New Albion: Adaptive Reuse of a Holyoke Mill
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This thesis project examines the possible impact of an adaptive reuse project in Center City Holyoke. The city of Holyoke faces a number of challenges, including poverty and crime, which are particularly prevalent within the Center City neighborhood of The Flats. The number of vacant buildings, products of an abandoned industry and increasing urban sprawl, increase these challenges. The proposed program for a multi-use community-oriented complex on Water Street attempts to reengage the community with the river, and the city at large. I began this project in the fall of 2010, through a series of research inquiries into the theoretical framework of adaptive reuse. This provides a solid grounding in methodologies of sustainability, reuse, and urban development upon which a specific case study can be built. Through examination of existing precedents and the existing context within Holyoke, these methodologies begin to reveal themselves as more or less successful. The second stage of the project was to test the framework I had developed through my research. The Albion Mills are typical of a number of Holyoke industrial sites: large, composed of a number of different buildings, set on the water, and currently uninhabited. It presents a number of challenges, because it is currently disconnected from the rest of the city. I redesigned the complex by introducing a new pedestrian bridge over the canal, and conducting selective demolition to create an interior courtyard that ties two disparate groups of buildings into a cohesive development. The initial motivation for this project was the idea of sustainability. This has remained an overarching theme throughout the project’s development, but my understanding of its meaning has changed and matured. Sustainability requires not only better environmental practices, but also a more equitable economic and social context. To become truly sustainable requires rethinking a lot of the ways in which people live, work, and interact. Through my proposed design transformation of the Albion complex, I am challenging the conventions of urban design. My project endeavors to reconnect the public to their city and to energize local creativity through a series of strategies involving materiality, visibility, and interconnectivity. Through formal strategies and programmatic interactions, my project attempts to create a context for rethinking currently accepted modes of living. By juxtaposing the past with the present, New Albion creates a vision for the future.