Join Kevin Sloan for an in-depth discussion in this video Spaces and Places by Kevin Sloan Studio - Film, part of Spaces and Places by Kevin Sloan Studio.
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(gentle music) - Many people think that architecture is just about the design of buildings. But architecture, in the broadest sense, is a set of principles that applies to how the human condition shapes the physical world around it. For the first time in the history of the human condition, the entire surface of the earth is being thought of as one landscape, one designed landscape. Those formations can either foster community or, if they're not handled skillfully by design, they frustrate.
Every building either advances cultural production or takes something away from it. We're not here trying to push some way we want the world to be through our design interest, but really looking at the world the way it is. We see architecture as a process of re-mapping not the new just for the sake of new, but re-mapping familiar things in inventive and innovative ways.
(gentle music) We see history and a literate notion of architecture as the basis for invention. We do frequently ask ourselves, "What are the situations, "what are the occasions that this problem is similar to "that we've seen before recently and also in history?" (soft upbeat music) What I observe that, when I draw by hand, is, I'm drawing with more senses.
I can feel the shapes, the lines. I can also feel how the forms I'm making is similar to something I may be inspired by, that I've seen before that I think is somehow relevant to the problem. Ultimately, for me, I find my own intuition really being the product of all the information that I've assimilated through drawing and traveling. What I've come to call "notational drawing" is, when I come upon a place that I find particularly fascinating, I want to get out my sketchbook and say, "What is it that I'm seeing here "that my intuition is telling me I need to draw so I can remember it?" (gentle piano music) What we produced at Vetruvian Park I would characterize as a landscape-driven urbanism.
The idea of similarly heightening the landscape, in the form of the 17-acre park, It reminded me of Bath, England. What has fascinated me is, it seems to be the kind of model for urbanism in North America where you get green cities. You can't imagine New York without Central Park. You can't imagine many American neighborhoods without their beautiful tree-lined streets. The two things together really was a nice opportunity to take what I'd observed in Bath and apply it directly at Vitruvian Park.
The planning and the landscape at Vitruvian Park utilized a bridge, a kind of iconic landmark bridge, to form a kind of space and place that is useful during the summer months when it gets hot, so passing under the bridge or pausing beneath it is really more about being in a room and in a space than under something than you would typically and otherwise think of as being under a bridge. The spring-fed waterway in the park is articulated by a set of boat-shaped islands.
They tend to make the water a little mysterious. You never can see from one end of the water area to the other because the islands create the perception of a kind of webbing of water, versus an impoundment. Lastly, even though the water running in the park is largely spring-fed, it's also part of a significant North Dallas drainage way. Storm water flows come down through Vitruvian Park so that flood management of the system is accomplished.
We have crossed a point where there are more people living in cities now than in rural lands. This is a tremendous signal to designers of all kinds, of architects, of urban planners, of landscape architects, a new kind of purpose, an urgent kind of purpose, if you will, of how to make these places humanized. This is the Dallas Urban Reserve. In simple terms, it's a subdivision.
All of the houses are designed by distinguished contemporary architects. The site is about 10 acres. It's a long, thin splinter of property. What's interesting about it is, for 50 years, it was abused as a kind of surreptitious landfill. Individuals would come back and leave behind concrete slabs, pieces and parts of steel, and so forth, so what we did is repurpose them through design as what we would call "bricolage." Bricolage is a wonderful French term that refers to a strategy of making something out of the oddments of life.
We use some of the concrete slabs, for example, as retaining walls to preserve existing trees. Others, we sawed them up and made steps and terraces going to the houses and the lots. So bricolage became a way of taking rubbish and, through composition, make it look deliberate as an architectural idea. Typical residential streets are lined with trees on both sides, symmetrically producing a kind of corridor of shade and space.
Here at Urban Reserve, for ecological purposes, we chose to slope the street asymmetrically. Storm water is directed to the low side, what we're calling the wet side of the street, where it is captured and harvested in a system of continuous rain gardens. There is an excavated series of biofiltering layers of sediments, sands, that leach out impurities. That water is then collected and then redirected with an underground storm system to a series of filtering ponds.
We like to think of this street cross-section as a new kind of prototype for other kinds of residential communities that might be useful and purposeful. Airfield Falls is just a wonderful project and a great client. It's the Tarrant County Regional Water District. They operate continuous lands that are part of the rivers and streams that basically convey the water that they bring to Forth Worth.
They wanted and were interested in how to make that system a kind of cultural instrument to show people a different way to landscape, new kinds of practices that would be less demanding on the water supply. The one other thing about Airfield Falls is that we realized that conservation didn't have to just mean water, it could also mean history.
They have managed to get pieces and parts of historic aircraft donated that we've had to develop a way to display. What we ultimately produced ... for example, we have a pair of jet aircraft wings and a tail section from a C-9 transport jet. Rather than just put the jet out in the park and look at it, let's make the jet interact, engage the people in a way, and in this case, it actually becomes a kind of entry portal that will be a natural draw for people to come to.
(soft upbeat music) We're not here, thinking naively that we're saving the world. But we are trying to find a way forward, given the unfamiliarity of the kind of industrial and now technological and digital world that surrounds us, to ultimately come to a point where we still realize our humanity and the value of that and the value of making communities that knit us together. We always see cities as works that are in a perpetual process of becoming.
Our responsibility is to aid that becoming by putting the next intervention in, whether it's an Urban Reserve, an Airfield Falls, or a Vitruvian Park, that will advance that human mission the next step.