The Vertical Arcade Prague
Initially informed through speculative themeathisation of the urban context and contextual mappings, the project Vertical Arcade proposes a new interpretation of the traditional ‘arcade’ of the horizontal route to an element of vertical route, wrapping courts of greatly lacking public space and functions associated with the activities of Theatre, Trainstation and Market. The project proposes a ‘hub’ and associated activities as the first major point of entry to the city as a tourist from the Airport. Immediately on arrival the occupant is invited to explore the layers of civic space wrapped by the heavy base of the external arcade.
This new arcade attempts to connect North/ South and East/ West of the site and link into the existing network of the broader urban context of arcade routes. In order to allow for these connections, the existing rail lines of Na Florenci station are lowered under the ground informing a primary North/ South circulation route connecting the layers of arrival platform, market court, existing station as public space, arrival court, theatre, higher arcade retail and viewing platform.
Within this new urban block, the occupant is invited to explore the hierarchy of layers and their associated spaces from the initial datum of the existing street level. The weight of the proposed arcade ‘wrapping’ these public court spaces is expressed in its material composition as a method of emphasising its public nature and connection to the underground activities whilst the higher layers of the arcade are expressed as a lighter framework for possible future expansion, this framework also acts as a connective framing device to the immediate and broader context. To elaborate on the emphasised material qualities of the project, a book of materials seen in the public spaces of prague and a series of studies relating to the best method in which to represent the layers of the project in a hierarchical manor was explored.
Who influences you graphically?
The work of James Stirling was particularly influential as the use of axonometric projection became a great tool in the exploration of ideas within the project. Also ,particularly because the project was situated in Prague, the material qualities of Joseph Plečnik’s drawings were helpful in forming a better understanding of the context. In general architects with a strong connection to context and attention to the craft of making [hand-drawing, sketching, model-making etc.] heavily influence the formation of my graphic style.
What defined the various drawings through which you reveal the project? How does each one talk about singular aspects of the project?
Within the chair at TU Delft, an emphasis on narrative and the formation of a narrative ensures that each drawing , be it a sketch, a conceptual collage or view, forms part of that story line, each drawing reveals another aspect of the process. Thus, a variety of drawing styles are employed in order to reveal something different, for example it was important to emphasis the connection to the ground plane and the existing lineage of the arcade’s ‘place’ in Prague; so the creation of drawings that view from that datum upward ensured the legibility of this aspect of the story.
It was important to the project that each drawing was not simply another ‘view’ but rather another line of the narrative.
How important was the initial sketch in defining and starting to address the project?
The initial sketch was essentially the key to the project, at first the idea of how to address the existing rail lines on the site seemed to the most difficult aspect to tackle, but through a simple examination of the existing palimpsest of architectural layers in the context (through sketching), it became possible to view the project as a series of ‘stagings’ from arrival at the site by train from the airport to spaces in which the occupant is aligned with views of the city and beyond. Sketching became a very quick testing ground for how these spaces might inter-
What is the effect and purpose of the format through which you present each drawing?
Each drawing and photograph is presented as a moment within the project. It was important that the format allowed for a clear reading of each of these moments within the formation of a narrative. The choice of views or drawings was carefully considered in order not to create a distracting or in-direct drawing format but rather to present or frame a strong concept. It was more of a personal decision/ direction to inform a rather solid architectural intervention thus it was easier to frame a subject with a very definite personal view point.
What tools did you use to explore the project, from levels of research to the crafting of the project itself?
Literature was a very important initial aspect of the research. The work of Christian Norberg Schulz, Colin Rowe and the book ‘Prague Passageways and Arcades’ gave a really important pre-site visit grounding to the project. Particularly because of the strong material qualities of the city, the use of photography became important in the recording of the special nature of the city. During the design phase the creation of physical models allowed a true exploration of the projects spacial qualities, this combined with a process of layering drawings + photographs helped in the ‘crafting’ of this project.
Could you expand a bit more on ‘ a book of materials seen in the public spaces of prague and a series of studies relating to the best method in which to represent the layers of the project in a hierarchical manor was explored.’?
From the first visit to Prague it became immediately clear that any project within the ‘old’ city would require a very sensitive material approach, with this in mind I created a book of all the existing materials and material patterns within the context, from which it was first possible to justify architectural moves that accepted these patterns or moved against them, but mostly this examination allowed for a better understanding of the architectural grain of the city. The final views were entirely influenced from this material documentation.