Our 401 Studio, Exotic Hybrids: A Mosaic in the Park, revolves around the concept of bringing together components of different origin. The studio began with a preliminary two-week project, exploring multiple kinds of hybrids through proposals for a small café in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill. Each studio member could choose his or her specific site within the park, as well as additional programmatic elements that would enhance the experience of the park. The project’s hybrid nature called for the blending of the built and natural environments, taking into consideration the site’s founding as an Olmstead park in addition to the many buildings that have been added to the site over time.
Tying into the theme of the studio, this project was developed through large-scale mosaic drawings, with each of us creating a final composition of four separate boards that fit together to tell the entire story of the project. Throughout the design process we built up our final presentation boards with layers of site sketches, design concepts, and diagrams that served as a background to our hand-drawn plans and sections. This method of investigation challenged us to generate a lot of sketches and think about the connections between different drawings and different boards. The project also challenged us to think about the project on a very detailed level, constructing large-scale drawings that required structural detailing and properly scaled connections.
In the end, the proposals for this project were wonderfully varied. Some chose to explore areas of the park that currently see very little traffic, attempting to draw people into the wilderness more, while others designed near paths or popular destinations. Some were deeply rooted in the site while others perched lightly on the ground, or were even mobile as Xu Zhang proposed! Each of our explorations uniquely prepared us for the larger studio project, an addition to the Seattle Asian Art Museum also in Volunteer Park, allowing us to first develop an attitude towards the site and its fascinating history before diving into the large project.
“The design of an addition to an existing building whose architecture has been declared to have public value is a special kind of creative problem. An inherent task is not to only acknowledge that value, but to amplify it in some way. It means to enter into dialogue in a way that heightens an awareness of the physical and aesthetic experience of each. Your job is not to create something new, but to make something new by using opportunities that the existing building suggests.”
With this thought we entered into an exploration of an addition to the Seattle Asian Art Museum. An addition is an interesting design problem that is not regularly explored in studio courses. Ann Marie Borys has challenged us to focus on a connection to the existing museum, creating a strong foundation on which to build our designs. Building within a park adds the extra challenge of relating to the surrounding landscape. Attention must be given to all aspects of how our new structure will affect the park.
Our program once again involves the bringing together of very diverse components. The new 11,300sf program includes additional gallery space, a conservation lab, horticulture lab, veteran’s retreat space, classrooms and offices. The horticulture lab has a strong relation to the park and creates a space for education of horticulture and the park itself, a programmatic element currently missing from the park.
Special attention is also given to the planning of the spaces. Flow within the galleries is very important in the museum and the addition of more gallery space must speak to the existing galleries. Light is another challenge that is presented in this project. Several of the works within this new gallery are very light sensitive and the presence of daylight in the space can be very damaging. We must be conscious of this challenge and respond accordingly. With so many factors influencing our design it is important to have a strong process and explore the many different schemes.
Our process has been derived through a series of digital and hand sketches. We must bridge the gap and think about the project in all aspects, not just as a set of plans or a SketchUp model. Through the exercise of a connection drawing we are asked to represent the exact connection that our addition has to the original museum and the park. This could be a diagram, detail or plan image. The method of explanation is up to the designer but the purpose of the drawing is always the same, to show a clear connection to the existing elements. Many great designs are emerging and we look forward to the final representations of our projects.
Written by Jessica Bailey & Bryn Kepler