Design in Small Increments, Even When Building Big Projects

Designing in small increments, even when building in big chunks is not easy, but these ideas help: Subdivide First, Design Streets, Make Places, Design Boundaries. They can also guide the design of many different projects in Georgia: shopping malls, hospitals, university campuses and much more.

Until about 50 years ago, building towns and cities in Georgia and across America followed a common pattern. Most everyone agreed, even if tacitly, how a city was built and how it appeared. A clear and orderly framework of lots and blocks and streets came first. This framework was filled in, incrementally, either quickly or gradually, with many different buildings, activities and people. General James Oglethorpe’s Savannah is a great example, but the downtowns in Georgia were built the same way.

Now, we often build towns and cities by building “projects,” as Jane Jacobs would call them:  ballparks, big box stores, hospitals, justice centers and even schools. A challenge to architects is how to design these big projects in small increments.

Sport stadiums are good examples to learn from. Take Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. It has the four characteristics of most big projects:

Single purpose – only about baseball and game day activities.
Inwardly focused – turns its back to the adjacent neighborhood; everything happens on the inside.
Barriers and buffers – separated from, not joined to the adjacent neighborhood.
Isolated – surrounded by surface parking lots with more than 3000 spaces.

turner field

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