Construction and Conviviality

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Project: Description

A Table at the Schuylkill, an exploration of the formal themes of mapping and construction through the design of a dining platform for Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, PA.

About the Course:

Studio 410: Architecture and Landscape Studies I (DENV 410) provides an introduction to fundamental topics in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design.  These topics are investigated directly through the production, transformations, and interpretations of designs in two- and three-dimensional media.  The design projects developed in this studio involve discrete objectives, methods, and topics united by the general theme of dining.

Project Design Requirements:

Locate and design a single platform for dining.  This is not to be a prototype or general proposal for all dining in the park, but the exploration and development of a specific location.  Its shape and construction should be based on its location and the logic by which you locate it.

  • The size of the platform should be between 121 and 242 square feet in area.
  • It may have up to 2 feet differential in height, not including retaining walls, railings, etc.
  • It is to have no roof or constructed covering.


The project site is a portion of Fairmount Park along the West River Drive around the Belmont Water Works, roughly from the parking and picnic areas south of the Water Works and north to high ground under the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.  The platform may be situated on any portion of the land from the forest edge west of the Drive down to the river's edge.

This area is one of the most intensively used sections of the park, second only to that along the East River Drive.  It is popular for jogging, bicycle riding, and picnicking; with large areas of lawn and scattered trees.  The peak of activity is generally on warm weekends when the drive is closed to cars during the day.  The exercise crowd races up and down all day, while picnickers stake out territory for evening barbecues.  At 5:00 PM when the drive reopens, cars laden with supplies flood the parking areas and drive onto the lawns to set up their grills and dining spots.   The current facilities for dining consists primarily of picnic tables mounted on concrete pads, where people eat face to face, or benches, where people eat side by side facing a view.   Of course, picnickers at any time of day will sit directly on the lawn or on other features.

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Conceptual Design:

Concept Statement - The formal themes of Mapping and Construction are paralleled by the topical themes of Materiality and Conviviality.  The binding element of dining is one of the most public and ritualized activities while equally one of the most private and individualized.  Eating out and eating together are fundamental social acts.  We are not only what we eat, but are defined by where and how we do so.  The materials of a dining place and the arrangements it affords both condition these activities.

Design Development:

Finalization of the design concept through the development of scale drawings and preparation of presentation graphics.

Final Architectural Model:

Scale model construction using basswood on painted oriented strand board (OSB).  Overall model dimensions are 36”W x 24”D x 2.5”H.