I am fortunate everyday that I picked the downtown south site since it s teaching me every single day about the importance of looking at the Bigger picture.As an Architecture student this was definitely a learning curve for me in the Literal sense.As we started with redesigning streets,traffic flow and pedestrian movement along the heavily-trafficated Las Vegas Boulevard and then we slowly moved into building design.Sites like these always make me wonder why repetition, affordability and sustainability is so important. I have certainly benefited by asking myself the question what the form of the buildings on site wants to be with respect to context,location and sustainability. As I had started thinking of the “form” of the commercial mixed use buildings it was very important to stand out as an attraction but yet blend in the veterans addition,residential buildings and the overall site.This project has helped me understand the importance of team-work.I think any creative field that gets monopolized by the view of one person; it becomes stagnant.It is then just the perspective of one person. Here in our project we have all added a little bit of ourselves to the canvas of Downtown South. I have been working all day today and I can say things are looking pretty promising.
P.S: Here is a picture showing the charector and the language of the Downtown South 3rd st.
We are almost reaching towards the end of the semester.It Definitely feels like we have come a long way. From the initial master-plan to our current proposal we have come a long way. I am in a team with Arch Graduate students Bogdan(Bogie), James, Zaneta and our only interdisciplinary team-mate 5th year LA student Sarah Jensen. We are the team Re-Vegasizers!
It has been a great experience to work with all my team members on an Urban Design proposal.What makes our “Downtown South” proposal challenging and Interesting is its location.As we are dividing tasks as a team we have jumped from the Macro scale to the Micro scale.Working on the Corridor-Plaza area( still searching for a good name) All of us have been going back and forth so that the designs for each zones that we have started developing have a dialogue amongst one another as a cohesive design proposal.
The timely feedback given by Ken and my teammates have been tremendously helpful.I have learnt a great deal from this exercise. While thinking of the “Mixed use commercial buildings” location, the main takeaway was to provide shade (The pedestrian footpath is facing the western side) and make the 3rd street stretch more active. By looking at precedents of the Victory hotel’s covered arcaded walkway I thought that here is a perfectly great breezeway which also acts as a shaded inviting entrance. We have all envisioned having a design that honors the historic design language of Las Vegas but yet something that fits right in the contemporary sense.Several tenets shaped the concept design of the Mixed use commercial buildings along 3rd:
The new commercial building façade includes an exterior curtain sunshade system that is designed to mitigate the western solar exposure, utilizing horizontal louvers that protect against excessive heating and enrich internal glare control.
How do these tie to our New Goals?? (We did RE-define our goals too!)
As we are inching towards the finish line we are acting upon tasks that would explain these goals better! It includes making the Sectional Model..The Miniature Master Plan model, basically every piece of Information that would strengthen our narrative that is for the betterment of the Downtown South area!
Last Friday we were fortunate to have a fresh set of eyes for our intermediate presentations.Our Professor Ken Mc Cown walked us through a pre-presentation practice which helped us gather our thoughts for our external reviewer Benjamin Shirtcliff.Ben has a background in Urban studies wh0 gave us great feedback on how to go forward.
We worked on developing our Master plan further into varied levels of specificity.The Downtown South team divided our tasks into various zones.Ben and Ken advised us overall that the Master plan design needed Singularity and cohesiveness with respect to the Density of Residents and Density of Veterans.Since one of our main decision making factors was “Re-Densifying” Downtown South, Dealing with the density of Veterans and their proximity to the plaza needs to be considered. Noise is also a factor that needs to be tackled since the Veterans village expansion is so close to main plaza connector.
The good news is a lot our moves got good responses in the Review.The Downtown South Corridor would be activating the existing islands of random Palm trees as well as it would be an extension of our Mixed use plaza area( Commercial+Residential). Please refer to image below.
Graphics convey our ideas so much. I think moving forward as we are getting deeper in the Master plan we need to iron out a template for cohesiveness in the Master plan.We need to work on developing details of these specific areas( Residential units, Traffic plans, 3rd St Plaza, Veterans Village,Downtown South Corridor…whew!) Lots to take in and Lots to work on but its only going to get better from here! 🙂
Looking ahead-“RE”-vitalizing Downtown South
We have formed our teams!!
To go back in time… Last week was a roller coaster ride with trying to figure out teams after the 36 Hour Charrette.
To go farther back in time our studio presented a quick 36 hour charrette and broke into teams with 3 different sites in Downtown. Our site in specific was the team that dealt with the Downtown south area of Las Vegas. We identified our site Objectives and goals for the rest of the semester. I feel that it’s very important to set goals in the start since as we delve deeper it is easy to deviate from our goals.
Our Goals for downtown South:
Walkability, Improved Veteran’s village housing, Urban Agriculture, Engaging and activating the neighborhood, improving connectivity to downtown Las Vegas!
I am actually very excited to actually be involved in an Urban Design project. So as intimidating as these goals are, I think with great collaboration comes great Design! I think by brainstorming we have enabled the start of something new. A new way of looking at downtown Las Vegas.
We are looking into proposing a central plaza area that fills the empty lots that exist on site. The plaza will house mixed use high residential and commercial facilities. Pedestrian scale will be flanked by storefronts and trees. The area of study is still sort of being determined. To the east we have the Extremely busy Las Vegas Blvd,To the west we have the 3rd street and to the south we have the area which has islands of palm trees and as my professor likes to call it..The area where people play the video game frogger in real life. The real struggle for a pedestrian is that there is a sea of traffic all around and no good way finding to get from Las Vegas Blvd to the 3rd or the 4th street.
The images below show what conceptual vision we have for the entrance and the quality of street and a more pedestrian level.
As we delve deeper our future objectives are to come up with Individual master plans for the whole site. Figure out what the islands in a sea of crossroads wants to be and finalize a rock solid proposal for our next presentation. The south of our site is a potential for many revenue generating ventures. So affordable youth hostels and good hotels is also an added program that needs to be planned on our site.
Every line we draw on that master plan needs to have a meaning and a purpose. Which is why rapid individual diagram charrettes are something that I have found the most effective especially in a site this vast!
Our Studio finally got an opportunity to go to Las Vegas and visit our sites. After being physically present in the space it was extremely helpful and exciting to experience the spirit of Downtown Las Vegas. I think visiting the sites and absorbing all the information was something that made me very excited about Designing as we move forward.
We first visited Site 2 and had a great meeting with Arnold. As an architect himself he spoke about the challenges faced by him while designing low cost affordable housing for the Veterans program. The site 2 has a mixed context with strip malls, wedding chapels and Veteran’s village. As we walked down Las Vegas Blvd I noticed that the distance that we walked was probably similar to the magnificent mile. However I felt like I walked a longer distance and it was more noticeable because the stretch needs activation. Walkability is also something that needs improvement on site 2.Also having researched Demographics, Housing is the need of the hour in Las Vegas Downtown.We visited Courtney at the city hall and spoke to her about the historic Victory Hotel in Site 1.The proximity to the Golden Nugget and the Prison was something that needs to be tackled. The amazing art trail experience was also close to site 1. Overall both sites have great potential for possibilities like adaptive reuse, sustainable housing, commercial and residential ventures.
One thing that intrigued me a lot was the character of Downtown. We were put up at the El Cortez hotel right next to the Fremont Street Experience and the awesome Container Park. The Downtown Project was the vision of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.From buying a Burning man exhibit and placing it at the entrance of container park to bringing art into the arts trail were great decisions in terms of space activation. It brings people together and makes a great place to hang out.
In other news I loved this place called Insert coins. A 90’s video game store with a bar in the central space. I could not have asked for more. Las Vegas Downtown was an absolute delight and the fact that I didn’t feel like talking about the strip at all was something that we should take a note of.
Las Vegas is an Oasis in a desert. Thus the numbers I found while researching resonate the same feeling.If we compare the population density of Las Vegas with the city of Nevada, the numbers on the images above show that both our sites are dense. Our Professor KenMcCown pointed out rightfully that the rent numbers in these sites are also a factor we should consider. The average median income per year in both the sites is around 20,290$ and if we compare this with the average rent which is 816$ we can see that the numbers show that they are low income groups. Thus affordable housing or proposals that involve community building activities would be something that we must consider while proposing a solution.
Both our sites have close proximity to the downtown and they have a very high rate of homelessness. So as we think of the program as a whole I think as designers we need to address “Public” needs. The city transports its homless population back and forth throughout the day as they are legally not allowed to sleep/rest in the downtown vicinity. So as we carve our proposals for what the program wants to be, we can definitely address the needs of the Public as a whole.Another important feedback given by one of my colleagues named Will was it would be helpful to find out the ratio of homelessness pertaining to our sites.This is again important because as a community design project these numbers will actually help us come up with sensible solutions.
Education is another important factor.If the people in the community have a higher education rate it will be beneficial for improving the quality of life in the neighborhood.We can see from the charts below that both our sites have low rates of higher education.education. Las Vegas has so many conventions per year. One of the ideas we could think of could be trying to engage the educated visitors coming for conventions into the community. Talks by successful people would be good to bridge the gap that exists today in the way Las Vegas is designed. The charts below show us that it is important to have facilities which encourage the youth to be involved in higher education.
As we found useful data on the education, Prof.McCown shared with us another vital information.He says that Las Vegas has one of the lowest rate of education in the whole country. This is directly tied to our next research finding. We studied the Crime rate index for both our sites. We then compared it with the state of Nevada. We found that the crime rate Index for the State of Nevada is 120 and that for one our sites is 414. I believe Educational and Social awareness is necessary for controlling the crime rates in any community.There are organizations like CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) who work with neighborhoods to better the existing quality of life.Their work involves proposing urban infill in existing structures by making the city more pedestrian friendly.
Moving forward we need to refine our Maps and graphics and channelize the mere numbers we find on demographics towards our program. The Maps play a very important role as having never been to Las Vegas, they make you aware of the various locations we might have missed. There is a homeless center just across the highway that could be beneficial to track as its path passes our site. This is why context is very important and as we focus on our two sites we need to make sure that we do not forget the surrounding context. Not just the Downtown but also the neighborhoods that live in the north of our sites.
Learning About Las Vegas History
The start of this week was a very productive one. This Studio is definitely helping me learn about Las Vegas as a city that has gone through many layers. Just like any other settlement the origin and the history of Las Vegas is very simple. Man will settle where he finds two main resources – Water and a means of generating Power. As my colleagues walked me through the history of Las Vegas from the 1800s to today’s contemporary times.
Other historical factors at the scale of the Valley learned about:
-the railroad revolution and its effects on the city.
-how the Boulder dam came into formation and how the town grew from east and south is also something else I learned.
-The importance of the gambling industry and how it still affects community structure of Las Vegas today.
The Form based code presentation was very informative. The sites we are looking at are both under the transects of becoming an Urban core/Urban center. This is important because the sites presently are dense areas with a lot of developments in the pipeline. So the Form based code is actually a future vision for both sites eventually becoming an Urban Center.
The Transects in a Form based code have rules that involve factors like mid-rise buildings that are 24 storeys high. It is interesting to learn about these factors pertaining to our Studio project as eventually this is how cities are built. All these factors are interconnected. The history of a place is directly related to the demographic data. Its character defining elements related to its Economic drivers.
As I come back from my trip to India, I am slowly and steadily easing into my studio work at Iowa State for my spring semester. This is going to be an interesting semester as our studio this year is a project in Las Vegas which is looking at “Community design in the Historic and Contemporary context of Las Vegas”. Our sites live in the middle of the Casino center downtown and the well-known Las Vegas Strip”.
Having born in the late eighties I have enjoyed watching innumerable movies showing the Las Vegas strip, its glamorous lights and its inviting signage’s. I remember watching the movie Leaving Las Vegas by Mike Figgis, where Nicholas Cage moves to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. It is very interesting to note that even though as a work of fiction, Figgis touches upon the contemporary issues of Las Vegas. A city that lives in a desert caters to many such missions. It communicates to visitors coming from all over the world. As I was gearing up for my graduate studies in Iowa, Las Vegas was definitely on my list of places to visit in the US.
Context, Context, Context!
The community and the sites we will be working with are already experts in the subject of contemporary Las Vegas. We are given two sites one is along the brand new “Arts Trail”, the other is just north of the strip. Having done my due diligence on the web I realize the scale of vastness surrounding Las Vegas looking at an aerial google map. It is however the signages that communicate with you at a personal scale. It is what they show in movies and what I would see when I go to Las Vegas. As I venture deeper into researching demographics and population density, the fact that our sites are so close to the pop culture action is challenging. The signages, the plush hotels and the demographics of residents and non residents of Las Vegas will play an important role in carving out our program. The coming weeks will determine what the program wants to be. I cannot wait to get cracking on that.I am also happy that i will get to see Las Vegas in a whole new light with our upcoming field trip.
My interest in the field of designing has been burgeoning right since the first sketch I made in school which led to an increase in and around the field by active participation in inter-school drawing competitions. This indeed drove me towards architecture at very young age. Exploring, understanding, researching and designing for five years of my graduation studies at Dr.B.N.College of Architecture, Pune has helped in developing my interest in these basic modules of architecture..The Graduate Architecture Program at Iowa State has only furthered this interest and channelized my passion for Sustainable design.This website is an avenue for me to showcase and talk about things i am passionate about!! This is very gratifying and something that doesn’t seem to be a chore to me