Peter Culley from Rick Mather Architects/Spatial Affairs Bureau came gave a great lecture the other day.  He discussed different projects of his that represented different ways to best utilize space and accessibility.  I was most fascinated with the first project he discussed, the Southbank Center Masterplan. This project helped to revitalize an important part of London.  The area was nearly deserted because the walkway was above ground with limited accessibility and the area below was seemingly abandoned.  The firm modernized the area by utilizing the space underneath the walkway, as well as providing more clear accessibility to the above-ground walkway.  They worked with the landscape and adapted to the environment.  They provided restaurants below the walkway to provide vibrancy.  This allowed for a way to not only utilize the empty/dead space, but also bring people in to the area, making it a “logical place to be.”  Before, the pedestrian was strangled by upper level walkway and there was no sense that you were supposed to be there.  Today, there is sculpture, markets, and an entire sense of place now with high value.  This seemed like a great success story to me.  It also reminded me a lot of the High Line.

For more info on the Southbank Center:

The High Line used to be an abandoned railroad track until its prominence adaptation to the environment was admired.  The area has brought life back to the old meat packing district/Chelsea area.  It has become a destination area, as well as a providing a “green” space in the middle of a busy city.  The High Line also has restaurants located beneath it so people can interact above or below the tracks.

Culley also discussed the VMFA briefly.  I thought the way they utilized ventilation was interesting.  They use a low-energy approach in gallery spaces.  The ventilation is displaced so that air flows at a slow volume (just below the temp needed and you relyon people to heat it).  The room then uses natural circulation and it comes out and is re-circulated.  The people in the room generate heat and the heat naturally rises.  The supply air at low velocity at the ground, people heat the room and it goes up and is removed at the top.  They use localized ac on the bridges, however, because the air there is stagnant.

Culley provided a great way to utilize systems.  These ideas seem simple, because they are.  Culley’s appreciation for the natural environment has helped his work generate a sense of healthiness in them that allows great accessibility and circulation throughout them.

For more information on Rick Mather/The Spatial Affairs Bureau: