Friday, March 12, 2010

dEsigNed iNTEnt vs. designed outcome

B r i a n F a b e l l a

Thornton Place: Can ad-hoc be planned or designed?

It seems that the intrinsic quality of ad-hoc urbanism would defy and rebel against this concept. We recognize that an understanding of this character is essential to developing urban form. But how do we implement these ideas into the built environment? More and more contemporary projects are attempting to utilize these strategies in the design and construction of new or renovated spaces.

My exploration of Thornton Place was an attempt to understand if and how ad-hoc principles are utilized in current designs.

The nature and context of the Thornton Place project was ad-hoc: started over 20 years ago, the planning process involved various local community groups, private interest groups, city agencies, policies and mandates, transportation infrastructure, the first shopping mall in the USA and Seattle’s largest urban creek watershed. More than 5 different design firms were involved with the designs. There are 3 different primary owners of the whole site. Whoa.

Today, it stands as a mixed-use nexus for residential (owner and renter), public mass transit (bus and light rail), commerce and entertainment (dinner and a movie), storm water quality and habitat (Thornton Creek!!!). There are both private and public spaces.

The design and layout seem pretty formalized. But there seems to be opportunities for “other” types of activities. For example, some resident dogs like to drop bombs in the bed spaces around the storm water quality channel. Automatic gates change the layout of public and private spaces for different times of the day/night.

The next time you come here to watch a 3D movie, walk around and check out the place. Tell me what you think? What is working and what is not? And don’t forget the extra butter.

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