Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Peachtree Legacy

Theory:
My thesis began as an investigation of a paradox. Why, in this era of technological progress and virtual dimension, are architectural firms not taking advantage of parametric modeling and building information modeling?

Parametric modeling software is not smarter than an architect, but it is an exceptionally smart tool. Trimming, remembering to update schedules, drafting - are things of the past. Autodesk - a popular software among typical architectural firms - offers a desktop product that incorporates parametric modeling called AEC objects, each with its own set of defined parameters, specific to a project.

Building information modeling (BIM) takes this same technology into fabrication. With a direct connection between design and fabrication, the submittal process is significantly changed and manufacturing time is saved.

What exactly is the advantage? It brings value to the work of an architect and results in a thouroughly better project. With less time spent on drafting and on checking submittals, more time is gained to design and coordinate the actual construction process and phasing. refabricating ARCHITECTURE by Kieran and Timberlake investigates the assembly process of cars and airplanes, namely, Ford and Boeing. These industries design the fabrication of collections of complex systems through BIM, at one plant, all together, then each unit or module (collection of parts) is brought to its final assembly location. It meets a small number of similar units and the final assembly is expedient and precise. 'The fewer joints, the less work' is the idea. Although buildings are site and project specific, there is promise in this technique. If an element can be multiplied to create a system, this mass production can evolve into mass customization.

Site intervention:
How does this theory of a new design and construction process inform the choice of a site? Or is it the other way around. . .Well, this is my thesis, and it was up to me to choose the place. I had a bit of trouble making a connection between idea and place, and I needed a lot of help.

As a point of departure, I arbitrarily decided to choose a site in north Midtown. My only contributing advantage was that I could visit the site frequently and become familiar with the site because I work in Buckhead, only a few miles north via Peactree St.

After only a couple times of driving the four mile strip I noticed something peculiar. I never identified it, but felt it. Once, I turned east into a neigborhood. The neighborhood had a definite sense of place - a community of families with children, schools and coffee shops, toys in front yards, and alma mater flags waving proudly.

The street, Peachtree Street, is a major artery in Atlanta. But between Buckhead and Midtown it is undefined - a 'no-place'. The street is undefined, neither of one or the other. Still, with people, children and dogs walking along the sidewalk as evidence, there is a sense of community here.

In their quiet brilliance, my professors pointed me toward the creek, suggesting the vista and how nice it would be to get down to it. Even reminding me that the very significant battle was fought right on it. . .

So, now I was lost. How do technology and a battle meet?

I felt a tense pattern. I thought of old and new, Buckhead and Midtown . . .Dichotomy.

This is my site. The intersection of Peachtree Street, Peachtree Creek and the Peachtree Battle, now.

There is a duality emerging - a binary relationship between process and result, Union and Confederates, landscape and hardscape, mass and circulation, organic earth and infrastructure, placeform and productform - sterotomic architecture and tectonic architecture.

BRIDGE

My museum will commemorate the 6,506 lives lost for the future in that battlae. It will bridge time through a journey to that event - it will tell the story of our Civil War.


BRIDGE



My first thought about this project is an itinerary to connect progressive technology with cultural history. I want to use a new design process to tell an old story in a spectacular way. A museum will mark this place, defining it as the place where fate met history and to bridge the gap between here and there.

It is important to make a connection between the street and the creek. The bridge itself is the building - a memorial.

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I have made several conceptual models with foam and sticks - arranged in a way to develop space within the tension between carved mass and linear structure. My next step is changing materials to concrete (quickrete) and wire, but in addition, an organic and plastic skin will envelope both systems. With these models, the relationship between the built road and the existing creek will be more accurately represented, as opposed to conceptually represented.

14 Comments:

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Wednesday, 15 March, 2006  
Anonymous dan bush said...

Michelle:

I am at a loss here: As I see it, your two branches of investigation are cutting-edge fabrication technology and the civil war.

Kieran and Timberlake persue prefabrication because of it's elegance and ability to solve a myriad of construction problems such as time, quality, etc. "Mind over Matter"

The civil war, however, evokes images of waste (human, animal, material, etc.) and in-efficiency. Most battle tactics were left over from the revolutionary war and basically involved troops marching up to each other firing at point blank range [think "The Patriot"}. Whichever side could stomach the most losses often won. Take a quick trip up to Kennesaw or Vicksburg and look at the trench lines. In Vicksburg, the two lines are in some place less that 20 feet apart! That war was anything but elegant.

I honestly do not see any correlation between these two topics. One thing that you don't want to do is to be blinded by the gee-whiz factor of BIM and pre-fab and loose site of the real project, the creation of space and form that speaks to the souls of the visitors to your site. Your job is to create Architecture that supports the re-telling a historical event. The pyramids do not call attention to the stones; the parthenon does not call attention to the way the columns are jointed, etc.

If your architecture ends up being the story, you've failed.

Monday, 20 March, 2006  
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