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Pilot study at Cornell University

byEditorial Team

published on 1/9/2014

In the fall of 2014 the Design+Desires team conducted a pilot study of its method via a Fall semester course option studio at the Architecture Art Planning Department of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY). This studio was led by Renny Ramakers together with regular tutor Aleksandr Mergold. In collaboration with Mark van der Net and Agata Jaworska, Ramakers introduced the Design+Desires approach. The object of research was Trumansburg, a small city in upstate New York. The students were asked to map daily routines of the citizens, followed by interviews with these citizens about their needs and desires as an inspiration for their concepts and designs.

The idea was to get the students out of their architectural comfort zone by urging them to not immediately think in spatial concepts and to not immediately start designing buildings, but first to listen carefully to what the citizens come up with, which could alo mean things that might not directly be related to their physical environment, such as, emotions and feelings. In short, the students needed to look for solutions beyond traditional practices in architecture.Some students were better in following this method than others. We picked the ones that were closest to the brief. 


Aaron Goldstein

Aaron Goldstein met a dog-owner who had a small fenced-in yard with two gates - one for her family and one for the next-door neighbors; an elderly couple who loved dogs but could not have one of their own (the second gate was on the side of the yard closer to their house). This unique "solution" led him to speculate about other opportunities in which neighbors could share. Several of such anecdotes emerged from his conversations with citizens (another involved a dispute about the maintenance of a tree, while another involved a dream of a communal root cellar).  These heterogeneous desires were coupled with a fairly standard living situation and land use pattern (large plot of land, setbacks, separated houses, with barns and many sheds in the yard used primarily for storage).  The project thus was an attempt to transform the typical so that it could both accommodate/encourage specific interests and desires, and encourage an economy based on sharing and small exchanges. The project could also be seen as a way to establish more contact between the citizens, since lack of contact was one of the major problems the students met in their survey in Trumansburg .


Owen Smith

With waterfalls, carved pools, and forested banks, Trumansburg Creek is potentially a rich recreational resource for the town. Despite its close proximity to the center of Trumansburg and its potent natural beauty, the creek goes vastly underutilized. There are a handful of private residences along its banks, yet the complete lack of public access creates , much to the regret of the citizens, a strong division between town and creek. Creek Center is a proposal to help bridge two separate worlds. A series of connections between the town and creek will help to center more public activities along the water. The proposed buildings attempt to offer activities to a wide demographic range allowing people to explore the length of the creek, but also familiarize themselves with areas specifically suited to them. These buildings are carefully sited along the creek responding to the topography and connections to the certain areas of town. In this way Creek Center seeks to carefully curate interactions with the water while maintaining a sensitivity to the wildlife and existing natural conditions.


QianQian Ye

Most of the farms in Trumansburg are half size of national average, which is typical in upstate New York towns. The lack of cooperation between small farms and the short of connections between farms and community makes the organic-agri-market less competitive with common chain markets. QianQian Ye proposes a SUPER-Agri-mart systems to connect the current T-burg agriculture infrastructure and create new agri-retail-experience model which can be applied to the other towns. Her Agri-Complex system includes farming Sport/recreation, organic product market, tourism destinations, prepared food selling, community cooking school, farming skill training, farmers’ lecture series and compost drop off/pick up which will be connected by a suggested path, a network of varied transportation tools and identical facilities.


Daniel Toretsky

Daniel Toretsky addresses the worsening problem of a diminishing middle class in ru­ral America and the ight of 25-35 year-olds from small towns in search of more financially promising urban centers. T-bund is a group of makers dedicated to developing a deployable system of parts that responds to the inter­ests of people within and around Trumansburg who value mobility but also feel the need to participate in a vibrant, small town community   T-Bund units are intended to augment existing structures and aggregate residual spaces in Trumansburg and other small towns throughout the Finger Lakes region. The units are small, easily transportable rooms which can be custom­ized within the production facility or at the installation site. These units are meant to be combined on site and transformed by the inhabitants to create personalized, transi­tory, and afordable dwellings. T-bund users are free to continuously move from town to town, or eventually settle in one place and add to their original units. With this project Daniel Toretsky is referring to the American spirit which is characterized by a willingness and necessity to move freely over time while still engaging in the com­munities one arrives in.



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