Month: March 2010

detroit’s 20th century ruins.

The NYTimes published an incredible article about Michigan Central Station, a Beaux Arts train station that hasn’t been in use for the past twenty years.  It now sits abandoned, a 20th century ruin.  Its walls are covered in grafitti, the fixtures have been stripped and plundered.  The images are haunting and beautiful, and the article tells the story of a building that is a symbol of its city’s decline and depression.  Read it, look at the pictures.  Incredible. Ok, so urban ruins. People have been interested in them for centuries.  Piranesi taught us to see ruins as tools to help us design a grander future.  The Romantics saw ruins as manifestations of the picturesque, as the ultimate expression of the patina of history.  When we allow buildings to go to ruin, we allow ourselves to contemplate the insignificance of human time, the power of nature to overcome any feat of human ingenuity or creativity.  But how do we allow buildings to go to ruin and not allow our economies to do so alongside them?  Do …

chinatown site.

This semester I’m part of a team in the FHL Boston Affordable Housing Development Competition. My team and I are working on a development proposal for a site in Chinatown, between Oxford Street and Ping-On Alley.  Ping-On Alley is where Chinatown was supposedly founded in the 1860s, as Chinese workers completed the Transcontinental Railway and settled in tents near Boston’s waterfront.  Half of the site has sandy ground beneath it, at the threshold of solid ground and the former beach that was filled in the late 19th century.  The site, taking up four lots, is half zoned in the Chinatown Historic District, which we are trying to honor in our design and planning.  We are really excited about our project, which will include a commemoration of the Ping-On Alley founding myth and a small corridor proposal for Oxford Street.  There is a fabulous pocket park a couple of doors down on Oxford that is under plans for redevelopment as a playground.  It’s a fantastic, urban site.  The developer who will be proposing this project in …