Design of this project offered an opportunity to challenge the suburban ecology using traditional strip development construction. To generate meaningful change, the design required an understanding and analysis of that suburban ecology, establishment of the form of the building in response to that understanding, and enhancement of the food retail program desired by the client.
Like typical American suburbia, the location is dominated by a car centric society, generating strip malls, chain restaurants, big box retailers, and asphalt parking oceans.
In the center of all of this and in the parking lot of a theater is the site for the project. For the designers, this presented an opportunity to challenge typical suburban development and change the suburban ecology by redefining the way we think about the parts:
Parking as park :: Wall as canvas :: Sidewalk as plaza.
The strategy was to dissolve, filter, and activate. First expanding the site section allows for a wider threshold and lengthens the elements. Varying densities from the street and parking allows for more transition from vehicle to entrance. This transition involves a variety of pedestrian functions.
Finally activating these spaces required functional elements like playground equipment, art canvases, and large grassy areas for sitting, reading and relaxing. A tree barrier filters pedestrian views from parking to the building, generating a park-like ambiance. Exterior walls became blank canvases for public murals, graffiti, or child-friendly art projects. Child play equipment installed in the ‘back’ of the building creates a playground.
The container still holds the economical and efficient proportions of a typical strip mall building, but the skin has been pulled, eroded, and folded to generate relationships from the interior to the exterior.