Paul Folger, Amy Kinderknecht, Brent Simmons, Brandon Uloho, Fall 2009
Text: Amy Kinderknecht
Infill is a common approach to urban revitalization in the u.s. the rentable square feet created by the addition of structures is presumed to attract people to live and work in the city, but too often, these newly built structures remain empty. a lively urban environment is possible where vacancy and abandonment exist, but requires much more consideration than simply hiding space behind new facades. With an abundance of potential in its unused space, Kansas city’s crossroads arts District presents an opportunity for alternative infill strategies.
In 1983, Bernard Tschumi won a design competition for a new urban park in Paris. His design for Parc de la Villette challenged the typical interpretation of the infill typology, integrating different ordering systems whose relationships with one another form the experience of the Park. A series of red folies creating a new grid brought an unfamiliar order to the site, encouraging unconventional programming of the park. this move introduced a conceptual experience grounded in the potential of location.
Tschumi’s revolutionary approach to urban design provides a model for the Crossroads Infill plan. The district, which is known for its eclectic mix of artistry and culture, is the location of many architecture firms, advertising agencies, design studios, and unique retail and restaurants. It has one of the highest concentration of art galleries in the U.S,1 but remains one of the most fragmented sections of the city. many historic buildings stand (empty) as single entities separated by surface parking lots (often empty).
The crossroads is a patchwork of activity that occurs at limited times of the day, week, and month. Though teeming with life during the typical work week, its streets are deserted most nights and weekends. During the monthly First Fridays art exhibition, galleries and studios open their doors to the public, and the culture contained within spills into the public realm of the sidewalks and streets.
This condition of discontinuity afflicts many other american cities which become “a landscape of independent islands of activity.”2 As residents fled to the suburbs and new zoning laws compartmentalized the city, the mixed-use concept of urban living fell apart, resulting in (and from) “a society which has become more and more debased.”3
Our society now possesses the means of being anywhere and everywhere else at will. The shift in the nature of urban life that has resulted in these spaces has created a city that is no longer situated in the physical location of interaction. The lack of need for place in urban life begs the question as to how new urban design can work towards re- grounding society in its physical nature.
With such an abundance of empty lots, traditional urban infill could not even begin to make a significant enough impact in the Crossroads for it to become a thriving urban district. What this area needs most is regular activity and movement. The area needs to be hospitable for the people who will instill life in the area.
This can be done with a strategic approach of design as a mediation, which will reunite urban life with the physical realm of the city. A new ordering system that builds on the character of the Crossroads will reactivate the district. Maintaining the “incompleteness” of the crossroads, a spatial network will preserve selected open spaces, and infill structures will be designed to support these spaces. The wealth of emptiness and the connections created by this new ordering system will allow people to traverse the area by means other than the traditional street grid.
It is within this network of voids already in existence that a new experiential quality of the Crossroads offers the possibility of reactivation in the area, where what was once a desolate hole in the urban fabric becomes a vital green space for people inhabiting new residential structures. These instances beg for the urban dweller to step out and experience the crossroads at any time of day, week, or month. With a little attention they can give the residents of this area a reason to truly inhabit the city in which they live.
1. Crossroads Community Association, http://www. kccrossroads.org/organizations/500
2. Sze Tsung Leong, “readings of the Attenuated Land,” in Slow Space, ed. Michael Bell and Sze Tsung Leong (New York: Monacelli Press, 1998), 194.
3. Paul Virilio, “The Overexposed City,” in Architecture Theory since 1968, ed. K. Michael Hayes (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998), 545.
Crossroads Arts District; Crossroads Infill site highlighted in gray
A revised figure-ground drawing of the crossroads arts District depicts vacant buildings in gray, giving a more accurate depiction of the district’s scattered nature.
Program maps depict overlapping, but fractured networks in the Crossroads Arts District.
The proposal for revitalizing the Crossroads Arts District is comprised of implementing a network of four different types of open spaces from existing un-built spaces. Designed for a nine-block area, the network is intended to be expanded to the entire Cr
The open space network is supported by infill structures that formally define the open spaces. These structures fulfill the programming requirements needed for a thriving neighborhood, by complementing the area’s many offices, premium housing, dining, a