Friday, June 27, 2014

Architectural Hardscape

A bridge over a freeway.
Architecture never exists in a vacuum. Any work of architecture never truly looks great unless the interior design looks great, the landscape architecture is complementary, and the hardscape (developer speak for all hard surfaces: roads, parking lot, lighting, sidewalks) is well designed.
Above is a picture of hardscape in my neighborhood, a bridge over a freeway. This was designed and built as  a unified structure.  It is part of a big freeway expansion project and is repeated many times over the same freeway.  Presumably some time and effort went into the design of these bridges. Yet, it is not a coherent design. 

Q. What is wrong with is picture? 

A. Nothing goes together. 

Contemporary sidewalk lights. More decorative than functional.

The decorative sidewalk lights are designed to shine upward and reflect light off the curved hood down to the sidewalk. Not a bad contemporary design but the light they provide disappears in the surrounding street lights and freeway glare. These little lights provide precious little light. They should be called darks.  
Traditional street lights. 
Perhaps in recognition of the inefficacy of the pedestrian lights, slightly taller street lights are spaced regularly along the bridge. They provide adequate light for cars and pedestrians, but the traditional design of the taller lights has no relationship to the smaller contemporary lights. It is as if the two came from different centuries - the nineteenth and the twenty-first   No one bothered to coordinate the spacing of the tall lights to the smaller ones.  Sometimes they are close together, sometimes far apart. (Nice team effort there.) Furthermore, neither the tall lights nor the short lights have any design relationship to the street lighting in the neighborhoods on either side of the bridge or the more functional freeway lighting elsewhere. Any contextual reference is nonexistent. Doesn't anyone bother to consider these things?
What's wrong with this picture?  

A melange of hardscape design features. 
Photos: MJK

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