Suburban acupuncture

Courtney E. Creenan
Master's Thesis | Spring 2012

Residual spaces between buildings are often overlooked as a design opportunity and are seen rather as a by-product of regulatory actions, which as a result, perpetuate the status quo of planning and design rather than challenge or enable design. Often, these codes are understood as givens, rather than guiding principles, leading architects and planners to not stray from status quos. These regulations often only set minimum requirements, which begin to dictate building setbacks and declare non-conforming uses in those setbacks to ensure life safety. Varying greatly by allowable uses, these residual spaces should be taken into greater consideration when being constructed either formally by architects and planners or informally by users. The use and appropriation of residual spaces is often better understood by the user and not by designers. Understanding social constructions, perception, and ownership in addition to legal land rights of these residual spaces is vital to bridging the fields of architecture and urban planning. By understanding these intricacies, architects can begin to answer the question of how existing regulatory frameworks can be subverted to challenge common design practice norms.

Traditionally seen as a top-down, expert-driven design approach in the 20th century, planning in the 21st century has the opportunity to foster a method of study and comprehension of site development and re- activation that can work with regulations to reshape existing communities by realizing the potentials of residual spaces. The built environment is typically designed as a set of objects, rather than a system that understands impacts that go beyond a project’s borders. By understanding more of the individual users’ needs, routines and habits, both architecture and urban planning professionals can create customized spaces based on individual desires.

Thesis Committee: Beth Tauke, Alfred Price & Kenny Cupers