Architectura Design: Higher Ground
Challenging the basic purpose of the stacked stone walls proliferating the Northeast, this project transforms the stripped down stone wall from a simple barrier between the cacophony of the road and the Mill River to a form defining internal spaces. Diverting focus away from the street, the concept of the stone wall as both barrier and volume encompasses the program of a supplementary exhibition and workshop space for the adjacent Eli Whitney Museum. Cutting along the major diagonal axis leading from the entry of the Eli Whitney Museum to the river, the wall is inflected, signaling entry, and expanded, allowing the programmatic spaces to negotiate place within the wall. Their degree of interaction with the wall defines the degree of intimacy of the various programmatic spaces, inclining either towards the public street or the river. Layers of circulation gradually break down in formality as one approaches the final destination, the natural and changing river.
One enters the site through a puncture in the thinnest end of the stone wall, marking entry into the sequence of experiencing the site, yet remaining outdoors. From there, one can either move into the wall through the cafe- the most public space- and follow the internal sequence of enclosed spaces, or one can move directly down the slope on axis towards the river and waterfall beyond. At the river's edge, a meandering and narrow wooden path leads through the trees, marking the most minimal form of landscape manipulation. Breaking down manipulations of the landscape from the harsh insertion of a stone wall at the parking lot to the gentle touch of the wooden path at the sites most natural edge choreographs a sequential experience that gradually immerses visitors into the haptic nature of the site.