Committee ChairMatter, Fred S.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractA city is a structure of single elements that has grown in time and is characterized by political, economical, aesthetic and topographical influences. Looked at it historically, a city is a logical structure, whereas all the single elements add up to a big structure and for each individual city typical overall character. Except for some special and important buildings (mostly churches) the individual buildings interacted with the general city structure and often even with each other. It is my contention that contemporary urban design should work toward the reconstruction of sympathetic interrelationships in urban spaces and buildings. Transitions should be used for interaction to make the pieces work together as a whole. This we experience mainly spatially. But transitions can be achieved in many different layers (social, spatial, thermal...). My research shall help to find out about these different layers individually and how they work together, to define them and finally apply them to a design. The site I chose for the design is the new civic plaza in Tucson, Arizona. The plaza, as part of the Rio Nuevo project, is planned to be the new main plaza for the city with its 800.000 people (year 2000). The site is an empty lot right now; all buildings are roughly laid out in size and function, but not defined in detail. This allows starting the design with the plaza and letting the buildings react to it. Mainly public buildings are supposed to border the plaza. A hotel is located to the east, a parking structure with retail on the north and different museum buildings to the west and south. My goal for the plaza is to create several activity zones of different sizes (spaces for large (outdoor concerts) and small gatherings (private spots within the public space) and different activities (walking, sitting, resting and watching). Different things may happen simultaneously, but also change during a day's or even a year's period of time. Big events like open -air concerts should be possible as well as small events of interaction between few people at the same spot during different times. All these different elements should tie together spatially supported by transitions of material, thermal comfort, light and social aspects and form a big stage of events in a continuous scene. Transitions of different kinds could achieve a change of space without losing the connection to the greater scale. As a person for example is walking from the plaza into a building (museum), he might experience transitions thermally (sun - shade - cooled air and shade - enclosed air - conditioned space) as well as spatially (same floor material inside and outside) or socially as space becomes more and more private (plaza - café area in front of museum - museum lobby - exhibition). As the change of space happens in little steps and each step connects to the previous, a change of space can be achieved without losing the overall gesture. As the plaza is located in the desert, it is important to research the climate as well to be able to establish a good comfort level at specific spaces for people to rest outside within the plaza throughout the year and at different times of day.