Aug 26, 2020 in Art
Synthesis of Understanding in Architectural Context

This paper will incorporate three buildings namely The World Trade Centre, The Portland Centre, and the Hubertus House. After carefully analyzing these three buildings, I made an important observation. This is that the targeted residents of a building and the street or neighborhood on which a building stands play a crucial role in determining the design. From the three buildings, it is notable that the architects put into consideration these two aspects hence the outstanding work that they produced. As will be seen herein, the people and the street constitute two important factors that should guide the architect at work, even while ensuring that the design conforms to the standards of the modern urban projects.

Starting with the Portland Center, it is an ideal pointer of how cities should incorporate both people and buildings. The idea behind the design and construction of the center was to renew the area’s economic activity. At the center of this focus were the residents who initially occupied the area and those who were targeted to be attracted. Prior to the construction, the area harbored niche businesses and abandoned commercial buildings. Accordingly, the residents’ average age was more than 60 years whereby most of them occupied low-rent apartments and hotels. The project faced two options; either to appeal to the then demographic or attract a new and more productive one. The second option was chosen, and it being the case, the design and construction work put this group into consideration. The targeted residents being an economically productive group, a high level of interactions was expected. In response to this, the three sections of the Center allow for this human aspect. The resident center constitutes the first section and it harbors apartment buildings. The residential spaces are designed to both confine and structure movements in such a manner that the residents will easily interact with one another and probably create relationships, including business relationships. The business and the leisure centers also feature a similar spatial pattern thereby being able to bring the residents together. The two maximize both interaction and movement. In addition to this, the spatial arrangement enables a high level of activity in the business and public areas during the day, but a limited one during evenings. Whereas this arrangement was in consistence with the center being intended for a higher level of economic activity, it also shows that people who were going to use the center were taken into context.

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Also notable in the study of the Portland Center is that the architect also put the street on which the building is located in thought. The building follows a grid structure that improved the quality and availability of public space so that pedestrian movement could be improved. However, the super-blocks that emanated from the grid structure alleviated the widespread problem of urban mobility in terms of motorized transport. This was instrumental as it took into account the fact that the street is used by both pedestrians and motor vehicles, and these are the same groups that are likely to use the buildings. In addition, acknowledging that the center was not being built around natural features, the architect effectively incorporated a green grid of parks, which create a sense of nature.

Photograph 1: The Portland Center

The Hubertus House is particularly notable for the manner in which its design integrated the preference and convenience of the targeted residents. The building was originally meant to be a home for single mothers alongside their children. As a result, the design succeeded in creating a non-stressful environment for this demographic group. Despite the fact that the building articulates considerably well with the urban environment in which it is located, the architect also managed to achieve serenity and comfort that appealed to the intended residents. Firstly, the living quarters have their privacy enhanced by their location at the house’s edge. On the other hand, whereas the staircases are visible from outside, the entrance is not visible due to its location behind the main façade. In addition, the entrance passes through the exterior space. These features of the entrance and living quarters effectively integrate a sense of modernism whilst achieving a considerable level of privacy. The location of the mothers’ rooms relative to those of the children is also typical of the two group’s preference. The mother’s rooms are found next to the street whereas those of the children are farther inside. Whereas mothers would not mind connecting to the streets, it would be better to shield the children from noise and distractions that may characterize the streets of such an urban environment as Amsterdam. The street was also addressed in the building’s design. One notable feature is the bright colors that enable the building to be easily noticeable amongst other buildings on the same street. This color aspect also relate to the many children who form part of the residence.

Photograph 2: The Hubertus House

Thirdly, the architects behind the World Trade Center did not get carried away by the iconic feature of the building to fail to take into consideration its users and the neighboring environment. Notably, the architects had a huge responsibility of ensuring that even as the design employed the most up to date and innovative architectural features, it spoke to many generations to come regarding what happened on September 11, 2001. This is indeed the idea behind creation of the Memorial Museum right at the heart of the center’s geographic space. This, coupled with the structure being a trade center, meant that a wide variety of users will be visiting the premises once it is completed. As a result, the design of the various facilities hosted therein encourages a considerable level of physical and social interactions. On its part, social intimacy is enabled by interactions facilitated by common cultural and social aspects such as political and customs discussions. In addition to this, the design lived up to its expectation of being a tourist attraction considering that it is located in the Manhattan neighborhood that is ideally a tourist hub harboring other attractions such as the Statue Liberty.

Photograph 3: The World Trade Center

It can thus be seen that the design of the three buildings discussed in this essay agree with Hillier and Vaughan in that a city is two things namely; an assembly of buildings brought together by space, and a complex human activity system joined by interactions. The architects in the three cases clearly had the users and the neighborhood at the back of their mind when designing the buildings. The buildings’ inward looking development succeeded in creating a community in which physical and social interactions are encouraged while where necessary, ensuring comfort and convenience of the user. Also, from the manner in which the spatial patterns in the three buildings have been formed, it is worth noting that they recognize the position of space as “the common ground of the physical and social cities”, the two kinds of cities proposed by Hillier and Vaughan, but which come together into one. Moreover, the three buildings’ architects, whilst employing innovative features that are customized to the users, ensured that they made a meaningful contribution to the neighborhood or the streets on which they are located. This is in consistence with the idea of Jacobs J. on diversity, in which he argues that big cities tend to naturally generate diversity and prolifically incubate new ideas and enterprises of all kind. The three buildings are located in big cities, implying that there were a lot of expectations on their design to both integrate and complement the nature of their neighborhoods. Another notable observation in the three buildings is that they showcase urban design features whilst striving to confer as much comfort and relevance as possible to the users. A striking example in this case is the Hubertus House. The building harbors a playground in the center, a feature that brings together children from the different households while ensuring that they are isolated from busy street. Similarly, a considerable level of shielding of the privacy of the users can be observed even as the design sought to conform to the standards of the time. On its part, the World Trade Center has both the architectural features expected of an urban project of its nature, and a considerable allowance for social and physical interactions that are expected to characterize it upon completion. For the Portland Center, its grid structure, whilst being outstanding, also ensures that pedestrian and motorist movements are allowed for in order to take care of both the users of the building and the street on which it is located. Lastly, the three buildings allow access to the streets whilst at the same time isolating the users from the hustles and bustles that characterize the modern urban life. As Jacobs A. argues, the streets are the place where one meets and interacts with other people, and this is precisely the idea behind creation of cities. However, there are some people who would rather lead a quite private life and would thus be more than glad to be isolated from the city life, at least when in their offices or homes. The design of the three buildings did quite well in achieving this function.


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