The St. Louis Metropolitan Section of the Missouri Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) gave an "Outstanding Planning Award for a Student Project" to the semester-long student research project led by John Hoal, associate professor and director of the Master of Urban Design program.
Entitled the Public Realm & Public Life Research and Proposals, the project focused on the analysis and redesign of the public space network for Delmar Boulevard, Ackert Walkway, and Parkview Neighborhood in University City, MO.
Sam Fox School students from all disciplines—architecture, art, landscape architecture, and urban design—were involved with the research project, which was completed during the spring and summer of 2011 in three contexts: a semester-long seminar course, a weekend-long master class, and a month-long internship at H3 Studio, founded by Hoal.
"As a whole, the objective of this student work was to create a foundation for teaching and practice of public space design and planning methods based in behavioral analysis, public life surveys, and the design of the public realm that creates a high quality of life," Hoal says.
"The process of evidence-based design is becoming more and more important in urban design, planning, and architecture, as it allows for exact data on existing conditions to become the basis for high-quality public space design that best serves the needs of people," he continues.
The students' work was part of a larger study to create a master plan for the redevelopment of the Parkview Gardens neighborhood and Delmar Loop, funded by a HUD/DOT Sustainable Communities grant. H3 Studio is in the process of completing this planning.
The first component of the semester-long research project was a graduate-level urban design seminar taught by Hoal and Ron Fondaw, professor of art. As part of "Public Space and City Life: Contemporary Discourses on Public Space," students completed two assignments that explored public life and public space as a design process.
Using historical and theoretical research combined with field research, they engaged in an evidence-based design process to create a master plan for Ackert Walkway in the Delmar Loop. Students used unique survey methods to document existing pedestrian life while completing field surveys of actual public space conditions. This information informed their design process and proposals for Ackert Walkway.
The second phase of the project was a weekend-long master class taught by visiting professor Oliver Schulze of Gehl Architects in Copenhagen, Denmark. Students learned the techniques of behavioral analysis, public realm analysis, and the design process created by Gehl Architects; called "Life, Space, Buildings," the approach puts people and their needs at the heart of the creative process of re-imagining and transforming cities.
Students put these new skills to use in the Loop, completing an Urban Quality Criteria Assessment and user group analysis. Working in small groups and then individually, they documented their "life, space, buildings" design process and created a design proposal for a specific location along the Loop.
The third component of the research project was an internship with Hoal at H3 Studio, during which students completed a detailed public life survey focused on the existing retail areas along the future Loop trolley route. Particular focus was paid to the Delmar Metrolink station and the Forest Park/DeBaliviereMetrolink station.
Students completed a 14-hour street life survey, collecting data on pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. Detailed public realm analysis was completed for the Metrolink sites, as well. That information, paired with the behavioral analysis data, allowed students to write conclusions about the impacts of the public realm conditions on streetlife, pedestrian safety and comfort, public transit use, retail conditions, and future possibilities for the retail in the corridor.