Connecting Alexandria’s Waterfront

Fall 2015 Urban Practice Studio taught by Eric Jenkins and Hickock Cole Architects

The waterfronts in our region are currently being transformed by an astonishing amount of economic redevelopment; examples include the new SE and SW developments in Washington DC, Harbor Point in Baltimore, and a new master plan for the entire waterfront promenade in Alexandria. As citizens, our relationship to the water’s edge is being dramatically altered within a very short period of time. The challenge for architects and designers is to understand how and why these places are being transformed and to foster change that is appropriate and beneficial today and for generations to come. This requires re-thinking the very nature of design and urban planning in relationship to the water and re-imagining the way we live next to water, be it a river or an ocean.

In this studio, we will explore the many reasons why waterfronts are so important and have become so valuable. We will look at what has been true historically from the earliest Greek colonies to the latest luxury tower in Miami. We will become familiar with the economic drivers that are transforming the very edges of our cities today. Finally, we will try to understand the sensitive ecological conditions at waterfronts so that we can design in harmony with nature and best co-exist alongside and preserve this valuable resource.

To test our ideas and thoughts, we will select a site along the waterfront of Alexandria, Virginia and design a project that explores how we as a society and as individuals can ideally experience and live along the water’s edge.

Sequence of the Studio

Students will engage in a glissando of scales (urbanism to architecture), degree of collaboration (group to individual), media (analog to digital) and concept (theoretical-historical-practical). The first month of the semester students will work in teams to research and analyze Alexandria’s urban fabric and history that will lead to synthesis or urban strategies. These strategies will then, ultimately, be tested at the architectural scale that will, it is hoped, re-inform the urban strategies.