Earlier today I had a chance to speak with Andrew Watkins, a candidate for the Master’s of Architecture in Urban Design at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. During the spring, he worked on HUGSD's contribution in shaping the future of the Diridon Station area. He even posted his team's renderings on his own web site, renderings that eventually made it to the Skyscraper City forum. Before reading on, head over to Watkins' site project page to look at the images.
I asked about the process used during the study. Watkins said that students partnered up, with each time coming up with their own unique vision for the area. The coming high speed rail project serves as the main impetus, with additional emphasis on natural features in the area such as Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek, public spaces, housing and retail, and of course, the ballpark.
Here's some of the Q&A:
- Were the students given individual pieces and the whole stitched together, or was it a competitive vision situation? Groups of 2 created each concept. Each team had their own concept. HSR was main impetus... There was no filtering on concepts.
- Would you say this more of an exercise master planning exercise than in architecture? We're all architecture students, but yes, I'd say this was more about master planning.
- How much of a focus was there on connecting with downtown proper? Everyone was cognizant of the downtown area. At the same time there weren't any proposals that altered (existing) structure.
- Was there a frequent exchange of info with City/Redev? They were good about answering questions, especially the first month. We also made a site visit to San Jose.
- I particularly liked the bi-level circulation plan. How did that come about? It was necessitated by multilevel infrastructure. BART's underground, HSR and trains above ground, buses at ground level. There's a need to make connections with all four levels. We don't want to have a bunch of hidden ramps and stairs.
Looking at the image at the top and other renderings, I'm somewhat reminded of Embarcadero Center in San Francisco. That too has bi-level circulation, with the complex spread over several blocks and traffic running through it. In this case, high-rise offices would be replaced by midrise housing, parking, and retail/commercial.
I didn't ask much about the ballpark, because information I had received elsewhere indicated that the group didn't receive much about a future ballpark other than already publicly available information. So the stuff you may have questions about - such as the parking garage on the fire training site or the missing power substation in the image above - aren't addressed. City has already acknowledged that the parking garage on the fire training site isn't necessary, and that the substation will likely be reconfigured instead of moved.
Questions or comments? Fire away.