Friday, November 20, 2009


1. Henry Ford Community College is horribly designed. Upon visiting the college, you would most definitely notice this...IF and you are able to enter the campus at all. The entryway, road-wise, is not concealed at all, yet no clear way is marked within the twisting and intersecting roads, making you feel like you're driving the wrong way down a one way street.
Assuming, however, that you've made it onto campus, good luck finding the building that you want to. Most of the buildings look the same on the outer edge of campus, and none are clearly marked. Within the campus are many confusing pathways that even go through some buildings. The buildings themselves have confusing layouts. Many of the stairways are impossible to find. Some buildings do not even have restrooms...or if they do, a patron unfamiliar with the college will not be able to find them. It may be too costly and too late to solve these problems architecturally. I would suggest signs, and tons of them, to help visitors get where they need to be.
2. There are two buildings on campus that I consider to have architectural flaws. One is the Fine Arts Building, and one is Hicks Center. Both are easy to use...once you get used to them.
For the most part, the Fine Arts Building seems well-designed. However, if you don't know exactly where you're going, the individual practice rooms would be extremely difficult to find. Taking the side entrance into the FAB, you must walk down a staircase and head right. You are then faced with two identical hallways. If you go down the first one, you won't find any practice rooms. Since the other hallway looks the same, you might then reasonably assume that the practice rooms aren't located there either.
When I was first touring Kalamazoo College, I remember being extremely confused by the layout of Hicks Center. The staircases in particular confused me. It was difficult to remember which side of which level contained the staircases. It appeared that the main concern was fitting in all the different rooms with different purposes, without regard to how easy it would be to navigate between them.
3. The flaw in the current design process is the lack of a feedback phase, and a lack of the presence of the building user. The lack of a feedback phase is shown not only in awards processes but also in AIA building contracts. Data on building use is often nonexistent or not utilized. Architecture today is too focused on zoning and building codes, and not enough on their social impact and use. This leads to buildings contradicting the very purpose for which they were created, as in the example of the rehabilitation center that was not wheelchair friendly.
The codes and "rules of thumb" that architects design around do not have behavioral considerations, even though they will inevitably affect the behavior of the building's users. This leads to buildings dictating how they are used, when it should be the other way around. The fact that users are not part of the design process plays a large part in today's architectural flaws.

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