Defining a place: focal point for a fragmented town
Edwards, Teresa L.
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As many small town populations continue to migrate toward growing urban centers, individual outlying communities become fragmented and disparate, with a loss of focus paralleling their loss of activity. The fabric of these towns becomes irregular, with holes appearing where occupants left. The street no longer holds a rhythm or cohesiveness. It struggles to maintain some inkling of its form, but becomes only a loose string of leftover elements. Over time, these remaining elements become increasingly dissociated and become isolates along the street. Most of these are not strong enough to stand alone, therefore a lack of cohesion leads to disorder The purpose of this project was to re-establish that order by redefining the town as a concrete unit. It was also important to define a character that would render the town unique. As a nearby city continues to expand, this tiny community must be secure enough to withstand the gobbling effect of the larger city’s annexation efforts. It must have defined purpose and distinctive traits too precious to destroy. Being situated within a heavily populated Mennonite community, this location provides the perfect opportunity to establish this individuality and make a special place, a place familiar to those who live and work there and curiously inviting to those who may visit. The primary vehicle for this project was a Mennonite community center and farmer’s market. This new center would provide a place to rejuvenate activity and commerce while bringing in a large and unique sector of the local population whose transportation needs are currently ignored by the present town’s conditions. The site is Dayton, VA, a small town of about 1100 people. Established in 1833, the town is situated along Cooks Creek, south of Harrisonburg. The creek and its branches surround the town on three sides, making a distinct separation from the surrounding area. The fourth side backs up to a hill which leads out into the countryside. The presence of these natural boundaries offers a special opportunity to accentuate the location of the town; to pronounce the feeling of arrival at a distinct destination. Once inside, the town is laid out on an irregular grid that extends westward from Main Street and out over the hill. A physical differentiation among the primary and secondary streets is one of the significant defining elements that articulates the town. Further definition and emphasis was critical to accentuate the existing order. The town’s relation to a bypass that borders it on the east has been, up to this point, one of default. As traffic was detoured around the community, the activity that once made Main Street a lively place was pulled away from the downtown area. The principal buildings that face Main now turn their backs to the majority of people that pass them everyday. Again, in trying to make this an inviting place to visit, it seemed critical that the town re-address this formal boundary. Such a crucial element can no longer be overlooked. As the nearby city continues to grow in size and population, it will continue to spread over more of the surrounding countryside. If previously settled areas are not significant enough to justify their preservation, they too will become absorbed into the city. In an effort to lose such a special locality, every attempt must be made to emphasize its assets and show it as a place of history, character, and purpose.
- Masters Theses