A reading of Odense and the city’s new master plan

The current layout of Thomas B. Thriges Street in Odense has been shown to clearly not work. With the advent of the automobile came the expansion and upgrade of roads – once-quiet city spaces were soon overtaken by the roar of engines and horns. In the 1960s a roadway was installed in the heart of Odense to accommodate this new city inhabitant, and it became known as Thomas B. Thriges Street. By placing convenience of privatized travel over the serenity and character of Odense’s central square, city planners bisected the area, creating a disconnect between the two sides.
My visit to Odense last week confirmed what I had learned through research. Arriving at the site, I was immediately struck by the uncomfortable feeling of the street being so close to the area where pedestrians were walking. My first view of Sct. Albani Kirke was arranged through the proximity of roads, concrete and street signs, which did not impress any testament to the history of the site. The extreme conditions of the site made it impossible for me to imagine what stories the site might tell, despite the fascinating architecture of the church. The street, laying directly in front of the church, stopped me from approaching it and disrupted any sense of place the structure should have lent to the site. As I walked along the street, I stepped into the middle to take the “perfect” photo of the church – only to discover that while I was free of nearby taller obstacles, the ugly directional signs for the automobiles still hung directly in front of the church.
Only recently has Odense has taken steps to rectify the problem of Thomas B. Thriges Street. A new master plan for the area has been developed that proposes to remove the street in an attempt to transform the area into an inviting, pedestrian-friendly place. Starting in the north at Østre Stationsgade and moving southward towards Sct. Albani Kirke and Odense Domkirke, a gradient of buildings will occupy part of the space, with larger, modern-looking buildings progressing to smaller, traditional buildings. The choice of progression is in response to allowing Odense to continue to develop as an important hub city in Denmark while preserving the historical dwellings that occupy the area. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum is a notable place surrounded by a specific atmosphere of old houses the reflects the time of the famous author. Underground parking beneath the buildings will serve to acknowledge the importance of the automobile to a city while preventing a noticeable change to the urban landscape.
My interest in the Thomas B. Thriges Street site lays in the area near the two churches. The area currently contains a small surface parking lot and a cobblestone area with a small historical ruin. The master plan states that the area will be occupied by two new commercial block buildings. I would like to remedy the dichotomy between this new built-up area and the two churches through an architectural intervention. Opportunities exist for an inhabitation of the proposed structures, or a completely new plan for the area.
The present way we build architecture has undergone a major change since the times of simple brick-and-mortar construction. Architects increasingly look to digital computation in the pursuit of novel building methods. One method involves the consideration of how we create forms that are influenced by and change with the environment. Neri Oxman, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, talks about a separation existing between “what” a building senses and “how” it does so. Often architects will simply embed sensors into a building as a post-gesture rather than considering how the sensors lend themselves to the sensing elements of a building. Designing with attention to material choice can lead to exploring the role the designed material has in the creation of a “sensing” building. Through these exercises we can tweak the formal expression of a constructed space to unite it with another – in this case, the existing churches. Through careful attention to the way buildings and people sense their environment, I want to continue to expand on the notion of creating architecture that is informed by these actions.

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