Water Street design contest wins big

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Water Street design contest wins big

When I agreed to report on the results of the city’s design contest for the Water Street parking lots, little did I know the Charlottesville Community Design Center (CCDC) would receive a whopping 63 submissions from six countries. Wait, what? How many ways can you redesign a parking lot? Especially when you have to comply with really onerous requirements—the design had to maintain 255 public parking spaces, adhere to green building standards, incorporate the City Market and include at least 15 percent “affordable housing” in any residential space.

The CCDC will award first, second and third place prizes for the designs that most closely met those requirements on October 5. The winners will split a prize of $25,000 funded by the city and private donations, and Jane Fisher, executive director of the CCDC, says the city, which owns part of the space along with two private parties, will issue a request for proposals to develop the winning design, though it is quite possible nothing close to the design will ever get built.

Stoddard leaned toward the more urban designs. “This is one of my favorites. It reminds me of the Ronchamp Chapel by Le Corbusier.” Yeah, and not a Jeffersonian column or pergola in sight!

Being illiterate in the spatial relations department, I grabbed Leah Stoddard, director of Second Street Gallery, for help. Since she’s a curator, I knew she could speak to angles and stuff. Because she’d be across the street from the hypothetical design, I figured she’d have a compelling perspective. And it turns out, Leah has some experience with public design: While a curator at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, she was involved in selecting Zaha Hadid to redesign the space in 2003.

“Please no colonial references!” she said. “For that space, I’d like to see something that mirrors the forward-looking personality of Charlottesville’s City Center for Contemporary Arts.”

Awesome—she’s knowledgeable and fired up. But soon I needed an interpreter for my interpreter. While I was still trying to get my geographic bearings on the submitted design boards—O.K., this is Second Street SE and this is…wait, maybe that’s supposed to be Second Street SE—Leah already was pronouncing this one “too rectilinear” and that one “too derivative.” Hmm. Good words, Leah. I was going to say that one with all the red brick is “too boring,” but your assessments work too, I guess.

O.K., smarty pants—I like this one with the irregularly shaped windows, the curved vertical design and the hybrid indoor-outdoor market space. “Yeah, that’s one of my favorites,” she says. “It reminds me of Ronchamp Chapel by Le Corbusier.” Uh, yeah, I was going to say that too.

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