Monday, February 19, 2007

Ruby Grant Studio Design and Analysis

Because of the way that my studios have fallen, I am doing somethings backwards. Last semester we did a design of Ruby Grant Park. We had some design elements that we had to incorporate into the park, like cross country track, art, community track, amphitheater and the environment. So this semester I am going back and taking another look at site analysis. I am getting a little bit different perspective after going out again and traipsing over the site. My thoughts, although not the most articulate, are that Ruby Grant has the potential to represent the Cross Timbers while reflecting our agricultural roots.

After walking over the site this weekend, I could see that farming this land has not had major negative impact. I would argue that it is what has preserved the site. The upland prairies and lower riparian corridors have had minimal disturbance. I believe there are areas that may never have had a plow run through them. And most significantly the eastern red cedar has not been allowed to dominate the landscape and take control.

Ruby Grant is special. It is a jewel, and I fear that Norman doesn't realize what they have.

I guess the following is a little bit of a teaser, because I don't include my plans just my over arching concepts of the park. Maybe at a later date I will include some of my design work on this project.

In the summer of 04, I did an exploration of agriculture and its impact on Architecture. During that investigation I realized the importance agriculture has on our perceptions of land, city and country.

I read Wendell Berry and William Cronon and other books on land and the environment.

Here is an excerpt from my end of the semester essay: in hindsight it was a design challenge.

“A nature park may not be expedient in downtown New York, but what about a natural park for the soul? What about a forest belt in the city that reflected the native landscape and brought a sense of regional identity? I would not want to encourage wildlife in our cities, but there is a place for native habitat. Butterflies, frogs, songbirds, beetles and other creatures have proven adaptable enough to find niches of habitat in our cities. I propose to tear out the concrete encasements of our streams that run silently under our streets, and return their gurgles to the surface. They are fragile and vital and a wealth of life.

Our concrete creeks are a tragedy for the frog, the heron and the fish. It is even more of a tragedy for the children of Norman. They should have their pants rolled up and should be wading through the creek. Exploring life. Wondering how the water skipper stays on the water surface. Investigating life under stones. Watching dragonflies dart. Inspecting the web of a spider. Following the path of a working ant. Tasting the nectar of the toadflax. Chewing the sweet node of spring wheatgrass. Learning developing, broadening their minds, increasing their wonder and piquing their curiosity. The creek for a child is one of the fundamental experiences that lead to the awareness of the spirit of nature. It is this spirit of nature that our children will need to draw on when called to face the dilemmas of global climate change, air pollution, land use, habitat destruction and water pollution.

In hindsight this was a design challenge. When I got the opportunity to work on Ruby Grant in studio it was the opportunity to put up or shut up about how nature and community should live in harmony.

My design intent:

· Provide a space that encourages increased movement and activity of the community to promote better health.

· Include a world-class cross country course with the flexibility to embrace the active play needs of the community

· Incorporate space for community art, education and events.

· Be sensitive and responsible to the environmental issues of the site and pursue long-term environmental health and stability

· Embrace the regional and historical identity of the site

James Corner was also a large influence on my design.

I studied the Downsview Park competition and tried to incorporate the over reaching principles into my design. James Corner's design was called Emergent Ecologies and was the layering of two systems Circuits which represented the human components and Through Flows which represented the natural and informational flows of the site.

In Recovering Landscapes, James Corner writes “…the meaning of Landschaft comprises a deep and intimate mode of relationship not only among buildings and fields, but also among patterns of occupation, activity, and space, each often bound into calendrical time.:

In designing Cross Park (Ruby Grant Park) I used the dynamics of the environment to engage, direct and mold the geometries of the two major systems—the activity circuit and the natural dynamics of the site. Activity and human occupation ebb and flow with the time, the day and the season, and the natural dynamics of the site are the physical and spiritual aspects of the environment and the foundation of the human experience.

Cross Park is not covered in a seductive veil of contrived beauty. It is an expression of the spiritual beauty of the raw and regional dynamics of the native cross timber system. Cross Park is not an idealized picture of the past, but it is an engagement in the present.

The occupation and activity of Cross Park is the life of the park. The natural dynamics of the park are the spirit.


· Link services activity zones and facilities

· Stream and concentrate events, activities and art along and within the circulation corridors


· Address the present health and future impacts of the hydrological system

· Use natural processes to reduce maintenance and maximize long-term health of the environment

· Use fire as a natural maintenance tool for upland prairie and riparian corridor

· Create ditches and furrows around old farm fields and parking areas to prevent chemicals and pesticides from getting into hydrological system

· Maximize old farm fields for human use

· Maximize prairie systems for increased habitat productivity

I think that the Sutton Wilderness Park is an example of what we do not want in a park. The Sutton Wilderness philosophy of walking away from the land and allowing the nature to do its thing has failed. The reason is because fire has been taken out of the equation. The prairie system evolved around fire.

I have isolated the two vital environmental corridors. I would like to bring fire back into the natural cycle of the prairie on a 5-12 year rotation, and return these corridors back to a more healthy prairie system.

The Benefits:

· Reduced maintenance

· Control of trees and invasive species

· Increased habitat productivity

· Increased awareness of the cross timbers and mixed grass prairie system.

· Regional identity, appreciation and education


Cross Park can be one of Norman’s finest jewels. This design would encourage movement and the health of the community. It would be fertile ground for the expression of art. The reflection of the Native Cross Timbers can be found in the environmental corridors and honor is paid to the history of the farmland. The cross country track is flexible enough to be used by the community and still be an asset to the local cross country teams.