Soft Spaces

Architectural design has to deal increasingly with given and inflexible concepts describing separation of functions, perimeters and areas of control. The three-year HHF Option Studio at GSD will work on the architecture of Soft Spaces, an architectural type which is able to blur separation and security perimeters in a smart way in order to link the public space with substantial privatized areas in the urban fabric.

A lot of seemingly public spaces like market halls, shopping malls, train stations, lobbies or sport stadiums have strict limits and constraints of social activities and in fact are privately owned public spaces with precise boundaries. We’re interested in the architectural potential of Soft Spaces, the spatial interface in between private and public. Soft Spaces are often leftovers or collateral spaces which are in close proximity and a result of large scale infrastructures, big buildings or privatized areas. Urban in-between zones with fuzzy boundaries, which function as threshold in between the public and the private.

With a focus on midsize cities with both a strong industrial and cultural heritage, important civic infrastructures and a physical presence in the urban fabric of big companies and universities we’ll start our three years program in Pittsburgh. The city has a long industrial history and used to be known as the “City of Steel,” producing everything from steel, to aluminum and glass. After World War II the industry went into decline and only in the last couple of decades the city’s experienced a renaissance, which has accelerated even more in the last couple of years. Through this heritage the city has a long tradition of charitable trusts and family endowments, which play an active role in the city’s urban development and allow for an unusual dense network of cultural institutions and public infrastructures. During the semester we’ll discuss possibilities and impact of private organizations on shaping the future of our cities. The project perimeter is the Northside triangle along Allegheny and Ohio River and right opposite to Downtown Pittsburgh. It’s a vast open site defined by huge parking lots, the Pirates and Steelers Stadiums, the Casino as well as the Warhol Museum.

The studio will explore the ambiguity of Soft Spaces through research and design. Is there a way these large-scale infrastructure for sports and other big events could become less of a mostly unused and closed off forbidden city to the adjacent urban fabric and society? How can buildings be opened to the public and the site become a more continuous space? What spaces function as tools to create new ways of transition between public and private, in between less controlled and heavily controlled spaces? We’ll look for transition spaces and open structures which allow and trigger different social appropriations and can be used and adapted for different type of programs and different types of public interactions over time. We’ll search for long living architectural solutions, which have the power and strength to contribute to the site’s identity or even help to create a new identity.

Although each student will work on the project individually, the studio will have a strong collaborative approach. We invite the students to join an experience very similar to the method of how to develop a project within the office of HHF. Three partners pushing a project in different directions and with different priorities. In addition to that we’ll invite guests and specialists from different fields of interest and in relation to the semester theme.

This course has an irregular meeting schedule.

Simon Frommenwiler will be in residence on August 30 and 31, September 13 and 14, November 1, 2, 29, and 30, and December 10, 11, or 12 for Final Reviews.

Tilo Herlach will be in residence on August 30 and 31, November 1, 2, 15, 16, 29, and 30, and December 10, 11, or 12 for Final Reviews.

Simon Hartmann will be in residen