A day-long charrette, or architectural design workshop, was held at St. John’s on June 19, 2010. Attending were members of the Redevelopment Task Force, architects from about a half-dozen firms and several other professional consultants.
The purpose of the day was, in the most exploratory way, to give graphic expression to the possibilities of redevelopment. We were less interested at this stage in studying particular designs or architectural ideas for buildings (it’s much too soon for that) than we were in understanding how our property might accommodate new structures.
The day started with a tour of the property and existing buildings and a comprehensive history of St. John’s. Most of the day was taken up in small-group idea sessions at which the architects put words into diagrams and rudimentary sketches. Work concluded with a ‘show and tell’ at which the architects presented their work.
All presentations assumed no changes would be made to the present church building, or the Memorial Garden or the garden between the church and St. John’s Court the plot of sacred ground east of the church on Mason Street, and the park space between the church and St. John’s Court residences. The presentations varied only in their ideas about what—and how much of what—might go in various places. All acknowledged that the site is constrained and made more challenging by its irregularity, but that this can also produce some of the most interesting land use outcomes.
If there was consensus, it was around the idea of the entire St. John’s property as a place of bustle and repose, unified by the garden and additional garden strips and small park-like spaces extending throughout the property. Bustle and repose are by no means contradictory values or outcomes, and can result from the skillful handling of density (and the location of building entrances) and green spaces.
In a future redevelopment it’s clear that most or all of the surface parking would be gone; and all of the architectural schemes suggest a pedestrian network between buildings on a redeveloped St. John’s site.
Understandably, these were land use studies, not pretty pictures of buildings. Subsequent to the charrette, two of the participating architects have provided more exhaustive materials (land use and massing studies).
The charrette was largely a background exercise from the standpoint of the Task Force…a way for us to start to visualize the potentials and options in redevelopment as we move into more detailed work through the fall and winter.