Nauck Town Square

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Today the neighborhoods of Nauck are seeing an influx of people, drawn to the landscape’slush setting and proximity to Arlington, Virginia and Washington, DC.

The result is an increase in property value, a changing population density and shifting demographics. A part of these demographic changes is the decline in African American population. In 1900 African Americans comprised 38% of the County’s population, today this population is just 8.2%. Along with this demographic decline is the loss of African American heritage.

The project’s challenge is to envision and design a place that honors the community’s rich history; by validating the patterns and practices of current residents through the design, creating resilient spaces and places for new community members to also emerge.

Concept Sketch “Across to school”. Illustration: Hood Design Studio
Concept Sketch “Looking Up”. Illustration: Hood Design Studio
Concept Sketch “Looking Down”. Illustration: Hood Design Studio

Nauck Town Square is “Green Valley’s” crossroads. A neighborhood with a rich African American history and heritage that validates the presence of freed slaves who occupied this landscape prior to Emancipation. Men and women of Nauck can trace their heritage back two decades before the Emancipation Proclamation to a parcel just south of the square owned by two African Americans, the post-Civil War Freedman’s Village (now part of Arlington Cemetery) and to the post-WWII Dunbar Homes.

The site scenario proposes a powerful ground plane set upon the new square that riffs on the formal circulation plans of town squares.

“The Town Square should be a place to communicate and get to know each other better, not just for the black people of the community, but other groups also. Because we live next to people and don’t even know their names… So we can all learn to enjoy each other.” -Rev. Oscar Green-

To reinforce the “crossroad” context, two geometries are juxtaposed from the city grid onto the site. A set of diagonal walks laid over an orthogonal grid is transposed upon a lawn create a field condition which allows for a variety of community programs including markets, festivals and daily leisure. A green swath bifurcates the ground plane creating a sinuous green swale – referencing historic Green Valley – and includes a lush planting palette comprised of all native plants which treat all of the sites storm water runoff before connecting with the Four-mile Run watershed.

Site Plan. Illustration: Hood Design Studio

Along the banks of the swale small flowering trees and benches are interspersed allowing quiet places for seating. The sculptural cut created from the grade change delineates a hybrid lawn-paving field on one- side from a widened sidewalk with bio-retention tree planters on the other. A plaza marks the origin of the swale at high-point of the site with a stage overlooking a bosque of river birches and a 32’ high gold-cladding steel sculpture of the word “Freed”.

View “Looking Down”. Render: Hood Design Studio

It is imperative that we start a conversation about the word, freed. Freed men and women in the US wore badges to identify and authenticate their freedom. Freed men and women lived in settlements designated as freedman villages.

Freed men and women have to continually remind a nation that they are free and that they have rights like other Americans.

Freed men and women in this country do not have monuments and commemorative spaces to reflect and validate their struggle.

Physical model of the site. Photography: Hood Design Studio
Physical model of the site with context. Photography: Hood Design Studio
Concept Collage. Render: Hood Design Studio
Rendered view crossing a floating metal walk across the swale looking up towards the Freed sculpture. Render: Hood Design Studio

The ‘FREED’ sculpture is constructed of gold- finished steel plates (2’x2’) stamped with historical place names and adrinka symbols. These plates are serialized and set on a steel grid frame based on the letters F, R, E, E, D. The filigree that is created from the pattern shimmers sun-light during the day and is illuminated from within at night – allowing it to transform as the light ing shifts.

Close-up rendered view of Freed sculpture. Render: Hood Design Studio

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