Fluid Landscapes: A Housing Project for Downtown Atlanta

Category: Housing | Graduate Studio
Year: Fall 2013
Studio Instructor: Brian Bell

The diagrams below express a unique reading of the landscape of downtown Atlanta. The traditional topographic lines evoke a landscape of drastic elevation change. The site, however does not exist in this state and is instead terraced over with parking lots and abandoned building footprints. These topographic lines were subsequently redrawn in order to better understand the topography of the site. When placed against eachother, the topographic contours evoke much more than data; they tell a story of the history of a place through alterations of topography. Deleauze and Guattari’s theory of the smooth and the striated landscape describes the ever changing mixture of landscape states. This theory can be applied to the site through the lens of the palimpsest. Over the years, various layers of historical sedimentation have conquered and obscured while others have reemerged. Through glimpses, the city  of the past informs the city of today.

The design process began with the investigation of the topography existing the abandoned landscape of parking lots existing at the site.The hypertopography is the re- creation of the topography  preexisting city. It was then molded in response to various environmental factors in order to insulate the site. The influence of the state and government buildings at the site is overwhelming; the plazas in front of these buildings masquerade as public space. The topographic intervention at the site works counter to the state influence and creates truly public space within the perimeter of the block. The topography was then further manipulated in order to provide inhabitable space at the street front and finally hollowed out with pathways in the interior.

Cross Section

East Elevation

Water supply and runoff are major issues in any urban intervention and architects and urban designers have a responsibility to lessen the impact of density upon the surrounding environment. As more people populate the city of Atlanta, this stresses the already depleted water table. In order to confront this, the design uses the topography as the impetus for the creation of an infrastructure that liberates the housing complex from the water grid. The final form of topographic manipulations channel rain water into an underground aquifer that filters and stores water beneath the parking deck. This filtered water is used by the residents for daily needs and can also be sold back to the city. The infrastructure also creates much needed public space at the site; running beneath the pathways of between the topographic manipulations is a canal that captures the water runoff. This canal opens across the site, creating public sitting and gathering spaces centered around the flow of water. The topography is also inhabitable, creating space for retail as well as public resources