Friday, December 19, 2008


You'll see in many cities across the world a mesh appears when a construction project is going up in the center city.

Essentially, a very thin, painted or colored mesh is wrapped around the scaffolding surrounding a building.

I believe using this fabric is more of an ornamental choice than a necessary construction practice, but let's assume the technology to produce a mesh like this is both available locally and somewhat inexpensive.

- - -

In Youngstown during the last month, the Armed Services Building has been demolished.

So now we have a big gap (like a tooth missing) along Federal Street with no immediate plan to put any structure in the place of the vanished building. The continuity of the street is now disrupted, and a person will soon be able to look from our main street through the entire block (since other structures have been demolished to create parking lots) to Boardman Street without obstruction.

So what about this as a concept:

Build a simple two-story metal frame between the Wells Building and the facade of the State Theater, and then get a mesh (could recreate a piece of art, another building on its surface, etc) to recreate the feeling of a filled streetscape along the sidewalk.

on one hand, the mesh could be a really progressive and dramatic piece of artwork or faux-architectural masterpiece.

on the other hand, the mesh might only work well if it is actually covering up another building. If the mesh is covering empty space, or limiting access or visibility to a parking lot in the distance, maybe inhibiting vision by the public is not desired.

Jane Jacobs wrote about hidden (and sometimes unsafe) public passages in her LaDoGAC. As high-rise public housing projects were built in the 1940s onward in New York City, the public had access to internal hallways to get from the street to their apartments, essentially creating spaces where people did not feel safe. An internal public hallway is different than an external public sidewalk.

So what do you think of this as a concept to "fill the gaps" in a downtown?

What hand, the one or the other, makes more sense to you?


Tyler said...

Anything that provides continuity is a step forward. I like the mesh drape idea. How about some art from the Butler?

Paul said...

I'm for the mesh drape, too. The concern over creating dark, dangerous paths is a non-issue as the entire rear is open and quite visible from many vantage points. I don't feel art is necessarily the most appropriate solution, but whatever the end result, it should engage pedestrians at the street level, much as an active streetscape would do. Static is not an option. Ideally, it would be a complete departure from what's across the street at Children's Services.
Another trick used at construction sites sometimes is to create peep holes along the street that let you see carefully composed views of what is going on behind the screen. Sometimes these are entirely staged and sometimes (in the case of new construction) they reveal a rendering of the finished product next to the current view, so you can see and understand the progress.