Clarksville, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Austin, Texas, will now house the proposed design for the mixed-use development project, “Sixth & Blanco”. For a community with a calm and well-connected neighbourhood with timber houses and gabled roofs, Herzog & de Meuron has unveiled the design for the mixed-use development which will emerge from the main road, made completely out of timber. It is rare to find mass-produced timber designs. The proposed design will house commercial spaces, offices, residences, and galleries, which will inevitably add value to the entire community.
A successful design considers the architectural aspects in the surrounding context while adding modern concepts to it. Herzog & de Meuron have redesigned the space by taking inspiration from the architectural styles found in the neighbourhood.
They planned the entire design to combine with the existing vernacular storefronts to have a monotonous appearance. In terms of materials and spatial qualities, they studied the existing conditions and history of the context and incorporated them into the proposed design. The design incorporates linear low-height forms similar to those found in the neighbourhood. Mutual shading of buildings has well-shaded open spaces by incorporating trees. They have designed pedestrian sidewalks in such a way that they are almost always shaded by providing overhanging roofs and trees.
For any project that involves the revitalization of existing site conditions, Herzog & de Meuron have studied the existing conditions and understand the potential of this site. They identified the area of each built-up space found on the site for optimal space utilization, and after further investigation, they marked the structures they intend to keep, demolish, or reconstruct based on structural integrity, a proposed design, material quality, and so on. Most of the existing structures have been retained. The structures to be reconstructed and demolished are being converted to timber structures according to the proposal. Newly designed timber structures will not resemble demolished structures.
The spaces are strategically placed such that the ground floor accommodates shops and restaurants, while the second floor accommodates offices, the third floor accommodates a hotel, and the fourth and fifth floors accommodate residences. Even though there seem to be many floors, they placed the horizontal arrangement of spaces on each floor in such a way that from the exterior to a pedestrian, these continuous wooden structures look like a two-storey building. They have pushed the spaces on the top floors back to create this illusion. A few metres place apart from each built-up timber structure to break continuity, which makes the entire development a combination of singular blocks. Entry to the courtyards created between the structures can be easily accessed from the arterial street. They used the alley for more private spaces, such as service entry and entry to the lobby space for the spaces on the top floors.
The entire mixed-use development has been designed to be a combination of introverted and extroverted entry points within the site. Retail spaces can be accessed from the main road and arterial streets as they are placed back to back with courtyards between them, which act as a passage connecting all the spaces on the ground floor. These courtyards are used by the restaurants as shaded open seating spaces for dining. Every building in front of the main road has been placed adjacent to each other with a minimum setback, and those narrow, completely shaded, and cut-off from the view of the pedestrians’ passages that act as potential spaces for criminal activity. One of the interesting features of this design is that, though there are multiple units with the same activity, each space has some unique element to it, be it the dimensions, openness, or interiors. Because of the horizontal arrangement of spaces on each level, the entire development is at a relatable human scale.
From top to bottom, every part of the structure has been detailed with timber. The connectivity between the courtyards and the built-up space is well thought of. By using louvred wooden windows and large windows, they have achieved openness in every space. The transition between the closed and completely open spaces through a semi-open corridor allows for a smooth transition between spaces. For a neighbourhood with historic values, Herzog & de Meuron has unveiled a design that truly fulfils the original vision to create a mixed-use development that the vernacular parts of the neighbourhood have inspired.
- Title: 578 Sixth & Blanco. Available at: https://www.herzogdemeuron.com/index/projects/complete-works.html. Accessed date: 27/08/22