Thursday, December 1, 2011

Here It Is! I couldn't keep it hidden any longer.

So, I thought that I would wait till the end of the semester to get this map out there, both because it is still probably going to be tweaked and because I wanted to present the entire semester's work at once. Anyway, I can't wait any longer. I hope you like it. Maybe it will create some internet buzz. I will explain it all in a different post, hopefully soon. It uses the old rights-of-way from freight trains, reconnects the city to its waterfronts, has a feeder/local downtown loop, and follows all of the city's studies including the spine line, Easter Corridor Transit Study. I still have a long 5 months of work on the rest of the thesis though.
Samson T Map

Here is the design in actual lines:

Lines Map

*note: T Map has been revised based on comments.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Semester

The summer is over. Now, with all the students back from break, the real fun begins as studios are back in session. Thesis this semester will focus heavily on research, much like in the summer. This is the list of goals for the end of this semester:

  •  a full map of all the lines of a BRT/LRT system throughout the Pittsburgh Metro area. 
  • identify the site of the hub station that I will be designing. 
  • more focus with the thesis topic of "image of a city"- (thesis statement)
  • a detailed site model
  • a preliminary design
  • complete understanding of a wide range of research topics

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Winding Down

Summer sessions are nearly over and I am gearing up for the Fall semester. On the research page of the blog I have a couple of new posts including one that compares the above/below grade threshold to birth, a paper I wrote on Transit Oriented Development and analysis of the "Spine Line" corridor study of 1993.

I'm now looking at the specific locations of where best to put the stations. The Spine Line study and ECTS have given me good direction to start. I have also uncovered some great concept maps from two designers, Craig Toocheck and Edward Shin. These maps are similar to the ultimate map I create for a new LRT or BRT system.

I am also going to compare BRT and LRT systems in my final paper for Professor Buehler. From my research thus far, it appears that BRT is much cheaper and easier to implement while LRT has more appeal in that it is perceived as permanent and pushes its city to "modern" status. For the purposes of my thesis, which explores the ideas of "the image of a city"is affected by public transportation, LRT is perhaps better. Conversely, BRT systems are not common in the USA and Pittsburgh boasts one of the biggest networks with 3 existing lines. There is also the possibility for Pittsburgh to combine these two systems into one cohesive transit network.

Either way, this coming semester will be exciting as I explore these topics and many more.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Transportation Planning Class and NYC

These past several weeks I've been busy researching and writing two papers for my Transprotation Planning class that I am taking with Dr. Ralph Buehler. I will soon write a post that overlooks the impact of this research and how it will affect my thesis project.

Much of what I am learning are the non-architectrual aspects of transit systems. This area has a range of topics from budgets and financing to social perceptions of transit. Many of these topics seem too concrete and disheartening to wishful dreamers like many young architects (myself included), but they are necessary in order to have a working and viable system.

The first paper discusses the history of transit in the U.S. and looks at the modes of transit. It examines how cities affect transit and how transit affects cities. Cities play a major role in the evolution of transit, and conversely, transit plays a major role in the evolution of cities. This cause-effect cycle is what has shaped America’s urban transit landscape as well as our cities.

The second paper, which I am currently writing, examines the riders of transit. It focuses on riders' views and attitudes towards transit systems and how we can learn from other countries (Germany) to get more riders using our transit.

Additionally, I will be going to NYC this weekend! I plan on riding much public transportation there (NYC and metro area accounts for up to 1/3 of all transit in the U.S.!) as well as exploring the new Highline park. The park is a great example of re appropriating urban elements for new uses and reshaping the image of a city. I hope to apply the lessons of the Highline to Pittsbugh.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Visiting the Steel City

I am back in my hometown of Pittsburgh this week and plan on completing several studies for my research.

Firstly, I plan to create a colors/materials palette of the city. This will give my audience a better grasp of the city's beautiful rainbow of brick and painted steel. Clearly, the bones of the city are from its industrial boom, and much of the city is weathered to a profound and dark palette. The city's past, replete with steel mills and smokey skies, has left its permanent print on nearly every building built before the 1970's. In downtown, this deep palette mixes harmoniously with the skyscrapers built in the 1980's and 1990's as well as the convention center built this past decade. Bricks meet glass and steel meets steel, and the outcome is surprisingly well balanced. The backdrop of the mountains, covered with trees, adds a green presence rarely felt in the center of a metropolis.

Secondly, I plan to ride the "T" (Pittsburgh's light rail system). This will give me a good feel for the details and operation of the system. This includes development of the system, how frequently it is used, above/below grade situations, electrical mechanics, stations, signage etc. With this critical information, I will be able to better understand any efforts in adding to the system.

Thirdly, I will spend a day wandering downtown to see where the best sites for new stations. I will need to gather further information by studying maps, street grids and traffic patterns, but this will give me a jumpstart understanding the role of the T on the pedestrian scale in downtown.

Finally, I will try to document the city's steel history and its current presence in the city. From the slag heaps in Nine Mile Run to the Waterfront's smokestacks to the heavy machinery in Station Square which is now used as sculpture, the remnants of the city's industrial past penetrate Pittsburgh, both physically and psychologically.

What a beautiful city.
View From Mt. Washington

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Getting Started

This blog will record my efforts over the coming year regarding my Master's thesis in Architecture. I am a student at Virginia Tech's WAAC Campus in Alexandria, VA earning my M.Arch 2. I plan to graduate in May 2012.


Public Transportation System for Pittsburgh, PA


Pittsburgh is an important city in the United States' history. It once served as the headquarters for American steel production, producing the steel that was used to develop this nation.  With the mills churning around the clock, the air was filled with soot, and Pittsburgh gained its gritty hue. Then, the steel trade moved out of town and Pittsburgh’s economy and population recessed. The city has recently made the jump from industrial powerhouse to post-industrial urban center and is looking to regain its status as a top-tier American city. Pittsburgh is replacing its soot-covered image with that of a contemporary green city. And one of the criteria for remaking the city’s image is public transportation.

Currently, Pittsburgh’s public transportation consists of many incoherent systems that fail to support the population's current and future needs. The bus system is the major mode of public transit, but the city also offers a limited busway system, a light rail system that serves mostly the suburbs and of course the two inclines which climb Mount Washington. Though this list seems extensive, the outcome is a mess rather than a cohesive whole, and commute times are much longer than they should be.

My thesis project will address the idea of a comprehensive public transportation system (most likely a light rail) for the region. I will lay out a basic master plan for the region and design the central hub station (and/or a typical station).

Architectural concepts that I would explore include:
Commuting, routine and travel
Living and Working
The image of a city, and architecture as rebirth
Regional Connectedness
Issues of public and private activities

It looks to be a very exciting year.