In collaboration with the staff at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia and several other key contributors (Earl Mark, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Paul Schulhof, Caryn Brause and Marjorie Tether, Graduate Research Assistants), various techniques have been explored and utilized in this project. The techniques include the following:
This technology establishes an easy basis for visualizing the effects of urban growth and transformation. Various considerations including topographic conditions, land use patterns, zoning constraints and economic factors exert forces on the formation of communities. Computer technology helps to organize information and variables, thus assisting a community in considering multiple options in their planned (or sometimes unplanned) growth. Animation and simulation are used as tools in the collection and organization of research material and as a medium for the demonstration and involvement by the public in the results of the design and research work.
Current GIS technology can provide valuable imaging for housing development patterns. The process of charting growth and transformation begins to provide specific suggestions about ways that neighborhoods can develop with full recognition of their past conditions, building on the positive attributes that may have once existed. Many of these attractive qualities in the small town setting are currently threatened by "outside" forces and pressures. One of the most notable examples of this concern in Charlottesville is the area surrounding the University of Virginia Medical Center. This neighborhood has a rich tradition dating back to the early nineteenth century, yet its particular identity and attributes have been seriously challenged and threatened by the ever expanding Medical Center. In the more distant past, the Vinegar Hill neighborhood was decimated in the name of "urban renewal", eliminating one of the most important and vibrant residential and commercial areas of Charlottesville's African-American community during the nineteen-sixties. A careful recognition of patterns and particular local conditions provides a much more constructive model for developing and reinforcing individual neighborhoods. GIS technology and the other computer based approaches explored in this project can strongly promote public appreciation for the community's heritage.
Information from GIS is collected and primarily presented in a two-dimensional format. At the same time, three-dimensional modeling is important in demonstrating a more tangible and "real" simulation of familiar urban and topographic conditions. One example of this application involves the demonstration of current and future zoning constraints on building footprints and massing within various neighborhoods. Zoning laws are written documents and they currently require "translation" into three-dimensional terms. The public, politicians and planning departments seldom understand the specific physical and formal implications of the zoning laws that are currently written. Geometric modeling can demonstrate current conditions and new approaches that more convincingly approximate the familiar settings of traditional small town planning.
Geometric modeling also applies to work involving specific housing studies. A computer based approach is patterned on the "Sears Catalog House" from the early part of this century, in which various combinations of standardized assembly elements can be organized by home owners. The computer technology allows individuals to quickly visualize economical possibilities within a graphically defined "kit of parts" of housing options. Rather than relinquishing this process of "product development" and individual participation in the organization of housing options to free-market forces of speculative development, our design study proposes a more sensitive relationship between current affordable housing practice and traditions from the past. This connection between specific affordable options in housing and a relationship to familiar practices in the past reinforces the previously described role of re-uniting a neighborhood's development with patterns of evolution as identified through the GIS and urban design work.
This aspect of work ties into the Digital Image Center
(DIC) in the Fine Arts Library at the University of Virginia. Ongoing
work in the DIC supports this research project in several ways.
Documenting the urban history of Charlottesville involves digital imaging
technology. For example, digitized urban plans of comparable settings
within North America have been considered as we explored initial
settlement patterns and the changes that occur under the influence of
individually identified factors. The DIC promotes more synthetic and
perhaps unexpected associations among urban precedents than those that
might be identified through traditional graphic, statistical, and
representational approaches. In the area of housing, the DIC assists in
collecting and cataloguing options and combinations that one can extract
from the vernacular architectural history and vernacular traditions of
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