From Strip to Web – The Hilltop Steakhouse Studio

Route 1 in Saugus, Massachusetts, boasts the number-one-ranked steakhouse in the US, a landmark in the suburban landscape that, along with a handful of other boisterous establishments such as Colon Restaurant, constitutes a strip of near-Vegas proportions, relative to its sleepy surroundings. The decline of other portions of this strip in recent decades has left many businesses in limbo. Little known to most visitors to this strip-mall, the back side of the mall abuts a natural area and wetland system that is rich in habitat, recreational value, and beauty. In addition, most visitors to the mall are unaware of the character of historic Saugus. This studio will look at how to reposition the mall in relation to the town\’s ecological, historical and cultural life, and to the town\’s overall transportation and water infrastructure. We will provide an urban design framework for students to reinvent the mall as infill housing, cultural destination, recreational gateway, or other program of any student\’s devising. Alternatives will be developed to test ways of transforming the moribund strip mall, whether as a community asset or something entirely different.Landscape projects within the studio will be provided, but students can also develop their own. Potential projects include: highway buffer landscapes and reconceived highway configurations; community spaces including parks and playgrounds; sustainable parking lot solutions, including bioswales and permeable paving; pedestrian ways; commercial landscapes; housing landscapes. We will also encourage students interested in linking GIS methods to site-specific landscape solutions to bring their expertise to the smaller scale design process. Students interested in integrating regional and local watershed planning into their design process will also be welcome. Students will have access to WRT\’s resources, including critiques by Jonathan Barnett, world-renown urban designer, and Margie\’s partners Paul Rookwood and Ignacio Buster. There will be no formal agenda prescribed for the studio, although a strong formal framework will be helpful in promoting change to the site and the town. Students interested in urban and landscape systems will be welcome.