Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Final Site: Piedmont

Our mid-term critiques today helped me determine which of the three prototypes I will continue to develop. Considering today's input from students and faculty, I will continue designing the Piedmont site on I-95 near Fayetteville, North Carolina for the remainder of the semester. This design proposes a strong relationship to the regional context to provide a sense of place for travelers. Although from the Midwest, I have spent the past 4 1/2 years living in the Piedmont in Greensboro, North Carolina. Perhaps my greater understanding of this region is derived from my experiences here. My next step will be to continue developing the site surrounding the building and use the context to inform travelers. I plan to visit the site near Fayetteville next weekend... Road trip anyone?

Mid Semester Presentation

Mid Semester Critique Script

Recharge & Recognize

During this presentation, I will present three rest area prototypes that have been developed using form, materials, light and color to inform travelers of their surroundings during their short-term experience at three sites in North Carolina. The title Recharge & Recognize has a dual meaning. Electric car recharging stations are located at each site as well as the rest area gives travelers a place to recharge themselves mentally and physically. The buildings themselves strive to increase awareness of the surrounding culture and encourage travelers to recognize their environment.


The theoretical framework for this project contains three main subcategories: sense of place, vernacular architecture, and cultural geography. The history of roads and rest areas is also influential to the project. This diagram visually shows this framework and highlights the main theorists work involved in my research.

Sense of Place

Through my research I have come across sense of place theories such as each traveler encounters a varied sense of place in the same physical location. Research also shows that a greater short-term recognition comes from previous understanding and seeking information. Travelers depend on the character of a place to create their experience. Christian Norberg-Schulz describes that it is important to orient oneself, but also to identify with the environment.

Vernacular Architecture

Vernacular architecture, the second theoretical subject, is inspired by the landscape, built using local materials, respects the environment, and is not influenced by fashion. This study has helps to tell the human story because throughout history, vernacular buildings have been built to directly satisfy the needs of the time. Vernacular architecture represents the regional architecture which is influenced by the users’ needs as well as particular architects.

Cultural Geography

Denis Cosgrove explains that landscapes are symbolic and each produces cultural norms and dominant values for groups in society. Both the natural and man-made landscape defines the appropriate behavior of the site. The combination of the man-made and natural landscapes in this project aim to encourage curiosity of the surroundings. A quote from Karl Raitz states “The trick [for tourists] is to learn about the everyday landscapes that ‘common folk’ create…” He explains that while traveling, one must be willing to read more than the roadside historical markers and look to the landscapes created by the local people. These three subjects sense of place, vernacular architecture and cultural geography form the theoretical framework for the project.

Rest Area Activities

The proposed rest areas go beyond what may be expected at a roadside facility. Looking towards future generations while also remembering the past, new amenities have been added to the traditional rest area programmatic requirements. Digital touch screens and large digital displays allow travelers to interact and learn information on the weather, regional history, current events, attractions, traffic, and more. Wireless internet is provided in all facilities. Nature trails allow travelers to stretch their legs. Vending provides unique treats such as seasonal local apples in the mountain region to enjoy in picnic shelters. Recharging stations give a new purpose to these roadside stations bringing them into the future.


The three sites were chosen based on the three distinct regions of North Carolina: mountain, piedmont and coastal. In the Appalachian Mountains at milepost 10, 12 miles south of Asheville on I-26 near the Asheville Airport, the first location is located in Henderson-Buncombe Counties. This second site is located in Cumberland County at milepost 48 on I-95, 1-mile southeast of Fayetteville in the piedmont region. The third site, unique because it serves both motorists and boaters, is in the southbound lane of US-17 one mile south of the Virginia line in Camden County.

Site Images

These three images represent the landscape of each region. Below are the three proposed prototypes, which I will now present. Each of the three are schematic designs in which details have not been fully developed. I will spend the remaining half of the semester developing one of these schematic designs in detail. Today, I would like the discussion to follow to be focused on the successes and weaknesses of the prototypes based on my theoretical approach. This will determine the prototype to continue to develop for the remainder of the semester.


Certain materials including metal, vegetation, wood and concrete are incorporated into each of the buildings but used in a fashion informed by the landscape. Some unique materials are also used in specific locations because they are inherent to the region. An example of this is small stones inside a wire structure which create the façade of the mountain site. Metal is used sparingly in the mountain region whereas further towards the coast where the landscape is influenced by ships and boats, worn, rusted metal is an important material. Reclaimed wood from different sources is used at each site. Examples include reclaimed barn wood in the piedmont and reclaimed wood planks from docks on the coastal site. Polished concrete has been chosen for all interior floors because of its durability and ease of maintenance.


Each site incorporates daylighting in a different way. From the mountains to the coast, the buildings progressively open allowing in more daylight. The coastal facility has the most fenestration whereas the building near the Blue Ridge Parkway is more closed due to the climate. These images represent the daylighting strategies for all facilities.

Night lighting

The night lighting, influenced by flashy roadside diners from the early age of the highway provides a glow from the road. This dually increases night safety as well as lures drivers from the highway.

Building Codes

Here, I have provided a list of some of the building codes that will need to be incorporated into the facilities. Two main codes I have met are the ½ diagonal rule, which states that the distance between the two required exits must be at least ½ the longest distance in the building and the restroom ADA guidelines. A five-foot turning radius is achieved in all spaces.

Mountain Region

This slide represents the inspirations for the Appalachian Mountain site on I-26. Color scheme consists of earthy tones, and previous conceptual models represent angular forms.


Exterior materials include reclaimed wood planks, stones in wire structure, Fusion Solar roofing by Custom-Built Metals which has a layer of solar film manufactured on each panel, and a vegetated wall with indigenous plants. Interior materials include reclaimed wood planks, polished concrete, a smooth glossy earth-toned paint, and the vegetated wall.


Perspectives of the building show the central public space where digital touch screens are located. A security office is located within view of each entry. The main path of entrance is through the vegetated wall, which is green on both the interior and exterior of the thick wall.


Plan and sections. An emergency exit is located on the back façade of the building. There are two womens restrooms and two mens restrooms in each facility for maintenance purposes as well as one family or assisted use restroom.

Piedmont Region

This slide represents the inspirations for the Piedmont site near Fayetteville, NC on I-95. Color scheme consists of tones derived form local crops, and previous conceptual models represent linear, horizontal forms. The history of textiles and mills as well as the current vineyard culture are inspiration for this design as well as farming.


Exterior materials include metal panels on the front façade and reclaimed barn wood planks on the rear portion of the building. The front façade has large sliding glass panels that can be opened during temperate seasons. The roof is Fusion Solar roofing by Custom-Bilt Metals. Interior materials include polished concrete floors, vegetated wall, a smooth glossy paint in a red-orange hue and a patterned 3-Form divider panel.


The vegetated wall penetrates the building and users weave through the openings reminiscent of former textile mills in the region. Two womens restrooms are adjacent as well as two adjacent mens restrooms in the rear of the building. The vending is located to the right of the entry clearly visible from most public spaces. Information is provided through touch screens in the entry and in a more enclosed space left of the entry near the security office.


Plan and sections. An emergency exit is located on the back façade of the building.

Coastal Region

This slide represents the inspirations for the coastal site on the Dismal Swamp Canal near the Virginia border on Highway 17. The form of the building is inspired by the contrast of water with its curvilinear, undulating properties and the linear structure of the man-made canal. The color scheme introduces blue and the building aims to achieve a weathered open coastal feeling.


Weathered wood reclaimed from coastal areas and boat docks is used as flooring on the large exterior deck. Tile resembling coastal shingle siding is used on the panels in the interior. A green roof featuring swampy moss vegetation grows out of the interior as a vegetated wall and catches rainwater on the roof using a filtration system. The curvilinear structure is constructed of weathered blue steel. Polished concrete is the interior flooring.


The interior of the building is accessible from both the roadside and canal side. On the canal side, there is an exterior deck designed to catch some of the debris brought up from the waterside. Cables are used to visually lower the ceiling height on the entry of the restrooms and is reminiscent of cables used in boat mechanics. Information is located on both sides of the interior near the large curtain wall and security is centrally located creating a wall for the vending on the exterior.


Plan and sections. There are two entrances to this building.


I would now like to open start a discussion focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the three prototypes focusing on the theoretical framework and creation of a sense of place for travelers. I plan for this discussion to help me determine which of the three designs is the strongest prototype to continue developing.

Mid Semester Critique Handout

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sustainable Northwest North Carolina Visitors Center & Rest Area

North Carolina's first sustainable rest area opened Thursday on Highway 421 near North Wilkesboro. Built by Innovative Design, a sustainable architecture firm out of Raleigh, the building is aiming for LEED Gold certification.

Sustainable design elements include:
  • Small building footprint surrounded by open space
  • Stormwater management through bio-retention basin, hazardous spill basins and bio-swales
  • Xeriscape landscape (no irrigation needed)
  • Light pollution reduction
  • 0.8 mile green trail
  • 4.5 acres of reforestation
  • Preferred Parking for low emitting and fuel efficient vehicles and van pools
  • Reduced parking capacity to appropriate amounts
  • Reclaimed site vegetation for landscape mulch and site furniture
  • Photovoltaic system
  • Domestic solar water heating for restroom sinks
  • Increased daylighting
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Diverted 90% of construction waste from landfill
  • Building shell is constructed of an Energy star rated membrane
[Information courtesy of the NCDOT]

The building's green monitoring system is available online. The system updates the information every 15 minutes.

The new building is impressive and well received. Today over 350 visitors took advantage of the facilities before noon, including around 100 during the hour I spent on site. The design utilizes many strategies proposed in my thesis prototypes which are exciting to see implemented. Hopefully this will be the first of many sustainable rest areas in North Carolina. This is a wonderful precedent study for my thesis as well as a fun day trip to visit the site.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Schematics & Materials, Light, Color, Form

The prototype lighting strategy will maximize daylighting with the buildings will be oriented in the optimum way to efficiently use solar energy. Large curtain walls allow light into the lobby from the entrance. Interior and exterior light shelves direct light upward, filling the space with light and reducing direct glare. Private versus public space deserves deliberation in the restrooms as privacy is of key importance, but lighting is vital as well. In these spaces, indirect diffused light will enter through clerestories and openings in the ceiling planes. The architectural form of the envelope dictates the placement and shape of the windows. By design, each restroom will have natural light entering the space on at least two sides in addition to natural overhead light. A view towards the exterior featuring a picnic arbor will be incorporated into each restroom. This view will remind users of the arbors knowing that many motorists stop at rest areas solely for the purpose of using these restrooms. This vertical opening will be small, one directional glass as not to disrupt the privacy and will not reveal any private areas from the exterior. Landscaping following the contours of the building exterior will prevent travelers from approaching this window as well.

Florescent lights will be used because of their energy efficiency and color rendering potential. Artificial lights will be on automatic sensors that sense the amount of light needed based on the exact time of year. A manual switch override is available if necessary.

The history of the American roadside is inspiration for the night lighting. Flashy diners flagged the roadside starting in the 1950s and attracted motorists through their large eye-catching signs, colors and lighting. The Las Vegas strip developed its ostentatious aesthetic in anticipation of luring drivers off the road into casinos, restaurants, and hotels. The tradition continues today with large billboards reading “McDonalds 5 miles ahead, Turn Right” followed by a large arch visible from miles and highly illuminated at night.

Each prototype will interpret this flashy roadside manner by utilizing bright colored night illumination. Serving a dual purpose, this illumination will both attract motorists and increase safety in a well-lit night environment. Caution will be taken to ensure the proposed lighting will not direct footcandles upward. The glow will be emitted outward and the level of illumination will be calculated to ensure minimal environmental disturbance. LED lights are used for all exterior lighting including but not limited to the building façade, parking, and walkways because of their high energy efficiency.

The region of each site dictates the building’s color scheme, mainly through inherent properties of the local materials. White will be used as a main color element at all facilities as it is a fresh, clean, modern color. All materials in this project are chosen for their inherent sustainable properties. Painted sheetrock is minimal in the facilities as other local materials provide more of a sense of place and identity to each region. Materials will be used in unconventional applications to provide a unique sensory experience for travelers passing through the region. Through the architectural form and materials, an effort will be made to realize the surrounding culture in the building.

The models below are conceptual and do not directly suggest forms for the prototypes. They are abstractions of inspiration taken from each landscape.

The undulations and peaks of the Appalachian Mountains inspire the form of the rest area in the mountain region. Characteristics of the architecture will be substantial, dense and angular simulating the landscape. Indigenous regional materials including wood, stone, rock, brick, and concrete will be used in the design. Each material will be used in a unique application. An example of this unique application is the 9x9 House by Titus Bernhard Architecture. Pebble stones are held within a metal wire frame structure to form the exterior walls of the house. FSC certified wood is specified for all wood products. The color palette for the mountain region includes earth tones such as shades of brown, evergreen, and terracotta brick.

A double-sided (interior and exterior) vegetated wall will be included in the design featuring indigenous plants from the Appalachian Mountain region. The wall will be thick and substantial with a window opening in the vegetation showing the thickness of the architecture. Exterior paved walkways will be permeable using products such as Drivable Grass to reduce runoff and increase the amount of vegetation on site.

Low, flat land characteristic of this area and the farmland covering the landscape influence the form of the building as well as the shapes and contours of farmland. The building will extend in various directions on a flat ground plane to emphasize this quality and use abstracted forms of geometric shapes. The use of an overhang will be incorporated into the project creating an overhead plane that gives protection from the elements as well as creates a more intimate sense of place with the horizontal landscape.

Polished concrete with a high content of fly ash will be used as flooring for the prototype building to keep maintenance to a minimum. A vegetated wall will be incorporated on the exterior of this building wrapping around in a manner influenced by the contours of field crops. Metal will be incorporated into the project such as Chemetal weathered steel, a product that contains 85% recycled content and can be recycled after its useful life. Other materials will be included in innovative fashions such as sticks were used in the Pio Pio Restaurant by Sebastian Mariscal (the third photo in at the top of the slide). Vernacular architecture will influence the designs, but will be abstracted to create a unique sense of place for travelers.

The piedmont color strategy draws inspiration from regional crops including red, orange, evergreen, leaf green, wheat, and terracotta brick. These colors will come from the inherent properties of materials as well as in lighting.

Motorists approach this building on the east, while boaters approach on the west making two main entrances a necessity. The fluidity of water is inspiration to the design as well as the wildlife inhabiting the nearby Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Other influences include the structural architecture of both boats and cars and the contrast between them. Steel cables containing recycled content will be used as a reflection of ropes and cables associated with boats.

Wood docks and the wooden slat construction that is identified with them is a major influence with this design. FSC certified wood is an important material to this design and will be used in both horizontal and vertical applications. Both curvilinear and linear forms will contrast the forms of the linear man-made canal and the nearby curvilinear coastline. Traditional shingles of coastal homes are imitated through the use of tiles in both interior and exterior application. The Worldwide Fund for Nature building by Rau (upper left image on slide) demonstrates how these tiles can be used on a curvilinear exterior application.

Blue, the color of water is inspirational to the color scheme in the coastal region. Other colors will include shades of brown, green, and terracotta brick.