CHC 7: PLANTED BUFFERS


We've been focusing this week on the design of the planted buffers around the buildings. It is clear from resident's comments and feedback that sound mitigation is an important consideration in the design of the campus landscapes. Today, voices and traffic sounds are amplified by the brick walls and concrete paths. These hard surfaces bounce sound around.

We are selecting buffer plants for their ability to break up sound. At the edges of the buffers, we're looking for plants with broad leaves and dense branching. Closer to resident's windows, we are looking for plants with more open habits so that the light can still get in and views from windows feel screened but not blocked by foliage.

In addition to these functional benefits, we are also considering the character of plants. We are thinking about bloom color and timing, the mix of fall colors, plants that are favorites of song birds, and plants that are especially fragrant. It's a big mix of considerations, and our horticultural consultant, Patrick Cullina, is helping us to focus on the ideal species and varieties to balance all of these goals.

On Day 1, the plants, shrubs, and trees in the buffer will be relatively small and transparent. As they grow and fill in, the buffer plants will develop into a screen which will provide privacy and sound buffering. Within the gardens, people will feel surrounded by plants rather than buildings. From inside apartment windows, the layers of planting will increase the perception of distance from users of the gardens. Over time, the planting will provide multiple layers of protection and screening. 

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CHC 6: PRELIMINARY SKETCHES


The following sketches prepared for the February 13 shareholder meeting describe how the campuses could look with a much more diverse mix of seasonal plants, accessible lawns, planted buffers, and reopened street-side entrances. Please keep commenting--it's really helpful for us as we work to refine the vision to best balance your goals, concerns, and desires.

Fall view of a sunny knoll in front of 210

Fall view of a sunny knoll in front of 210

Spring view of a wooded trail behind 325

Spring view of a wooded trail behind 325

Summer view of the north campus courtyard with planted buffers at the ground floor

Summer view of the north campus courtyard with planted buffers at the ground floor

Garden gates for resident access to enclosed gardens

Garden gates for resident access to enclosed gardens

On-street entrances with restored mosaics and new address signage

On-street entrances with restored mosaics and new address signage

CHC 5: PROXIMITY EFFECT


It has been great to read the feedback people are sharing on the blog. A couple of comments about the value of running into neighbors encouraged us to think differently about the purpose of the landscape. The sense of community the campuses can generate is one of their highest purposes. Proposing to adjust the way residents move and interact in their daily lives is a big change that must be considered with the impact on neighborliness in mind.

We revisited an article about the "proximity effect." The theory stems from a study of students living in a dormitory who were shown to have a greater tendency to develop friendships with people whose rooms were close to one another or near staircases that caused them to see and interact with one another in regular, unplanned ways.

The same theory reportedly led Steve Jobs to require the architect of Pixar Animation Studios to locate attractions like lounges, kitchens, bathrooms, mailboxes, and meetings rooms in a central atrium. The design draws people into the shared space in order to encourage people to interact informally with one another.

Which led us to think about the design of the campuses relative to two questions:

Can we develop alternatives to security fencing that will maintain and encourage more of the "run-ins" residents enjoy in the north campus courtyard? 

How can we encourage those "run-ins" in the south campus courtyard and the gardens around the stand-alone buildings?

We prepared a sun/shade analysis to identify the best areas for sunny lawns where the grass will thrive and produce a dense carpet. In these locations, we can create sturdy lawns where people can sit and kids can run around. 

We prepared a sun/shade analysis to identify the best areas for sunny lawns where the grass will thrive and produce a dense carpet. In these locations, we can create sturdy lawns where people can sit and kids can run around. 

Then, we looked at the shadier spots and the distance from ground floor windows. Some people will enjoy being in the middle of the activity. Others will be happier in a spot on their own. In places where we have the room to create a deep planted buffer, the spaces can become more playful or intensively used spaces. Quieter, more solitary uses can be fit into the tighter spaces.

Then, we looked at the shadier spots and the distance from ground floor windows. Some people will enjoy being in the middle of the activity. Others will be happier in a spot on their own. In places where we have the room to create a deep planted buffer, the spaces can become more playful or intensively used spaces. Quieter, more solitary uses can be fit into the tighter spaces.

Finally, we've identified locations for garden gates (shown in pink) which will allow residents to access any of the courtyards and gardens directly from the street. These gates will also allow residents to cut through the gardens and courtyards to seek out the shortest route to their destination.

Finally, we've identified locations for garden gates (shown in pink) which will allow residents to access any of the courtyards and gardens directly from the street. These gates will also allow residents to cut through the gardens and courtyards to seek out the shortest route to their destination.

We are developing sketches of a few of these spaces for the shareholder meeting next Monday, February 13, at 6:30pm in the Community Room in the cellar of Building 325. We will also post the sketches here for people who can't make the meeting.

 

CHC 4: SHARED BACKYARDS


Inside the fences on North Campus, we noticed a change in the way people interact with one another. People seem more at ease than they do on South Campus, where the pathways are open to the street. We were reminded of magical shared backyards from Turtle Bay Gardens and MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens in Manhattan to Cobble Hill Towers in Brooklyn. 

These beloved and sought after rear gardens are shared by residents yet secure from the street. They become private parks where children can play safely together and neighbors host seasonal events.

If we reopen the front doors on all of the buildings so that the back doors can become back doors again, we can create shared backyards at Clinton Hill Coops. 

We are thinking about how all of this underused land can become a place that residents will use and enjoy. We want to know what you think. If you had a shared backyard, how would you use it?

CHC 3: PRIVACY AND COMFORT


Some of the sidewalks and paths lead people right by ground floor windows. It's an uncomfortable experience for everyone involved. On the inside, there's a impact on privacy. On the outside, we found ourselves straining to look straight ahead so that we made it clear that we weren't trying to peer into peoples apartments.  

Plants are really good at creating buffers. They give people something to look at instead of one another. We've started to imagine small flowering shrubs and trees between the windows and the paths. We will be looking for species that allow light to pass through into the ground floor apartments while making these tight spaces feel less awkward.

Redbuds, Dogwoods, and Shad all grow well in small spaces around the neighborhood. When you look around the neighborhood, do you see any good examples of buffers in front of windows that we should go look at?

CHC 2: FENCES AND LIGHTING


Careful, detailed observation is one of the most valuable skills we've developed as landscape architects. We come to each project with trained fresh eyes with which to uncover the details that have an impact on people. We draw attention to the important landscape features which regular users no longer see because they've gotten used to them.

At Clinton Hill Coops, we see fences everywhere. Low chain fences at the edge of the lawns, 4-foot and 5-foot fences along the sidewalks, and 7-foot fences with spiky tops at the service entries. This much fencing doesn't lead to a sense of safety. It has the opposite effect, causing people to feel uneasy and suspicious.

The bright lighting and centralized security booths lead to feeling watched and unwelcome. We heard from residents that the fences and security booths were installed at a time when the neighborhood felt much less safe than it does today.  

The campus renovation needs to include just enough security to help people feel safe. We have a lighting designer on the project team who will help us create soft lighting that will allow people to see one another's faces at night. We will be looking at the height of fences around the neighborhood for examples. Does anyone have ideas about where we should look?

CHC 1: CLUES FROM THE PAST


At the start of a project, we want to learn everything--from where the trash comes out of the buildings to which of the existing benches get used and which sit empty. What's the condition of the soil and the trees? Are the drains working?

We’re meeting with the site manager and the board and talking with the security guards, grounds crews, and residents we meet on site. We are looking to uncover clues about how the physical environment came to be the way we find it today.

We found this early photo of the completed landscape. Looks like the paths at 210 Clinton Avenue are in virtually the same place as they were back then. There are no fences at all! And the private terraces at the base of the building look like they were enclosed in shrubs.

We also found this architectural rendering of the project before it was built. Looks to be the north campus. Are those reflecting pools? 

During site visits, we are also looking for distinctive details and elements. We’ve seen a few beautiful large oaks and sycamore trees that may be part of the original landscape planting. There are also interesting details on the buildings. One of the entrances to 205 Clinton does not have an entrance canopy. The full height of the entry portal and its nautical-themed mosaic is visible. 

It helps to appreciate the luxurious white marble that was used for the entry, benches and planters around each entry. We also discovered that the same marble is carried through some of the lobbies as though the entrances are portals through the buildings. Today, 210, 345, and 361 Clinton Avenue are the only buildings which allow passage through from one side to the other. 

In the coming weeks and months, we will be pulling together as much information as we can discover. What do you think we need to know about this place?