Perspective of the final conceptual design test. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).



Moving forward, I began to incorporate pathways through buildings that the automobiles could take, this is represented by the color grey in the Nolli Map. I then began to diagram potential places to locate vertical circulation within my conceptual design, this is represented by the blue in the Nolli Map

Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


I pushed the analysis of my conceptual design test further once more, creating a new perspective and a new physical model. However at this point, it was apparent that the conceptual design was pushed as far as it could go, and that it was time to ground my project in the real world.

Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Before selecting a site, I began to experiment with archetypal buildings: the Strip Mall, the Office Park, and the Suburban Neighborhood. In the introduction to this book, I mentioned these as architecture that was born of Modernism and car culture. For this design test, I created discursive perspectives in an attempt to experiment and convey what these archetypal sites would look like once the ideas of my design was applied to them. Streets would be replaced with new residential buildings and paved plazas with greenery. The public space would be a shared mobility space, and the old buildings would be repurposed for the new age. In the strip mall discursive image, I began to experiment with what it would look like to have passages that cut through the buildings. These passages would become interior public space that could be entered by a pedestrian, a biker, and even an AV. These exercises were helpful in the transition from conceptual to real, however they were timid, and jumping into an actual site was necessary to continue forward.

Suburban Neighborhood The discursive perspective of the Suburban Neighborhood archetype. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Strip Mall The discursive image of the Strip Mall archetype, including a section through the building to show a newly designed passage. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).

Office Park The discursive image of the Office Park archetype. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


The site I ended up selecting is the Golden Triangle in Framingham and Natick. As I mentioned in the introduction of this book, this 3 square mile area is home to the Natick Mall, Shopper’s World, and Sherwood Plaza, as well as multiple office parks, hotels, and homes. For my design I chose to focus on Shopper’s World, indicated in the blue square on the aerial map. The first design of Shopper’s World was built in the 1950s, a smaller footprint of a building with green spaces in the center and parking around it. This building was eventually demolished to be replaced with larger stores and more parking in the center.

Above Shopper’s World now. (©AltusPower). (©Google Earth).


Above Shopper’s World in the 1950s. (© Framingham History Center).

Commercial Residential Office



Analysis Various analytical plans of the Golden Triangle. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


For the first iteration of my design at Shopper’s World, I began to infill the plan with new buildings to create plazas as I did in my conceptual design. You can see in the site plan that the black buildings are existing, and the dark grey are new. These buildings would be three floors tall, with the first floor being commercial, and the upper floors being residential. With this iteration I also began to experiment with vertical circulation. You can see in the section and axonometric drawings that I began to cut ramps into the sides of the buildings. These ramps would act as interior public space, and would have commercial program within them as well.

Above Section through the center building in the design. Below Axonometric drawing of the center building in the design. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Above Site plan of the design. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


For the second iteration, I first decided to adjust the entire plan of the design. To do this, I replaced the footprint of the 1950s design of Shopper’s World, which fits in the center parking lot of the new design. I then overlayed my first iteration over this, and merged the two designs to create the second iteration. Within this design contained a central pedestrian mall. This mall contains a park, and is an area that would be completely void of cars in the design. Once this was done, I chose a focus area within the design to add detail to. This focus area is where the buildings with more rendering in the aerial view are located. I then used sections and axonometric drawings to continue adding detail, imagining what these buildings would become in the future. Looking at the section axonometric drawings, you can see that the new residential buildings have glass atrium spaces attached to the front of the building, and within these atrium spaces there are ramps to the upper floors. These spaces would act as indoor drop off areas for the AVs, and the ramps would allow the AVs to drop residents off at their front door. You can see in the drawings that I have begun to redesign the existing buildings as well. In the future, delivery of goods will be much cheaper and more efficient due to autonomous vehicles. Because of this, stores will have to be redesigned to create a unique experience to draw customers to the store. In this instance, furniture stores have rentable party rooms that showcase their best furniture, clothing stores have indoor public gardens attached to the front of their store to pull customers in with the amenity, and the pet store has created an indoor atrium space for a petting zoo.

Right Axonometric Sections through the detailed area of the design. Below Long section through the detailed area of the design. Across Site plan of the entire design. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).



For the third iteration, I began to add more detail to the design moments I started in the previous iteration. In the axonometric and perspective drawings, you can see the various stores I have begun to redesign, the different paths that the AVs will take when moving on the ground and up the ramps, and the pedestrian only park in the center of the design. You can especially see in more detail the indoor petting zoo at the PetSmart, and the indoor garden space at the front of Nordstrom.

Above Perspective views of the design from the inside of an AV. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Above Axonometric drawing of an AV drop off area at one of the residential buildings. Below Axonometric drawing of the pedestrian only area. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).

Above Axonometric drawing of the entire design. Below Focused axonometric drawings showing more detailed areas of the design. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).



This thesis can act both as a path forward and a criticism of the past. Throughout the explorations recorded in this book, the influence of the automobile not only on the built environment but also on our lives became clear. As I came to the end of my thesis, a question arose: Is this a reclamation of the way public life, or city life, should be? Or is it merely an inevitable future that we can not escape, whether it is inherently good or bad? Back in the early 1900s when the use of the automobile was becoming a normalcy, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright designed their ideal automobile world. Some of their ideas can be seen in cities today, however in the end each and every city grew according to their own, random logic. One thing is sure, the autonomous car will have an effect on our cities, both at the urban scale and at the architectural scale. However in the end, architects and urban designers such as you and I will only have so much control over what that effect is. Looking at the intensified design of Shopper’s World, we will first look at the urban scale. The urban scale reflects many of the conceptual design tests I made. Removal of streets and parking, replacing them with adjacent plaza spaces and new residential architecture. You will notice lower building heights to accomodate the hierarchical plaza spaces as well.

Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).



Moving to the architectural scale, you can begin to see how the autonomous and electric vehicle will change every step of someone’s day. Residences will change, you can see this in the top perspective and axonometric drawings. In this instance, small apartments are fitted with garages that act as a threshold into their living space. This garage allows the AV to pull right into a person’s home to pick them up or drop them off. This room would be refrigerated as well, giving the resident the abilty to order groceries and have them be dropped off even if they are not home. Each apartment includes a small pocket garden as well, bringing life and light into the residences. In the drawings, especially the axonometrics, you can see how the atrium spaces have developed, allowing the AVs to drive up ramps to the apartments on the upper floors. In the bottom perspective, you can experience what it would be like to ride in an AV through one of the plaza spaces. Seeing various pedestrians and other AVs moving through the space, as well as seeing the pet store ahead, which has converted their location to a petting zoo to bring more customers in. You can see this in the lower right corner of the top axonometric drawing as well. Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


The experience of shopping will change drastically as well. In this instance, a furniture store is designed to be more acommodating to the autonomous and electric vehicle; you can see this in the top perspective and the axonometric drawing. The furniture store’s main program becomes a showroom of their finest pieces, allowing someone in an AV to circle the room to view the furniture. If the shopper decides they want to purchase something, there is a ramp to the subfloor where they can pay and pick up the furniture. In the center of the store there is a rentable party space containing some of the store’s best furniture. The intensified design of Shopper’s World also contains a pedestrian only area in the center of the site, you can see this in the bottom perspective. This is a lush, green space with grass and trees. In this perspective you can see various residents and visitors enjoying this area, completely separated from any cars.

Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Samuel Shackelford (CC BY-NC-SA).


Critical Reflection

A thesis project is never truly over. My final design may be labelled as “final”, however there is always something that could be improved upon. One of the biggest criticisms of where my design ended is that it is too localized. An interesting path to experiment with would be at the city scale, county scale, or even state scale. How does the autonomous and electric vehicle affect these relationships? How is it affected architecturally? Another criticism of the design is that the car is still a dominating factor, so how can this be changed? How can these plaza spaces be clearly dominated by the pedestrian? These plaza spaces are still too similar to streets, so how can this be changed? The architecture of the residences and the commercial spaces will most likely change even more drastically, so how can these spaces be iterated on further? Finally, after focusing on Shopper’s World for the design, how can it become more homogenized for the country as a whole? What would a conceptual design look like, if I designed an entirely new one with what I know now? These are the questions I will attempt to answer moving forward. When looking at my methods, I believe that using axonometric drawings earlier in the process would have helped. Moving forward, merging section with these axonometrics would help in developing the relationship between adjacent spaces, especially interior and exterior. For criteria, the biggest criticism is how much I embraced the potential of the autonomous car. There is great skepticism over this technology, much of it can be found in some of my research sources. Despite this, I found that the best course of action was to be optimistic. This gave me the ability to create a radical and fruitful thesis. However, a thesis with a more critical outlook on the autonomous car could provide interesting results. 42

The blurring of architecture and public space is not only an architectural change, but also a societal one. It is clear even now that more and more private spaces and amenities are becoming shared and even public. This thesis topic contains unending possibilities not only for architecture, but for everything. It is important to consider these implications when pursuing such a topic, as architecture can greatly affect people’s lives, especially in urban environments. Do not get bogged down by the many possibilities, consider what this autonomous future should be, and use that criteria to provide focus.


Bibliography El-Dahdah, Farès. CASE : Lucio Costa, Brasilia’s Super quadra. CASE : A Series of Case Studies in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design. Prestel, 2005. Gehl, Jan. Cities for People. Island Press, 2010. Graham, Wade. Dream Cities : Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World. Harper, an imprint of HarperCol lins Publishers, 2016. Jacobs, Allan B. Great Streets. MIT Press, 1993. Schwartz, Samuel I., and Karen Kelly. 2018. No One at the Wheel : Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future. First edition. PublicAffairs/Hachette Book Group. Southworth, Michael, and Eran Ben-Joseph. Streets and the Shaping of Towns and Cities. Island Press, 2003. Speck, Jeff. Walkable City : How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. Trancik, Roger. 2020. Finding Lost Space : Theories of Urban Design. Van Nostrand Reinhold.



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