Monday, February 23, 2009

Misery and Flexibility

Way back in the 1980s, when I first started work in the field of community development, an architect friend and mentor passed along to me two principles of his practice that he always tried to factor into his work: the concentration of misery principle and the flexibility principle.

When it came to concentrating misery, he always tried to combine the negative aspects of things spatially and chronologically. He wanted lousy experiences to be minimized, so he worked to put them close together, and get them out of the way. If he had a bunch of unpleasant things to do, he tried to get them all done together. That way, the rest of his time would spent on more positive work.

On the other hand, when it came to making choices or finalizing alternatives, he took an opposite approach. He always worked to preserve as much flexibility into the planning and development process as possible. Rather than painting oneself into a corner by making firm decisions too soon in a planning or development process, he would create room for new ideas and options to emerge in a forward moving, collaborative process.

This week, the planning process for the future of the Arch moves forward. There will be two public meetings regarding the Draft General Management Plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. When the General Management Plan is adopted, it will establish the direction for future management of the Arch site. This is a key process for defining the future of our riverfront and downtown.

Thinking back to my old architect friend's advice, he would recommend that the final product promote flexibility. With the top issue of agreement being a lack of connectivity, are there flexible approaches about how to improve connectivity?

Regarding the concentration of misery, I think he would like the way the Arch site concentrates its new service area all on the southern part of the site. But what about the parking area on the north end of the site? What ways might it be repositioned to increase flexibility at the site?

In terms of difficult connections, they are found all around the Arch grounds. Poor connectivity is a problem surrounding the entire park. Is there a way to minimize the bad connectivity experience at the Arch and maximize the better connections? Where are the key connection points?

As Laclede's Landing and Washington Avenue as well as the Chouteau's Landing areas continue to draw more downtown businesses, visitors and residents, how can we best connect those activity generators to the Arch site?

Information about tonight's public meeting for the future of the Arch can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Is the pedestrian walkway proposed the same thing as the Danforth lid idea? If they are talking about having a design competition, then why are they also recommending pedestrian bridges? Will the purpose of the design competition be to design the look of the pedestrian bridges?

Let me get this straight...if you add a pedestrian bridge, is it like making a three layer cake? The bottom layer is the depressed lanes, the middle layer is Memorial Drive, and the top layer is the pedestrian bridges.

What would that look like? What would it sound like? How crowded would these bridges be? It would be good to see a picture of how this would look.

Rick Bonasch said...

I am planning to attend tonight's meeting and will try to get a clarification about the pedestrian bridges.

Rick Bonasch said...

From talking with the planners at the meeting last night, the pedestrian bridges and lid suggestions are possible together, independently, or perhaps not part of the ultimate program. The ultimate decision could come from the possible design competition.

The process for planning for the future of the Memorial has been broken up into siz different "management zones". These zones are "Heritage, Education, and Visitor Amenities", "Original Landscape", "Orientation", "Streetscape/Riverscape", "Service", and "Design Competition".

The description of the design competition zone from the Draft General Managment Plan is as follows:

"The purpose of the Design Competition zone is to provide opportunities for a design competition that would explore innovative approaches to revitalizing the Memorial. The zone iz characeterized by visitor programs and facilities that serve the educational needs of the visitor. It is situated so as to have as minimal an impact as possible on the essential character-defining features of the NHL (National Historic Landmark). The historic landscapes may be rehabilitated, as defined by the Secretary of Interior's Standards (compatible materials, design, and features), to accommodate adaptive reuses, and may go so far as to incorporate new elements for visitor opportunites and use.

"The primary goals of the visitor experience in this zone are conveying Memorial interpretive themes and educating visitors. There are many opportunties for interpretation and education programs. This zone provides for both self-directed and active learning and recreation. Frequent visitor-to-visitor and visitor-to-staff contacts are expected in this zone. The visitor time commitment varies but would typically entail 30 minutes to 4 hours.

"Appropriate types of facilites in this zone may include interior and exterior interpretive exhibits, museums, libraries, archives, theaters, classrooms, restrooms, visitor centers, tram/transit facilities, and multimodal transite center, security checkpoints, food service, and staff offices. Buildings, non-historic additions, and other development in this zone would be compatible with the cultural and physical landscape".

In paragraph 2.5 Preferred Alternative 3: Program Expansion, the Design Competition is further discussed, with the following bullet points detailing the goals of the design competition.

* Increased connectivity between the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch (including any comination of a single elevated deck, multiple bridges, and improved at-grade pedestrian crossings across Memorial Drive).

* Increased connectivity between the Memorial and downtown St. Louis, and the Laclede's and Chouteau's Landings neighborhoods and the East St. Louis addition.

* Increased opportunties, through programs and facilities, for the public to be more engaged with the primary themes of the Memorial.

* Increased opportunties for the the public to feel more welcomed to the Memorial with the provision of amenities and services that support a safe and enjoyable experience.

* Operational efficiency and effectiveness for the Memorial's operation in a sustainable manner.

* Protection of the National Historic Landmark designation.

The NPS staff emphasized the point that the Park Service could not support any proposal that would threaten the delisting of the Memorial as a National Historic Landmark.

Anonymous said...

What was said about connecting Chouteau's Landing to the memorial?