A Vertical Transect / Context Elevated
I’ve been fussing around with a context-sensitive/form-based code for more urban neighborhoods for several years now. I’ve worked on creating many codes for small towns (San Marcos, CA and TX), new towns (Whitehall in New Castle County, Delaware), sections of mid-sized cities (El Paso) across the county, and downtown San Diego. And, it’s here in San Diego that I see the need to craft a code for tall buildings that better reflects our 21st century context.
Over a century ago, Louis Sullivan, HH Richardson and others rebuilt Chicago after its fire using the new construction technology that steel brought to building. That combination of steel and fire led to the creation of the tower as a new building type. Being without precedent then, these neo-classical, romanesque, and gothic revivalist smartly relied upon the classical column structure to design towers with a base, shaft, and cornice.
Today this classical configuration still seen in the now ubiquitous Vancouver Point Tower Model.
The Vancouver Point Tower as Applied in San Diego. Image: Howard Blackson
Today, after 100-plus years of building these classically arranged towers a vertical context exist. And, we’ve worked very hard since the 60’s modernist crescendo to get tower construction at the street level to be humane (see this old blog on the topic). I first got the idea from Jan Gehl’s book, Cities for People, and these great diagrams.
This new context is based on the following transect zones: Human connectivity is the primary objective in the street zone (floors 1 – 6), which transitions up to the facing blocks (floors 3 – 12), up again towards the surrounding city views levels (floors 9 – 20), and finally at the regional vistas (above 20 floors). These four context zones have differing design responses to consider as the now the building can reach down toward street rather than always soaring to the sky.
As applied to a Vancouver Point Tower in downtown San Diego. Image: Howard Blackson
The following diagram was an initial study into how to use the SmartCode template to regulate more urban buildings where their fronts/back, below/above, and middle zones could be designed in context to cultivate urban living that is human oriented rather than mechanical elevator-oriented. What do you think?
Borrowing from the SmartCode, a Context-Sensitive Code for 3-Dimensional Urbanism
And, we are continuing to study this approach that lends itself to coding for a specific San Diego model and moves beyond the Vancouver point-tower lite urban model.
Precedent Images Attempting to Define a San Diego Architectural Vernacular for Towers
And, finally, just because I drew it… here’s another inspiration for getting towers’ grounded into its context, a metaphor if you will.
I drew it so I put in my blog… otherwise it’s not much to look at. Image: Howard Blackson
Howard Blackson, CNU-A is the Chairman of the California Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism and is the Director of Urban Design for Placemakers. He blogs at www.placemakers.com/placeshakers and tweets at https://twitter.com/hblackson.