Interior Street

Designer: Weishun Xu
Critic: Tom Hogge
Year: 2009
Location: Charlottesville, VA, USA
Project Type: Retail/Exhibit/Adaptive Re-use
Area: 24,000 sqft

Project Brief

     This project is about exploring the boundary between an unsuccessful private development and its surrounding public spaces. The site is a 11 story hotel with bottom floor commercial abandoned right after the construction of its reinforced concrete structure in Historic Downtown Charlottesville, VA. Among dozens of thriving small shops, the structure stands as the tallest building in the city, and a symbol of failed development where the one-time scaling and aggregation of what has been successful simply does not work. The proposal sees such failure as a call for more incremental changes rather than radical construction in the small urban center, and thus seeks to gradually re-integrate the structure into Downtown’s public activities with an emphasis on street life and social interaction.

Site Transformation

Model Pic

Interior Street

     Immediate re-adaptation of the structure is crucial to start the incremental funding process. Hence, the project takes a step-by-step approach in the formal analysis of what is structurally there, in order to find what programs are consequentially feasible. The resulting theme is an interior street, where the existing secondary entrance to the Downtown Mall gives way to diverse street shops and a theater inside of the structure. Revenues of the lower floor adaptation will then feed into the financial cycle which will eventually start to re-occupy the structure with studio spaces, artist motel and eventually, residential programs to stabilize the  business model. Because of the site topography constraint, the internalized street is inherently vertical, bridging the first and second floor. To enhance this experience of crisscrossing vertical grids, a long, single run stair with three platforms take the street up to the fourth floor open space, where commercial programs end and residential program begin.

Sketch Diagram 1450

Render Diagram 1450


     Occupancy of the structure requires close speculation of the existing condition. Originally proposed as a hotel, the spaces follow a grid that supports dense partition layouts. One of the challenge of the adaptation is to open up the floor plates to create the street atmosphere without disturbing the original structural grid. On the other hand, it is important that the grid itself is manifest in inserted spaces, so that the old and the new construction maintain their own scales respectively. The mismatching in modularization between the old and new structures enable exploration in diverse sectional and planar relationship needed to create the atmosphere of a street. A study on existing patterns of social interaction around storefronts in Downtown Mall around the site helps to find


Interior Rendering