Pier Vittorio Aureli’s essay “Towards the Archipelago” is emerging as the critical theoretical text in our section of the Yale Urbanism Studio because of the direct link that Aureli makes between a political (and social) agenda and form. Along these lines, we are going to recalibrate the focus of the studio by foregrounding a socio-political agenda for each emerging scheme. Importantly, the provisional agendas that follow did not anticipate form but were rather scripts that were written after a certain period of messing around with the stubborn dimensional constraints of mid-rise market-driven building types.
The buildings are organized around evenly distributed plazas and parks. Given the overall pattern of the plan, every building fronts an open space and typically five to seven buildings define the edges of each space. Each public space organizes a population of a approximately 600 to 900 people with a relatively even mix of student residents and daytime researchers.
The population that is coalesced around each open space is organized in a neighborhood union that meets once a month in a community room that fronts the square and abuts the neighborhood café. Given the population of each neighborhood, only one retail establishment – the neighborhood café and bodega – is feasible.
Rather than see the limited amount of retail as a negative, concentrating all small scale retail needs such as coffee, newspapers, lottery tickets, cigarettes, gum, and Doritos in one general store is meant to engender a sense of community at the smallest functional scale. It is hoped that entrepreneurial store owners will extend their business to include an outdoor café, beer garden, or karaoke bar to attract residents from nearby neighborhoods.
Occasionally, a building will face two squares. The population of these buildings are free to belong to both neighborhood unions.
Both the research program and student residential units are organized in a connected matrix of double-loaded corridors. Rather than see the double-loaded corridor as an anathema to socialization (see Christopher Alexander et. al. A Pattern Language), the double-loaded corridor is championed as the ideal spatial form for the informal interaction between individuals already aligned by institutional allegiances. Lauded examples include the Infinite Corridor at MIT and the original home of the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, CA (based on Michael Kubo’s important and ground-breaking research).
In both examples, the memoires of researchers cite the spatial context itself as a vital component of the creative environment. Artist communities also tend to favor double-loaded corridors as the ideal social space for interaction because of its immediacy to their individual studio spaces and because it creates an egalitarian and casual gallery to hang on-going work.
The scheme is organized like a stack of pancakes, with the Rand-like research space on the second floor and four floors of student housing above. The corridors are open and continuous with the necessary fire doors between buildings held open with special hardware that closes the doors in case of fire. The corridors and room numbers are organized like streets in a city. North-South corridors are labeled with alphabet letters and East-West corridors are labeled with numbers.
The tone can be anywhere from Koolhaas/Delirious New York (cultural/surrealistic) to Calvino/Invisible Cities (poetic) to a more hard-nosed socio-political theory for the more earnestly and/or pragmatically inclined.
Both a sustainable design and real estate development agenda can build off of these initial narratives.