The intent of this thesis is to design a waterfront public
place in Washington, D.C. connecting Key Bridge to Kennedy Center that coaxes a collective expression of a vibrant urban culture through a specific program in art, commerce and pedestrian-friendly form via a system of self-determining movement between the two landmarks.
The typology studies, reflective deliberations and the
design and programmatic intentions for this public place
coalesced into certain specific ingredients. First, rather
than design a destination public square, the idea is to
string together leftover and unused urban spaces and
program these spaces so as to imbue each with distinct
function and flavor and also to relate them to one another,
either through transition, material, function or form. We
experience the public place as we move through it and
conversely these parts of the whole themselves coax
movement through and between them. The public place would thus be a kinetic locale which is experienced while moving through and between its nodes, each of which is unique and specific in its form and offerings while also reading as a part of a whole and connected circuit.
Second, there would be no revision of existing structures
only a layering upon the enabling base structures.
‘Parasitic’ forms that answer to the intended program would appendage from existing structures. These parasitic forms would not attempt to resemble or blend into their host structures but rather alight on their hosts and perform a clearly articulated function. Third, a specific and developed program for local commerce would need to be injected into the plan. Indeed, commerce is the life blood of any successful public place and the design would have to accommodate and provide for such activity. Fourth, the traditional anchors of public squares would be reinterpreted and updated for relevance to the present
times and then be provided for. For a populace to have the desire to frequent a public place, the space would not only be a reflection of but also speak to and of the ambition of the community; “what are we about, what do we aspire to, and how do we wish to be perceived” are notions that the design of the public place would address. The place would attempt to both engage the ego of the populace and also furnish a stage for the exhibition of its aspirations. Lastly, the design response to the site and its
contingencies would be paramount and the defining principle for the design of the whole and its parts. In identifying a local site to situate such a public place,
I searched for existing structures that would stand as
parenthetical forms defining clearly the physical extents
of this public place. Also, it was imperative that as a
designer, I needed to first perceive and then believe
strongly that indeed there was a problem that merited a
design solution, the formulation of which could engage a
sustained intellectual commitment. The site I put together was a stretch along the Georgetown Waterfront from Key Bridge to Kennedy Center. I perceived this site as rife with issues and problems and thus enticing for formulating a design solution. Thus, came the title to my thesis: “Steps to the River: Devising a Spatial Construct from Key to Kennedy”. Investigation of the site, research and typology studies, conceptual and programmatic development yielded the design of a set of four interventions with the following descriptive titles.
1. Synapse at Key: Device to suspend over the river,
stretch under the bridge, dip into the river and, in thus
doing, connect to the bank. 2. The Commercial Filter: ‘Sidewalk’ kiosks for short-term, uncensored, small-scale commercial peddling of goods, services, ideas. 3. The Culture Lens: Flourishing the collective consciousness and public ownership through an offering of communal venues. 4. The Synapse at Kennedy: Devise to connect to Kennedy Center and bring its public programs to the river.
The conclusions and recommendations of this thesis involve translating notions of rest, relaxation, movement,
entertainment, communal connectedness, artistic, cultural
and commercial expression and consumption into physical
design components that would augment an active and
collective patronage of these newly programmed spaces, thus resulting in a vibrant and specific public place.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Masters of Arts
Corcoran College of Art + Design (Washington, D.C.)
Masters Theses from the Corcoran College of Art + Design
The Corcoran College of Art + Design has non-exclusive publication rights. Permission is granted to quote from the thesis with the customary acknowledgement of the source. Copyright for each article is retained by the author. Republication in any form requires permission from the author of the thesis.