Odense site analysis

The most striking feature of the new city plan for Thomas B. Thriges Street in Odense, Denmark is also the most unnoticed. Beneath the collection of new buildings and squares is a massive underground parking area designed to maximize usable surface area and eliminate the presence of the automobile from the city square.

How we move from above to below provides a starting point to examine how these transitions occur. Is it a straightforward movement, such as a simple staircase, or can we create an articulated design that captures the essence of our vertical travel? The following pie charts show that the most common way to access the underground are by stairs, and the most significant places they lead to are regional urban areas.

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Cross-referencing my observations with the proposed locations of stairwells at the site led me to focus on three areas where an architectural intervention could occur. The Musikhuspassagen, Overgade and Albani Torv are regional urban areas that bisect the site in different locations. The stairwells in these areas are located within the buildings, and the master is not detailed enough to indicate whether these passages are private or public. A series of passages that are publicly-accessible would provide an opportunity to design forms that are free of the dimensional constraints of surrounding buildings and could be placed at central points in the three areas. The passages could serve to entice people into moving either above or below ground through their form and function.
Central to my concept of three vertical passages is the phenomena of interaction, which creates meaning on multiple levels. Interactive architecture acts as the antithesis to the classical practice of creating a static building as an end-result and instead imbues a certain uncertainty through a constantly-changing form. Applying these concepts to the passages, we construct a network of linked nodes that share information between each other in order to determine their form. In this way the passages act not only as a physically constructed object but also as signifiers of social meaning. Paul Dorish describes this situation as “[a]rtifacts and representations carry(ing) different sorts of meanings simultaneously, and activities are caught up in many different tasks at the same time” (Dorish, 123). Using these concepts we can imagine the passages taking on many functions, perhaps acting as waypoints to navigate the massiveness of the site, or as meeting and interaction points for people. These classifications distinguish between the functions of the passages – on the one hand they are constructed architectural entities with a function of transporting people between levels, and on the other hand they are a collection of embodied actions, events, operations and behaviours.
But what criteria would the passages use to create an interactive architectural system? What environmental data are we interested in observing and exploring? Referring back to Oxman’s criticism of sensing being a post-gestural addition in the building process, we must consider these points before we begin to arrive at an architecture that is uninformed by the dynamics of its environment. The Musikhuspassagen, Overgade and Albani Torv areas are designed as vibrant corridors that bustle with various aspects of everyday city life, including open-air markets, cafés and congregation areas. A quick exercise of examining the site plans and renderings from the master plan and making point-form observations of the activities in each area provides us with the following data:
Musikhuspassagen:
  • Public space connecting music and theatre house
  • Fixtures and fittings inviting individual expression – oriented towards older children/adolescents
  • Green space inviting areas to play basketball, rest in hammocks, parkour
  • Thematic elements to preserve the sense of magic theatre-goers have experienced before returning to “reality”
Overgade:
  • Recreates historic city cross-connection and reconnects shopping areas
  • Historical lines of sight
  • Very busy and bustling
  • Cultural supplement in the form of media/info screens
  • Benches for seating
  • Cycle path runs through the area
Albani Torv:
  • Informal meeting and socializing
  • Ties the valley’s landscape together across the square
  • Grass islands with trees to provide sitting areas
  • Can be turned into an area for pavilions/tents
  • Historic area

 

All three areas encourage interaction, transforming them from simple travel corridors into destination points that offer a range of ways to interact with the site. The process of moving from a series of actions to an architectural form is a linear one:
Activities → Interactions → Architecture
In other words, the activities can be used as the elements that dictate the types of interactions we want to see occur, which then in turn will inform the architecture. An examination of the three sites results in a simplified list of the primary activities I want to look at.
Connections – Each area has an explicit purpose of connecting two spaces together – either through a new connection or by reviving a historical one. Each connection carries a story behind it that can be told through building and interaction.
Congregation – Even though each area is a passage that connects one place to another, they invite the traveller to stay and treat the space as a destination point rather than a corridor. Green areas, benches, hammocks and street-level cafés entice people to stay a while.
Communication – It is logical that with congregation emerges communication. The spaces offer spaces where dialogue can emerge from chance encounters or arranged meetings. Our methods of communication can be affected by how we congregate and where we position ourselves within a space.
Play – Further bolstering the concept of urban passages that entice people to stay are the numerous ways that we are encouraged to play and experience each space – through tactile feeling, small environmental tweaking such as islands of grass, parkour and games, we gain a sense of belonging in our surroundings that excites us in different ways and encourages us to explore.
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