A quick ‘competition’ of sort from Seattle fit nicely into some current thinking around the concept of uses for vacant properties (aka urban voids). In this case, the focus is on ‘stalled’ building sites that are left partially finished due to economic or other factors. The gist of the call for idea from the Holding Patterns ‘brief’ distributed by Seattle DPD:
“Have you noticed how many lots have been left empty or partially developed due to the stalled economy? These vacant project sites are all around us. Unattractive and unbecoming of our city, we pass by them every day: empty holes, barren plains of gravel, voids in the city fabric. How can we convert these eyesores to opportunities?
The Seattle Design Commission wants your ideas for Holding Patterns, interim uses for stalled project sites. We are seeking your concepts to transform the following types of stalled project sites around the city:
- holes in the ground
- surface lots
- ongoing construction above or below street level
Whether a concert space or a bumper car track, basketball hoops or a fleeting performance stage, from temporary to semi-permanent, wacky, practical or both, the Design Commission is welcoming any and all ideas. Artists, designers, non-profits, businesses, developers, students, astronauts, everyone is invited to contribute ideas. Interdisciplinary teams are encouraged.”
Our team, consisting of Kelley Roy (Sassafras Consulting), Kelly Rodgers (Confluence Planning) and Jason King (TERRA.fluxus) approached this from the viewpoint of ‘A Modular Approach to Building the Sustainable City’ that looks at the three typologies of the site, hole, and frame within a matrix of food, community, ecology, and materials. This proposal seeks to use these sites as a way to create a compelling development model that is sustainable, mobile, and integrated. This proposal frames community uses for vacant parcels, providing options for the different needs of the community as well as by type of parcel. It does not suggest that one amenity fits all neighborhoods and sites, thereby providing the flexibility for the community and efficiency for developer.
The idea is that instead of site-specific solutions, solutions have the ability to 1) Roll in-Roll Out (mobility), 2) Be Integrated with Buildings (application to final project) and 3) Productive landscapes (generating income and material for food and building)
Rather than focus on one solution, we decided to apply the matrix to each of the typologies for stalled building projects: site, hole, and frame. This gives a snapshot of possible applications to real world conditions, using a generic site configuration. Each project site would be evaluated for the best mix of interim use that fits the final building project.
SITE: One idea of a building integration strategy is to use vacant building sites as land for producing building materials. Afforestation can consist of growing products that are sustainably harvested over the years and then used in the building construction. In this case, groves of bamboo, fast growing trees, industrial fibers like hemp, and sheepswool can be ‘grown’ on the land with an eventual end use within the building cladding, insulation, carpet, and finish work. Buildings literally grow from the site.
FRAME: using the partially constructed armature of a stalled building structure, the idea is to create temporary three-dimensional habitat through portable hanging habitat gardens. These habitat pods occupy site for beautification, climate modification, air quality improvement – then move to next site to continue to contribute to urban quality. Modular planters can be transported easily and placed on a viable partial structure. Street-level planters keep people out of the site for safety. Rooftop planters on structural grids give the opportunity to add trees and other habitat elements.
HOLE: taking advantage of the negative space left behind through stalled excavation, gives us an opportunity to create places for community gathering for theater, concerts, and events – amphitheater evolves into a building-integrated arts space. Tiers of seating are sunken into the excavation to create seating, oriented towards a stage and screen at the low point for an immersive experience. Temporary planters protect steep edges and generous at-grade elements accommodate passers-by to draw in community. Modular elements can be repurposed in building or moved to a different site after usage – and allow for a proof of concept that can translate into arts and performance space in the final building installation.