Defining A New Threshold Between Airport and City
Olivia Lu-Hill @University of Michigan [Masters of Architecture- Thesis Spring 2017, Studio Professor – Dr. John McMorrough]
This project re-designs the operation and circulation of airports to better integrate into cities and proposes a new form of urbanism based on multiplicity and travel. Recalling the original condition of airports as airfields which blended into their surrounding context without any barrier, this project designs an airport which better blends into its urban context.
As airports began to develop in cities, security demands increased they became more and more closed off and they began to funnel passengers through a singular entrance. This project re-designs La Guardia Airport in New York and rejects singular entrance “funnel type” airports and instead blends into the city through a multiple elevators which follow the urban grid, a more “sieve type” entrance, security and circulation model.
Above the elevator entrances there is a series of gridded moving sidewalks which allows the city below to build up and through the airport as well as for airport concessions to expand infinitely outward into its context. The circulation brings passengers elevators which go downward to cross shaped concourses below on the tarmac. The overall advantage of this strategy is a more porous design which prevents rubbernecking when entering and exiting airports and better integration of the airport into the urban grid.
What defined the language of representation of the project? What is the effect and purpose of the colour palette?
In the development of this project I played with several different options for representation, from realistic renderings to collages before finally settling on an illustrative style. I find projects which are illustrated are more productive for academic conversations because they are more diagrammatic.
This diagrammatic form of representation was useful in designing something as large and complex as an airport. I also find illustrations allow for a lightness and public appeal which is usually not brought to a proposals for large public infrastructure such as an airport. As far as color,I used the pink and purple as a take on a gray scale gradient. By disciplining my color choices to be limited within this range I was able to show shadow and depth in a similar way to a grayscale shading but with more personal authorship and tone. The colors also give off the sense that the time of day is dusk or twilight, which I felt was fitting for an airport of the future.
How important were the physical model explorations for the development of the project?
Many of the physical models explorations were quick early massing studies to experiment with different massing and forms. Airport forms fall in to a number of organizational typologies and I was using these quick studies to experiment with combining and reshuffling those typologies to come up with a new organization.
What was your work process in terms of concept development, 3d model, and image?
First doing lots of research on precedents and existing airports to understand their circulations and organizations. Then I modeled, mostly digitally, but also some physical modeling to come up with my own take on a new airport massing. Then after digitally modeling I would carefully choose each shot and illustrate on top of the rendering to add tone and personality to each image.
What prompted the project and in specific La Guardia airport?
Modern airports are becoming more and more their own cities through growing larger and more independent from the destinations they serve.Therefore to foil this I wanted to choose an existing airport on a site in a dense city. La Guardia is in Queens, NY and due to its location in a dense neighborhood and adjacency to water it does not have room to expand. Additionally La Guardia is one of the oldest airports in the US, and has an interesting history. In the 1940s it served as an airfield, and blended seamlessly into the surrounding cow farmland. It also hosted many diverse types of aircraft including seaplanes, and blimps. I was interested in the concept of how to bring back the seamless “air-field” concept and integrate the airport into a city instead of shutting off from it, additionally I was interesting in keeping up with the historic tradition of a diverse types of aircraft. This is why the project draws from the urban grid of it’s surrounding area in Queens and hosts a diverse range of aircraft, including vertical take-off and landing spacecraft.
From the images of Renoir in your last project featured on our platform to Star Wars tropes amongst others- what defined your take on the architecture silhouette? How and to what extent do these effect our perception of the architecture?
I am glad that you asked this question, tone and entourage have been a big part of my illustrations and representation of projects throughout graduate school. I use cultural references for three major reasons, first it allows me to be more specific about who I am designing for, second it helps me design for a context and create a narrative, and thirdly it allows architecture to be in dialogue with a larger cultural context.
By placing Star Wars characters and spaceships in my project, I am indicating how and by whom the space might be used. My belief is design is better when created for a specific user in mind, even when that when that user is fictitious. Even Darth Vader, has very specific air/space port needs. Through referencing a movies or art pieces I am integrating my project into a context. Most architecture is designed for a “real-world” context, however, when thinking about the future or past the best understanding of the context are the ones we understand from cultural references such as paintings, books or movies.Therefore the context my project is designing to integrate into are the accounts of the future that we have, sci-fi movies such as Star wars, and Back to the Future. Lastly I like relating architecture to many of the other creative disciplines such as art and cinema, because it creates an interdisciplinary dialogue which can bring about new conversations and unexpected adjacency.