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Nitish Bhat, Liao He, Ophelia Je, Young-Ah Jung, Christine Lottes, Ben Newberry, Dilina Nulali, Jonathan Teng
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This studio explored ways in which the complexities of urban redevelopment — its many physical characteristics, actors, agendas and histories—can be generative for urban design and architecture. The 2016 spring studio comprised urban analysis and conceptualizes urban design proposals on a range of sites and scales for the arts district in mid-town St. Louis called Grand Center. Like many de-urbanized—but also revitalizing—contexts in St. Louis (and across the US), Grand Center encompasses a nexus of vacant blocks amidst prominent academic anchors and significant arts related institutions, businesses, residential neighborhoods and non-profit entities. The site is further overlaid by a mix of political, economic and regulatory overlays, but it also falls within a broader context inflected by pressing environmental and social imperatives. The studio was offered at a time when many older urban centers in the US are beginning to rebuild, leveraging (among other things) their various institutions as anchors to celebrate and build upon. Grand Center’s identity draws directly from its cultural assets: its many prominent arts and performance venues like the Fox Theater, Powell Hall, the Sheldon Concert Hall, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Public Media complex, many others—all located in buildings whose unique designs are commensurate with their stature, yet largely stand as objects in a vacant landscape. It is a fact though, that Grand Center is also shaped by a number of conditions underlying all American cities: These include a context of social inequity and tensions (as activists said, “Ferguson is everywhere”); an uneven pace of economic recovery since the recession in 2008, coupled with a political economy that fiscally (and legally) constrains local governments’ abilities to implement projects and create opportunities for rebuilding. Environmental imperatives stemming from air and ground water pollution and aging sewer infrastructures, among other issues, are also impacting planning choices. While the studio embraces the myriad redevelopment potentials at Grand Center, students were also asked to come to terms with the reasons and policies that led to Grand Center’s initial de-urbanization and plight. As students mapped and conceptualized futures for the site @ Grand Center, questions of their own and others’ positionality became an important part of the design details and planning process.
Restricted Access Book
Washington University in St. Louis
Architecture | Urban, Community and Regional Planning
Heyda, Patty, "The Art of Life @ Grand Center St. Louis: Spring 2016 Graduate Architecture Studio: Urban Analysis and Design" (2018). Books and Monographs. 43.