“En Charrette”/ exploring the site layout

FSB Illustration: Chickasaw Nation Visitor Center Site Characteristics and Schemes

We are now only half way through the Charrette day. The morning was filled with defining goals, objectives, purpose and space needs. The afternoon is reserved for exploring the site layout and the exterior design. The exciting news of the morning was that the Chickasaw Nation set a goal to achieve LEED Platinum for the design of the project.

There are several things to consider when thinking about how the site can be best utilized for the project. Each consideration has a part in the development the conceptual site plan. Here’s what we look at:

Site Characteristics – Topography, vegetation, prevailing wind directions, solar orientation, cardinal directions

Building Placement – Location for development of new facility, alternative building development options, building orientation, how the building addresses itself to the streets and adjacent properties

Site Circulation – parking needs for staff, visitors and service; vehicular routes for staff, visitors and service; building ingress/egress points, people flow, materials flow, site utilities

We plowed through a number of site observations and constraints before setting goals:

  • The existing site slopes steeply from north to south.
  • There is an existing 20’-0” wide public alley on the east side of the site that can be abandoned.
  • The width of the alley can be utilized for this project site and potentially another 20’-0” beyond the east edge of the alley.
  • It may be possible to accommodate staff parking in nearby existing or future lots. On-site parking could then be based on anticipated number of visitors only which would reduce parking requirements on the site significantly.
  • It is anticipated that only 10-15 visitor parking spaces will be required to meet city requirements.
  • Utilizing the precedent that is set by street side parking on Muskogee, street parking on Muskogee and Davis Avenue could contribute to parking needs.
  • Tour bus drop-off points would need to be carefully orchestrated with adjacent streets and traffic patterns.
  • Muscogee Avenue will be closed to vehicle traffic during special events.
  • Must consider the impact of car/truck noise from traffic adjacent to the west side of site.

Specific site goals were set with the client:

  • Views to the park on the southwest side of the project site should be provided wherever possible.
  • The building should be accessible from both the north (Artesian Hotel) and the south, with the south entrance being the primary entrance.
  • It is preferred that the building mass present itself to the park on the southwest in order to draw in visitors and park traffic from this side to the visitor center.
  • A pull-off area for acquiring park permits should be provided on the south side of the site.
  • A pocket park has been planned for the southeast corner of the Muskogee and first street intersection directly west and should be complemented by green space on the Visitor Center site.

Outdoor spaces and features were identified:

  • Incorporate water features
  • Incorporate green space with opportunity for seasonal plantings
  • Include outdoor covered/shaded seating area.

It was time to get the markers back out and start sketching. We quickly developed 3 site options all based on a one story building. The options are shown above. After discussing the pros and cons of each layout, we decided that a hybrid combining options 1 and 2 into a split level plan where Park Administration is located on the lower level along Davis Street and Visitor Center functions are located on the upper level along of Muskogee Avenue would provide the most effective use of the site. All agreed that the benefits of a split-level plan would really punch the ticket best:

  • Allows access to Visitor Center from both the north and south
  • Creates a stronger relationship of the Visitor Center to the Plaza Market
  • Allows street side primary Visitor Center parking on the north side of the site.
  • Allows street side angled parking for Parks Administration staff along Davis Avenue east of the project site and some overflow Visitor Center visitors parking on the southwest corner of the site.
  • Creates a well placed outdoor seating area at the northeast corner of the building, away from traffic noise on West First Street as trucks travel uphill.
  • Allows elevated views from the Visitor Center into the park.
  • Creates visual interest in the exterior building design as the site slopes against the building.
  • Eliminates situation where pedestrians at street level on Muskogee Avenue are looking at the roof of the facility.

The remainder of the day was dedicated to discussing the architectural character, flavor and palette of materials that would create an exciting exterior statement for the Visitor Center. It was time for a stretch break. I’ll be back to share the final exercise of the charrette in the next post.

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Filed under Design, LEED ®, Materials

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