TAU 2006 SENIOR STUDIO: ELGIN

The studio investigated the infill of the municipal parking lot north of Highland Avenue and west of Douglas.

Students began by analyzing the historical patterns of the development of Elgin’s downtown.  Using the Sanborn Insurance Maps and plat maps, students reconstructed the relationship between plat, street organization, block development, lot patterns, and building types.  The students’ analyses demonstrate the principle that a town’s character is maintained when the street pattern changes little, building types somewhat, and uses allowed to change over time.

Students developed four masterplans based one of two scenarios.  First is the adaptation of the present plan of downtown but reintroducing streets where they were removed for the civic campus plan of the 1960s.  The second scenario is a new plan for the downtown in which the city hall is replaced and a new landscaped mall is introduced in Elgin’s downtown.  This scenario is based on a masterplan for the re-urbanization of downtown developed by Judson master’s thesis student, Nathaniel Brooks, in 2001.

Each person then chose a building program as a member of a team.  See this list below.   The next step was to research the history of a building type that would lend itself to the building program that was chosen.  The precedent research considered not only building type but also architectural character.  Character in architecture and in the townscape are important means by which new buildings can be made to enhance, rather than diminish, Elgin’s building culture.

Sustainability was another important goal in these designs.  These buildings are designed to utilize locally available materials.  Students were encouraged to use the courtyard or atrium as a design tool that has the potential of increasing the passive daylighting of these buildings, promoting natural ventilation, maximizing winter solar access, and minimizing west-facing summer solar heat gains.

The City of Elgin may be considered one of the College’s many constituencies.  This project provides a demonstration project for how an underutilized municipal parking lot in the City’s historic core could stimulate a revival of commercial and residential growth.  The College’s mission, in the broadest terms, is that of the Church itself that seeks to be a preservative salt in our culture.  This project could be considered an effort to assist the City and the Downtown Neighborhood Association in efforts to conserve and cultivate the life of Elgin’s downtown.

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