Holistic ways of placemaking to revive downtown work/live neighborhoods
The division of function (Charta of Athens) and priortization of automobility fueld suburbanization white flight and urban blight. Deteriotaing environmental health and fragmentation continue the marginalization of the urban condition. Bold goals and visions are needed to turn this trend around.
Case Jones Falls Baltimore: a river and a road.
A RIVER & A ROAD
Rethinking civic infrastructure along the Jones Falls Corridor in Downtown Baltimore.
How did we arrive at a hostile divide in the middle of the city.
What would the river do? to bring it to life again? How will the Jones Falls Corridor serve the Baltimore and the Bay best in the future?
The central and synthetic character of the bundled infrastructure corridor indicates a culmination of all critical urban conditions in Baltimore.
It simultaneously allows to addresses the following disciplinary silos:
Health of the C. Bay, storm-water management, flood control. (EPA)
Inner-city housing work life renovating, row house neighborhoods (HUD)
Highway to nowhere, inner-city public transport, High-speed rail (DOT)
Urban Health, , Community Health initiatives, Heath-Care (NIH)
The Jones Fall represents a sequence from a steep valley of urban wilderness lined with early industrial mills to a bundled traffic infrastructure corridor running into the Inner city/harbor area.
The linear infrastructure of railway and motorway weave across the river until the Jones Falls River is buried into an underground concrete conduit at Penn Station. The subway sized culvert opening is where the river “ends” and the project begins.
The Jones Falls River once shaped the valley and created a DELTA in the inner harbor. The river provided fresh water and energy and served as the natural infrastructure to found the young emerging city. With Jonestown - the first settlement on the east bank the regulation of the river begun. Severe flooding occurred and washed out the early settlers businesses and houses including the church. In the further process of modernization the river was first walled and finally was submerged and degraded as a sewer to give room for transport infrastructure on the borrowed surface. For a brief time span in history the rail was introduced along the corridor and pulled out again later for the most part. In the age of mass motorization (1960s) the roads were scaled to an expressway allowing suburbia to connect to downtown via an elevated structure into the Inner city and harbor area. Protest at the time prevented to build a cloverleaf over the inner harbor and left the interstate traffic disperse into the urban fabric.
Traffic studies suggest that the existing grid of roads could compensate the conduit condition.
WHOSE RIGHT OF WAY?
The mono-functional layout centered on the motorist with parking structures and surface parking along the corridor needs to be reconsidered. Especially the long ramps of the expressway cut through the urban fabric and disconnect East Baltimore from Downtown. The engineered and buried river occasionally emerges from its underground condition. Storm water floods parts of the highway a well as the adjacent districts. Hurricanes occasionally push water of the bay up into the former delta area.
How can the boundary/barrier condition be transferred into an adaptive system that serves multiple social and ecological aspects of a contemporary daily urban lifestyle?
How can the hybrid faceted condition of the river that was declared outdated in the process modernization be reintroduced?
Several initiatives suggested to raze the expressway and turn the corridor into an “urban boulevard” that would then spur mixed-use urban development at its margins, raise taxes and spur the urban life of the adjacent neighborhoods. Only the proposed manicured lawn of the boulevard median still represents a late modernist concept of green largely as a visual quality. The studio seeks for a more performance-focused scheme of a public realm.
The studio explores the potential of reconsidering the relationship of the given infrastructure elements technical and natural within the Jones Falls corridor. How can the conduit concept of flows be re-established in its multifunctional character of gathering and distribution? How can the original character of the delta be explored as a place to revitalize program, exchange, activities and circulation? How can the corridor as a former multi-purposed front-yard that turned into a backyard be re-evaluated to prevent it from becoming the junkyard of the city?
What are the criteria for urban public infrastructure today to spur urban live, place making and re-development? What investment and regulations need to be developed to stop the down cycling of the adjacent neighborhoods? Is there a pro-active strategy that would anticipate future adaptations?
Can strategic asset management in civic infrastructure and the public sphere help to reduce public spending in the social and health
First we shape the river - then it shapes us!