Avenues, Volume 2: Spatial Equity

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spatial e qu it


avenues volume two

spatial equity

a publication of the Urban Design Committee (UDDC) of the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects avenues volume two


Urban Design Committee American Institute of Architects, Washington, DC

managing editor Saakshi Terway, Associate AIA

editors Scott Archer, AIA Katherine Tiarsmith, AIA

published by AIA, Washington Chapter 421 7th Street NW Washington, DC 20004 aiadc.com



08 provocations 36 ethos 94 ideas 126 happenings

letter from the chair: equity – a challenge for all of us Can design make the world a better place? It is often argued that a well-designed object, space, or idea can change lives and culture, and this may be true. However, the ultimate impact of any single design exists within a very specific context—a physical context, a social context, an economic context, a political context, environmental context, etc. Designs can come too early or too late; they can be too expensive or too polarizing. Embedded with past trials—and errors—and built upon layers and layers of contexts, our cities are designed spaces. We, as urban designers, strive to insert ourselves into this messy, inexact science. Composed of architects, philosophers, investors, artists, sociologists, activists, and citizens, we


engage with these contexts, and ultimately—whether we like it or not—we affect lives in our communities and our world. For us this year, we focused on the overarching issue governing all these various contexts: spatial equity. Armed with our individual experiences and expertise, we collaborated to broaden the discourse that is fundamental to how each of us and our neighbours understand our world. As inequality dramatically grows in power, wealth, access, and opportunity, it is a challenge for us all. The Urban Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects, Washington Chapter (AIA|DC) was formed in 2017 to “improve the quality of cities and people’s lives.” We seek to

fulfill this mission through five key goals: 1. Create a forum to engage peer organizations in urban design. 2. Raise public awareness of the value of urban design thinking. 3. Promote visionary thinking about the future of cities. 4. Advocate for public policy that promotes livability, spatial equity, and environmental stewardship. 5. Develop greater allies among architects, planners, landscape architects, and policy makers. This second annual publication aims to record our discussions, activities, and the ideas of


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

our collaborators for the year. Avenues is organized into four sections. Section one, “provocations,” challenges our typical assumptions and ideas. Section two, “ethos,” illustrates the themes shaping the work of firms in Washington, DC. Section three, “ideas”, is a collection of competition entries animating equity in many ways. And lastly, section four, “happenings”, exhibits the milestone events that have convened thought leaders throughout the year. With a focus on spatial equity, a few key themes emerged from the collection of writings compiled here. First, ‘spatial’ equity is formed by the physicality of place, but building a foundation in the communal

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and social fabric of that place can be significantly more impactful to achieving greater equity. Second, equity in our communities today, must be understood in relation to the legal structures of the past. Often differences between communities have been (and still are) embedded within the legislation of our cities and can weight the scales, breeding imbalance. New interventions must address these historical inequities if we hope to overcome their results. Third, utopia is often aspiration of a project or plan, and although, these utopian visions are not realistic or even desirable, they can be useful hypotheticals to break from conventional thinking in search of identifying the real

root issues of inequity. Fourth, designed public spaces will only last if they are useful and loved. Through the creation of democratic spaces that all people enjoy using and can connect with one another, our chances of success in creating more equitable cities grow exponentially. With these four themes, and the many other ideas expressed in this volume, maybe design can make the world a better place, but only if we work together to understand our contexts.

Scott B. Archer, aia, aicp, leed ap Co-Chair, AIA|DC Urban Design Committee


provocations this section challenge embedded assumptions about what spatial equity means today, and for whom

10 historic balancing of spatial & socioeconomic equities in DC by Emily Morris 18 modernist landscape by Julia Koster and Sarah Ridgely 26 engaging communities, not just community meetings by Dawveed Scully

section one: provocations

historic balancing of spatial and socioeconomic equities in the district of columbia by Emily Morris, EKM Law Attempts (and failures) to balance spatial and socioeconomic equities are embedded in the historic planning, municipal operations, and legal fabrics of the District of Columbia. When the District of Columbia was created in 1790, the Anacostians, one of five smaller tribes of the Piscataway (or Conoy) Native Americans, occupied the trading and fishing villages of Nacotanchtank located at what is now the Bolling Air Force Base and Poplar Point. Initially, the planners set aside the Nacotachtank village for the Anacostians, the village and villagers disappeared by mid to late 1800s as upstream sediments and waste began to pollute and fill the Anacostia and its lowlands and sicken the Anacostians. As the Anacositans and the other Native Americans tribes


were driven from their villages along the Anacostia by disease and the pollution of Anacostia, the US Army Corp of Engineers began the Anacostia River Flats reclamation project. The plan was to create and maintain a navigable channel from DC to Baltimore by filling up mud flats that bred disease from upstream wastes. Congress also directed the D.C. Commissioners to place the waste collected from District residents and business, as well as federal buildings, into the mud flats as a secondary source of fill. While the majority

the District’s African American residents, from Barry Farms to Langston Golf Course. Living near the flats of the Anacostia was not always desirable or comfortable because even as though the disease breeding grounds were eliminated with fill, the marsh lands available to fill ran out, making trash burning at Kenilworth and to a lesser degree, at Poplar Point, a necessity and major source of air pollution for the nearby (mostly lower socioeconomic) residents that continued until the late 1960s.

“Spatial and social equity also have new challengers this time around – they must be weighed with the District’s other progressive policies and goals.” of filled flats were set aside as park lands, they also became lands designated for schools, housing, and recreation for

Like the Anacostians, the lands designated for African Americans and other lower socioeconomic groups were designated when the lands were


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Above: DC Slums in 1935.

Above: G Street east from 13th Street, Washington DC.

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section one: provocations

Above: Anacostia in the 1960s.

less desirable and taken back as such lands became more desirable or needed – but not always improved for the better. An interesting example is the historically African American neighborhoods of Shaw and Bloomingdale in the southern parts of Northwest DC. As a

Opposite: Washington DC Original 1955 Freeway Design 1955. Image courtesy of DDOT Yellow BooK

Florida Avenue, NW, in part, to cure what was considered the negative attributes of the “Hell’s Bottom” slum. Activists, with the support of the American Institute of Architects, successfully stopped the construction of the center leg of I-395 at New York Avenue coincidentally around

“Like the Anacostians, the lands designated for African Americans and other lower socioeconomic groups were designated when the lands were less desirable and taken back as such lands became more desirable or needed” part of 1950’s movement to create an interstate highway system, interstate I-395 was planned to have an inner loop roughly following U Street and


the time of racial uprisings of 1968. The resulting in a scar of a sunken highway to “nowhere” has only recently been fixed by PGP’s Capitol

Crossing project as the District’s newest redevelopment frontier moves east. If the inner loop and center leg of I-395 had not been stopped, the scar would have continued and cut through what is now, 50 years later, the most desirable and expensive neighborhoods in large part due to their walkable location and historic characteristics. Perhaps, what is different during the District’s latest renaissance is our awareness that spatial and social equity is both needed and beneficial to all District residents and businesses. Unfortunately, mandating spatial and social


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section one: provocations

Southwest Freeway Construction in 1967

Southwest Freeway Construction in 1968



avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Southwest Freeway in 1970

equity through laws is not always effective and often inherently inefficient. For example, for-sale affordable housing is wonderful in concept, but affordable housing covenants limit a homeowner’s ability to sell their home because both the pool of buyers and the sale price is limited during the term of the affordable housing covenant. The same homeowner is prevented from renting their unit, which means they must live in the home or hope for an eligible buyer will want to buy it when they are ready to sell. Yes, it is possible that they can “ask” for exception but requesting an

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exception must be justified and will not be timely considered or granted by the appropriate authorities. Spatial and social equity also have new challengers this time around – they must be weighed with the District’s other progressive policies and goals. Green and energy efficient buildings, livable wages, paid leave, modernization of schools and District buildings, upgrading of the District’s sewer and other public utilities also come with a cost. How to balance the progressive policies and goals is something that should be,

and needs to be, considered in a holistic manner when such policies and goals are legislated. It is unrealistic to think that the development and business communities have an unlimited ability to “absorb” all the costs and inherent inefficiencies associated with implementing the District’s progressive policies and goals, especially when the costs of buying land and running businesses is ever increasing. There is no easy way to evaluate and balance the District’s progressive policies and goals, spatial socioeconomic equity included. A place to start


section one: provocations

would be to evaluate how the implementation of policies and goals in reality work together. For example, efficiencies and inequities in the permitting process at DCRA, DOEE, and DC Water are a major source of delay in developments, often caused by the complexity of the District’s code requirements. Failure to meet one code requirement because it conflicts with a plan element intended to meet another code requirement can set a plan review back for months and increase carrying costs. The recent rewrites to various District building and environmental codes only adds to the confusion and inefficiencies. It is challenging for development professionals to keep apprised of the proposed and implemented changes, and nearly impossible for your average District resident or business.

“There is no easy way to evaluate and balance the District’s progressive policies ... A place to start would be to evaluate how the implementation of policies and goals in reality work together.” Creating more streamlined and understandable laws and regulations also opens opportunities for small and innovative businesses.

Finally, most importantly, the District, as well as its residents and businesses, should take a step back and evaluate the historic programs, initiatives,

Complexity creates an inherent barrier to small and diversity driven businesses, whether be a first-time developer wanting to redevelop four-unit apartment building to a first time retail business owner wishing to implement an innovative retail concept. District historic programs intended to create and foster support for diverse and small businesses, such as Great Streets grants and DISB’s capital and loan programs, should be streamlined and simplified – perhaps with additional support though the permitting process.

advocacy strategies, and laws that have been created and implemented throughout the District’s history. We can learn a lot from the many and diverse programs have been tried (and sometimes failed) in the District of Columbia, from the instrumentalities (like the Public Alley Dwelling Authority and RLARC) to the current publicprivate partnership approach. History will provide us insight into what works and unintended impacts of the planning and laws in our Nation’s capital so that we meet and maintain our spatial equity goals.

Opposite: The Washington Post Article AIA Against Inner Loop Image courtesy of The Washington Post, 2018



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1.The name Anacostia is thought to English derivative of villages of “Nacostine.” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, Volume 23, Page 169. 2. Hell’s Bottom, one of District’s poorest, toughest neighborhoods throughout the late 1890s and the 1900s, was roughly bounded by P Street, U Street, 8th Street and 14th Street, NW. It was reportedly known for its salons and reportedly a great hangout for “footpads and sneak-theives”. Kelly, J. (2018, Jun 20). D.C.’s mean streets, from bloodfield to murder bay. The Washington Post

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section one: provocations

modernist landscape by Julia Koster and Sarah Ridgely, National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) While walking around Washington, DC, it is easy to discover the city’s trove of Modernist landscapes. Designed and developed in the second half of the 20th century, these sites are characterized by unique hardscape and sculptural elements in urban settings. Like their Modernist building counterparts, many Modernist landscapes are at a critical decision point in their lifespan, with many communities considering whether to restore, rehabilitate, or replace them. Many face challenges due to aging, evolving public expectations and preferences regarding design and program, and changes in surrounding context, use, and circulation. Adapting Modernist Landscapes in the Public Realm, a panel hosted by AIA|DC on August 28, 2018, considered these challenges and some of the


key questions and case studies for Modernist landscapes in the Washington, DC area. Panelists raised several important considerations: •

Are Modernist landscapes different than other designed landscapes?

What are the similarities and differences in preservation and rehabilitation issues for designed landscapes in comparison to Modernist buildings?

What steps can design professionals take to make informed choices when contemplating changes to Modernist landscapes?

Are maintenance and proper funding key problems?

Looking more broadly, is it important to preserve ‘best of’ examples and works from specific designers?

While exploring these considerations, understanding the characteristics of Modernist landscapes, particularly those in the Washington, DC region, provides helpful context. Modernist landscapes were generally designed and developed between the midtwentieth century and the 1980’s, often by prominent professionals known for Modernist design. These landscapes reflected the social and planning ideas of their day, and often included significant experimentation in design, materials and construction technology–not all of which proved successful. Landscapes were often characterized by the use of smooth and aggregate concretes along the ground and walls, many of which exhibited sculptural characteristics. These were carefully designed features celebrating urban life and were often developed in concert with


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Pennsylvania Avenue in 1980s. Image courtesy of NCPC.

Pennsylvania Avenue at present. Image courtesy of NCPC.

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section one: provocations

Pershing Park in 1980s. Image courtesy of NCPC.

Pershing Park at present. Image courtesy of NCPC.



avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Modernist buildings, either as part of a single site or a larger campus design. Washington, DC and the surrounding National Capital Region are home to a number of Modernist landscapes, many of which are found on federal property. Many downtown federal precincts were developed when Modernist architecture and landscapes dominated as a design preference. Familiar sites include L’Enfant Plaza and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plaza, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau courtyard, and the Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden. The buildings and adjoining landscape of the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus in Gaithersburg, MD is recognized for its mid-century Modernist design. Washington, DC has a great legacy of planning and attention to public space and a rich array of designed landscapes from multiple eras. With this in mind, panelists noted the importance of considering whether modernist landscapes are different than other designed landscapes. National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) Senior Urban Planner Sarah Ridgely shared the perspective of her agency around this topic. Ridgely argued that while physical forms may differ, all

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designed landscapes face similar challenges in responding to 21st century demands. Ridgely added further that the process of understanding whether and how to alter these landscapes can be assisted by gathering information to better inform decisions. To that end, NCPC has developed a series of questions to use internally to think holistically about changes to these landscapes (see callout box for summary). NCPC’s questions cover topics including landscapes’ surrounding context, space use and programming, condition, and assessment of original design intent and key elements. Landscape Architecture Bureau Founder Jon Fitch, ASLA argued a similar point. Fitch noted the design similarities between Boston, MA’s hardscaped urban City Hall Plaza and the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy, while contrasting the public reaction to these spaces. Although the spaces share similar design features, City Hall Plaza is widely criticized by residents, while Siena’s Piazza remains a public favorite. Rather than lumping all Modernist landscapes together, he identified several well-used, admired, and well-maintained sites. “We save what we love,” he noted. Therefore, an important aspect is to understand what makes certain landscapes cherished, while others are neglected or disliked.

Panelists identified changes in the surrounding urban context as a major factor impacting Modernist landscapes. ZGF Architects’ Urban Principal, Otto Condon discussed the recent transformation of Washington, DC’s Banneker Park, designed by Dan Kiley. While the park previously functioned as a public overlook at the terminus of 10th Street, SW, it is now a critically important connector between the National Mall and The Wharf, a recent development on the Southwest Waterfront. New stairs and paths enable pedestrians and cyclists to easily move along this corridor. In developing design proposals for sites like Benjamin Banneker Park, a key consideration shared was understanding the original design intent and carefully balancing changes necessary to respond to current conditions and needs. For any adaptation, panelists stressed that designers must ask: At what point are changes in conflict, or even disrespectful, to the original design? Is it important to protect the work of certain design professionals? Is the example rare, or exceptional? Panelists raised similar questions regarding the historic preservation process. Many Modernist landscapes are now eligible for historic preservation consideration, and like buildings, these landscapes must respond


section one: provocations

to contemporary challenges and expectations. While alterations may not always be needed, any changes should be done in a manner that respects the design’s important characterdefining features so that the original intent remains intact. Despite these similarities, there are several key differences between designed landscapes and buildings. Preservation and rehabilitation issues for designed landscapes have been explored less than for buildings. Landscapes, by their nature, grow and change. While some similar tools are used to assess buildings under consideration for renovation or redevelopment, landscapes use a different design vocabulary that does not always translate easily to the historic preservation practices for buildings. People interact differently with landscapes than buildings, and their expectations of landscapes’ public space are also different. Designed landscapes are, in fact or in practice, frequently seen and considered as part of the public realm, with a strong sense of public ownership. Another important consideration panelists raised was whether the challenges presented by many designed landscapes stem from adequate funding and maintenance. Many Modernist landscapes are now of an age where they require refurbishment and repairs. For example, the public spaces along Pennsylvania 22

“Modernist landscapes offer a window into a broader discussion of how to sensitively and appropriately address proposed changes to all designed landscapes. ” Avenue, between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, were cohesively redesigned in the 1970s and 1980s as part of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation’s streetscape redevelopment. Successful in their day, many of these spaces are now worn and no longer function as originally intended. While some Modernist landscapes in Washington and across the country have been rehabilitated or updated, others have been completely removed or redesigned. As this era contributes to the legacy of Washington’s designed spaces, panelists noted the importance of determining which designs represent exceptional works and ensuring they remain intact. The National Historic Preservation Act can be used to protect sites that are 50 years or older, but many Modernist landscapes are not eligible yet. Therefore, the decision to rehabilitate or redesign altogether often resides with local community and regulatory boards who may not have access to a complete site history and analysis. As the panelists concluded, Modernist landscapes offer a window into a broader discussion of how to sensitively and appropriately address proposed changes to all designed landscapes. It is important to see

these landscapes as part of the overall, continuing design legacy of any city, demanding us to think about why we cherish and take care of various public spaces. Key Considerations to Assess Designed Landscapes (from the 2018 Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital’s Parks & Open Space Federal Element) To be consistent, consider the following—in both context and of the existing space and the proposed improvements—when assessing a designed landscape. 1) Use of Space | Understand how the current use and users evolved over time. Compare how the needs of existing users, along with a proposed/modified user group, help define scope, program, and proposed improvements. 2) Design Characteristics | Identify the existing design characteristics, including site elements, style, and amenities that help define the character and role of the unique landscape. Compare the existing conditions against the proposed improvements to understand the programmatic changes and their potential impacts. 3) Original Design Intent | Consider information regarding the original design, including the spatial orientation of the site, AIA | DC

avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Banneker Park - Before. Image courtesy of NCPC.

Banneker Park - After. Image courtesy of NCPC.

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section one: provocations

AIA|DC welcomed Julia Koster (NCPC), Sarah Ridgely (NCPC), Jon Fitch (LAB), and Otto Condon (ZGF) to speak about Modernist Landscapes. Images courtesy of AIA|DC Urban Design Committee.



avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

style, and site elements, when evaluating proposals. 4) Design Context | Evaluate how the surrounding context of a landscape— including adjacent land-use, demographics, physical and visual characteristics— can influence the perception, and use of a specific site. Use this context to inform how the landscape responds to, and fits within, its surroundings.

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5) Performance and Maintenance | Understand the overall performance and function of an existing landscape to help determine inherent design issues and maintenance limitations. Use this information to improve the existing design, or to inform the new design of site systems such as stormwater management, water features, and a site’s resilience with respect to climate conditions.

6) Historic and Cultural Significance | Consider the historic and cultural significance of a landscape when evaluating proposed improvements and modifications. This includes a site’s characterdefining elements, views, or viewsheds, any cultural traditions, and if the site is associated with a notable designer.


engaging communities, not just community meetings by Dawveed Scully, SOM So often it the world of architecture, planning and development we often must engage communities and context that we are working in. Many see these as a chore or something that requires us to waste time talking to residents instead of moving forward. But when engaged correctly you can find opportunities to both address community interest as well as achieve your development or design goals. There’s a variety of barriers to proper community engagement. It requires a lot of effort and the client may not see that as necessary in the budget or simply assumes since its their land that they’ll just do the meetings and get what they want in the end so its fine. As professionals we’re often not taught anything about how to engage the public. My education


is in architecture and with the myriad of topics we must learn about from history, design, structures, mechanical systems, and more, but community engagement is not one of the focuses. Perhaps that’s something that needs to be re-evaluated in the future and if we are truly as field moving towards equity and inclusion as principles behind how we design a more just environment we need to ensure that the community is seen as a stakeholder and not a challenge to overcome. On the community end there’s a disconnect as well. We as professionals don’t always know how to best communicate our ideas to the residents and they aren’t always equipped with the information to understand what is proposed, what stage

of the project you are at and what the overall process to get development to happen is. There’s also a spectrum of perspectives going from underserved communities where they may feel powerless and that new development in their community is simply about gentrification and displacement of the residents. They can’t see themselves as participants, so why should they support it? On another end is NIMBYism where residents feel like they don’t need affordable housing, new development or transit access as it may bring “undesirable people” or “rowdy unsafe behavior” into the community. While everyone deserves safety and to not worry about vandalism to their property, we also must understand that the notion of walling off your surroundings to protect yourself


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Detroit East Riverfront Community Meeting #3 Image courtesy of SOM, 2016

Detroit East Riverfront Community Meeting #3 Image courtesy of SOM, 2016

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Detroit East Riverfront Community Meeting #2 Image courtesy of SOM, 2016

from the outside doesn’t really address the real issue that our lifestyle is built on inequity. We need to care about not just the immediate surroundings but a deeper understanding of the city as a system. Why are we ok with underfunded public schools? Or lack of affordable housing? Or lack employment opportunities for underserved communities? We’re fighting to address the results of racist policies and poor stewardship of our cities as whole and engaging the people that live in these places is the best way to gain


a real understanding of what’s going on. Leveraging our skills as thoughtful problem solvers to address key issues and unlock opportunities.

A new process for engagement The biggest issue is lack of trust. This makes all parties feel like advisors when they should feel like partners. We need to create a clear platform where all entities can engage as equals. There should be multiple ways to share information with one another and discuss on the front end, so the final discussions are about

implementation and celebrating positive momentum. There are some key ideas that have work well in creating an environment of trust and inclusion when it comes to engagement. It starts with working within existing frameworks or organizations that are residents are already familiar with and trust. As professionals, we need to take a step back and describe the project in the context of the city. Nobody ever actually steps back and describes how


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Milwaukee TOD Image courtesy of SOM, 2017

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cities work and the development process to residents. They see the municipal as an entity that should just get it done when as we all know there’s many agencies and various sets of rules and regulations we are dealing with when you are going through a development or planning process. There also is little to no information or explanation of the criteria developers are looking for to make retail, housing, commercial spaces pencil out financially. Community meetings happen too late in the process for us to have a lasting impact on anything. A lot of the big decisions have been made and people feel it when their input isn’t going to be put forth. We need to address this from all angles work on this. Community, municipal, developer, architect, engineer, etc. There need to be clear and accessible place to get information from. Recently we were invited to work the 1Woodlawn and the Network of Woodlawn to lead a community vision plan for the Woodlawn neighborhood in Chicago and a key part of this effort was the creation of a series of six seminars to do just this. This neighborhood is home to University of Chicago, Olmsted designed South Parks (Jackson Park, Washington Park and Midway Plaisance), Museum of science and industry


and preparing to be the future home of the Barack Obama Presidential Center. The residents are excited but want to know that the coming development will not simply cause them to be displaced from the area. We wanted to make sure that residents where starting with a base of knowledge that helps them understand what the constraints and opportunities are and how to get what they are interested as a community. The sessions included chats on planning in the black community, information and tools, urban planning 101, development 101, tactical urbanism, and sustainability. All the presentations went online for their use as well. Many were quick and dirty presentations and took some extra effort on our end but in the long-run residents gained understanding and our team learned as well. Then when it came done to our vision plan, we were able to really move forward with illustrating the ideas in a way they could understand. They knew what FAR was and they understood and accepted there was a need for more market rate opportunities to bring some of the services they were interested in. We also developed principles based on the community and stakeholder input as well as previous plans that had been produced for the neighborhood.

What this does is allow the design ideas to be much more substantive and connected to input on the front end and people can at least understand how you’re addressing their input and why you are proposing the concepts. There are many more ways to gather this sort of input. Walking tours, workshops, open house, charrettes to learn and create alignment between all parties.

Documentation and sharing ideas Recording and documenting the info in a clear and simple form is key to making sure the ideas stay strong and resonate with the various constituents. We’re all familiar with reports, presentations and boards. Those should be as short and simple as possible to communicate. Creating graphics that can communicate the ideas to both seasoned designers as well as newcomers. They should allow for discussion and also summarize the results. There are many new mediums that we should embrace as an industry to tell our stories. Film has been used successfully by some to really provide a strong narrative arch to our stories. Especially while we all have mobile devices that can film in HD or 4K and this can be leveraged to understand existing conditions, record interviews with stakeholders, and inserting before/after


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Woodlawn Urban Planning Seminar #1: Woodlawn residents conversing after session Image courtesy of SOM, 2017

Above: Woodlawn Urban Planning Seminar #2 Image courtesy of SOM, 2017 Next Page: Detroit East Riverfront Franklin Street adaptive reuse and infill concept rendering courtesy of MIR, SOM 2016

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71st Street Vision Summary board Image courtesy of SOM, 2018



avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Detroit East Riverfront Atwater Street Rendering courtesy of MIR, SOM 2016

using 3d models and camera matching. The proliferation of drones also provides other opportunities. Then there are other tools like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) that are starting to make headway into our field. It also gives you opportunities to mix new with old. Building physical models and leveraging projection technology or advanced manufacturing like 3d printing to create exhibitions or mockups of ideas. There isn’t a one size fits all solution on how to best engage.

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A lot of it depends on the history and legacy of the community, the client, municipality, etc. but we can be much more robust in how we engage and make our world more robust through really engaging our context in. We should be embedding this into our processes the same way sustainability should be simply a part of our process instead of an addon. Clients benefit because this creating alignment will allow for speed to market, especially if there are needs for any approvals; for designers, we can

create a more informed design solution and find some unique opportunities for the place. And the residents and stakeholders can get behind the effort with the understanding that they are invested in the effort and can see benefit. There are many other things to look at but as someone who engages communities on almost every project, we need to understand how the field can work towards a process that creates a more equitable and just cities and communities


ethos this section illustrates spatial equity themes shaping the work of firms around Washington, D.C.

38 the ideal public space: orderly and equitable by Jonathan Fitch 46 scale and spatial equality by David C. Bagnoli 64 urban design for the future city future city by Merril St. Leger Demian 74 politics, protest and places by Greg Luongo

section two: ethos

the ideal public space: orderly and equitable by Jonathan Fitch, LAB The ideal of spatial equity is not a long established one. Even with civic improvements whose stated goals are about the well-being of the public at large and not only a privileged segment of it, ingrained attitudes about what a “landscape” is and how people relate to it, have made many of these improvements poor examples of democratic urban design. The design of public space in the United States is burdened by the persistent idea that people are not meant to live in cities. The twin fantasies of rural simplicity and untrammeled wilderness, where people can be cleansed of the taint of the city and be their true selves, have become pervasive. They have set an agenda for the design of public spaces that are, I think, both antithetical and damaging to the communitarian ideal. Seeing the


bases of these fantasies may show us a way forward, however.

few as the Baroque gardens of imperial France.

What rural simplicity is supposed to look like has its roots in the English aristocracy and their estates. The English landscape of grazing sheep and cows, grasslands for them to eat, a pond for them to drink from, large, open-grown trees, etc., is a popular and persistent image of “nature” There are two very important points that we need to remember, however. First, these landscapes are an artifice, no more “natural” than the ChampsÉlysées. They were designed by landscape architects, such as Capability Brown, commissioned by the plutocratic landowners and built shovelful by shovelful to mimic the landscapes painted a hundred years eariler by Poussin and Lorrain. Second, they are the picture of spatial inequity, as emblematic of the power of the

There is a second, equally powerful, fantasy image of the ideal landscape: that of untouched wilderness. It can be seen in the paintings of the Hudson River School. This ideal is not civilized like the English countryside: it is wild, untended and uninhabited. One can see why this vision would be so attractive in the world today, where the impacts of 7.5 billion (soon to be 9 billion) people have caused so much environmental degradation. At the same time, wilderness is not where people live. The wilderness aesthetic promotes spatial inequity in, surprisingly, the same basic way that the rural aesthetic does: In the former, one needs the time and the funds to access them; in the latter, one needs to be either a lord or a yeoman. Neither of


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

Above: Long Meadow, Prospect Park. Image courtesy of Matthew X. Kiernan / New York Big Apple Images.

Below: Bighorn Wilderness, Idaho. Image courtesy of boisestatepublicradio.org

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section two: ethos

Above: Victorian squalor - New York City. Image courtesy of Jacob Riis

these two paradigms promote spatial equity. These two images of the ideal landscape are attractive to the extent that cities are seen as damaging to their residents. Escape or diversion from their pernicious influence became the object of public space design. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the industrial revolution made cities awful places to live—corrupt, brutal, squalid. City dwellers truly needed a respite. The problem is that those who needed it most had the least ability to access it. In the twenty-first century


replace “rural simplicity” with “wilderness” and one gets the same dichotomy. What made the cities corrupt in the nineteenth century. was the squalor brought on by unchecked exploitation of workers; in the present day, cities have outsized resource needs and environmental impacts. There is a longing for “nature” as an antidote to the visible impacts of urbanization. The problem is that “nature” today is as much a fantasy as Brown’s landscapes were two centuries ago. The only landscapes that are not completely transformed by human choices are the

designated wildernesses. As wonderful as they are, though, they are by definition antithetical to habitation. And the greater the number of people (city dwellers) who want to access them, the more antithetical they are. What would I propose as a language of the public realm that promotes spatial equity? Definitely one that does not depend on the romantic fantasies of the righteous yeoman or the lone outdoorsman. It is simple orderliness. Orderliness seeks to celebrate


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city life by making places that are inherently equitable. Orderly spaces are neither sylvan nor wild - they are easy to feel at home in, easy to move through and easy to comprehend. They accommodate large numbers of people and do not, by their nature, exclude anyone from participation in public life. They are, in spatial terms, equitable. What are we trying to achieve when we talk about spatial equity? In urban design terms, it is the organization of the city in a way that does not favor one sort of person, activity or use over

uses championed by many urban theorists. As interesting as it would be to discuss how these systems can be, and were, reorganized or gamed to create real estate value, it is a separate topic. So how does orderliness operate to make public spaces equitable? First of all, they can be occupied by large numbers of people without destroying their character or their usefulness. Think of the manner in which the Place des Vosges is occupied versus the Long Meadow in Prospect Park. Both have been favorite

“What are we trying to achieve when we talk about spatial equity? In urban design terms, it is the organization of the city in a way that does not favor one sort of person, activity, or use over another.” another. A bank can be next to a gas station, which can be next to a bakery which can be next to an office. This kind of spatial equity can be achieved by a grid or, as was the case in medieval times, by an undifferentiated maze of streets. The implications for real estate value are myriad and powerful. If it does not make much difference where in the city one lives or works, how can one piece of urban land be worth more than another? The concept of “highest and best use” is meaningless in this context. The grid serves to level, to democratize; it lowers land values generally, enabling the varied mix of people and

subjects of photographers for well over one hundred years, but the photos we most often see of the Place des Vosges are full of people, while those of the Long Meadow are usually atmospheric and free of human activity. Both are beautiful works of art, but the character of the Place des Vosges is inherently equitable. It is urbane and social, celebrating human contact and discourse. Further, the Place des Vosges suffers no damage from its use by a mass of people. So, by what means can we make these orderly, equitable places? There is no shortage of examples of places, like Bryant Park or the National Mall,

where the readable order of the landscape is expressed by tree planting. Regular planting of trees creates a spatial rhythm that measures movement through space and so connects people to the surrounding context. In the hands of a good landscape architect, regular tree plantings also extend the architectural order of the buildings into the public realm, uniting the buildings and their context. The most ubiquitous public spaces in cities are the streets and sidewalks. Trees are, again, the primary tool in making them real places for people rather than just conduits. In addition to the rhythm of their spacing, there is the sense of permanence and stability that street trees provide, to say nothing of their environmental effects in reducing the heat island effect or how luscious their cool shade feels on a hot afternoon. Although trees are particularly effective in ordering public space, they are not the only tool. In fact, most any repetitive element will add to the richness of the place. At the National Mall the lights and benches that line the walkways at regular intervals are contributing elements, as are the edges of the walks themselves. I would argue that a geometrically ordered public realm is, visually, more complex and exciting than the pastoral park. As one moves

Next Page: South Garden, Art institute of Chicago. Image courtesy of Jebi Jeza (Creative Commons). Urban Design Committee


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Above: Place des Vosges - Paris. Image courtesy of Clara Giraud (Creative Commons).

through it, the constantly shifting perceptions of the geometry of the tree plantings, from straight lines to diagonals and back again, engages both the eye and the mind. As lovely as Prospect Park is, its pastoral views can be taken in all at once. As far as “wilderness” style parkland is concerned, like the Ramble in

and undergrowth. One place is much like another in the woods. This is a completely different concept from Bryant Park or Meridian Hill Park. Well-ordered public landscapes are the cure for place-lessness It has become clear that human activity is the cause of

“The illusion that pastoral or wild landscapes in cities somehow appear on their own allows people to devalue community, thinking that inaction is a positive good and so reinforcing divisions in society.”

Central Park or Rock Creek Park, they are busy but not complex, offering no contrast to the trees


environmental degradation and climate change. If any of that is to change, though, absent a

gypsy moth event, human activity is going to have to be the agent. The illusion that pastoral or wild landscapes in cities somehow appear on their own allows people to devalue community, thinking that inaction is a positive good and so reinforcing divisions in society. Orderly public space makes it clear that people are responsible for creating and maintaining them, illuminating the fact that community action can make a difference, helping to resist resignation, defeatism and egocentricity. It is tempting to go overboard in praise of the positive effects of


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Above: Bryant Park, NYC. Image courtesy of Luc Mercure.

ordered public space on equity in society. There are a couple of thoughts that prevent my making an even more evangelistic appeal on its behalf. First, orderliness is influential in terms of spatial equity, but it is not determinate. Spatial equity is related to but is not at all the same thing as social equity or political equity and certainly not racial or economic equity. Second, there are certain to be those who see a relationship between spatial order and the totalitarian state. We all have images of Pyongyang or of fascist Germany or Italy or any number of other totalitarian constructs that may be orderly,

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but are totally chilling. These spaces represent the lunatic fringe of orderliness and have more to do with Central Planning than any other ideal. As such, it is important not to conflate cause and effect. Orderliness in public space may certainly be a characteristic of authoritarian state control, but it certainly is not its cause. When we conjure up an image of an orderly public realm, keep in mind the Place des Vosges rather than Albert Speer’s Nuremburg stage set.

chance to participate. It is clear that neither wilderness nor idealized sylvan nature (or its ersatz analogs) will satisfy that need. The current vogue for naturalistic landscapes is an exercise in self-delusion. Rock Creek Park is no more natural than the Mall. It is high time that we embrace our humanity and make the public realm in the image of the well-ordered places that we know and love.

Spatial equity demands a democratic public realm, one in which everyone has an equal


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Opposite: View from Market Square, towards the Wharf. Image courtesy of Tom Holdsworth.

scale and spatial equality by David C. Bagnoli, AIA, StudioMB

spatial equality? I imagine any business owner would agree there are moments in the life of a firm which stand out from the necessary but somewhat repetitive daily tasks we endure. When our firm, StudioMB was invited to be considered for the Annual Urban Design Open House for

StudioMB? “Nope, I didn’t know about that either”. As the air continued to leave the room, we tried a different approach- what was it about us? This was, after all, only the second time the Open House had been done and surely there were other, better known firms who might be a more obvious selection. The simple answer? scale.

“To our surprise, we had been recognized for being unique in the size of our office relative to the scale of our work, something that had never crossed our minds. “

AIA|DC we had one of those moments, and our first question was quite literally “Why Us”? Perhaps it was our work around Washington for a few high-profile clients? “No, we didn’t know about that” was the response. Maybe that was because of our fairly recent name change from McGraw Bagnoli Architects to


To our surprise, we had been recognized for being unique in the size of our office relative to the scale of our work, something that had never crossed our minds. We are a pretty ambitious bunch, and define ourselves as generalists in a world of specialists- accordingly we tend to look more for projects

that provide design opportunity rather than meet a certain criteria for type or style. As a result, our projects range in size, program, and clients, but always focus on the underlying conditions of the context within which we work. This idea of scale as a facet of our work and firm has always been present but never quite articulated. This helped to inform us in the challenge of presenting our projects amongst some of the city and country’s most recognizable yet much larger practices. Once our nomination was confirmed we were asked to consider our Urban Design projects in keeping with the year’s theme of Spatial Equity. We spent time thinking about this theme, particularly in how it applied to our work, which ranges from urban to rural and public to private, and includes


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Above: Aerial of 1916 Municipal Fish Market, note Tidal Basin in background prior to Jefferson Memorial Construction. Image courtesy of National Archives and Record Administration

Above: View of Lunch Room, Oyster Shed, Market Buidling with Off-Ramp Bridge Pier in Foreground. Image courtesy of the Evening Star Archives, Washington Division, Martin Luthor King Library .



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Above: Criteria for Public Space, The Gehl Institute. Diagram courtesy of StudioMB

both commissioned projects and competition entries. Spatial Equity, to us may be most simply defined as the equitable development of land use. In keeping with this thought and the theme of the night, we wondered what might be an effective method to actually rate the degree to which our projects, or any projects for that matter, provide Spatial Equity. For the answer, we gathered staff and asked for thoughts. We quickly learned about an entity

that exists which dedicates itself to the transformation of cities by “making public life an intentional driver for design, policy, and governance”. The Gehl Institute, a group founded in Copenhagen and now operating in New York City, works to bring quality to public spaces, and offers a range of tools to assist cities and designers in this effort. One of the tools Gehl offers is their Twelve Quality Criteria, a tool for researching how public

“Spatial Equity, to us may be most simply defined as the equitable development of landuse.”

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spaces are experienced by the public. Specifically, it is intended to evaluate whether public space meets three different categories: Protection, Comfort, and Enjoyment. Their thinking regarding these is as follows: Without basic protection from cars, noise, rain, and wind, people will generally avoid spending time in a space; Without elements that make walking, using a wheelchair, standing, sitting, seeing, and conversing comfortable, a place won’t invite people to stay; Great public spaces tend to offer positive aesthetic and sensory experiences, take


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Above: View of proposed Olympic Stadium at Poplar Point, with althlete housing in foreground and US Capitol and National’s Park in the background. Image courtesy of StudioMB

advantage of local climate, and provide human-scale elements so visitors don’t feel lost in their surroundings. We decided, we should evaluate our projects for Spatial Equity, using someone else’s criteria, and see how we rate across project scales. Our team created a graphic to organize these 3 Features and 12 criteria (Illustration 1) and set out to apply it to the featured work. The results were fascinating and

reinforced our belief that scale, whether in describing a firm or project size, is meaningless when it comes to good design.

size- does it matter? StudioMB works on projects which range from an open air Teaching Pavilion at The National Arboretum, just under 1000sf, to precinct and even city-wide design efforts like our unsolicited proposal for the

The results were fascinating and reinforced our belief that scale, whether in describing a firm or project size, is meaningless when it comes to good design.


DC 2024 Olympics Bid, which evaluated the potential for the Olympics over a large portion of Washington, DC. When Adam McGraw, AIA and I started the firm in 2011, we did so with the intention of working on the broadest types of projects while also limiting the scale of the firm to create an office culture with a talented group of designers where we could act more as studio critics than the geniuses in the room. Over the years this has evolved into an office with literally no doors, which encourages transparency to everyone’s ideas and shared successes. We


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Above: View of the Fish Market in 2014. Image courtesy of StudioMB

Above: Scale Comparison of proposal with other recent host cities. Image courtesy of StudioMB Next Page:: New Market Hall and Distillery with Renovated Oyster Shed. Image courtesy of Tom Holdsworth via StudioMB.

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found it intriguing to consider our practice in terms of scale of projects and scale of the office, which may seem incongruous to some, although not to us. We were excited to highlight our work and look back at some of our efforts through the lens of Scale and Spatial Equity. To our delight, we discovered the work performs well on the Gehl Institute’s 12 Criteria across the full range of scale and type of what we have produced. The event allowed us to highlight a few projects at the small, medium and large scale. A few also offer lessons about how our practice of 12 people can deliver high quality work at any scale.

small scale: the Washington Fish Market Our relationship with Urban Design often comes from architectural rather than site commissions. This was the case for our recently completed Washington Fish Market project adjacent to The Wharf in Southwest, Washington, DC. Our client, Hoffman Madison Waterfront, was deep into the earliest stages of construction for Phase 1 of that project when we began. This allowed us a little time to gain an appreciation for the history of the site and its setting, even as we were originally hired to design a set of structures on the land side of this funky edge of the city.


The story of the Washington Fish Market as Urban Space is an interesting one, which harkens to the original founding of the city and the status of this quadrant of the new Federal City as an early commercial and transportation hub. Billed as “The oldest, continuously operating fish market” in the US, the market was started in the early days of the city when fishermen, oystermen and crabbers would sail up the Potomac from the Chesapeake Bay to sell their catch along the banks of the river. In time, the area became more developed but lost its role as a commercial hub, partially due to it being a central point of departure for the Union Army during the Civil War. Conditions in the area deteriorated after the war, as ramshackle residential buildings lined narrow and often unpaved streets, with impractical arrangements of slips and wharves as well as constant risk of fire due to wood construction and storage yards filled with flammable materials. By the late 19th century the effort to beautify the area began to build momentum, eventually gaining enough traction that by the early 1900’s the US Congress got involved. A 1908 US Senate document recommending improvement of Washington’s harbor front deemed the existing wharves “unsightly, a menace from a sanitary standpoint,” and in constant danger of fire. By

1912 improvement plans were approved, and in 1916 a “model municipal fish wharf and market” was delivered. The 1916 market site included four small brick structures sited along the water to provide support for the new Municipal Wharf and a large Municipal Fish Market Building. One of these structures, known as the Lunch Room, served the workers and merchants of the Market and Wharf. The original Market Building contained a few restaurants for tourists and visitors, but only the Lunch Room allowed workers to gather and eat in a separate building in proximity to the water. Adjacent to the Lunch Room was the open air Oyster Shucking Shed, whose name says everything one needs to know to understand its original purpose. The site remained operational out of the 1916 Market Building until the early 1960’s, when, as part of the Federal Highway Act, a new off-ramp required removal of most of the 1916 structures, including the Market Building, with the exception of the Lunch Room (then operating as The Cadillac Restaurant) and the Oyster Shucking Shed, which had been enclosed to become a fish cleaning and storage shed years earlier. This removal of the Market Building necessitated movement of most of the vendors. Those who chose to stay relocated onto temporary


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Below: Existing Market Barges with Marquee signs, awnings and open fish display. Image courtesy of Maxwell P. Blakeney.

barges at a pier provided to them by the city. It is these barges which define the Fish Market of recent memory. With their large awnings, brightly lit-marquee signs and open display of fish on ice the entire area has an almost carnival-like feel that we embraced during our design of the site and structures. The client’s program asked us to provide 5 new “landside” structures as well as the restoration of the Lunch Room and Oyster Shed. Envisioned as a new restaurant precinct to support The Wharf without competing with the adjacent fish sellers on the barges, our

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“Our project is small, yet it creates a variety of connected and tiered open spaces intended to function as farmer’s markets, small performance gathering spaces, outdoor seating and, a place for families to gather and play.” design creates a variety of outdoor spaces which, due to the site’s topography, step down 8’ from Maine Ave to the cityowned piers which jut into the Washington Channel behind the Jefferson Memorial and to which the barges hook onto. Our project is small, yet it creates a variety of connected and tiered open spaces intended to function as farmer’s markets,

small performance gathering spaces, outdoor seating, and a place for families to gather and play. This has been realized and abundantly visible since its recent opening. To highlight the two historic structures in the middle of the site, we designed each of the new buildings to have a focus toward this portion of the site, while also carrying


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Above: Washington Fish Market: Diagrams illustrating integration of existing barges and rejuvenated Lunch Room and Oyster Shucking Shed as the centerpiece of the development. Image courtesy of StudioMB



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the carnival-like character of the existing barges to the new buildings. Large murals painted on the sides of the buildings have started to bring the funky character of the barges to Maine Ave, while each has been carefully situated and detailed to maximize visibility of the barges and water from the city and from a variety of balconies and rooftop terraces on the new structures. The Historic Lunch Room and Oyster Shed has recently reopened as the Rappahannock Oyster Bar and brings a touch of sophistication to the quirky site. When we reviewed the project based on the Gehl Institute’s 12 Criteria, we were happy to see all 12 elements were provided by the design, and now that the work has been completed we are seeing a rewarding mix of users who range from long-term patrons of the barges to newer residents of The Wharf. These users spread out across the site’s cascading stairs, its integrated “stramp” and the structure’s multiple opportunities for outdoor dining, creating an energy that differentiates the site from the adjacent but more formal Wharf development, which rightly places its focus on the waters edge. The project’s variety of spaces, tenants, and architecture suggests that the intimate scale they create may be one of the more unique urban settings in the city, and one that will hopefully define the sort of public

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life Washington is not typically known to provide.

medium scale: Gallaudet Marketplace of Ideas Our office has a special interest in the unique relationship between campuses and their adjacent communities. We have often been asked to work in such settings. This was the driver of StudioMB being selected to help PN Hoffman in its invited proposal to redevelop 8 sites adjacent to Washington’s Gallaudet University and Union Market. We were given 3 of these sites, immediately adjacent to the western edge of the campus, with a desire to create a retail and residential complex for faculty, students and staff of Gallaudet. Given the site’s proximity to campus, we were asked to pay particular attention to the developing relationship between the world’s most prestigious institution for hearing impaired students and its bordering warehouse district. Our design integrates both new and re-used structures to provide dynamic indoor/outdoor spaces for creative research opportunities, and includes over 20,000sf of retail, 100 units of housing, and the renovation and reconfiguration of an existing historic 1920’s bus service center/car barn into a creative “maker-space”.


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Above: Floor pans of the proposed scheme Image courtesy of StudioMB

During our initial visits to the site, we discovered that due to an unusual layout of streets and the low scale of the neighborhood to the south one can enjoy both street and rooftop views of the dome of the US Capitol. This allowed us the opportunity to maximize each proposed structure’s ability to offer this unique vista. The result is a large diagonal at the eastern edge of the development with a series of permeable openings to encourage movement from the historic campus at the east to the proposed retail at the west. Given the site’s proximity to the historic markets located and still functioning in this part of the city,


we proposed an architecture of dark solid surfaces with punched openings facing toward them, with bright, transparent facades toward campus. The design also envisions two new entries to the Gallaudet campus, including an iconic one at the north edge which plays off one of the campus’ most historic structures, the “Hyper-Tudor” Peikoff Alumni House. When we reviewed the Gehl Institute’s 12 Criteria against the design we found we couldn’t claim protection from the elements, but were particularly pleased that not only did we meet the criteria to foster conversation, but the project was

designed to meet the University’s recently adopted “Deaf Space Standards”, which considers the difficulty of signing conversations when people are focused on their hands and other people’s faces, sometimes at the expense of paying full attention to what is in front of them. Our design integrates both new and re-used structures to provide dynamic indoor/outdoor spaces for creative research opportunities, and includes over 20,000sf of retail, 100 units of housing, and the renovation and reconfiguration of an existing historic 1920’s bus service center/car barn into creative “maker-spaces”.


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large scale: DC 2024 and europan “Public Works” seems to be an abandoned concept, a bygone term replaced with the utilitarian sounding “Infrastructure”. We believe bold moves for the public good are not only warranted but in fact necessary to encourage re-development and investment in under-developed or blighted sections of our cities. Consider for a moment the spin-off effect of Michael Bloomberg’s 2002 choice to over-ride outgoing mayor Rudy Giuliani’s decision to tear down the structure of New York City’s High-Line and instead offer the city’s support of the vision for its redevelopment. Bloomberg’s decision, long since validated by the hiring of architectural firms such as Zaha Hadid, Studio Gang, Jeanne Nouvelle and Frank Gehry to design multi-million dollar units where previously there were only meat warehouses, exemplifies the idea that “Public Works” generates Public Benefits. Think about all those tax dollars as well as the benefit to local businesses and organizations such as the Stargazers, the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York’s weekly gathering that runs from spring through fall and draws residents and visitors alike. This illustrates why we believe big moves, done skillfully, can create big results and the impact they may have on a place. Like other designers we have

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This emphasizes why we believe big moves, done skillfully, can create big results and the impact they may have on a place. been interested in a number of such projects including the Grand Canyon Skybridge, New York’s High-Line, Chicago’s relocation of Lake Shore Drive, and the soon to be completed Heatherwick Studio’s “Vessel” at New York City’s Hudson Yards as examples of what bold Urban Design can accomplish not just for a particular site but for an entire quadrant of a city. Coupled with this interest, when our firm was young we committed to participating in a design competition once a year, to stretch the boundaries of what we may be capable of doing, even if we weren’t being hired to do so. As a result, we submitted a number of fun and unique entries in numerous programs, ranging in scale according to the interest of what we are looking to explore as a group. When it was announced in Fall of 2013 that Washington DC was a finalists in the US Olympic Committee’s search for a proposed site for the 2024 Olympics, we decided that rather than a competition that year we would challenge ourselves to prepare an unsolicited response on the impact of such a large scale investment to improve the city that would last not just for 30 days, but for 30 years. Our conceptual project recognizes and reacts to the fact that

while most Olympics produce seductive architecture intended solely for the glamour of the short term, the long-term potential of the games is really in their legacy to meet a city’s identified strategic growth. In Washington’s case, we recognized the city’s need to absorb a projected 250,000 residents over 20 years. Our plan imagines an extension of the 1902 McMillan Plan for the National Mall that crosses the river to the city’s Wards 7 and 8, treating the Anacostia River as a center rather than an edge. We proposed a return of the RFK Stadium site to the national interest in the form of a future museum site, with the siting of the Olympic/ Redskins stadium to be at the under appreciated Poplar Point site which is quite close to the city’s recent improvements around its Major League Baseball and Soccer stadiums. New bridges, Metro improvements and implementation of planned streetcars in Anacostia would link these improvements with our proposed short term athletes housing (easily converted after the games to shared co-living or rental apartments) that would drive development toward the south east of the city. Of course the obvious potential of capitalizing on the


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city and region’s existing athletic infrastructure of college and professional venues to minimize the amount of construction needed to service the games was also considered. We thought long and hard about the city’s recent growth and how it has begun to push toward the south, making Anacostia “Washington’s Brooklyn”. DC 2024 was a big project for us to consider- we reviewed publicly available plans for transit improvements, investigated long-term effects of other games, which venues successfully transitioned to long term use, and what host cities have done in the past 20 years to grapple with the after effect. London 2012 became a model of how to integrate temporary venues with cherished historic sites, such as the Beach Volleyball venue at the Horse Garden Parade, erected and dismantled in less than 3 months. We learned Salt Lake City’s transit improvements have paid huge dividends in public benefit and ridership since the roadways, bridges and light rail were constructed to support the 2002 Winter Games. Other cities efforts were reviewed as well and our plan reflects lessons, both good and bad, gleaned from each. While we considered the 12 Criteria, it was clear the scope of the project was greater than the criteria. However, given the potential spin-off effects of the


proposed improvements we felt we would score very well on any given site. At the time, immediately following up on DC 2024 would have been a big task for any office, the project stretched our capabilities so it was fair to say that in this case size did matter. We took a break from large scale efforts for a few years, but in 2017 decided to go big again. This time we entered the biannual Europan competition, which proposes a set of themes as well as nominated sites across the continent from which teams select and apply one of the themes. Our Engagement Ring proposal, for a border site at an existing underdeveloped border crossing in the Lapland region of Sweden and Finland, allowed us to think about how to unite borders about a common idea rather than reinforcing separation. Our proposal focused on reconsideration of typical border conditions to create economic and tourist opportunities for both cities. While cars are accommodated in the reconfiguration of a main highway, pedestrians reclaim the landscape through interaction with a proposed ring of activity which embraces the mutual benefits of the border rather than highlighting differences. Envisioned to function throughout the year, the design allows for visitors to rise above


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Above: Street View Image courtesy of StudioMB Below Right: New Campus Entry Structure modeled on Peikoff Alumni House. Image courtesy of StudioMB Below Left: Site Diagrams. Image courtesy of StudioMB Urban Design Committee


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the sea or descend into it, with a set of activities arrayed on both the land and the ring-completing bridge proposed for the site. While not as far-reaching as our DC 2024 project, The Engagement Ring exhibits similar ideas about Public Works as DC 2024 and they showcase some of our more ambitious thinking.

size - does it matter? At our modest size, StudioMB has been fortunate to have found success on even the largest and most complicated Urban Design projects. We have proven this has more to do with diligent staff and efficient time management than the scale of a team. Each of these highlighted projects were completed by a small team of designers with varied backgrounds and interests,

it is not the size of the team or project, but the shared responsibility and an established process for investigation which allows us to succed on work of any scale, program or client type. all of whom apply our typical process and investigation into a site and program, reinforced with a few bold moves to challenge conventions. What we have learned is- it is not the size of the team or project, but the shared responsibility and an established process for investigation which allows us to succed on work of any scale, program or client type. As such, we have sucessfully structured teams for a range of projects that range from 2-3 members to as many as 6. As a practice we have seen it is possible to do high quality Urban Design with a small group of individuals who may be passionate about design but may

not be trained in the field. We don’t have ambitions of getting too big in terms of staff size, but as exemplified by our work to date, there isn’t a scale of project we feel would require that to happen. In conclusion, we believe size does not matter, and are proud to be featured among some of the finest firms in the region and country.

Above: Site Diagrams. Image courtesy of StudioMB

Above: Phasing Diagrams. Image courtesy of StudioMB



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Above: Site Plan. Image courtesy of StudioMB

Below: Ring Axon. Image courtesy of StudioMB

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urban design for the future city by Merrill St. Leger Demian, SmithGroup As cities continue to experience unprecedented growth, urban designers and planners must find solutions to critical problems that have long been overlooked or minimized. Access to affordable housing, meaningful employment, services, amenities, nature, and sustainable transportation are among the equity and quality-of-life issues that thoughtful land use planning and urban design can address. SmithGroup’s work strives to create equitable and accessible buildings and places, an inviting public realm, and environmental stewardship at all scales. Among the many possible ways to advance these objectives are three important strategies: •

Transforming disconnected single-use, car-oriented suburban development into mixed-use, connected and walkable places;

Breaking down physical


barriers and reimagining how to connect previously separated places and communities; and •

Thoughtfully and actively engaging community members in envisioning and implementing the future design and development of their communities.

Transforming Suburban Environments While urban design has often been about creating new places, the focus has shifted towards transformation and adaptation, especially in the suburbs. Redevelopment, infill, and adaptive reuse have become essential to creating equitable places that leverage existing assets and resources and steward local ecosystems while providing the increased density, connectivity and amenities that urban life requires.

Scotts Run Master Plan The Scotts Run Master Plan represents the vision for transforming an aging, disconnected, car-oriented 40acre suburban office park in the “edge city” of Tysons, Virginia, adjacent to the McLean Metrorail station, and transforming it into a connected, walkable, vibrant, and sustainable community. The Transit Oriented Development (TOD) master plan will provide, over time, 8.5 million square feet of mixeduse development surrounding the Scotts Run stream valley park, the focal point and natural amenity for the residential, office, hotel, retail, and restaurant uses surrounding it. Station Street, a new “main street” will be lined with active uses. The plan transforms the site’s considerable challenges into opportunities: • Existing single-use office buildings surrounded by surface AIA | DC

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Above: Scotts Run property existing conditions. Image courtesy of Google Earth

Above: Scotts Run Master Plan reimagines an old office park. Image courtesy of SmithGroup Next Page: View and activity along Station Street. Image courtesy of SmithGroup

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parking are replaced with a dense mix of uses and structured parking. Sidewalks are activated by residential and office lobbies, restaurants, retail and public spaces. • Connecting dead-end roads, straightening arbitrary road curvatures, and inserting new streets transforms an auto-dominated place with disconnected parcels into a finegrained network of pedestrianscaled blocks and complete streets accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and a circulator system, in addition to Metro. • The site’s hilly topography is leveraged to create exciting views with both “eyes on the street,” and “eyes on the park”. Office, residential and hotel uses face streets and the stream valley park. • The degraded stream valley that runs through the site is revitalized as a central feature of the plan. Trails connect the surrounding community and provide recreational experiences and connection to nature. • The project’s multi-level central public plaza is a large neighborhood gathering and event space lined with shops, restaurants and outdoor seating. The design of pocket parks and playgrounds recall rock outcroppings and vegetation from the stream valley. Transforming this former office park into a walkable mixeduse community increases

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accessibility and spatial equity in Tysons. Integrating dense development and fine-grain urban design elements into the existing fabric accommodates multiple uses and services, as opposed to only office space; provides multiple modes of transportation, as opposed to only automotive transportation; and creates multiple types of open space for different experiences, as opposed to little to no viable open space. Spatial equity is enhanced by providing these increased choices, opportunities, and experiences.

The Southeast Boulevard Planning Study The Southeast Boulevard Planning Study reimagines a decommissioned section of the SE/SW Freeway and proposes solutions for reconnecting the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the north to the Anacostia River waterfront. The community adjacent to the project site has long been disconnected from the river by the highway and adjacent CSX rail line. The design team worked iteratively with the DC Office of

Urban design must increasingly prioritize walking, cycling and transit as the foundation for equitable and connected cities.

Connecting Communities Today’s electronic connectivity is no substitute for physical connections between people and among neighborhoods. In many cities, the urban fabric has in places been torn out and replaced by infrastructure dedicated to the automobile. The barriers thus created have split neighborhoods and amplified inequities. Urban design must increasingly prioritize walking, cycling and transit as the foundation for equitable and connected cities.

Planning and an advisory group consisting of DC Department of Transportation representatives, elected officials and community members to develop concepts and refine them based on feedback. The design concepts extend the existing grid of streets to the edge of the CSX line creating new blocks for additional neighborhood development while using the site’s topography to provide hidden parking for city buses below. Streets transition into ramps and bridges that connect pedestrians and cyclists to Boathouse Row and the Anacostia Waterfront. A multimodal complete boulevard connects 11th Street SE with Barney Circle and serves vehicles, transit, cyclists, and


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Above: Rendering of future southeast boulevard and development looking east toward Barney Circle. Image courtesy of SmithGroup

Above: Southeast Boulevard planning study concept diagram. Image courtesy of SmithGroup



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pedestrians. The SE/SW Freeway was, for decades, a major barrier to connectivity to the Anacostia River. The strategy for how this infrastructure could be redesigned to provide needed parking for city buses while connecting the neighborhood to the river opens up new opportunities for access and enjoyment of the river by all District residents. It also promotes equity through personal connection to and stewardship of the river as a critical environment and place for all to enjoy.

Equity Begins with Engagement One of the essential goals of urban design must be to promote

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and facilitate equity in the planning process. Engaging all residents, including traditionally underrepresented groups in this process informs design, builds constituency and promotes trust.

Eisenhower West Small Area Plan Eisenhower West is a 620-acre low-density warehouse and industrial district in Alexandria, Virginia, located 10 miles from Washington, DC. The area consists primarily of singleuse buildings surrounded by surface parking, interspersed with residential enclaves, and served by the underutilized Van Dorn Metrorail station. Existing industrial land uses including a waste-to-energy plant located

steps from Metro present a considerable challenge to an area experiencing redevelopment pressure. The existing vehicular transportation network is limited to three roadways. The area is simultaneously bisected and bordered by railway lines — significant barriers to community connectivity. Natural amenities include three parks and a degraded stream, hidden behind the fences of the warehouse and industrial properties. The plan for the revitalization of Eisenhower West will increase the quality of life for people who live and work there, now and in the future: a dense, urban mix of uses that leverages


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Above: One of many community workshops to engage participants. Image courtesy of SmithGroup

Above: Eisenhower West small area concept plan. Image courtesy of SmithGroup Nwxt Page: Aerial rendering of s future Eisenhower West. Image courtesy of SmithGroup



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the Metro station; high-quality neighborhood activity nodes and public spaces; new neighborhood parks; and a multi-modal transportation network including a new grid of connected complete streets with pedestrian and bicycle connections. Additional elements include an Innovation District mixing residential with light industrial/ small commercial/maker spaces at the ground level; a new greenway along a revitalized stream that connects neighborhoods while helping manage stormwater naturally; the potential to create a District Energy and Combined HeatPower system via the existing waste-to-energy plant; and the potential for purple pipe water Urban Design Committee

from the AlexRenew water treatment facility to supply non-potable building water requirements and supplement the plant’s cooling needs. The inclusive planning process to envision future development engaged residents and stakeholders to develop the small area plan during public workshops with interactive exercises and through online engagement. Essential to its success was the deliberate and iterative process of presenting concepts, discussing ideas and feedback, and illustrating how participants’ ideas were incorporated into the plan. Alexandria Planning Director Karl Moritz remarked, “The Eisenhower West Small Area Plan was ground-breaking in

its process of engaging the community throughout the length of the planning effort. The end result was a Plan that truly reflected the core ideas generated by the community coupled with economic feasibility: a revitalized and connected open space network, a finer grid of complete streets, a focus on neighborhood-serving retail, and an enhanced transit system centered on an existing Metrorail station.” Designing for the future city requires a heightened sense of civic responsibility and commitment to stewardship. As urban designers in the urban century, we must make design interventions and innovations that promote social and spatial equity and environmental integrity. 71

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Left: One of many community workshops to engage participants. Image courtesy of SmithGroup

Urban Design Committee


politics, protest, & place by Greg Luongo, HKS


This year’s Urban Design Committee theme of Spatial Equity seems a particularly timely response to the current political, social, and cultural landscape. In these challenging times, we are experiencing conflict and divisions at a national and global scale. As we explored and debated what we all thought the term “Spatial Equity” means, it was difficult to separate the social, economic and ecological relationships and consequences that are ingrained within it. To encourage further discussion surrounding these issues, the HKS open house acknowledged the 2018, 50th anniversary of the 1968 uprising that shook Washington DC following the


assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King as a springboard for broader dialogue. In many respects the uprisings reflected a general state of unrest and discontent that defined the late 1960’s. We found many parallels between the social unrest of the 1960s and the zeitgeist of today’s context. Our open house exhibit, and this written piece, seeks to acknowledge this significant anniversary as a catalyst for action and raised many questions in the process:

“What is the role of the design community as an agent for political and social discourse? In addressing issues of human rights and equity?” “What policy change, planning strategy, or design approach would result in a more equitable built environment?” “What are the top global challenges our industry faces in the next coming decade?” “Is there a place for subversive design dissent and political design activism as a call to action?”


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civ·ic /sivik/ Adjective relating to a city or town, especially its administration; municipal Origin: mid-16th century: from French civique or Latin civicus, from civis ‘citizen’. The original use was in civic garland, crown, etc., translating Latin corona civica, denoting a garland of oak leaves and acorns given in ancient Rome to a person who saved a fellow citizen’s life.

From Forum to iPhone The mechanisms for political dissent and discourse have evolved over time. The great civic spaces of the Roman Forum offered opportunity for public gatherings of great social significance, discourse and debate. The design community of the 1960’s and 70’s spawned design provocateurs such as Superstudio, Archigram, and Ant Farm, each exploring designs that made politically charged statements through agitprop events, manifestos and hypothetical projects. Today, social media has enabled countless activist events and given a platform to millions, albeit in a mostly virtual (not visceral) form, within the safe confines of our iPhones. As architects, designers and planners practicing in the nations’


capital it seems only natural that we harness the power of design in a similar fashion, to raise awareness, promote discourse, and engage in the challenging socio-economic and environmental issues that we face as a city, a nation, and the world. Designers need to expand their role beyond the traditional boundaries that have defined us and our industry. Our skill set and training enables us to navigate complex problems and ambiguity to facilitate and discover unexpected solutions. This will require stronger collaboration and cross-industry relationships and, more importantly, direct political and civic involvement, where the policies affecting these issues can be influenced and defined. This is also meant to place a spotlight on what I would deem is a civic responsibility of design industry. The word civic is inherently linked to space, place, urban design and social justice. If the success of our industry is intrinsically tied to a civic responsibility towards creating a meaningful, sustainable and equitable built environment, then what can, and should, we be doing to be more than just spectators? The projects we exhibited at our open house represented recent forays by HKS into the

political and social zeitgeist; provocations to promote dialogue, discourse, addressing issues of socio-economic equity, gentrification, personal freedoms, and ecological degradation. This was meant as a springboard for continued dialogue and a design community call to action. The exhibit was organized around three themes:

PROVOCATIONS, EQUITY, and THE REAL WORLD For this journal, we’ll focus on the notion of provocation as a call for action and a tool for social change. These projects start from the premise of being provocative. They are meant to raise awareness, sometimes shock, and may not necessarily offer answers or solutions. They are discourse catalysts and seek to engage design from a socioanthropological perspective. This dialogue also raises questions about the role of speculation in architecture, understanding that while not always buildable, it can highlight the untapped power of design in addressing social, economic, technological and environmental issues. The three projects presented here addresses a myriad of global challenges we face today: Electronic waste, cultural identity and empowerment; Big data and the loss of free will; and Government’s role in the control of public space and land ownership.


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Archigram, The Walking City, 1964



Superstudio, The Continuous Monument, 1970

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The Wastescraper questions conventional notions of waste and resources, transforming what is considered ‘waste’ into the basis for a new system of architecture - altering and inversing the current one-way flow of resource to product to waste. E-waste becomes a resource; it transforms into energy. In a site layered with copious amounts of methane and carbon dioxide gases, we explored the notion of creating a living system fueled by the discarded waste – this site is known to be the largest e-waste landfill “Agbogbloshie” in Accra, Ghana. Planned obsolescence of technological products has


broader and serious global ecological issues. Air is polluted when e-waste is burned to obtain precious metals. Improper disposal means that toxins enter the soil and water supplies. While it may seem unrealistic to curb electronic and digital consumption or alter global culture, it is imperative to know what happens to discarded e-waste.

Electronic waste flows across international borders from the developed world through illegal black-market channels - straight into landfills in third world countries like Agbogbloshie in Ghana. However, with an entire

economy centred around this informal industry of scavenging e-waste, the solution is hardly as simple as shutting it down or imposing regulations.

E-waste, specifically the gold extracted, is a resource. Gold however, is also indicative of the culture inherent throughout the Ghanaian landscape. Currently, there is a duality of meaning and exploitation. On one hand, gold is used as cultural ornamentation and a symbol of celebration by the people of Ghana.

On the other hand, foreign companies irresponsibly mine the


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Urban Design Committee

TEAM: Dorian Sosa, HKS Richmond, VA Gordon Gn, HKS Singapore Francisco Barron, HKS Dallas, TX 79

Ghanaian geography, throwing slur and pollutants back into the landscape once gold is filtered. This mined gold is then shipped to developed nations for the manufacturing and use of electronic products. These products are soon replaced, making their way back to Ghana through illegal back channels, only this time within a different vessel of waste. Gold is then remined, resold and re-discarded once again, resulting in a neverending cycle - detrimental to the environment.

The Wastescraper acts as a recycling center, marketplace, housing community and filtration plant. It is built as a manifestation of a global thought system that has abandoned these geographies of the world, attempting to corner them in the gruelling fragility of their conditions. It acts as a monument to the technological tragedy of the commons, challenging our rate and need for digital and physical consumption.

The tower applies passive energy systems like natural ventilation, convection and evaporation for the natural cooling and air flow movement within the tower. A series of active systems help reroute methane and carbon dioxide gases to generate energy and filter air and water



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systems. A closed cycle between waste and resource is therefore established. The Wastescraper is constantly in an unfinished state of construction, validating a nonuniform edifice. The vernacular architecture of Ghanaian tribal colonies, programmed to house the most communal areas in the middle of inward facing architecture, also served as a form of inspiration for us to radiate our spaces around the healing atrium.

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Gold re-appropriated from extracted e-waste transforms into an architectural faรงade material, allowing the residents of Accra to take ownership of the resource that was once native and culturally inherent to them. The faรงade re-captures Ghanaian symbols, figural elements keen to their culture, that operate both spatially to the interior and as a veil to the exterior.

Out of a landscape that once lay waste in Agbogbloshie emerges a new architectural icon that regenerates and re-engages the ground. It acts as a monument to the technological tragedy of the commons, challenging our rate and need for digital and physical consumption.




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ELECTRONIC WASTE How can we push the development of products and materials towards a more circular economy? Redirect waste streams and new packaging designs that enable materials to be used again and again? Rethink ownership models that can extend the life cycle of buildings and products?

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In 2012 the FBI announced their plans to relocate from the Brutalist-style J. Edgar Hoover Building located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. Opened in 1972, the 1.9 million square foot structure included a firing range and a massive storage facility for fingerprints. A 2011 report determined it would cost $1.7 billion to bring the 2 million SF facility up to current standards. Named after the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial, “The Josef K. Ministry of Dataism and Cyber Intelligence” is a repositioning/hack of the FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC. In recent years, a new societal shift has taken place


– from humanist ideologies to one driven by the flow of data and the algorithms of Big Data. This fundamental shift from Humanism to Dataism brings with it the potential loss of freewill, privacy, and personal control - and with this, the opportunity for authoritarianism and abuse, where Big Data becomes Big Brother.

Byzantine maze of spaces, bridges and directionless corridors. Over time, even L’Enfant’s Washington city plan is reimagined as a corrupted urban collage; a mash-up of monumental structures, public spaces and twisted streets and alleys.

Inspired by film noir, German Expressionism and Russian Constructivist propaganda, the design utilizes bold color, dramatic compositions, and a collage of sampled imagery to reinforce a dystopian vision of covert surveillance, voyeurism, and government bureaucracy and secrecy set within a


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Urban Design Committee

TEAM: Greg Luongo, HKS Washington, DC 85


These days, notions of truth and order, morals and ethics, what’s real or fake, human or machine, they all blur, and no longer provide solid ground to navigate the fundamentals of day to day life. Machines are smarter than we are, and humans seem to have mastered both nature and technology. So we’re now on to the next “big thing”. I mean, more people die from being too fat and eating too much sugar than from famine and pestilence these days, and wars are practically obsolete. On top of all that, we’ve got the advent of super AI’s and bots, and a handful of super-rich techies controlling the algorithms that define all aspects of our lives. This has created an unbreachable divide between the haves and have-nots, resulting in a massive “useless class”. These tech elites have bankrolled advances in bioengineering to create a class of super humans, engineered to be healthier, stronger, and smarter, with amped up cognition and machine-bioconnectedness, further guaranteeing the “useless” will never regain their footing. And they’re better looking to boot… This didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow and silent creep. A societal shift, away from humanist ideologies, to one driven by the flow of data and the algorithms of Big Data. This fundamental shift, from Humanism towards the alter of Dataism, has had some nasty side effects: the loss of free-will, privacy, personal identity and control, and with this, the opportunity for authoritarianism and abuse, where Big Data becomes Big Brother. Google knows me better that I know myself, but hey, I never have to make an independent decision of any consequence ever again. I wind my way through twisted alleys and abandoned buildings. After decades of social disorder and neglect, L’Enfant’s majestic city plan is hardly recognizable. It’s now a corrupted urban collage; a mashup of monumental structures, public spaces, and twisted streets and alleys. A dystopian vision of covert surveillance, voyeurism, government bureaucracy and secrecy.



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BIG DATA AND THE LOSS OF FREE WILL AND HUMANISM How can we take what is innately and uniquely human. [empathy, creativity, and emotion] and couple it with machine efficiency and intelligence? Are there symbiotic enhancements that can augment human kind and enrich life, relationships and community?

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That government transforms the way we occupy and inhabit space is nowhere more geodetically relevant than in the United States capitol of Washington DC, where limits have reached capacity in both physical space and organizational structure. Never before has the government owned more enclosed space within the U.S. than in the present. Following September 11th, the increase in subsidiary agencies has led to an explosive acquisition of government land. This growth has led to exponential sprawl reaching outward into the neighboring states in search for suitable living



The National Mall is one of the largest open spaces still in existence within Washington DC. Since its inception by Pierre L’Enfant in 1791, a continual source of speculative design projects has aimed at creating a picturesque foreground for the federal edifices that surround it.

Our design is opposed to the continued spread of these grand edifices which break apart the fine mesh-work needed for a city to thrive. The solution to these mega structures is not a

building reaching ever-higher into the atmosphere. This would pull apart the connections we have with the ground and further disconnect the government from the city. Rather, our proposal intends to dig into the earth, burying the program beneath whilst activating the ground plane.

In this canyon, walls become the physical limits of unrivalled growth. DC is given back in large swaths of land to the people, where previous federal land within is returned to the citizens of the city to re-inhabit. It is thus our intention, in reaction to the








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g Plan


Other Veterans Treasury Transportation



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Interior 200

Homeland Security HHS, Education, Social Sec. 2008




















Infrastructure tied to existing context

tion sporta

g Tran


Striated masses tie together bureaucratic program while referencing the axial layout of the original L’Enfant Plan

Massive fioor plates are created from the striated masses.


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A parallel truss system supports each striated mass to the one below.

A perpendicular support system ties into the large retaining wall.

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Millions of flbers connect to ground reservoir, allowing for passive transpiration of water.

The large retaining wall serves as a support structure. It houses a reservoir with an accessible

sed Propo

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landscape on the bottom.

TEAM: Jon Bailey, HKS Washington, DC Chad Porter, HKS Washington DC Erick Katzenstein, HKS Washington, DC

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s Acces


vertical limits imposed on the district, that the canyon becomes a central location for federal government offices, imposing limits on the size of the physical federal growth rates. This new juxtaposition of governmental program located beneath the ground plane creates a unique opportunity of oversight from the people above to the federal program within.

As if sedentary rock formations were revealed by the cutting away of ground at the National Mall, striated monolithic masses of federal programs are stretched within the void. As the masses are stretched within the canyon, transparent voids are opened around the below-grade infrastructure intersecting the site, acting simultaneously as both lightwell and visibly transparent


surfaces. Likened to the layering of matter, federal program either settles to the bottom or rises to the top. Utilizing the tensile structural capacity of steel skewers in conversation with the programmatic arrangement float the buildings mass within the canyon. As the mass hovers above the canyon floor, an additional layer of outdoor experience is created. Accessible from the mall above, garden-like terraces wind down the canyon wall creating multiple layers of habitable space along the vertical surfaces.

The inherent wetness in the lowlying area of the National Mall is exacerbated by the reopening of the Washington Canal as the ground level begins to flood. In addition to the naturally seeping ground water, the Capitol reflecting pool spills over the

East canyon wall to create a waterfall which cascades down into the water below. Using Abraham Stroock’s invention of a synthetic root system which transports water through evapotransporative techniques, ganglia-like ribbons dip down from the roof surface and into the reservoir below. Water is passively transported throughout these fibers, allowing for a thick vegetative growth to take hold.

Rather than rewriting the historic L’Enfant plan, this project seeks to work within the bounds. In addition to the acknowledgment of the city’s limits, this project seeks a commentary on the future trajectory of growth within the District, with explicit attention toward the federal growth and spatial-composition within the


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confines of Washington DC.

THE CONTROL OF PUBLIC SPACE AND RIGHT TO LAND OWNERSHIP Cities are becoming more and more privatized with developers (and governments) gobbling up buildings and land. the results are a growing scarcity of affordable real estate., gentrification and ever-shrinking public realm. What policies, planning, and zoning mechanisms can bring us towards collective consensus above and beyond the traditional tools or creative design soluctions that seem to not have been able to resolve these issues?

Urban Design Committee




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Urban Design Committee


ideas this section is a collection of competition entries animating the invisible borders

96 school without borders 102 the wall street 108 redlines 114 urban utopia 122 harnessing vulnerabilities

section 3: ideas

All image courtesy of Theresa Mozinski, 2018

school without borders by Theresa Mozinski Esceula sin fronteras, School without Borders, is a middle school placed on the location of the international border line between the United States and Mexico. As a profound gesture of economic and domestic friendship, this international school transcends the border between Nogales,

Arizona and Nogales, Sonora. Situated in the beautiful hills of Nogales, the building mirrors the dramatic topography of its site by employing two sets of levels. The building is two halves, North and south, situated around an open-air atrium that is entered from the sides.

The North elevation of the building employs a playful facade that is meant to emulate the way the buildings of Nogales dance along the topography.





avenues, volume 2: spatial equity The North facade of the building, due to its orientation is able to utilize larger-format windows without as much risk of thermal gain as the southern arm of the school. These windows allow the classroom spaces to be washed in natural light and are operable, so the classrooms can enjoy the outside air. The south elevation of the building has the same undulation as the North, but with a different purpose. The southern facade, feeling the full force of the sun has much smaller, windows, but does utilize the east and west walls of each space to give the inUNITED STATESESTADOS UNIDOS terior as much natural light as possible. The southern portion of the building is also built into the topography, keeping these spaces cooler.




el centro






san diego



patrol stations by sector SAN DIEGO SECTOR Imperial Beach Station Brown Field Station Campo Station San Clemente Station

El Cajon Station Theodore L. Newton Jr. and George F. Azark Station Chula Vista Station Boulevard Station

EL CENTRO SECTOR El Centro Station Calexico Station Indio Station

RIO GRANDE VALLEY SECTOR Rio Grande City Station Brownsville Station Harlingen Station Falfurrias StationCarrizo Springs Station Fort Brown Station Uvalde Station McAllen Station Corpus Christi Station

The North facade of the building, due to its orientation is able to utilize larger-format windows without as much risk of thermal gain as the southern arm of the school. These windows allow the classroom spaces to be washed in natural light and are operable, so the classrooms

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can enjoy the outside air. The south elevation of the building has the same undulation as the North, but with a different purpose. The southern facade, feeling the full force of the sun has much smaller, windows, but does utilize the east and west walls of each space to give the interior

as much natural light as possible. The southern portion of the building is also built into the topography, keeping these spaces cooler.


YUMA SECTOR Blythe Station Yuma Station Wellton Station

Weslaco Station Kingsville Station

TUCSON Nogales Ajo Stat Tucson S Brian A.

classroom facilities, where the school natural pointaofplace the site, thedeliveries school isfor accessed from the are received the border, a drive either from set ofeither stairs side or theofelevator. This and space has outdoor section 3: ideas lane forclassroom food trucks for any of the building’s users facilities, a place where deliveries forwho the school wish to buy lunch. The outdoor spaces areand pri-a drive are received from eitherclassroom side of the border, marily lab functions, flexible thebuilding’s other a cooklane for foodone trucks for lab, any and of the users who ing classroom. Even though is not classroom the primaryspaces exit orare priwish to buy lunch. Thethis outdoor marily lab patrol functions, one flexible lab, and the other entrance, Border will have a screening station here.a cooking classroom. Even though this is not the primary exit or POE here. West has the primary entrance, Border patrol will have a screening station function of being an additional means of egress from the building. Being at the lowest natural point of the site, the school is accessed from the either set of stairs or the elevator. This space has outdoor classroom facilities, a place where deliveries for the school are received from either side of the border, and a drive lane for food trucks for any of the building’s users who wish to buy lunch. The outdoor classroom spaces are primarily lab functions, one flexible lab, and the other a cooking classroom. Even though this is not the primary exit or entrance, Border patrol will have a screening station here.



POE East is the main entry into the building. Using the site’s topography as a means of naturally funnelling people into and out of the building, the


nction of being an additional uilding. Being at the lowest school is accessed from the ator. This space has outdoor where deliveries for the school e of the border, and a drive of the building’s users who oor classroom spaces are prible lab, and the other a cookthis is not the primary exit or ave a screening station here.

neling people into and out of the building, the POE east a series of ramps that avenues, volume 2: spatial equity POEgarden East is is thecomprised main entryof into the building. Using allow pedestrians to be at naturally two entrance the site’s topography as screened a means of fundoors. POEinto area’s primary to POE mainnelingThe people and out of thefunction building,isthe east gardenat is the comprised a series of ramps that tain security border of that is currently required POE east garden is comprised maintain security at the border allow to be screened by bothpedestrians governments. This module,atistwo the entrance functional of a series of ramps that allow that is currently required by both doors. The POE area’s primary function is to mainlinchpin thescreened building thisThis garden pedestriansof to be at concept, governments. module,allows is the tain security at the border that is currently required the building to have open ends on either side, cretwo entrance doors. The POE functional linchpin of the building by both governments. This module, is the functional ating a border space, than line to beallows crossed. area’s primary function is to rather concept, this garden the linchpin of the building concept, this garden allows the building to have open ends on either side, creating a border space, rather than line to be crossed.

POE East is the main entry into the building. Using the site’s topography as a means of naturally funneling people into and out of the building, the POE east garden is comprised of a series of ramps that allow pedestrians to be screened at two entrance doors. The POE area’s primary function is to maintain security at the border that is currently required by both governments. This module, is the functional linchpin of the building concept, this garden allows the building to have open ends on either side, creating a border space, rather than line to be crossed.

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avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

building to have open ends on either side, creating a border space, rather than line to be crossed.The Library is the only space that has a wall which falls directly on the international line of the border. This soaring, two story glass wall marks the exact spot where the United States and

Mexico agreed one country ends and the other begins. Libraries have the ability to hold the past, present, and future in one space, they are and have been culturally significant throughout all of human history, and it is with this in mind that the North wall of the library falls exactly on the border.

As the sun moves across the sky throughout the day and over the course of the year, the library wall will cast a shadow, using the architecture to display that within this space, the line of the border is constantly moving.


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The Library is the only space that has a wall which falls directly on the 101 international line of the border. This

section 3: ideas

All image courtesy of Heyan Xu, Shiyao, Wan Huang, 2018

the wall street: from fortress besieged towards more equitable public by Heyan Xu, Shiyao Li, Wan Huang With the introduction of the aid program in China in1950s, Soviet Union also bought about the residential mode called "the expan­sion of the neighborhood". A block consisted of a number of resi­dential groups and supporting facilities. In order to meet the rapid expansion of the scale of residential groups and supporting facil­ities. In the era of planned economy,housing is built by the state, in order to meet the rapid expansion of the scale of residential construction needs. "Unified planning, unified design, unified construction, unified man­agement" became the main construction mode.


Large scale blocks impedes urbanization: Large scale walled area led to low road density, aggravating traffic problems like congestion and incon­venience due to the increase in travel distance. It also led to the lack of vitality in the urban environment, scarcity of accessible public places, unnecessary detours along endless border walls, and isolated "is­land" within the urban context. Altogether, the condition expresses severe spatial inequity in urbanization. The site consists of several

different agencies, including gated communities, accessorial schools, kinder­gartens, offices, hospitals and governmental administrations. With its complicated land use and separate administration, the block is divided by walls and partitions into isolated pieces. As we continued our site research, we discovered that our site, together with the viaduct, played the role of a "wall", dissevering the city on the two sides, while blocking people from accessing the Liwan Park (an important public park for the region) and Xiguan tourism area.


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

DEFINITION OF A WALL An interesting phenomenon is that a lot of "unauthorized constructions" were built along the walls sponta­neously by the residents. These unauthorized constructions reveal the needs of the residents. More im­

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portantly, they are indicators of opportunities and potentials that lie within the walls. The walls, being the intersections between spaces, are the breakthrough points, where we can maximize vitality in the


section 3: ideas


In this case of Guangzhou, we view viaducts, walls, inaccessible "public" space, etc as "walls". Our pro­posal is that we stopping seeing wall only as a separation, but see it as a medium, a buffer zone, and the space "in between". For instance, we could utilize the space under the viaduct to build pedestrian crossings to the other side, using the viaduct as a shelter from extreme weather conditions. In between communities, we could


widen the border wall and insert public area within the space, enabling interaction between two communities while still having the "visible" boundary. We could utilize the top of the wall as a shortcut path through the gated neighborhood while still keeping its function of partition. We could turn "physical" separation into "visual" separation, using visibility instead of accessibility as the boundary. With only micro adjustments to the original

border wall, we could turn those once physically impenetrable bor­der into accessible, publicly utilized, spatially equitable places while still keeping its visibility as a border. Achieving a border of invisiblity (accessible, for the public and spatially equitable) and visibility (serving as an indicator of border).


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section 3: ideas





The city viaduct cut off the connection of blocks otn both sides. The foot­bridge reconnect the traffic stations, residen­tial buildings and the idle secondfloor commerce.

The wall of dwelling en­closure cut off streets and result in a boring boundary of public place. Extending the wall into a box envokes social activities. Public area and privacy area lay on different floors to avode disturbance.

Eliminate parts of the walls of public sevice and gorverment. Open the square inside them to the public and recon­nect the streets that have been cut off. Create flexible and per­meable ‘’wall” .



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Urban Design Committee


section 3: ideas

All image courtesy of Priscilla Cuadra, Rebecca Soja, 2018

redlines: the zoning of exclusion by Priscilla Cuadra, Rebecca Soja What if your zip code determined your future and affected generations of your family? Imagine your greatgrandchildren, who like you, will be told of the American Dream, a promise to achieve upward social mobility in return for hard work.

named “residential security maps”, divided cities like Atlanta into residential neighbourhoods graded from A (most desirable) to D (least desirable) for the purpose of establishing the concept of property value and risk.

Unfortunately, for 130 Million Americans, this story wasn’t conceived for them. The American reality is set in cities scarred by a legacy of discriminatory federal housing policies, designed to trap predominantly minority or lowincome neighbourhoods in a state of disenfranchisement.

Perhaps more insidiously, the goal was to protect white property value with planning strategies of social exclusion justified by race and class. It isn’t an accident that A and B neighbourhoods were upperclass, homogeneously white neighbourhoods, later receiving interestingly high levels of federal subsidy, thanks to the post-WWII Federal Housing Authority’s government-backed mortgage loans.

In the 1930’s, the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) drew the invisible racial and socio-economic boundaries in 239 cities that largely remain untouched in census maps 80 years later. These redlining maps,


C and D neighborhoods were communities that according to these maps had, “Proximity to

small negro settlement” and “Infiltration of lower income groups” cited as “detrimental influences”, marked simply as “hazardous”.Consequently, the people that fell between these boundaries were irrevocably marginalized. Without access to credit, these Communities were deprived of opportunities for home-ownership. Often trapped by banks who refused small business loans that could have formed a critical foundation for generational wealth. In 1968 the Fair Housing Act stated that landlords, real estate companies, banks, and lending institutions could not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. This Act made illegal both redlining, and the practice of racially restrictive covenants


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which at that point had been written into deeds. However, half a century later, the effects of redlining linger as African Americans and Latinos continue to be denied mortgage loans at disproportionately higher rates. Lending institutions have largely been unchecked since the 1970’s and complacency has permitted the home-ownership and wealth gaps between White and African-American people to grow wider than it was during the Jim Crow era. The resulting landscape of affluent suburbs of privilege segregated from abandoned urban zones falling into dilapidation demonstrates the effect of nearly a century of spatial inequity that cements constructs of value and worth in relation to both Race and Place. Complacency is a privilege,

Urban Design Committee


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contributing only to the perpetuity of these forgotten borders. The challenge is asking ourselves, as architects and urban planners: What level of agency will we have? Failing to recognize the racism embedded within the structures of our cities by hiding behind the addenda of our clients, does our communities, and our profession,


a tremendous disservice. It’s our responsibility to consider how disenfranchisement is the self-fulfilling prophesy of neighbourhood growth and decline. How our role can often contribute to spatial inequities that affects the way we see ourselves and more importantly, each other.


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Urban Design Committee


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All image courtesy of Shreejit Modak, 2018

urban utopia: a culture to be preserved by Shreejit Modak The design focuses on developing an edge on the southern location of the serene lands of Xochimilco to stop the encroachment of urbanization. Agriculture, Flooding and Cultural Communities will help in creating a non-formalized perforated cultural human-inhabited urban landscape in hands with nature to preserve this beautiful scenery Second lung to Mexico City, Xochimilco is the largest green reserve and possibly the most serene habitat in Mexico. Home to a vast variety of flora, fauna, and wildlife, Xochimilco houses a closeted utopic scene from the historic Aztec Empire. Throughout prehistory, this area of the city has been known for its unique agricultural system called chinampas or floating gardens. Chinampas were used for food production as well


as floral cultivation during the Aztec reign. Xochimilco was an agro production center to the city center connected by the La Viga Canal during the Aztec period. To this day, Xochimilco is considered to be one of the biggest agricultural centers of Mexico City. Xochimilco acts as one of the major entry points for urbanization. Due to its location and topography it is the most vulnarable area in Mexico City for illegal migration. It comes under UNESCO heritage areas for preservation of Chinampas, landscape and culture. Due to the urbanization; UNESCO and the Delegation of Xochimilco are in argument of taking away the heritage demarcation of Xochimilco. According to UNESCO, urbanization needs to be





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Urban Design Committee


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taken out from the heritage demarcation, where-as at the same time, Delagation counter is in disagreement about the removal of current inhabitants who are staying in that area over 10 years. Due to urbanization Xochimilco has undergone drastic changes since its foundation during the Aztec era. The lakes have dried up and the canal system is on the verge of stagnation. Urbanization has started entering the heritage preservation line demarcated by UNESCO The farming industry is also affected as the land is taken up for building of residences. Xochimilco is more or less sustained by farming and its inhabitants are surviving through occupations provided by its habitat, hence a collapse in the farming industry can greatly affect the economy of the area On the other hand, preserved land of Xochimilco is separated



avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

very impressively from the east and the west side due to the demarcation of green spaces, gardens, eco parks and the surrounding development patterns. Thus, it creates a continuous formalized line which discontinue only towards the southern part. The design intervenes with achieving the Utopic vision for the current scene of Xochimilco. WIt brings together a combination of farming, aqua culture and related communities in creating a mesh between the preserved heritage lands and urbanized areas. Xochimilco is known for its Agro Culture which most of the occupations and industries are dependent on. Various universities and associations are undertaking an initiative in understanding the production cycle and systems for Xochimilco, thus bringing Urban Agriculture into the picture. Taking this initiative forward, new

Urban Design Committee


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communities that this design influences develops a mix of experimental and organic farming system. These farms will be designed and developed on the Aztec culture of chinampas. Existing chinampas would be restructured in later phases. The existing canal system would be used in connecting the already present

Urban Design Committee

lakes in the development of expanded water bodies used for experimental aqua culture and the preservation of endangered aqua species. The communities will be designed for the locals and growing urbanization in an incremental manner, oriented towards the agro industry and related occupations. The zones

would be residential, markets, educational centers and transit hubs. There will be a part designated to the real estate boost from where the financial support would be expected in the fashion of hotels and high-end residences. The communities would also have the floating structural units for residences, public spaces and


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tforms for research inspired from Aztec floating architecture. Thus, as a whole, an edge will be developed to preserve the serene lands of Xochimilco and stop the urbanization from continuing to encroach upon this habitat. Agriculture, flooding and cultural communities would help in creating a non-formalized perforated cultural human inhabited urban landscape in hands with nature to preserve this beautiful scenery. This would help in gaining a formalized, yet balanced, Urban Utopia.



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Urban Design Committee


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All image courtesy of Tamanna Tiku, 2018

harnessing vulnerabilities: resource managment strategies for enduring livability by Tamanna Tiku In most contemporary cities, invisible economic thresholds separate opportunity and growth from inertia and decay. The most affluent neighborhoods around the world are often surrounded by impoverished settlements. This glaring adjacency of the haves and have-nots is an increasingly global urban reality. According to statistics from a UN Habitat report from 2014: In 2010, 33% of the world’s urban population was living in slums. By 2030, 25% of the entire world’s population will be leading the life of urban squatters.


It is no surprise then, that due to chaotic and unsustainable urbanization, most cities are plagued by spectacular infrastructural deficiencies for a majority of the new migrants who live on the margins of society. These disempowered populations are often significant contributors to the urban economy but are invariably condemned to live on litigious and encroached plots of land within the cities that are highly unfit for human settlement.

Despite strong social mobility and community organizing, these settlements don’t only lack access to basic amenities, but also become more susceptible to natural and man-made hazards. What comes in their way are often resource mismanagement and invisible socio-political barriers. This project will address both these aspects through design solutions at a site in Dhaka.


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DHAKA As one of the world’s densest megacities, Dhaka houses 18 million people within 118 square miles. Known as one the most climate resilient cities, it is also a city of economic extremes. One-third of Dhaka’s population lives in informal settlements. Bangladesh occurs at the heart of the world’s most fertile and

Urban Design Committee

dynamic delta. Located at the confluence of Bangladesh’s 3 larg-est rivers, Dhaka faces ruthless floods every 4-6 years. But these rivers also add value to its neighboring agricultural lands. It is a city of water - surrounded by 6 rivers on the east and west and a khal on the north, and criss-crossed by 35 canals which

contrib-ute to its unique urban morphology. But this blue network - meant to be a productive resource at the advent of floods - has been getting progressively choked by solid waste and Dhaka’s groundwater levels are depleting at alarming rates.


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SITE Korail is a core-slum in Dhaka, at the heart of the city and its socioeconomic extremes. It is home to a 100,000 people living within 70 acres of very precious public land. Through social mobility and community organizing, the residents have built an intimate

and dense urban fabric, that is easily traversable within a 5 minute walking radius and generates an anthropomorphic scale that encourages a strong sense of community. However, it faces the threats of destruction and decay that

are caused not only through natural events like floods, but also through abundant resourcemismanagement in the forms of poor electricity connections, water-logging, the lack of drainage and the lack of waste management.

The goal of this project is to update local and low-tech innovations to ensure a resilient city fabric that isn’t unduly prone to inundation, gAenerates employment for the urban poor and garners a sense of pride within the residents.



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Urban Design Committee


happenings this section exhibit the milestone events that have convened thought leaders throughout 2018

128 open house 130 the chocolate city 132 in/visible borders

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All image courtesy of the Urban Design Committee, 2018

urban design open house The Urban Design Committee annually organizes a series of four open houses at leading architectural and urban design firms showcasing their urban scale projects of their own selection. SmithGroupJJR, Streetsense, HKS, and StudioMB were featured. Each firm took a unique approach to presenting their work and reflecting on the theme of Spatial Equity. Taken together, the open houses displayed an ambition and sensitivity to the task of citymaking, weaving together diverse project narratives with fundamental issues of livability, including equity, safety, affordability, and sustainbility.



avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

open house at SmithGroupJJR

open house at HKS

Urban Design Committee


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All image courtesy of the Urban Design Committee, 2018

the chocolate city

The Urban Design Committee annually organizes a film screening bookended by a panel discussion focusing on the heme of the year. This year’s film as Chocolate City, directed by Ellie Walton. The documentary tells the story of the HOPE VI redevelopment of the Arthur Capper housing project in Southeast Washington, DC and the fight of key residents to return to their neighborhood. This story is a lens to address gentrification broadly in the District, and “celebrates the strength of the communities and the capacity of art to inspire change.” In the first part of the event, panelists engaged in a discussion about the specific spatial equity challenges DC faces today. Immediately thereafter particpants enjoyed a screening of “Chocolate City”. The panelists then addressed questions from the audience with impressions from the film and implications for life in the District. 130


avenues, volume 2: spatial equity

From left to right: Daweed Scully, Mark Simpson, Emily Morris, Don Edwards, Emily Morris, and Stan Wall

chocolate city film screening, moderated by Uwe Brandes

Urban Design Committee


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All image courtesy of the Urban Design Committee, 2018

In/Visible Borders

The Urban Design Committee annually organizes an ideas competition that tasked participants to reflect on the changing nature of retail in contemporary city life, questioning how that change could be harnessed to improve drivers of spatial equity. The competition invites participants to reflect on the nature of thresholds, boundaries and borders at every scale, from the street edge to the geopolitical, from the manifest to the unstated. Consider how they are alternately devices for identity and belonging or exclusion and inequity. You will propose a design solution that enhances spatial equity along the border of their choosing.



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From left to right: Christopher Steinberg, Agnes Warneford-Thomas, and Janki Shah



school without borders by Theresa Mozinski

Urban Design Committee


contributions Urban Design Committee AIA|DC

managing editor Saakshi Terway

editorial review

contributing authors

Dita Bittenbender Omari Davis Mary Eveleigh Mary Fitch Anna McCorvey Janki Shah Agnes Warneford-Thomas

David Bagnoli Jon Fitch Julia Koster Greg Luongo Emily Morris Sara Ridgely Merrill St. Leger Demian Dawveed Scully

editors Scott Archer Katherine Tiarsmith

AIA|DC board liaison Kevin Storm

graphic review Dita Bittenbender Michiel De Houwer Jinesh Jain Ana Gabriela Mendoza Flores Duilio Passariello Tamanna Tiku Kumi Wichramam

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