ESLARP East St. Louis Action Research Project
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Learning and Labor in Architecture

A Pavilion for Virginia Park

School of Architecture

Design Studio Project, Summer 1994

Jeffery S. Poss, Instructor

Summary Description

The project involved the design, construction, and erection of a small pavilion in Virginia Park in East St. Louis, Illinois. The studio consisted of four-forth and fifth year architecture students, a research assistant and the author as studio critic. The pavilion that was ultimately constructed was the result of the whole studios' creative thinking. It was the first visible evidence of a comprehensive master plan for the dilapidated park, designed concurrently by members of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois.

There were two sponsors for this project: the East St. Louis Park District provided the site, construction support, and funding through a HUD administered Community Block Grant; the University of Illinois East St. Louis Action Research Project, a consortium of faculty and students from the School of Architecture, Department of Landscape Architecture, and Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, provided additional operational and resource funds. The aim of the Action Research Project is to unite the ideas and energies of the university design community, in order to help identify and initiate improvements in the impoverished East St. Louis community.

The goals of the architecture design studio were as follows:

  1. Develop teamwork as an essential component of the design process.
  2. Emphasize design as a social activity - the designer has a responsibility to the environment, to the people, and to the community in which the design activity is taking place.
  3. Sensitize the student to the phenomenon of architecture: space, light, materials and their connection. How the material presence of a structure can relate to our emotions and to all of our senses. How these materials, when thoughtfully brought together, can express an important idea.
  4. Recognize that creativity can occur at all phases of a design project, from conceptual design to construction.
  5. Explore the possibilities of whole-to-part design relationships into an actualized building project on a specific site.

Short Answers

1. Constraints or Rules: Criteria for Pavilions The following criteria were established for the pavilions by the park district:

  1. A total construction budget of $2,500 was made available through a HUD Block grant awarded to the Park District for this project.
  2. Any park structure needed to be designed to withstand punishment.
  3. Designs were to avoid the use of shingles - they have been used as frisbees;
  4. Movable or chained picnic tables have been stolen - any furnishings should be of heavy construction, or integrated into the structure.
  5. Any metal will be stripped off and re-sold;
  6. The Park District is open to a variety of formal and programmatic ideas;
  7. The park is heavily used on summer evenings and on weekends for the following activities: family picnics, church gatherings and softball games, basketball, children's play, passive activities. The pavilion designs should address these activities, as well as proposing additional uses.

2. Success of Entry The final design integrates a large table and benches seating up to 16 adults with a translucent canopy of corrugated fiberglass. The interlocking 2x4 structure combines delicacy with strength. The organic, tree inspired form nestles well into the tree filled site.

The designers equally considered construction techniques, material choice, site conditions, and client requirements in the final design. It is their hope that the constructed pavilion is proof that a small public park structure can be both inspirational and durable.

3. Innovative and Significant Design Proceedures/Public Participation in Design Process

As the architecture studio began their work on this project, a master plan for the placement, budget and scheduling of site improvements for Virginia Park was being developed by Prof. Gary Kessler and his Research Assistant, Mindy Cohen, both of the UIUC Department of Landscape Architecture. Their ideas, the result of earlier meetings with the East St. Louis Park District, were presented several times to the architecture studio. Out of these presentations, several master plan concepts were developed.

To initiate the pavilion design process, the entire design team then met with East St. Louis Park District officials, city council members, and residents to discuss the master plan concepts. As a result of these discussions, four sites were identified as possible locations for pavilions.

In order to emphasize the studio objective of design teamwork, a cooperative design process was followed. Each of the four students selected a different site to begin the design exploration. Each site proposal tested program requirements, structural concepts, and site forces. After three days, the schemes were discussed, exchanged, and improved, and then discussed, exchanged, and improved again. After two weeks of this process, the projects were presented to the park district and residents of the Virginia Park neighborhood. One project wes selected for construction.

Because of the short period of time available for development of the design, construction and erection (three weeks), portions of the selected project - foundation, structure, and roof - were developed by individual team members. Meanwhile, the structure was critiqued by a professor of structural design. The construction sequencing and material list were developed to insure that the project was within the budgetary guidelines.

The pavilion components were shop fabricated by the students at the School of Architecture, in order to take advantage of the studio workshop. The construction was supervised by the Wood Shop Resource Assistant, who served as Research Assistant on this project. The truss configuration was laid out in masking tape on the floor, the pieces cut to size and bolted together. This process was repeated for the columns and table components.

While the components were making the 170 mile trip to the site, a backhoe provided by the Park District dug the foundation for the pavilion. The following day, the components were unloaded, prepared, and assembled on site with the help of members of the Alternative Offenders Work Support Program, supervised by the St Clair County Sheriff's Department. This second work day was complete when the ready mix truck delivered the concrete required to anchor the pavilion firmly to its site. The final day, the roof panels were attached to the structure. Three days after construction was completed, the pavilion served as the center-piece for a large family reunion. With the success of this project, the East St. Louis Park District is enthusiastic about the continued involvement of the entire design team, in developing the park's master plan, and constructing specific features of that plan.
Three days after construction was completed, the pavilion served as the center-piece for a large family reunion. With the success of this project, the East St. Louis Park District is enthusiastic about the continued involvement of the entire design team, in developing the park's master plan, and constructing specific features of that plan. 5. How Entry Fulfills Intent and Mission of U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development: One of the primary goals of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development's Community Planning and Development Programs is to establish and maintain suitable living environments for every American, and particularly for low-income Americans. This entry has aided in fulfilling this intent by providing a structure in a heretofore declining recreation area in the financially strapped City of East St. Louis that is functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Role and Contribution of Federal Office, Officials, and Staff:

Mr. James Barnes, Director of Illinois Operations of Community Planning & Development for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development approved CDBG funding for park improvements for the City of East St. Louis. This project was monitred by Mr. Jon Evans, the Community Planning and Development Representative for the City of East St. Louis.

Document author(s) : Design Studio, Summer 1994, School of Architecture
HTML by : Yinyuan Qing
Last modified: 24 October 1995 / Abhijeet Chavan


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