"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood…" Daniel Burnham

Posts tagged “City of Rockford Illinois

Seasons of Change

First of all I would like to apologize, it has been quite some time since I have posted anything pertaining to my project. Today is the day for catching you all up with the challenges and triumphs that I have went through in the past 21 days.

Last I posted was pertaining to the project I was planning to work on in Rockford. Since then, I had switched my project to the city of Aurora, been tempted back to Rockford, but finally settled in Aurora, working on a project very similar to that of the Rockford Project. Sadly this means I will no longer be able to obtain Turkey Hill Iced Tea while traveling for my project. But, Aurora is the best choice for me to work on a project in, due to the support structure that is already set up with the the City Planners, Historical Society, and the Community.

Since then, I have begun to whole heartedly look at the way that the city developed throughout history, focusing on three cardinal dates, 1888, 1945ish, and 2009. I say ‘ish’ because the development of the project is centered around a type of map called, Sandborn Maps, these maps were created so that fire companies could know what type of buildings they were being called to at a moments notice. The Sandborns are usually created over a certain amount of time, and the distance of time between the completions of one Sandborn to the rest varies greatly. Thus, the use of the word ‘ish’. The value of these maps are, they not only show detailed footprints of the building, but also uses and types, window placement, and interior walls. All of these elements create a very valuable platform to jump off of when looking at the historic city as a whole. The present state of the city is much more challenging to determine because the most recent Sandborns were produced in approximately 1955.

My Goal is to post later and provide my thesis proposal, as well as a post on my sketch project, the Madagascar Chapel.

Thank you all for you support



The Predicament of Morphology

Moving forward through project mode. I am constantly realizing the challenges that come with trying to develop a study of morphology when existing morphology does not exist for the site in question. Redeveloping a rail yard that has always been a rail yard does not give a historical aspect of the site itself due to the issue that the City of Rockford grew to and around this rail yard from the beginning. This will require a different approach to understand how the site would have developed if it had not been a rail yard and determining historically what keynote dates and developments would have began to change the fabric of the site itself, as well as, analyzing several other block and street arrangements throughout the city that are similar to the situation of the site itself. (Below is the Sanborn map from April 1887 showing the Rail Yard to the center)

Initial Thesis Proposal

Below is a write-up of my current proposal for my Masters Thesis Project. I apologize if the wording and terms are difficult to understand, please keep in mind that this was a proposal to the Graduate Advisor of the Judson University School of Art Design and Architecture. I have also only used portions of the entire documentation. Enjoy.

“…Through recent meetings and charettes the school has become enjoined to the City of Rockford and through this union several projects have been made available to the group of master’s students. After in-depth research and ‘project surfing’ and after looking into several different projects in the area as well as in Rockford I believe what would be most beneficial is a project in the City of Rockford. Some of the goals that I expect to achieve out of the program this year would only be possible through the list of the City of Rockford projects. One main goal of accepting this project is accomplishing a greater understanding of communication with and through an actual client, that being the City of Rockford.

The Rockford Rail Yard Redevelopment is a very challenging project morphologically due to several factors. One of the primary challenges is that the current fabric surrounding the rail yard is a jumble of different grids in both orientation and sizes due to the close proximity with the river itself. Historically river towns have streets that run parallel to the river a majority of these towns are placed where the river is relatively straight. Rockford, however, was settled at a location where the river makes a pronounced ‘S’ turn. This challenge creates some creative moments of joining grids both to the north and south of the site. Another challenge of this project is the lack of historical development on the site. Unlike many places in America that the use and types and even buildings on a site have been changed many times, the RRY has maintained the same use throughout the history of Rockford. Regretfully the last several decades have seen a change of transportation preferences, and a change in type of rail traffic has lead Rockford to moving the rail yard to a location adjacent to the areas small airport encouraged to Rockford to look at ways to redevelop the now derelict and under-utilized site. A final challenge that will be addressed is the typology that is adjacent to the site itself. To the south, primarily a residential district with single family homes to the north, however, there is a warehouse and light industrial district that encroaches upon the site from the north which will create a challenge to relate to the center of the city which is 10-15 blocks north.

Despite the moving of the existing freight rail lines the current development plan is to maintain space for a commuter rail to run along the southern portion of the site. There are extensive plans that this commuter line could then be connected to one of the current Amtrak lines that run through Chicago and become a transportation hub for not just the Metra but also Amtrak. This in essence would turn the Rockford Rail Yard Redevelopment into a transit oriented development that would bring commuters and pleasure seekers to the downtown of the City of Rockford.

Throughout the process, developing the site would need to lean on studies of existing morphological and typological zones in both Rockford and other successful cities and towns around the country and around the globe. Savannah, Georgia, for example, has found very achievable methods of structuring usable and consistent public spaces into their fabric of not just residential neighborhoods but also commercial and mixed use districts. Another goal of this project is to create great streets. Streets that not only encourage pedestrian activity but develop pedestrian activity into the primary for of transportation within the district. Streets that create connections between the residents and patrons that are just passing through, connection between businessmen and restaurant owners and any other connection that is essential to not only the quality of life but the enjoyment of life and others.

Finally the train station itself with become the capstone of this new development due to its importance to both the local economy, bringing day trippers and workforce, and the overall economy, supporting the City of Rockford as a whole. Through conversations about the building, city planners and others involved in the process seem to be holding to the idea of the image of the old train station that once graced the City of Rockford. While this may or may not be possible to cling to the original image of the old train station, to due to the need of a fully integrated graduate studies project. The idea that they are enamored with the idea of a train station can prove to be a very influential and exciting part of the project itself to journey through the process with the city.

While doing all this I seek to extended and enhance my use of contextual traditional vocabulary through both street and building design…”

While this document may change slightly in the next week or so I felt that is a very important step for the project itself.