Posted by: hick0188 | May 11, 2012

done for sure…

I want to update anybody who might see this as I complete my MFP.  I predicted this might happen (a lack of posts in the last month(s) of my project).  I figured I owe it to those of you who may have actually looked at this blog on occasion or even followed my blog.  I am attaching my project summary, which is an abstract of my entire final project.  I don’t claim that this summary does the project justice as the project contained a much greater depth of exploration and architecture than can be presented in a 12 page document.  This, however, was the final deliverable I was required to complete for my Masters Degree.  I would love to continue the work I did in this project and if nothing else, have the work presented mean something for somebody involved in the community in which the work was done for.

There were unique factors involved in this project and things I could not control, nor could I persuade.  I hope that the work I have done can go beyond the academic exercise and contribute ideas for the community in which the project was conducted.  I started the project as a means to produce my MFP, but I have always hoped that it might provide an alternative idea as to what could be.  The school I have spent the preceding 5 months exploring has a unique future in store.  It may end up being demolished, as community members (and economics) say that the building is beyond any realistic reuse.  But in looking at the building and presenting an idea, although far-reaching and idealistic, offers an alternative future for the building and site.

No matter what the outcome of the future of Wildwood Elementary, I have enjoyed my project and it’s exploration of space and architecture.  I hope too, that the decision makers of the community can see past the immediate and pursue a future that involves a more opportunistic reuse for the school.

My Masters Final Project summary….Hickcox_MFP Summary

Posted by: hick0188 | March 6, 2012

catalyst week…

catalyst |ˈkatl-ist|


figurative a person or thing that precipitates an event : the governor’s speech acted as a catalyst for debate.

I thought this was a good beginning for my thoughts today.  We are beginning catalyst week at the School of Architecture in the College of Design.  It is a fun week in the graduate program where you are coming off of the end of some module classes and just before spring break.  It is a special week of class that is intended to spark an interest and provide a break from the typical.  You take a weeklong class that is somewhat off pace from the typical architecture curriculum, but typically related to design in some fashion.  Although, I as a third year don’t have to take a catalyst class, there is still a nice aura about the school during this time (maybe that is the anticipation of Spring Break around the corner).

Nevertheless, I have been busy on my project, specifically focusing on program and spatial scale with concern to my previous three iterations.  Here is a diagram of my three iterations, with respect to my three main program categories.

ProgramDiagrams_3 Schemes

I’ve been able to break it down to the big swathes of area and this is helpful in beginning to assign actual sizes to each spatial type.  From here I am tweaking the three iterations and in the next week, begin to hone my ideas back and have one schematic design.

I am at an exciting part of my project because this is my favorite part of designing.  You get to begin to work on the puzzle that is design, working on spatial relationships.  In my case I have issues of new and old, interactive spaces, security, safety, site, access, sectional qualities, day lighting, etc.  The list goes on, but these become some of the main things I will be concerned with in the next week as I begin to nail down a design for our next crosscheck review.

I want to mention another very important issue with my project.  The idea of intergenerational interaction is my driving theme.  The big question is:  how do you use architecture to create interaction?  I continue to talk about these interactions that “happen,” but how does that actually transpire.  I have ideas of movement through the space and ways of controlling and managing how people move through a space, but is this enough to foster and encourage interaction?  Also there are ideas of public vs. private space, designing so there are appropriate levels of forced public shared space.   These are just a couple of ideas used to create interactions.  I would like to continue to explore what this means and possible diagram these concepts as I continue.

Next on tap for this week, architecturalize (new word I made up) my diagrams.  I need to take my diagrams of the building and begin to think about them holistically and architecturally.  Until then!

Posted by: hick0188 | February 26, 2012

sweet dreams…

Well, I woke this morning at 4am after dreaming a little too much about my project.  From time to time, when I’m thinking about a given project 24/7, I begin to dream about diagrams and my building.  I wrote some things down and went back to bed for a while.  I don’t typically mind this other than when it stops me from sleeping.  Things have started really picking up on the project.  I spent most of the last week figuring out the structure of Wildwood.  I had initially assumed that the building had load-bearing CMU walls.  After pouring over the drawings for quite some time now, I’ve concluded that there is actually a steel framework embedded in all of the CMU walls.  This is good, as it will allow me to be a little more flexible with some of the moves I make later on down the road.

I recently have begun to do some site and building studies with respect to program.  I’m trying to think of larger program spacing.  Along with this, I was encouraged to look at circulation as a driving focus.  Here are some diagrams that begin to speak to both circulation and program.



My next step is to really get into the activities I want in this building.  I’d like to create a really thorough matrix of information regarding all of the programs.  Also, I have some important diagrams in mind as well.

I think there are some precedents and business models that would be beneficial to my thinking of this as a holistic facility.  I’m thinking of the YMCA model.  I was driving home the other morning from a visit to my building and I noticed a billboard for YMCA.  The image was of the head and torso of a young child with the arm of an adult lifting a weight.  To me it really hit home as to the interactions that can occur in this facility.

I drove by another YMCA billboard tonight (yes, this post has been transpiring for multiple days).  I looked into their programming online tonight as well; it aligns quite nicely with what I have been thinking for my facility.  I’m beginning to believe that calling my facility a YMCA would not be completely out of line.  I’m not going to jump to any conclusions, but I think this should be explored further in the coming days.

Posted by: hick0188 | February 16, 2012


After the review last Friday, I was thinking about all of the great comments I received and realized that getting a slight kick in the pants is a good thing.  I have said that I would rather get feedback that means something and has value for my project than to just show up and get praise.  My review was very helpful and I would say my critics were happy with the information and ideas that I brought, but certainly were encouraging me to look in some other directions than which I was headed.  The idea of the building as a structure that needs to be saved for ecological reasons was valid, but not necessarily relevant to the project.  I will be thinking about where this type of thinking will be as I move forward with the project.

I’m going to give a little breakdown of what was said and the direction in which I will be taking my project next.

Site thoughts:             Water on the site

Buildings response to the site

Listen to existing conditions

Water through site as joinery

Connection to city/other systems

Program thoughts:  Site and program overlap

Unpack decisions:  program as driver

Rename program (as activity)

Daily change of use of spaces

Schedule of facility

Building thoughts:  Unpack and repack design decisions

Understand structural

I was told to take a more aggressive approach to whatever intervention or redefinition of the project that I take.  I think this is important because I was tip-toeing around with what I want this space to be, when I have ideas that I need to simply state and go with, full steam ahead.  I think a lot of these ideas have been in my mind and I have been verbalizing sporadically rather than showing or explicitly stating what it is that I’m thinking.  It was suggested to re-approach the naming conventions that I had started with.  I was calling my three program ideas as “community center, senior center, and recreation center,” when I was really thinking of spaces that held similar functions as these traditional program types.  The small change I have had in mind that is essential to how these spaces will function is there ability to be intergenerational spaces and programs.  This morning during breakfast I came up with a list of activities that I imagine happening in this facility.  I’ve come up with a new working title as well, “All ages—No Cover,” a little play on the usual bar or club advertisement.  I’m not sure if it’s universally understood what I mean by no cover, but we’ll see how it’s received as I throw it out there.  Here’s my list of activities that will be in the facility.


There was even a discussion of the name of the school, “Wildwood.”  It is a great name that was based on the area as it was named when the city began as a resort town.  But the name is an exciting name, describing the landscape and area.  The question was how do you create Wildwood as the name was initially thought of?  How do you re-inhabit Wildwood?  How do you re-engage Wildwood?  The interactions that are going to happen need to engage with the site and also engage with each other!

Posted by: hick0188 | February 8, 2012

what’s the point…

As I prepare to present my project on Friday, I’m reflecting on the relevance of the overall scope of the problem.  In an attempt to clarify for others, and myself I’m going to hash out the basic crux of my position.

Currently there are a large number of buildings that sit vacant after living beyond there original intent.  Historically buildings of this nature would have been demolished and sent to the landfill.  This laissez-faire attitude towards buildings and waste is what needs to be addressed in our abandoned building stock.  Buildings contain a huge amount of embodied energy and to simply dispose of them is an irresponsible means of dealing with a changing need.  To rectify this trend, it is important to explore other options of use for these types of buildings.  By evaluating the structure and basic form and layout of a building, you can begin to think of alternative uses for the space.

In order to appropriately place new uses in a space, a close examination of future programming is necessary.  New program must be flexible enough to fit into the space literally and more importantly fit into the local context.  Land use and building use is pivotal in reprogramming a building.

In the school building I am working with, there is a general layout consisting of double loaded corridors.  The typical construction involves 60’ wide wings with some larger volume spaces that previously functioned as gymnasiums, a stage, cafeteria, and a cafeteria.  Previous classrooms are numerous and offer a flexible space for similarly proportioned spaces.  The elementary school is currently located in a low-density residential neighborhood.  This is of great importance as it limits the scale and use of future programs.  A close look at what can appropriately be added to a residential neighborhood will be taken to ensure cohesion with current neighbors.

In thinking of the community of Mahtomedi and some of its current needs, certain programs have been considered to be included in the reuse of the Wildwood Elementary School.  Through a series of site and community wide studies, three program areas have been selected.


Based on a need for additional community space, a senior center and recreational facilities, I will be working to combine these ideas to create a facility that can serve multiple purposes.  A critical aspect of this combination is fitting into the context of the neighborhood without destroying the fabric in which already exists.  Additionally, the site is currently linked to certain systems, such as parks and trails, which will be enhanced in ensuing designs.

There are minor obstacles inherent with the building, which were the cause for the initial abandoning of the facility.  Currently there are some water issues, which is understandable considering the site’s proximity to White Bear Lake and the level of the water table.  Although this creates challenges, I hope to find solutions to these issues in order to effectively repurpose this building.

To effectively understand the process of repurposing a structure, I will need to seek out precedents where this has already happened.  There are many examples of repurposing buildings, but I’m hoping to find relevant information about the specific programs that will be a part of this building.  Additionally, I will be looking at precedents based on recreational facilities and sustainable practices involved with their design and construction.

Oops, I accidently through out 500+ words in ‘hashing out’ my ideas, sorry.

Posted by: hick0188 | February 1, 2012

i’m back…

It’s been a little while since I’ve written on here.  I suppose it has been a little of life catching up with me and also there may not be a lot to talk about right now.  I’ve been busy continuing my site analysis as well as doing a little modeling.  I’m trying to set myself up so I can begin to think about the future of this school in design terms.  Tomorrow I will be spending most of my day coming up with a few schematic ideas for the site.  We were asked to have some ideas for class Friday, which I am excited to begin thinking in these terms.  I don’t think that I have completed my site analysis, not that one ever does, but I think it will be good to start thinking about design as I move forward.  Sometimes you get so wrapped up in research and analysis that you forget to just jump in and get your feet wet!

Yesterday I was working from home and a friend (thanks Will) texted me that Tom Fisher, the Dean of our college (The College of Design) was on Midday on MPR.  The broadcast was talking about dealing with abandoned spaces.  This is a very applicable subject and was a very interesting discussion.  There are myriad reasons to keep existing structures and rethink their purpose rather than destroying them.

“We’re going to start seeing a lot of mixes of uses…that will in fact enliven a lot of these communities.”                        -Thomas Fisher

One comment made on the show was with concern to LEED certification, questioning what is more sustainable, designing a new LEED platinum building or rehabilitate an existing building?  It was suggested that rehabilitating a new building would always be more sustainable.  I would like to look into some of this research, as I think it is completely relevant and necessary to my project.

Posted by: hick0188 | January 25, 2012

shifting gears…

Since last time, I was able to meet with Mark Larson, the Superintendent of the Mahtomedi School District and Mark Hamre, the Principal of Wildwood Elementary.  They were great to meet with me and listen to my proposal.  I must add, this was the first time I was sent to the principal’s office, ever!  The Marks and I had a great conversation about what exactly I will be doing.  There was good clarification with regard to my intent and their expectations as well.  I made it clear that what I am pursuing is primarily an academic exercise, although grounded in a real problem.  The hope would be that what I work on and produce on my end could become real solutions or if nothing else, open the door for further conversations to happen as to what the site could become.  I described my initial ideas about program, mentioning my lack of desire to create housing on this site.  For all intents, the community has it in mind to put housing on this site, particularly multi-unit buildings with varying densities.  Although I am not exactly interested in this program (and am currently biased against it) the concept directly contradicts my hopes of reusing the building on the site.  To create housing as is being considered, razing the entire site is necessary.

This leads me to my discussion today with Dave.  I have been semi-adamant about not doing housing, which is essentially because I think it might be a little too boring for my liking.  If this is my ‘thesis,’ I’d rather the project be a little more exciting and more in the realm of what I had in mind.  With that being said, I think it is clear to consider my site and community first before simply writing off the housing prospect.  This is what Dave said today as well, basically to continue to do some of this site and community research to truly understand what is best for the site.  (this is where ‘shifting gears’ comes in, I guess it’s not a very good title if I have to describe it)  I think this is a good idea, there are a lot of areas I want to explore yet and I’m hoping after doing this,

I will have a clearer sense of what my program should be, not just what I want it to be! 

Additionally, we talked about re-framing the problem, this can help to understand the real issues facing the community and lead to the correct and most appropriate solution.  I brought up my strong desire to consider the local landscape design and was encouraged to seek out some faculty in the Landscape Architecture department for advice.  One proposal by the community included turning this site completely into a park.  This idea is interesting to me and look forward to hearing what some of the LA faculty might say about this concept.

I’m close to getting drawings from the main Supervisor of Buildings & Grounds, I spoke with him today and I believe I may have access to a digital set.  He told me that there have been several (5+) additions or work done on the building.  I’m interested in seeing how this building actually developed.  There are a couple of clear additions in my mind, but not to the point that I would have guessed 5 or more sets of drawings.  Hopefully by tomorrow-late morning I’ll have the drawings!


I just realized that I haven’t posted any images of the school yet, so here’s an aerial view of the site.

Posted by: hick0188 | January 23, 2012

know it all…

We have jumped into our typical schedule for studio meetings with Dave, Monday’s we will meet in groups of three and Wednesday’s will be individual meetings.  Today, being a group meeting, the two others in my group talked about their projects and then I went.  I started blabbering on about my project, oh; I forgot to mention we were reading our (3) 100-word statements we had written for Dave.  I have heard rumor that this is something that Perkins + Will does typically with there projects, that is, thinking about them in terms of program, purpose and place.  I gave the disclaimer that I didn’t think my program statement was where it needed to be and that the program of my project was an area in which needed greater research.  I said to Dave that I was still working on figuring it out and that I thought it would change from what I had written.  He made a smart comment, basically saying that I should let him tell me that.  We all laughed and I continued describing the direction I’m headed.  We discussed some more, and it’s becoming clear that the focus for me at this point will be program.  The major issue has been laid out in my mind;

determining what the appropriate mixture of program is for my space(s).

Dave talked about a few other nuances of program, such as:  using inventive ways of looking at program, especially subtlety in appropriate program combinations, and lastly considering the complexity of functions in spaces.

I’ve had it in my mind that the design I will produce will have a variety of programs.  Dave posed a question of whether I thought the school would continue to be a single program space, to which I replied that it would not.  I don’t think I had made that clear until tonight.  Now the trick will be to place with the complexities of what should be involved.

Here’s what my gut is telling me will be involved, a civic center for multi-generational interaction.  We talked a little about the flexibility of spaces.  I have it in my mind to create some type of sports facility, a hockey arena specifically.  I also would try to incorporate some additional recreational space that is super flexible.  I understand that a hockey rink is pretty specific in its function, but I see some of these auxiliary spaces as providing the flexibility.  Also, the sports area is one ‘wing’ of this complex.  I think there are community rooms, classrooms, adult education spaces, and activity rooms.  These are the types of spaces that really revel in the ability to intermix the generations.  Kids that are here for afterschool activities may work with seniors who are there because it is there senior center.  Mixing activity programming is key to involving all generations.  I’m getting closer to what I initially had in mind, but I don’t think any of this means much until I do some additional research to consider the feasibility of certain programs.  I am aware too; scale is going to be an incredibly important factor when considering my site and the city where this project is located.

'Underground Berlin, a film treatment' by Lebbeus Woods

I include this last bit as a treat for the eyes (as recommended by Dave of course).  Lebbeus Woods, an architect and artist, has some great images that he has done, specifically related here based on the comment from Dave about “complexity of function.”   Take a look at Lebbeus Woods’ blog,  This image is ‘Underground Berlin, a film treatment’ he did in 1988.

Posted by: hick0188 | January 23, 2012

triple p…

I’m posting our writing assignment for today, this will be an ongoing set of statements that I imagine will change quite a bit from what I’m posting today.  We were to write 100 words each about program, purpose, and place.

Program: The program for the Wildwood Elementary Adaptive Reuse project will include a multi-purposed civic center.  In attempting to make use of the existing structure, with minimal additions or subtractions, the building will accommodate a recreational facility, hinging on a new indoor ice arena.  Typical facilities for an arena will be present, such as concessions and commons areas, and locker rooms.  In addition to the main facility, auxiliary space will be allotted for flexible space.  Classrooms and adult/community education spaces will fit into other areas, this could also act as a senior center.  The intent will be to have spaces interwoven with intergenerational participants.

Purpose: The purpose for this project is to actively address an existing site and building.  Adaptively reusing the existing structure is not only an economically important direction for this project, it speaks to greater societal ideals that need to be addressed.  The issue of simply demolishing buildings that we have decided are no longer relevant is something that will be explored closer.   Through the rethinking of this school building, new life can be brought to Mahtomedi.  In addressing some of the major issues of the site, ecological concerns can be managed and more importantly, celebrated.

Place: Mahtomedi is a small, suburban town northeast of the Twin Cities.  It is a town that began as a cottage site for city dwellers and was located on one of the most easterly-located streetcar lines.  Located directly adjacent to White Bear Lake, water issues have and will continue to have great effect on the lives and ecology of the community.  There are also other communities within a short drive, including the city of White Bear Lake.  The specific location of the building site is within a low-density residential neighborhood.  The site is located on Warner avenue north, a mid-level street, just blocks from the downtown area.

Posted by: hick0188 | January 21, 2012

everyone knows now…

Friday during studio, we presented to each other in our section.  It was a great unveiling for my project.  It was really great to hear what others are going to pursue for the rest of the semester.  There are people at all different levels of development in their thoughts.  Some have sites, but not programs; others have programs but not sites.  Some simply have their idea but not necessarily a site or program.  All of the proposals were interesting and I am excited to see them as they are developed throughout the semester.  The Pecha Kucha format was great!  Once we got the timing and transition issues figured out, things went pretty smoothly.  The format worked really well because you could present, succinctly, and then have a quick little discussion as a group about each project.

During the discussion time, I received some great feedback.  Some good points were brought up to consider as I move forward.  Some of these issues were already on my radar and others were new to me.

Changing demographics of the area

Unique site qualities

Broader issue of schools being abandoned—why are they failing?

Water issues—catchment area of White Bear Lake?

This project is more than just the building

Appropriate level of development for site and city

We had some pretty great discussions about all of the proposals, which often lead to larger discussions in general.  One topic that came up and I believe will become one of the main themes for this semester is how our society doesn’t have a problem with waste.  This isn’t just thrash, but buildings as well.  Dave talked about when he was younger and people would just throw trash out the window while driving.

Littering was a little more typical and apparently people didn’t think anything of it.  Obviously this was realized to be a bad practice and eventually our society changed, we learned to manage thrash and waste.  But the general perception of thrash or waste is still the norm.  We are not afraid to throw things away; it is just something that we do.   Including our buildings, we aren’t afraid to demolish a building and send the remains to a landfill.

It’s great that we have learned to manage waste, but relearning how to live without producing the waste is key.

Now that I’ve rambled plenty about this topic, I’ll try and rein myself in a little.  Essentially what I will be looking at is how to ‘adaptively reuse’ the existing building.  I want to figure out how to use what is there and possibly add to it, if necessary.

One last tidbit from Dave, when discussing how to program a space he made the comment  “don’t stuff an envelope so full that you can’t mail it.”  I wouldn’t say this is a direct quote, but sums up what he was saying.  I think this will be good advice for me as I decide what to program my space with.

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