New Haven is famous for one of the few remaining planned nine-square grids. While the central square contains the historical town green, there is little else on the periphery of the nine-squares that records the figure with any positive difference. This is particularly true of the notorious Oak Street Connector which has given a cut in the fabric of New Haven between the nine-square and the Hill neighborhood. In particular, its southeast corner remains problematic to this day, as the corner of the nine-square meets empty lots, the train tracks, and the Knights of Columbus Museum which stands as an isolated architectural object stranded by the bifurcation of State Street. With the demolition of the New Haven Coliseum and the imminent removal of the South Orange Public Housing Project, there is an entire neighborhood-scale area of New Haven with no spatial or programmatic resolution. Furthermore, the decline of shopping malls and low-income housing, two tenets of the urban renewal of the late sixties have been deemed as failures. The nature and use of any new facilities are certainly at issue, but probably more difficult than this is the lack of a dominant critical formal strategy that animates a project.
The studio will produce a project for the site in New Haven bounded by George Street on the north side, Church Street on the west, the railroad tracks on the east, and Union Station on the south.
The problem that students will face is the question of urban ground. In contrast to the nine-square to the north of the site and the gridded fabric of the Hill neighborhood to the south, the site has no grain or grid. It is an unstructured gap between legible forms, and students must provide a resolution with a critical stance towards the city. The nature of connectivity between both sides of the Oak Street connector should not be taken for granted, and any strategy for urban connectivity must take a stance on the nature of the urban grid, or the nature of the architectural object.
The studio will be divided into teams of two. Each team will choose and research in the initial weeks a critical strategy for urban form. Among those suggested are Ungers’ Green Archipelago, Rowe’s Collage City and contextualism, Krier’s New Urbanism, Rossi’s Analogic City. These strategies are to be deployed on the site in New Haven. Part of the goal of the studio is for discourse to occur across projects, so that a design that is working within Rossi’s theory of the city will be contextualized against a project that addresses the archipelago as an urban theory. In this way, the projects will be a vehicle for a discourse on urban theory.
Our jury will look at two scales of production. The larger urban scale of New Haven and the close in area of the Hill, the Oak St. Connector, and the old Coliseum site.
The jury will take place on Thursday, December 13.
The class will be based in Bologna. We will take day trips by bus to Modena and Ferrara, and perhaps Parma, Rimini, and Modena. The fifth day will be an exploration of Bologna and its museum. We will be traveling with Pier Vittorio Aureli.