“MEDIC / Response” Design Development
Our project at the new Mecklenburg EMS Agency MEDIC Headquarters building in Charlotte, NC, began as an opportunity to enhance seventeen monolithic concrete security barriers placed between the building and busy Wilkinson Boulevard, the main route from the City center to the Airport. The original barriers stood as an imposing, stark gesture, as if the building were a fortress or a prison, not the welcoming statement Charlotte deserves.Our initial studies explored the idea of treating the concrete barriers as bases for sculptural cut-metal elements. Above, a form finding exercise examines what shapes might be appropriate for the site, placed on top of the existing barriers. The goal of these studies was to activate the landscape with form and motion.We generated a wide range of possibilities, even reconsidering the shape and nature of what it meant to have barriers. Above, we replaced the barriers with a gradient field of circular columns. This wide range of thinking allowed us to think outside the original parameters of the project and discover the best fit solution for the site.The solution that best fit involved modifying the straight barriers into open wide v-shapes and continuing this formal theme with gradually increasing peaked screens, seen above. This series of forms works together to create a dynamic expression and a sense of spatial volume in the site. Moving from schematic design to conceptual development allowed us to add patterning to the screens and introduce landscaping to the ground plane, see above. Increasing in design complexity only after achieving a successful original concept allows us to spend our time exploring the possibilities for only the viable options.The patterning activated the screens with dynamic movement inspired by the life-saving efforts of the MEDIC professionals. The landscaping mitigates the mass of the barrier bases. This transforms the site, softening the view and adding a captivating welcoming gesture to Wilkinson Boulevard, see above.We studied the site, from across the street, with both landscaping, see below, and no landscaping, see above, to understand the importance of softening the concrete bases with plants. Without landscaping, the site is still stark and unwelcominging. The landscaping plays an important role and is part of the art.The view from the sidewalk, below, shows how the screens visually consolidate into each other to make a larger form reminiscent of a mountain range. This larger volume composed of individual forms effectively creates a much bigger art piece from more reasonably sized parts.The project takes its inspiration from the people and functions of the MEDIC Headquarters. The shaped bases recall the geometry of the “Star of Life” a symbol used by MEDIC to convey their values. The uplifting dot patterning on the screens is an optimistic gesture that references the lines of an electrocardiograph used in life support. The project’s title: “Response” honors the work done by the dedicated MEDIC staff daily. The final patterning encompasses eleven cut metal screens. The layout of all the screens, seen below, shows the relationships between the screens as the patterning gracefully moves through them. Each size screen is unique, but the subtle pattern shifts make them feel as if there are part of a cohesive family.