Intern Week 2017: An Urban Stitch Connecting Downtown + Deep Ellum

  Lu Rui, Vanessa, and Chandler use gummy bears to help program spaces

Lu Rui, Vanessa, and Chandler use gummy bears to help program spaces

This year has been a year of changes within the Internship Program at Studio Outside – both within the organizational structure and the size of the program, with this year being the largest at four interns. Lu Rui Yao and I have been with the firm since January, Ann Mai began in June, and Vanessa Ngo began the first day of Intern Week.

Representing three states and four schools, this gave us the opportunity to design in an office setting and work together as young professionals. The week began with the kick off meeting with representatives from the Deep Ellum Foundation and Downtown Dallas Inc. Jessica Burnham (Deep Ellum Foundation) laid out the design problem and explained the background of the area and the existing conditions. Our mission: to find a cohesive way to connect Downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum along the Elm, Main, Commerce, and Canton street connections, especially along the overpass. An ‘Urban Stitch’ between two historic districts.

The underpass itself creates hazardous conditions; namely the noise pollution, lack of light, and the shortage of sidewalks or usable walkable areas. After the meeting, our team of interns visited the site to collect images and first impressions of the site. The factor that stood out most to us was the uncomfortable level of noise being produced by the highway.

  Typical underpass experience between Deep Ellum and Downtown

Typical underpass experience between Deep Ellum and Downtown

Over the course of the next three days, we worked both individually and collaboratively. With three progress reviews, our vision took shape with the help of other professionals within the firm. As a team, we separated the work load and catered to individual interests including lighting design, streetscape planning, sound dampening, wayfinding, and programming green space. After several very late nights, the day of the presentation arrived. Several members of the Deep Ellum Foundation and Downtown Dallas Inc. were there to see the results of our week-long design charrette.

Our central concept was to reduce the effects of the noise under the highway, increase safety by integrating an urban lighting solution, and encourage walkability and bikeablity by creating designated lanes and sidewalks. We accomplished these goals by creating a sound dampening structure that would reduce the amount of noise on the streetscape and to help bring the space down to a pedestrian level. The sound dampening structure design is dual-purposed and provides shade while allowing light to filter through as it spreads across the highway, as well as providing a dynamic lighting solution to the area at night. As part of a multi-phased plan, we also suggested that one of the on ramps and one of the off ramps in our site could be removed to create the central green’s space. The intent behind the design was to move the dog park into the newly available space, and replace it with a more neighborhood appropriate activity area, such as a basketball court, a small park, or (as was suggested in the meeting) a skate park.

Throughout the process, we enjoyed working together and learning from each other, especially when it came to differences in educational experiences. Intern Week challenged us to come together as a team and adjust to life in a landscape architecture firm, rather than in the studio. Being able to present to real clients was an incredible opportunity for us that isn’t usually experienced during an internship.

Thank you, Studio Outside!