Designing for community

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The aim of this design thesis is to explore the essence of the word "community" in an urban context and propose ways in which design can propagate a sense of community. Four qualities were determined early in this project which were external to the architect, but which are instrumental in promoting the quality of an urban community. First, there must be a sense of place. A river or a fork in the road provide a distinct sense of place. The site needed this type of sense of place to provide an identity of its own. Second, there is a need for access to such common, but important, amenities as grocery and drug stores. Restaurants that are close can produce a familiarity for people in the neighborhood. Seeing the familiar faces of neighbors in these establishments provides a sense of belonging. Thirdly, there must be access to public transportation. Providing a certain walkability or proximity to public places adds a sense of familiarity to place. Finally, there must be a rekindling of the public realm - a site which by its very location provides access to the previous three urban qualities. Using these four ingredients the location of the site was chosen: 300 Block South Henry Street.