Title page for ETD etd-01182005-004519

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Raghunathan, Nandagopal
Author's Email Address nanda@vt.edu
URN etd-01182005-004519
Title The corporate plaza and the office tower: The potential for a mutualistic space-form relationship.
Degree Master of Landscape Architecture
Department Landscape Architecture
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bork, Dean R. Committee Member
Johnson, Benjamin C. Committee Member
Katen, Brian F. Committee Member
  • plaza
  • corporate plaza
  • downtown
  • architecture
  • landscape architecture
  • spatial relationship
  • skyscraper
  • urban design
  • pittsburgh
Date of Defense 2004-05-21
Availability unrestricted
Within the context of a site/place on which a skyscraper is developed, the role of the corporate plaza is usually limited to providing a base to glorify the unique form of the skyscraper (the office tower). In such case, the potential for a symbiotic relationship between the skyscraper and the plaza is not realized. In exploring the possibilities of a symbiotic relationship the first step was to research the skyscraper and its evolution. This analysis based on existing literature revealed the 'motive' behind the design and construction of skyscrapers and the reason for its strong physical image - "the corporations desire for an attention drawing device".

This desire has resulted in the design of the skyscraper as an object in the urban landscape with a high degree of 'recognizability'. Although the skyscraper's character of recognizability plays an important role in the perception of the site, it fails to provide for the development of 'experiential meaning'. This experiential meaning which is a critical component for the environmental image of the site/place can be provided for in the plaza space. In order for the meaning, that is developed at the plaza, to be associated with the skyscraper, the skyscraper and the plaza should have a sense of continuity and appear as pats of a whole. To achieve this sense of continuity, the design of the plaza space needs to reflect/incorporate the elements that contribute to the strong physical image of the skyscraper as means of reinforcing the image of the skyscraper that is stored in the memory.

The remainder of the thesis was to apply and test the above statement/idea in a design solution. the first step in that process was the analysis of existing plazas against the statement-case studies. the case studies reinforced a few aspects that needed to be addressed in the design of the plaza 1) reference to the imageable character can be made through the use of materials as much as shape and forms (and there might be other possibilities based on the character of the building) 2) The functional aspect of the plaza is critical for the successful use of the plaza, an assumption that supports this thesis.

Once inferences were made from the case studies the next step was to decide on a site to redesign a plaza space- The PPG place in Pittsburgh.

The PPG place, a complex of 6 buildings, exemplifies the postmodern movement and was designed by one of the chief proponents of the movement, Philip Johnson. The once stark and desolate plaza was refurbished recently with the addition of fountains around the obelisk in the center. A skating rink is operated in the plaza during the winter months.

The design process was initiated by three layers of analysis

1) Analysis of the imageable qualities of the building

2) Analysis of the issues pertaining to the usability of the plaza

3) Analysis of the urban context

These three layers of information provided a broad framework for the design of the plaza, from which the final design concept was distilled. the space that is thus designed facilitates a high degree of usability as well as a relationship to the imageability of the skyscraper, ensuring a holistic image for the site/place in which the skyscraper and plaza coexist in a mutualistic relationship.

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