Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thesis Projects are Always Evolving

By Alan Kirkwood

So, my thesis has changed now…. It has narrowed down to one site location but has broadened as far as scope of what work will be done… I am now focusing strictly on the area of shopping mall design which is a large issue nationwide at the moment. I am looking at this as a potential catalyst for my getting a job in the retail architecture area. So the site is the same in that it is located near my home, but it has narrowed down to only the site the existing mall is located on and the site directly across the major street from it. It has broadened because now I am doing a lot more research and focusing on 4 different solutions and how they will in turn affect the surrounding suburbs economically and socially.
                My first option is to keep the existing mall as is. This constitutes me taking a business approach to my project and focusing on what the community wants and needs as well as what stores need to be moved in, what repairs and renovations need to be done to the building to get it back to being fully functional as a shopping mall once again.
                The second plan is to tear down the existing mall or possibly keep a part of it as a portion of the future development, and then design around the existing site. I want to design somewhat of a shopping village center that will blend in with the surrounding urban fabric. I want it to incorporate a movie theater, retail, residential, hotel, public space and more… This may encourage more of a community aspect to the area.
                The third and possibly forth ideas are to repurpose the existing building… I would not do much to the overall form and basic structure of the building, but there would be a heavy change on the interior of the building based on whatever functions I choose to replace the retail that exists in the building. In looking at case studies across the country and considering the needs of the area, I have toyed with the ideas of putting a large charter school with library and eatery inside the existing building or a medical research, clinics, pharmaceuticals and retail… other ideas have come to mind as well.

The mall has a great history in the Chicagoland area as well as retail in general from the start of some of the greatest retail chains downtown such as Carson Pierre Scott and Marshall Field, to the open air Park Forest Shopping Center designed by Lobel, Schlossman and Bennett who later designed the famous Water Tower Place, or Randhurst Mall, one of the first malls and largest designed by Architect Victor Gruen. Retail centers have much importance in Chicago, why not redesign them….

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