Copenhagen, Denmark has become one of the most sustainable cities in the world.  From its “five finger plan” to its walkability, it sets a standard for how cities should be designed.  This mixed use project seemed interesting to me because it represents the kind of innovation that was discussed in the Newman reading.

“The building is designed in compliance with the highest standards of the new Danish energy code. The building uses a mixed system of mechanical and natural ventilation, a high performance glass facade and other environmentally sustainable systems, such as sea water cooling. The heat gained in the building will be used to heat the public spaces in winter.” (Arch Daily)

This integration of different systems and way of thinking is so impressive and sets a tone for architecture in the 21st century.  In my Architectural Theory course we discuss the Industrial Revolution and mass production.  During this time people were just trying to spit out a product in the fastest amount of time.  This resulted in “cookie-cutter” homes along a curvilinear street. I think it is interesting how architecture is beginning to change and become more patient through time and technology.  Sustainability takes time and effort, however in the long term this effort will pay off immensely.  This new project represents the importance of systems and how they can be connected to one another and begin to help shape a better system of living.

I am hoping to study abroad in Denmark next Fall to learn more about their sustainability efforts and experience what it is like living in such an urban environment.


The solar window for the summer solstice is from about 8 am to 4 pm.  In the winter, the solar window is from about 9 am to 3 pm. However, because the area is surrounded by many obstructions, such as trees, the area is often shaded in different places.  For example, in the morning the A-School East Addition (by W.G. Clark)) hides an early sunrise.  At around noon a large tree blocks the sun for about an hour.  In the winter the obstructions would not be as much because the trees will lose their leaves.

This area is a very comfortable place to sit and work outside, which can provide a great place to sit and read or do drawings for class.  This is important because it is located right by the art school, art museum, the architecture school and the president’s house.  The trees obstruct the sunlight at various times so the sun is not too harsh.  The fairly large solar window is also optimum for architecture students who are taking pictures of their models.  I often take pictures of my models here because it is not only close to studio, but because of the great light you can get in late morning and afternoon.  It is also helpful because I can take pictures of my models in the same place at different times to compare the different angles that are made in my model.   The solar window of the area provides a comfortable atmosphere for people to sit and relax among the trees.

It can be assumed that there is a reliable breeze from the southwest in the summer and a breeze from the north in the winter.  The obstructions on the site would block some of the breeze in the summer; however the trees help to provide cooling in the area.  In the winter, the architecture school blocks the breeze in the winter so it is not too cold.  The space benefits from its obstructions.  The trees help for proper cooling in the summer time and the architecture school helps to block a cold wind during the winter. ( This is also nice for taking photos of your models because the wind is never so harsh that is knocking your work over…)

Forman discusses the ecologically “optimum” patch shape as being, “’spaceship shaped,’ with a rounded core for protection of resources, plus some curvilinear boundaries and a few fingers for species dispersal.” (32)  I think Charlottesville as a whole is a very connected city compared to most.  While the university a large patch, it is just one of many connected patches.  Sporting arenas and events, museums, adult classes or historical tours are all just some of the corridors and fingers that connect the patches of Charlottesville together.  Newman talks about using a ‘systems lens’ to focus our attention on relationships and processes. This in turn, Newman notes, “gives a better understanding of emergent properties and the complexity of living systems.”  Newman also notes the importance of context because everything is connected.   So, in response to the readings, I decided to zoom in and out of the patches that make up Charlottesville. 

The Downtown Mall:  The Downtown Mall is one of the pride and joys of Charlottesville.  Its renovation brought it to be one of the top pedestrian malls in the country.  It has brought people in from all over and provides a great escape from the college town.  The mall also hosts farmer’s markets that help to benefit the local economy, promoting sustainability as Newman discusses.  In the Forman reading, Forman discusses how removal of a patch “reduces the size of a metapopulation (i.e., an interacting population subdivided among different patches), thereby increasing the probability of local within-patch extinctions, slowing down the recolinzation process, and reducing stability of the metapopulation.”  (22).  The Downtown Mall also has an ice rink.  This rink is the only one for about 60 miles (at Liberty University).  As a member of the club ice hockey team, I am a part of the smaller system that makes up the rink.  Many people utilize the rink, from the UVA men and women’s team, local youth hockey teams, adult leagues, figure skaters, IM broomball, and even the JMU ice hockey team.  In 2010, the ice rink went bankrupt and was going to close forever.  All of these people, including myself, were devastated that we would not be able to play anymore.  However, we later found out that one of the owners of a restaurant on the Downtown Mall bought the rink.  He has since utilized the rink to the best of its abilities, turning it into a soccer field and performance venue for music and UFC events in the summer, and rink during hockey season.   The ice rink, and the downtown mall, are examples how one patch can greatly affect many other patches.

The Lawn: The Lawn is a large, central patch.  It provides a protection for the greater system of Charlottesville.  If the system of the Lawn were to fail, the structure of the university would weaken because less students, tourists, and educators would come.  The lawn also provides as a gathering space for the townspeople and college students.  For example, on Halloween the people of Charlottesville bring their young children to Trick-or-Treat on the lawn.  This provides interaction between the two societies, providing more integration.  Noble, the Lawn dog, would also not have such a safe place to wander around.  That abnormally large squirrel that sits on the lawn rocking chairs would need to find a new place to live.  This is a very important patch with fingers in every direction, but not too many.  The edges a hard that people walk along them and provide a space for people to gather.   Corridors subtly penetrate these edges through different times.

Carr’s Hill/Campbell Hall:  Forman discusses how, “increased edge abruptness tends to increase movement along an edge, whereas less edge abruptness favors movement across an edge” (29).  An example of these abrupt edges can be seen with Carr’s Hill and Campbell Hall.  Campbell Hall has many edges surrounding it in all directions, making it difficult to find.  This hard edge also makes it difficult to practice the sustainability Newman discusses.  These edges should become more flexible and less abrupt in order to attract those outside of the A-School within.  In discussion, we discussed Carr’s Hill and its connectivity.  Recently, with the construction of the new theater, pathways have become disconnected.  The construction blocks off main paths to the parking garage and Lambeth.  In turn, this provides a greater danger because A-Schoolers tend to stay late at night and would have to walk an even longer route in the dark.  This disconnection also forces people to only walk on one side of the building, rather than explore alternate routes.

disconnection and abrupt edges

These readings helped me to understand how individual systems can work better when they work with the systems around it.  Charlottesville has many patches that rely on one another that if one becomes disconnected, the system weakens.


Newman,Cities as Ecosystems, Ch.5;

Forman, Landscape Ecology Principle


For this weeks assignment we were asked to develop a sun diagram and develop a understanding between the sun path and the site.  The site I chose was ‘Mad Bowl,’ which is a field located between Madison Avenue and Rugby Road in Charlottesville, Virginia.

What times of the year and times of day make up the primary solar window?

The area I studied for this assignment was ‘Mad Bowl’ and the buildings that make up its edges.  Being such a large space, there is little sun obstruction upon the area.  This provides for a fairly large primary solar window that lasts between just before 8 am to about 5 pm in the summer months. This means that the actual sun is only being obstructed just after sunrise and a few hours before sunset. In the winter months, the sun is lower in the sky and is more obstructed by the surrounding edges, providing a smaller solar window over the area.

How might you respond to this as an architect with respect to the siting and orientation of your meeting place?

‘Mad Bowl’ is primarily used for sporting events and practices.  It provides a large space with natural lighting for athletes to practice on.  However, with such strong sun exposure during the day, it can be dangerous to be under.  I would suggest holding sporting events before noon, so that the sun is not as direct and strong.  I would also recommend between 4 and 7 pm because the sun becomes obstructed behind the trees and is lower in the sky, while still providing light.  As an architect I would place more trees for shade along the south and west sides, facing north-west, for fans to stand and watch games.  Not only would this place the spectator facing away from the sun, but it would also provide better shade with the taller buildings and topography that surround it.  The houses along the east side benefit from the solar window because the sun shines throughout the day but then becomes obstructed just as the sun is setting, so the harsh and distracting south-west light is not going straight into the homes.  This may not be the best place to watch a sunrise or sunset, but it does make for a great place to play in the sun.


In class this past week we discussed vernacular design in architecture. Vernacular design reacts to the environment and uses local resources that help to create functionality before aesthetics.  I am from Northern Virginia, which is a very suburban area with houses that just follow the curve around a cul-de-sac.  Vernacular design is not so prominent in the area and is substituted with a high electric bill during the hot summers and cold winters.  When designing a school in Honduras with Global Architecture Brigades, we had to use vernacular design because the area does not have electricity and relies heavily on natural resources.  When designing the roof, with the help of Professor Sherman, we went through many different roofing ideas to try and cater to the amount of high temperatures, heavy rain season and earthquakes.  The roof of the existing elementary school is made of corrugated metal that can get very loud and distracting when the heavy rain falls.  The reason they used corrugated metal is because it is a very light material and it is important not to have too much weight on top because earthquakes are very frequent in Honduras.  The design we decided upon is composed of a double-tiered roof of both corrugated metal with plywood underneath to help reduce noise from the rain.  The roof provides proper ventilation for the school through the air pockets and the corrugated metal provides a very light material.  Additionally, the walkways are covered to provide shade from the hot sun as well as a place to cover from the rain.  This project helped me learn a great amount the importance of vernacular architecture and helped prepare me for Professor Sherman’s course.

Systems can be seen in everyday life, from how the body functions to how the population changes.  In architecture, systems help to provide greater insight into designing more successful and sustainable architecture.   For example, the system of how materials react within the environment is important in order to provide the best cooling, insulation and sustainability for a structure. Materials are first affected by the weather, which involves the climate, time of day and human population.   The outflow of materials is the dying of the material, or the decomposition.  Wood, for example, is highly affected by the amount of forests in the environment. This has to do with the amount of living trees, which is a direct result of the weather and the amount of logging by the human population.  After time, wood becomes decomposed.  However, a feedback loop is created in the system because the wood can then be used again as mulch.  Without understanding the system of wood as a material, a large amount of trees would be wasted, which would then generate an even greater issue among the living population on Earth.  Systems are essential knowledge for not only creating sustainable architecture, but for creating a sustainable living environment outside of the built structure.

The importance of material systems can be seen right here at home with the Rotunda.  For over a year now, the capitals on the columns have been covered up by ‘black socks’ because “the capitals’ decorative carvings seem to have been damaged by an acidic mixture brought on by rain and decades of coal dust that settled in the cracks and grooves. The coal dust, Neuman [, the university’s architect] said, likely came from chimneys of nearby buildings, such as the Pavilions” (MCNEILL, The Hook).  A study of the marble and what factors are causing this damage need to be looked into further in order to fix this issue.

McNeill, Brian. “The Rotunda’s Black Socks.” The Hook – Charlottesville’s Weekly Newspaper, News Magazine. 12 June 2010. Web. 04 Sept. 2011. <;.