Walls of Our Public Realm A study of frontage use and design in relation to location

Examensarbete för masterexamen
Master's Thesis
Architecture and urban design (MPARC), MSc
Gimfjord Nielsen, Johanna
The gap between the buildings and their surrounding urban environment, termed street-level architecture, though vital in shaping urban life, is not always adequately planned or designed to consider the building’s location, context, and local needs. The term “levande bottenvåningar”, directly translated to “lively ground floors”, is widely used today by planners and other actors in city planning as an ideal quality for an attractive urban environment. The most common strategy for achieving this being ’active frontages’, where large transparent frontages allow the interior activity to spill out into the public realm. However, this overreliance on a single strategy causes the envisioned lively ground floors to often turn into vacant or empty retail stores without enough customers, or apartments with the blinds constantly drawn to avoid outside visual intrusion. As architects, we want to shape our building’s ground floors to maximize their potential contribution to urban life, but it’s important to note that there isn’t a one-size-fits- all solution that can achieve this. By first recognizing the unique urban configuration and the different opportunities each location affords, can we design functioning street levels, even for streets that are offshoots from the main streets but still in the public eye. This thesis explores what makes grounds floors lively and whether the concept of ’interactive frontages’ can be used to achieve this desired liveliness in secondary and background streets, which often do not have enough foot traffic to support commercial activities yet make up most of the street network. The thesis consists of studies of ground floor architecture in an urban context focusing on the design of the frontage, the program behind it and its local and global location and context. The result is a tool-kit showcasing how to design the right frontage zone in the right context with a resilience spanning decades of urban life. The tool-kit is then implemented, tested and evaluated through a design study in a specific site in Gothenburg.
Interactive ground-floor, frontage design, urban design, space syntax theory, street level architecture, public space
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