Eric Howeler, Architect (Thesis Advisor)
Margaret Crawford, Urban Planner
Shauna Gillies-Smith, Architect, Urban Planner, and Landscape Architect
Mack Scogin, Architect
1- Broaden it Up!
The first thing I wanted to do is to situate my site in ts larger context. After all my project deals with the degraded social and environmental systems of the entire Los Laureles canyon. To do that I began by making some maps showing the current conditions.
First of all, it is important to note that the high real estate prices in Tijuana and the maquiladoras located around the canyon are the main reasons that people from all over Mexico Central and South America move there. Although they do this with a lot energy and determination they move to the riskiest most environmentally sensitive areas. This causes risk to themselves, their property, and the larger ecosystem of the Tijuana river estuary.
The main problems are:
1.1- De-vegetation due to building
1.2- Said de-vegetation creates dangerous soil erosion
1.3- When it rains the polluted water full of sediment moves up stream, disrupting the ecosystem of the estuary
1.4- Because of the topography, the risk involved, and the fact a lot of these are illegal settlements the infrastructure and social services network does not have a wide reach.
2- Yo (Cuido) Los Laureles - I (Care for) Los Laureles
To solve some of the problems above at the canyon level I propose:
2.1- Cut from Risk - cut out houses from places of physical and environmental risk
2.2- Move On Up - Increase densities on appropriate areas
2.3- Pixelate New Community Centers - Make community and housing prototypical centers for building experimentation in the Canyon. These centers bring needed social services and provide space for commercial activity.
2.4- Tie it with Ecology - Create a park out of all the environmentally and otherwise risky areas
3- The San Bernardo Prototype
My site and project serve as prototype for the rest of the community centers. It is a prototype ion that displays an attitude and method of working not one design meant to be replicated.
To design it I will use the principles I learned in my study of landscape urbanism and relational aesthetics (1, 2, 3, 4), and my study of frame and infill. My goal is to create a holistic landscape, urban, and architectural strategy that channels and cleans water, re-vegetates the site, brings needed social services, and creates economic opportunities.
All this while always aware that top-down solutions seldom work in this context. The most important lesson from the frame and infill study as that all the designers, from Cedric Price to James Corner to Teddy Cruz, were strategic on WHAT to design. That is to say that designing for conditions that change over time does not mean that design gets thrown out the window. Giving over control over some parts of the design gives freedom to focus on the careful design of other.
4- Yo (Patron) San Bernardo - I (Pattern) San Bernardo
Now on to the design I presented at midterm. Before I get into it, though, it is important to note how I will be using the Frame and Infill concept. Among my critiques of a lot of the designers that have used it is that the frame, although allowing for change within it, is often rigid and static. It is hard for it to recognize new conditions or change as social/environmental conditions change. It is thus that I am using the Frame along side the idea of Pattern. A basic set of rules that can be applied taking into account local conditions.
As OMA and Field Operations' designs for Downsiew Park, design that changes over time is as much a narrative as it is an object, and here is the narrative for San Bernardo.
4.1- Slow the Water
Create ledges and berms in areas around the site to begin slowing down the water flow that passes through it.
4.2- Drain It
Find the places of major water flow and create some swales to drain water away from the site.
4.3- Compost it / Wetland
Begin a composting center close to the school, this will be used to begin repairing the soil on the site. After the soil by the school recuperates the composting area will change into a water-cleaning wetland. The cleaned water from said wetland would be used in the community for irrigation and the rest released into the arroyo that takes it into the Tijuana river estuary.
4.4- 3-meter modules
Inside the site, do contour plowing trying to re-vegetate beginning with 3m intervals and in some areas working in from there.
Begin to build up streets in the drainage areas. These streets would be done with permeable concrete tiles.
4.6- Community/Commercial Center
On top of the streets (on the drainage areas) you can begin to build the community center, starting from the southern most area of the site and moving north. The center would have the social services this site lacks such as health and adult education.
Space will also be provided to bring in artists from around the burgeoning Tijuana scene. This will bring people from around Tijuana and even tourists, creating local economic opportunities.
I am designing the bulk of the three community centers (allowing for some flexibility)
The houses would then pixelate towards East and West of the street/Community Center and would follow the 3m module set up by the contour plowing. The module for the houses is 3m X 6m and people can build up on them as necessary. I am proposing strategies for three types of housing without designing them fully.
The following are a FEW images from the project. There were of course a lot more including some that take into account the narrative described above and the pixelation of the houses.
Seems to have received generally well. HOWEVER, there is a LOT of work to be done. I need to tighten it up all over the place, Shauna graciously invited me to her office to work on grading and tighten up the landscape. Margaret wants me to be specific on who would move here and why. what are economic and social reasons, etc...
They all also agree that I need to tighten up these areas ASAP to get into the architectural design. They like the holistic approach I have taken to the design but all feel I can focus a bit more. As I said in the description above I am designing the bulk of the community center (leaving room for change) and making a list of menus and tactics to be used in the housing.
I will try to have another midterm/pin up in about a month that deals mostly with the architecture. Although I am not sure what it will look like, I am sure that the design of the building will also use ideas of patterns and what I learned from the frame and infill study.
Now on to the fun part...