Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Challenge

Bikes…and other stuff, too

As could be expected, my capstone is going to involve bikes. Hell, if I could just bike around the Twin Cities for months, somehow record where I’ve gone and call that a project, I probably would. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to happen, and it certainly wouldn’t be helpful for launching a career (unless I become a bike messenger).

For context, in the last iteration of this document from the end of last semester, I was predictably all about biking. More specifically, about biking in the urban environment. However, I think to focus only on the circulation of cyclists would be limiting. Furthermore, my modus operandi in studio projects thus far has been to systemically subjugate the eminence of automobile circulation in many contexts. That is to say, I like biking, but beyond that, I’m frustrated with the predominance of the automobile in places that might not be appropriate for automobile circulation.

So, I love bikes and I hate cars. Well, what the hell does that mean, deconstructed, and how do I build a project out of that?

Project Frame:

As I’ve learned over the past years in looking at how urban movement works, I’ve noticed that there is no one single solution to transportation. Bikes are great for most things, but you certainly can’t use a bike to go massive distances. Also, cars work well for most applications, but driving and parking an automobile can be costly (both in terms of time and money) in a dense urban area, not to mention the myriad of problems with petrol as an energy source. Two lines of thought logically follow from these observations:

  1. Each mode of transportation has an optimal context; a use for which it is most well suited. For example, Light Rail is most efficient when it is implemented on corridors that connect nodes in a metropolitan area, and can get up to high speeds between stops that are spaced 2+ miles apart.

  2. For any given area (commercial corridor, neighborhood, site, etcetera) there is a suite of transportation modes that most well suites it’s context. That is, given a place’s situation within a larger context (metropolitan area, special district, or otherwise), there are specific types of transportation that should be present. Exempli gratia: the highway 35 corridor probably doesn’t need a bike lane, but in addition to automobile lanes, it could probably use a rail line, and maybe a dedicated freight truck route, all punctuated with junctions with feeder systems that could be composed of other modes.

Area of Knowledge:

The planning / regional analysis portion of this project will involve knowledge of networks, network effects, and the policies that favour various transportation types. For example, this may involve some cursory knowledge of the federal transportation fund tax structure that is set up through legislation like SAFETEA-LU, so that the project can address how transportation is currently funded largely by fuel and special exemption taxes and how changes to this mode of thinking look in practice.

The landscape architectural design in a project construct is essentially built-into every aspect of the undertaking, as everything is a design opportunity. More specifically, this means that beyond the 30,000’ thinking that happens in policy-land, design will be utilized to understand and display how these abstract policy/transportation ideas meet the ground. For example: what does it look like when these corridors/modes collide, and how can we use those opportunities as a place to make interesting space that is appreciated by the public and invites interest and investment?

This all equates to ideas that will influence a new urban condition, and new paradigm proposals for urban movement, all displayed through a project that has a finite spatial definition. Id est, I don’t want to redesign the whole world, I want to display a vignette of what these possibilities look like and explore how they can be scaled and implemented elsewhere.

This is the challenge; let’s see where it goes.

Design Process Map

So, this marked the beginning of the semester. Allegedly, this will be a semester in which I am able to refine my research ideas, and figure out just what the hell I'll be doing for the Big Damn Project (aka: Capstone). The first step in this manic process is to figure out how I work, if my habits are healthy/sustainable for the long-haul ahead, and if not, what to change.

Rather than being strictly representative, this is more a reflection of how the last semesters of grad school have felt.

How close is this to my actual design process? Well, I hate to admit, but it's true to form, at least up until now.

What the next months have in store, only time will tell.