<![CDATA[KNU DESIGN, LLC - Scott\'s Thoughts]]>Wed, 12 Dec 2018 18:35:16 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Confluence of Excellence - a review]]>Thu, 16 Aug 2018 19:13:00 GMThttp://knu.design/scotts-thoughts/confluence-of-excellence-a-review

Turning off the street, your tires sink in deep gravel and you are transported. This masterpiece is more about the place than the maker. Clearly, many hands were involved, but they all wore one glove. 

Confluence Park, designed by Lake|Flato Architects, Rialto Studios, and Matsys, is part of the extended River Walk Trail along the San Antonio River. It all starts back at the street. After that first gravel clue, you cross several bands of paver blocks, forcing you to reassess your gait. Then you realize the bands delineate the parking spaces. Should you arrive by bus or foot, a plaza rests between two mounds. On the left tiers of Corten planters create a lush hill; on the right is a gentle mound of dark gravel, more loosely planted. Both have radial projecting concrete walls/benches. In addition to creating a gathering area at this gateway, they serve as sound buffers. The traffic noise is quickly replaced by buzzing cicadas, rustling wind, stream’s cacophony, and the occasional whir of a cyclist coasting down the River Walk Trail. Despite going there to archi-geek-out on the structure, I found myself tuning into ever-smaller scale plants and animals.

An arched gateway greets you from every approach. These tilt-up concrete petals are smaller siblings of the 22 petals that form the tour-de-force pavilion. The easy, loose arrangement has irregular flowing edges that sometimes seem to envelop and other times genuflect to the sky like the blowing grasses. Reminiscent in their domed forms of some Spanish missions, the upper surfaces have a waterproof coating over their broom-finished surface that reads like a leather saddle seat. Yet despite their massiveness (20 tons each; the thermal lag is appreciated in the heat) they feel light and fresh due partly to their light tone but mostly thanks to the delightful gap that sinews between each petal (with only 2 pin joints), creating joyfully meandering traces of light on the ground interspersed by a changing dappled pattern from the acrylic lenses that perforate the slabs.
Another fun detail is the donor plaques - H-Section steel segments in varying lengths forming sideways Morse Code columns (I couldn’t discern a message but hope there is one). They engage you with movement so as you enter the building your perspective changes – shifting to one side, the names on the flanges become visible.
I am sure this place is mobbed sometimes but I had the pleasure of visiting repeatedly at off-hours. There was always someone enjoying nature’s breath passing through the cracks of dappled and flowing light under the petals. One senses the underlying geometry – 5 triangular petals form a pentagon around a central column/drain, with 4 pentagons clustered to form squished hexagons, overlaid with the meandering light-slices (and like a fugue, more explicitly repeated yet reinterpreted in the paver patterns) – but it is so layered and complex that your main experience is movement and openness. No wonder the place is popular as a yoga hut.
The natural setting drives everything about this design; even the concrete forms emphasize the breeze and respond to the sun itself - by intervening in its path and delivering it in smaller doses, you feel the sun’s omnipresence and fluidity. The stated purpose of the park is to educate us humans about the surrounding ecosystems and demonstrate stormwater capture (used to flush the toilets and probably for irrigation). The building is really just one huge gargoyle to direct rainwater into the grates. Yet the deeper lesson is more quietly expressed – giving one a reason to stop, listen, feel the wind, appreciate the shade, delight in the flow of light, and adjust your perspective. This building engages you with the weather; I look forward to seeing how the weather changes it over the decades.

<![CDATA[Future Density]]>Sat, 14 Jul 2018 07:00:00 GMThttp://knu.design/scotts-thoughts/future-density​Humanity has too well followed the call to multiply, and we gather ever closer. Sky City in Changsha, China promises to be the ultimate crowded tent city, popping out 220 stories with homes for 30,000 people in 210 days - faster than human gestation. While some renderings show a surrounding forest, it sorely lacks the character and sense of place found in Soleri’s arcologies. A city’s vitality stems not from a few grand gestures but from the multitude’s evolving patterns and places. There is always pressure for a denser core (thus the debate about DC’s height limit); Sky City resets the vertical bar that some will inevitably chase in envy. But we have the creativity to be better, not bigger. We have lots of land, but urbanity’s advantages and the projected population boom (28% in 40 years), and the needs for wild places and agriculture, mean we will live closer and smaller. That calls for better places. Architects must act now to define quality densification. Encourage incremental densification everywhere, seek radical urbanization at transformative hubs, but fight to preserve open space where we have it: we will need it.