Page C1.2 . 27 July 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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QUIZ

Alexander Centering

continued

4. HOMEBASE STREET Leading out from the university center, was the high-school street of classrooms: the homebase street. The homebase street is a wide lively, sunny street formed by the individual home room buildings where the high school students have their classes.

5.THE LAKE Opening through gates on another side of the university center is a lawn. This lawn, especially for the use of college students, is surrounded by the college buildings and leads directly to the lake. The lake is a peaceful place to rest.

Second system of centers: defined by the land. The second component of the process was a system of centers that existed in the land as it was before we started. This system of centers was defined by the site, by the land itself. In 1982, as soon as the pattern language had been approved by the faculty, we began the site plan. The site planning work was done mainly on the site.

Each time I went to Japan, I went out to the tea fields in Iruma, and walked and walked, just waiting, trying to see how the pattern language might best come to life there. Each time I sat there for hours, trying to understand the structure of the situation. Sometimes I sat there all day.

The wholeness which existed on the land at the time we started (when the land had just been bought from the farmers,) included the following five centers: Natural point of entering, Swamp, Flat spot, South ridge, Walk to the South ridge.

1. NATURAL POINT OF ENTERING One had a natural desire to enter the site on The southeast corner, and walk towards the northwest.

2. SWAMP AND LOW POINT WHERE GROUND WATER ACCUMULATED The lake we were going to build had to be at the low point of the site, and we therefore knew its position from the contours.

3. NATURAL FLAT SPOT There was a natural spot, somewhere near the low point and the lake, where the main square might be.

4.RIDGE The ridge was the most beautiful center of all. It was the place everyone went to most often, and loved most, because of the view of the distant hills, and the coolness of the breeze in summer, and an inspiring freedom one felt there.

5. WALK TO THE SOUTH RIDGE There was also felt in the land a natural walk from this low point towards the ridge, a walk from north to south, slightly uphill, and slightly curving. This was also inherent in the site, and could be felt by everyone.

Repeated visits to the site by different members of our team, and by the various teachers of the school, strongly confirmed the reality of these centers. After a few weeks there was no doubt these were the most salient features of the site.

Thus there are two quite different systems of key centers.

First, there is the system of centers which is defined by the pattern language These major centers are the building blocks of the new project. In the case of Eishin, they included, for instance, the entrance gate, the entrance street, the university center, the high-school homebase street, the main square, the back streets, the judo hall.

Second, there is the system of centers which exists in the land. This system is created by the land forms, by the roads, by directions of access, by natural low spots, natural high spots and by existing trees.

It must be emphasized that both systems of centers always exist at the time one starts a site plan. The first system is generic; it exists in our minds and in the day-to-day experience of the people who are going to have the new school, The second system exists in the land, on the particular site where the project is to be built. Each of the two systems of centers is real.

Together, when fused, they will govern the plan which has to be made. The process of site planning is the process of, somehow, finding a way to make these two systems of centers become one a way in which the system of centers defined by the pattern language can be placed, So that it enhances, preserves, and extends, the system of centers which is already in the land. In this specific case, and in general, the crux of the problem of making the site plan lies in the task of reconciling the two systems of centers that means finding a new structure which unfolds from the existing wholeness, and which then embodies the centers of the pattern language within the system of centers that exist on the site.

ANOTHER WAY TO PUT THIS IS TO SAY THAT IN ORDER TO PRESERVE THE STRUCTURE OF THE LAND, THE NEW CENTERS COMING FROM THE PATTERN LANGUAGE MUST BE ESTABLISHED IN SUCH A WAY THAT THEY FALL NATURALLY IN PLACES THAT COINCIDE WITH, OR ENHANCE, THE NATURALLY OCCURRING CENTERS OF THE SITE.

In this particular instance it was very hard to find. There seemed to be no natural way of arranging the university center and home-base street, as we had them in the pattern language, in a fashion consistent with these five facts about the site. Indeed, only one part of the relation between pattern language and site was obvious; the lake, demanded by the pattern language, would have to be identified with the low point of the site, that is to say, the swamp. That was uncomplicated and straightforward. In all the plans we tried, the new lake appeared in the position of the swamp. But in other respects the mismatch was difficult. In many of the plans shown in these early diagrams (see for instance diagrams illustrated on page 176), the key centers are in positions different from the existing centers on the site. These diagrammatic site plans look internally coherent on paper, but would have violated the centers on the land and would thus have violated the integrity of the site itself.   >>>

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Another view of the system of centers existing on the land before our design emerged: again the main entrance, the ridge, the swamp (which was to become the lake), are visible, together with a beautiful Kiri tree that formed an important place, and a natural spot for a minor entrance in the northwest corner, together with a natural pace that later became the spot for the gymnasium.
Image: Center for Environmental Structure

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The university center is the main thing.
Image: Center for Environmental Structure

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High school homebase street leads to the university center.
Image: Center for Environmental Structure

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University center leads to the highschool homebase street.
Image: Center for Environmental Structure

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Another arrangement.
Image: Center for Environmental Structure

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The balsa wood model at 1:500, as it was after the breakthrough. The entrance to the campus is on the left; it leads to the main yard and great hall and lake, and then leads to the homebase street, and up to the university which lies on the ridge (at the top of the photo). The two systems of centers are finally reconciled.
Photo: Center for Environmental Structure

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Looking and working out where to place the flags.
Photo: Center for Environmental Structure

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More looking.
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