The look and use of civic space is derived from the way a society perceives itself at a specific point in time. We can visit civic spaces like Tiananmen Square, Central Park, Piccadilly Circus and understand quickly the kind of society that would have built those spaces. Libraries which were once required institutions and built to last are now being closed at an increasing rate. These parks, libraries, and public squares have changed over time and function in ways now that couldn’t have been conceived of during their construction.

Taking a cue from the batture, my design confronts the perceived permanence of civic space with a design that admits the actual temporality of site and its use. I will make incisions in the batture, allowing the river to start building land again within my constructed framework. The framework is a combination of inlets and vertical structure that manipulates the river to create space that changes over time. I will know how the space looks and operates when first built but as land continues to build over decades the site will act differently than it acts now. The framework is attached to the current civic program but can change for future use.


desoto park: civic // parti // creating a site

These are 4 points of departure for my desoto project. I am trying to determine the most effective approach for moving forward with a project. The parti system of drawing as many variations of a site plan as possible. It gets me to abandon my preconceptions of how a site should look and operate.

I selected these 4 concepts because I think they can work together to make a site that performs as a civic space but has the ability to change topographically. My next step will focus on the details of these 4 concepts interacting and the kinds of spaces they can create.

Site 0006

In my site observation I wanted to develop a characteristic feel for my civic spaces. Walking through the site, the concepts of aperture and remnants seemed important. Water on the site betrays is active nature ie, tire tracks, foot prints, and soil depressions all filled with water. Water gives recognition to features on the site that I might not have noticed otherwise.

Aperture was another feature that came up during my observation. The way the site never reveals its spaces totally. Instead the visitor has to look through thick swathes of tree trunks to find the spaces that exist in the dense vegetation. I think it would be an interesting study to work with apertures where some spaces are revealed to the visitor in different way according to the visitor’s approach.

Site 0.006 // I Can Choose Things

03.28.2012 – I am going to study the site in relation to the civic program. I am going to catalog how space is created on the site. I will walk through the site sketching and notating the various spatial conditions of the site: wide open spaces, dense vegetation, linear spaces. I will look at where and how permanent structures might occupy the site for a civic program.


03.18.2012 – I spent the morning sitting on a rusty deck studying a portion of DeSoto Park I find attractive. A few things came to my mind:
1. The trees growing back over the deck makes for interesting spatial conditions. The space is airy but still feels protected and hospitable.
2. When on the shore you have the river on one side and the pond on the other. I want to look into this condition as a rationale for a civic design on the site.
3. The bird activity on the site makes DeSoto more lively than I would have expected. I’m not going to make a bird sanctuary but I want to look into ways that I can stimulate bird activity without conflicting with program requirements of a civic site.

Baton Rouge Visitor Center Design Post Mortem

The Project

The prompt for this project asked each team to develop a design that used the Visitor Center to connect Downtown Baton Rouge to the Mississippi River just a few hundred feet to the west of the site. In that few hundred feet site has a road, a railroad, a parking lot, and a levee acting as barriers. The term “connection” could had been applied literally as in getting people into the river or getting the river to the site. “Connection” also could mean metaphorically like using the landscape to get the visitor to think about the river and move through the site. We chose to go the metaphorical route.

Below are some shots from the 3ds Max model I use to design our landscape. Our design was relied heavily on topography manipulation and without a 3D model I would have had a difficult time visualizing the spaces in my head. The pedestrian spaces are cut into the banded topography creating a wall condition where the wall, made of cor-ten, runs low and then rises above the heads of the visitors. The ground plane of the pedestrian areas is soften by a pixelated grass edge created from modules of 1 to 4-square-foot modules.

The Review

The review for this project went well but the jury was quick to destroy the site plan, which was my responsibility. The site plan was garish and not in keeping with the other subtle diagrams and representations we created. We did have a helpful with the jurors about how to further develop the scheme and insert more nuance into our concept. Another really helpful tip from the jury was for us to stick to our concept and expand the ways the concept could be applied. If we lose focus of the concept we are more like to create little design quirks that essentially dilute the character that we are trying to create.

Maybe it could have been more subtle?

Another criticism of our design was that it was a completely contrived landscape not relating to Louisiana in anyway. We might have headed off that criticism if we explained that we were trying to improve the performance of the site in a way that the Louisiana landscape is unable to achieve.  We took design cues from the forms created at the river’s edge and amplified those forms on our site to create our topography. This brings up the difference between producing the boards and orally presenting the work. While this idea of performance was described on our boards to some degree, we did not flesh out our concept in a concise way which led to the understandable confusion by our jury.

The site plan did get some negative attention from the jury but the majority of the review was spent talking about our concept and ways to refine its application.  That kind of review is the sign that we were on the right track and produced some interesting ideas. Our ideas did in fact come through despite my blindingly bright site plan.

Topographic Model (Work in Progress)

Parti Diagrams for Visitor Center

These parti diagrams began to form our concept of using topography on the site to connect Visitors to the Mississippi River. The next step is to study batture ecology and river bank formation in order to give our topographic forms a strong connection rather than a contrived connection. The second part of our concept is to explore the square geometry of the surrounding art deco inspired architecture and

The second part of our concept is to explore the square geometry of the surrounding art deco-inspired architecture. One idea is to use the hard geometry of a pixel matrix and have the landscape punctured and perforated to create a softness. This can be done with a combination of planting and adjusting the permeability of the paving.

Architecture Around the Visitor Center

DeSoto Vector Section

Click to View Larger Image

This section illustrates the vector or path I took through DeSoto Park. The photos document the barriers that prevent Baton Rouge citizens from engaging the Mississippi River.

Having no prior experience with Baton Rouge or Louisiana I assumed that the culture was centered around the River. I’ve learned, however, that the River almost completely ignored in the urban design of the city and cultural sensitivity of the citizens. Can anything be built at DeSoto Park that can encourage Baton Rougians to embrace the River.