Electric Canyon

One of my studios in Berkeley covered the topic of hybridization in architecture, one of the “trending” movements in contemporary architecture. More and more, architects are combining typical typologies, and often with interesting results. The reason for hybrid architecture is not merely about the shortage of land in urban areas, but also about creating interesting foci in the urban fabric that will help reinvigorate the city. City planner Jamie Lerner’s idea of the “urban acupuncture” prescribes cities to focus interventions at the architecture scale all throughout the city in order to create a positive ripple effect. He used this theory successfully at Curitiba, Brazil which is now considered a role model for sustainable urban planning. Hybrid architecture, then, often becomes an urban design project as well because of this desire for beneficial urban effects.

The studio project objective was to design a car museum and dealership. The studio project was supposed to be a museum and dealership for small cars. I requested to my professor the option to personally change my project to a museum+dealership for electric cars instead, as I personally believe that is the future direction of the automobile. The building should promote a new lifestyle for urban dwellers and seeks to educate people on the history and development of the electric car.

One of the precedents we were asked to look at is the BMW Welt by Coop Himmelb(l)au, which merged the traditional car museum with an auto delivery center and production facility. By merging the 3 programs, the visitor is fully exposed to the entire cycle of automobile design, production, and delivery. The hybrid program weaves the visitor through the history of the automobile, the present production and purchasing and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

I’m currently re-working on this project for portfolio purposes. Although I will retain the underlying design concept I presented for the final review, due to the length of the summer session the building was half-baked. The basic concept of my project was a building carved down the middle to create a mini-avenue where electric cars could be parked and charged. The purpose of this avenue is to create an advertisement for electric cars by displaying the act of charging. The carved canyon form also aimed to attract people into the building, inviting curiosity and perhaps new customers.

The weakness of the old design from last summer was that I had split the museum and dealership program with the avenue cut, connecting them with a bridge over the avenue. This one aspect of the building would be the only “hybridized” element, in essence creating two different building connected with a bridge.

For the revision, the concept of a canyon still dominates my design intentions but the building might not be so bifurcated as the first design. The inspiring image of a canyon must have an audience, so it is crucial that the canyon cut will be viewable from major points from the road. I identified two major viewpoints that will begin the initial carve at the ground level where the access lanes will be.:

  1. From the Central Freeway/Highway 101 that ramps down from the south, just southeast off Market St.
  2. From Dolores St  from the southwest
One of the first things I’m tackling is the procession of users through the building. The procession through the car museum+dealership is in the vein of FLW’s Guggenheim Museum where you are taken the the top of the building and a circulation ramp spirals down through the exhibits all the way down to the ground level. The reason for doing this is an attempt to integrate the two main programs of the museum and the dealership into a much tighter story. A linear progression of learning/experiencing in the museum that could culminate in the purchase of your own electric car. Because not all users will have to or need to go through the entire experience, the elevator can easily take them to the level they require.

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