Plazas, Nature, and Libraries: A quick look at finding precedent projects for inspiration.

Admittedly, I am a nerd.

In my spare time, I type key words into ArchDaily and find interesting projects, partially to add them to a running catalog of precedent projects I like, but partially just because it adds to my architectural bucket list.

Yesterday, PPD 531L, Deb Torres’ design studio, had its final pin-up, and I think my classmates would agree that the semester was long, but very productive. I felt one of the key things to succeeding in this studio was being able to back-up your likes and dislikes with what is going on in the urban design realm at large. A huge component to the project was picking out precedents that inspired your design because at the scale of our drawings, you couldn’t add in a strong level of detail. Precedent studies are an easy way to point to a picture and say, “This is what I would want in this space.”

It’s also easy to translate your precedent study into your own design work for an added level of detail. For my project, I wanted to incorporate the idea of a boardwalk, so I grabbed some tracing paper and went through 20 minute charettes for boardwalk, plaza, street furniture, and alley design based on my chosen precedents to better understand how I would want this space to feel. I found it incredibly helpful during my review, and honestly, it was pretty fun (but that could be the nerd in me).


Precedents are especially important as May, and the Comprehensive Exam, are fast approaching. This semester isn’t even over, and the Comp is looming in the back of my mind (and I’m sure most other 2nd years). For the Comp, we have 6 days to take a design problem and communicate our solutions effectively in front of our peers and professors, many of whom we will probably work with out in the “real world.”

So, back to my point, today I made my morning trip to ArchDaily and just typed “plaza” into the search bar. Hundreds of projects came up, but the Green Square Library competition entry by Hyunjoon Yoo Architects caught my eye.

Green Square Library & Plaza Design Competition Entry by Hyunjoon Yoo ArchitectsSource:

Green Square Library & Plaza Design Competition Entry by Hyunjoon Yoo Architects

In the project description, the author writes about the intent to bring people to nature, working with a difficult site (both its shape in plan and the grade changes), and creating better access to education. Without even looking at the project, I can say its design goals are most likely relevant to MPL students and their work. After looking at the images closer, R.M. Schindler’s home in Los Angeles came to mind, as the entire house opened up into courtyard spaces, and then Lautner’s Chemosphere project as an alternative for dealing with a difficult site. Just because this project is a library, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have design elements and lessons to learn from.

So, next time you have to take on a design project (next semester’s studios), and even before that (winter break), I’d encourage students to create a catalog of design solutions they like, and, as always, feel free to share them right here on Plan On!

– Stephanie Byrd, 2nd Year MPL, Concentration: Design and Preservation of the Built Environment


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