USC Study Abroad Program in France
Fall 2003 Project Statement
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Saintes Design Studio Arch 402 bcdl, Fall 2003
Saintes Centre d’Etude de Paysage
“…and thus also, the realities of nature resume their pride of place. It is not with metal that the pilot is in contact. Contrary to the vulgar illusion, it is thanks to the metal, and by virtue of it, that the pilot rediscovers nature. [The] machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them”.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Wind, Sand, and Stars; 1939)
Saintes Design Studio Arch 402 bcdl, Fall 2003
Saintes Centre d’Etude de Paysage
Architectural solutions affect the broader context by acting as a medium for a complex network of dialogues (e.g. space and form, materials, man and nature, movement and function, etc). These interactions synthesize towards a sense of meaning and purpose within the syntax of the city.
The design project will explore the ability of built environment to capitalize the many aspects of the physical and natural context to mediate the transition between urban and landscape typologies. It too, will engage the temporal context from which the project will evolve. The exploration of the temporal dimension will draw its understanding of the present from an understanding of the past, and as a link to the future through an analysis of the latent possibilities held within the physical, economic, and socio-cultural parameters of the context. The project can serve as a nexus within the continuum of time, and the gradients of urban, cultivated, and natural landscapes.
The project will be the Saintes Centre d’Etude de Paysage (S.C.E.P.) located within la Vallée des Arènes (the Valley of the Arena). A master plan for the valley will serve as the premise for the development of the S.C.E.P.
The French practice of developing educational landscapes is an activity that will both students and visitors, and well as affording a model for the further cultivation of the Vallon. In the master plan, areas of the site are subdivided into precincts for research and experimentation. The role of the students and faculty within this setting would be to formulate future ideas about the landscape within a creative and scientific framework. This activity will provide the opportunity for the people of Saintes to explore a new relationship with nature.
La Vallée des Arènes runs east west roughly perpendicular to the river Charentes. Located south of the medieval center of the city, it’s lower reach is bound by a terminating fill that supports the current route to Bordeaux. At its upper western reach sits the Roman Arena that, even in its current state of ruin, evokes the grandeur of the once dominant roman empire. The southern flank of the valley is dominated by the steep slopes of the Saint Eutrope spur, where the church of the same name commands the horizon. The ridge of this spur is densely occupied along the route that connects the main urban boulevard of cours Reverseaux with Sainte Eutrope and the Arena.
During the first century A.D., the Vallon was a maze of Roman construction activities. Now the soil of the nearly invisible Vallon covers the underground artifacts which would serve to document the city’s course of evolution. With the subsequent introduction of new uses, both circumstantial, such as agricultural plots and residential lots, and planned structures, such as the causeway to Bordeaux, this soil cover has built up alluvial layers so that evidence of the social and ceremonial roles once assigned to the Vallon have been completely lost.
To the North lies the large plateau of the town center. It is along the slopes up to this plateau that the school campus will be sited.
Saintes showing the extent of La Vallée des Arènes master plan
The final challenge of the studio will be to investigate and design those architectural components and qualities specific to a particular building program distilled from the masterplan. The program for the Saintes Centre d’Etude de Paysage will include demonstration gardens and other facilities that will allow the both the public and professionals to expand their knowledge as well as to celebrate the rich cultural role of mankind’s exploration and use of the land.
The Saintes Center for the Study of the Landscape is developed as a teaching / demonstration facility for the region. The curriculum that is presented at the center results in an interdisciplinary degree in Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. Each year, 16 students are admitted to the four-year program for a total student population of 64. One professor is responsible for each year, with a number of adjunct instructional specialists who lecture and give demonstrations.
A design studio, faculty office, seminar room, greenhouse, and experimental garden form the basic core facilities for each of the instructional years. The curriculum is based upon the pedagogical notion that the students in each of the four levels design and execute a garden that is open to the public during the summer months.
A parallel function of the facility is to provide a living museum of plants for the citizens of the region.
Phase I Urban Fieldwork & Analysis 1 Week
From the onset, the studio will work as co researchers conducting field studies/observations of site conditions and situations. Directed towards creating taxonomy, the documentation of conditions, quantifiable and qualifiable, will be expressed through text, photos, drawings, diagrams and discussion. Our objective is to see how various programmatic requisites might be conditioned, developed and resolved according to the specific disposition of site(s).
Phase II Programmatic Analysis and Campus Plan 1.5 Weeks
The Paris and Garden tours will expose students to a range of attitudes relevant to the project. Analysis of these venues, along with case studies, will seek to further understand the issues involved in mediating the confluence of typologies on the site.
Through documentation, diagrams and drawings, the essential requirements of the program will be studied. The resolution of the program will address the internal requirements of the institution, the role of the institution within the master plan, and the greater potential of the master plan within the urban and regional contexts.
The students, as a class, will analyse the S.C.E.P. portion of the master plan. The total sum of these investigations will be used to produce a comprehensive scheme that clearly describes the volumetric and spatial arrangements of the buildings and open spaces. This phase will consider all scales from the most intimate space to the greater regional implications of the campus.
A final product for this phase will be a campus plan, final campus program and site model. This will create the context for the individualized efforts of the final proposition.
Part III The Final Proposition 8.5 Weeks
The final proposition will focus on three or four zones to be further developed by individual students. Each zone will include building and landscape elements to be incorporated in the Campus Plan.
The final proposition will explore the integration(or separation) between a building and its landscape, in particular where programmatic demands unite the two as a single functional entity. Notions of figure-ground, folding, materiality, historical precedence, can figure prominently in these investigations. Beyond formal and spatial relationships, the interface with the environment involves consideration of the light, water flow, topography, planting materials and methods. This introduces a strong landscape component that must exhibit conceptual and technical rigor. Ultimately it will be sound analytical and strategic thought that will define the overall conceptual argument. Iterative empirical rigor will test the argument refining it towards a solution that address all scales of functional, educational, and cultural systems.
The final presentation will involve the presentation of the campus plan as a team, as well as individual presentations of buildings as part of the team.