Work title: Relational Ground (0000701413)
Relational Ground explores the relevance of the horizontal surface in the post-industrial metropolis. It is a series of investigations identifying spatial and tectonic concepts in the design and manipulation of the urban ground. Above all, it presents an argument for a novel type of public space.
The necessity to re-think the urban condition is spurred by the inability of traditional notions of the urban room to provide a productive spatial response to the challenges of the city. The departure from object-centered urban design towards field-oriented theories has caused our understanding of the city to change radically. Past illusions of the urban artifact have been replaced with transformative effects of the urban process; architectural meaning and image have been surpassed by the logistics of moments, and the nostalgic notion of the urban square has been re-appropriated for the liminal spaces of our post-industrial metropolis.
In the light of these presumptions, the relevance of the built artifact will be contested. The main question posed by this investigation is whether the experience of the urban room can be re-framed through the lens of the architectural surface; whether the dominance and experiential responsibility of the building can be transferred to the ground plane in the hopes to create a novel spatial condition; one that is, perhaps, more in tune with the temporal nature of human experience.
The City of Milwaukee bears all the symptoms of the American post-industrial metropolis. Once the dominant force of the manufacturing world, the city is now faced with the harsh realities of a service-based economy. Physical manifestations of these symptoms are numerous; from the vacant lots previously inhabited by large factories, to the missing life of the immediate downtown area and the dominance of the suburban periphery. Sprawl and sub-urbanization have created a novel state in the city; conditions in which wasteness and edglessness dominate.
Unlike past urban theories, Relational Ground presumes the city not through form, but process. As a temporal and evolving system, it exists at the intersection between the spatial concepts of urban field theory and the experiential properties of the built artifact. Furthermore, Relational Ground proposes fundamental changes in our understanding of spatial definitions. It proposes the deconstruction of hard urban edges into transitional spatial ecotones, defined paths and corridors into fields, and strict horizontal borders into multi-layered urban surfaces. Above all, Relational Ground challenges conventional notions of the urban landscape in an effort to merge the experiential qualities of the urban room with the dynamic variables of the living city. Relational Ground presents a case study; an exploration of a specific instance of post-industrial territory. It examines the very surface upon which the urban process unfolds and, subsequently, leaves its traces. Traces which can be employed as generative tools and variables in the design process of a novel urban condition; one in which the architectural desire for a tabula rasa is replaced by the spatial desire to engage the horizontal border.