Questioning The Answers: Civic Space and Urban Regeneration

New civic landscapes are vital components of the social, cultural and economic regeneration of cities. These urban spaces are intended to be memorable outdoor social and cultural venues that support a vibrant civic life and add economic value to the adjacent developments and to the community at large. The impact of these landscapes can be measured quantitatively: by the degree to which they enhance the tax base and by the numbers of new businesses, residents and visitors the spaces attract and retain throughout the day and evening. In this analysis intensity of use is the measure of social success of the civic space. To maintain active use these spaces are actively programmed and managed. Things to do: eating, playing, watching staged events or observing park icons such as art work or participating in interactive water features etc. are accommodated within a flexible and evolving physical setting. This approach to place making emphasizes events but does it also reduce the physical, landscape form to the status of an enabling device? Can the value of these urban spaces be only judged by measures of active use? What is the relationship between the use of these spaces as venues for spectacles and a deeper human occupation of these places? If these spaces are stages for contemporary public life, what is their physical form and how can these forms contribute to the evolving meaning of urban landscapes located in specific places? These questions will be addressed by exploring answers to three other questions. 1. What are the spatial dimensions and materiality of engaged inhabitation in public space as opposed to that of a passive spectator of events within these spaces? This work will explore how the psychological and the physical interact in the making of inhabited landscapes. 2. How does an urban landscape create a contemporary relationship with its surroundings without overt recourse to normative design formulas? This aspect of the studio will study the notion of beginning: the geographic origins of specific locations that become the spatial context for a continuing history of a place. 3. What does sustainability mean with regard to public open space design? What are the attributes of an environmentally, economically, socially and expressively sustainable urban space? Studio Structure: The semester will be divided into three related design exercises. 1. The Analysis of Places: Boston – The Common and Garden; Post Office Square; North End Park; Wharf District Park; Dewey Square. New York – Tear Drop Park; Wagner Park; Bryant Park. Chicago – Millennium Park. 2. The Occupation of a Space: The physical and psychological dimensions of sitting and walking in public as applied to the making of a public sitting place on the Tremont Street edge of Boston Common. 3. The Design of a Place that Refuses Easy Occupation: Rethinking Blocks 19 & 21 of the Central Artery (Congress Street to Oliver Street on Atlantic Avenue). Studio Methodology:The studio will address the making of landscapes. The emphasis of the work will be first, on the analysis and evaluation of existing landscapes. This analysis will be done using direct observation supported by library research. This work will from the basis for the exploration and development of exact physical forms for a proposed landscape.The instruction will re-examine the most basic issues of landscape architectural design in light of the questions raised by the studio. The design potentials of: landscape scale and proportion; surfaces and planting; natural and artificial light; the pavilion and the pergola and finally the ephemera of inhabitation will be the subjects of our enquiry. The studio design methodology will emphasize how to translate conceptualizations into detailed material proposals. The tectonic and phenomen