The Port Huron Multiuse Project focused on the design of a multiuse building for Port Huronís northern CBD. I decided that the goal of the project must be to infuse new life into Port Huronís CBD by introducing new and supportive uses, to create a prototype for the rebirth of Port Huronís
downtown business district. Since the project called for the speculative creation of a new building type without solid existing demand, to succeed the project must be ambitious and attempt with its own implementation to create a more supportive and successful urban environment. The building must be tied to existing sources of use, yet at the same time must create new sources of demand.
The freshness of this new architecture when compared to
existing Port Huron buildings which all uniformly recall times past, brings with it an excitement fundamental to its dynamic purpose. However, just because the building is dynamic does not mean that it diminishes surrounding buildings. To the contrary, the new multiuse building compliments existing buildings with its form and with its visual contrast, enriching the urban fabric far more than weak, strictly contextual additions. Its sweeping massing helps to connect the
linear CBD's central street with the river and with the connecting river park system, and helps to remedy an existing problem. While the current setback of a large auditorium, the McMorran Complex, currently introduces a harsh break in the streetscape, the new multiuse building helps to sweep the vertical plane back out to the neighboring historic Algonquin Hotel. And the architecture does not overpower the Algonquin which co-occupies the one block site, but rather draws a
different type of attention and strengthens the unique draw of the Algonquin.
Because this multiuse building is a forerunner of rebirth, the building's commercial portion is a combination of street front businesses and internally supported offices and retail shops. The multiuse building has a large central atrium and art gallery which will be connected to local artists, the local college gallery, and the public library in the attempt to connect the new building to the
community, to support and to be supported by these established institutions. The focal point of the lobby is a central stair and elevator which connects the second office floor to the street. The atrium is thus used as a conditioning entry space, a buffer between internal building uses and the existing street. A restaurant occupies the southern portion of the first floor, and has a large outdoor eating area in the courtyard in front of the building to create a atmosphere of
activity to provide testimony to the value of the street and historical CBD area. Housing on the third through fifth floors is arranged radially, to visually create a sweep from the main artery to the river and park spaces and back into the CBD, as well as to functionally screen undesirable buildings from the view of the river on the front and to provide maximum privacy on the rear. Housing units are designed to appeal to those who would otherwise purchase a singly family
home. The goal of these one and two bedroom units is to draw young people and business professionals back to the CBD. They are accessed by means of a separate, private rear lobby.
In response to a perceived existing problem in the CBD, parking and services area facilitated on two lower levels. Currently a vast amount of surface parking weakens the CBD by creating large visual voids in street fronts and by creating a sprawl which weakens pedestrian access throughout the
CBD. Drawing on the solution of Birmingham multiuse buildings such as the 555 building, Birmingham Place, and the Merrilwood building, integrating parking into the lower levels of the building provides convenience to residents and office occupants, and strengthens the CBD.
This project introduced me to urban design and challenged me to find an architectural solution which worked both internally to create successful spaces for a multitude of uses and
externally and in the greater urban sense to create connection and foster greater support through community improvement.