There are subtle design details that have a powerful ability to make a building look or feel “right” in a certain area. Context tells us whether a design fits in and guides our decisions. We want a city’s buildings to share some regional characteristics that make a place a place. -Joe Bucher, AIA
Urban infill is city planning lingo for development in areas that are already built up. These projects have fewer costs attached to them because of existing infrastructure and are already serviced by transit, shops, and food.
When it comes to a downtown like ours and older neighborhoods, preservation today is engaged in questions of how to respect the past while fostering development to fill in the gaps. Urban ‘infill’ is a topic we need to be smart about if we are to preserve the continuity of our Main Street buildings that are significant when telling Rocky Mount’s story; when offering people a place to live that has a sense of place. Preserving this continuity is key to this kind of development.
Again, we will turn to New Orlean’s for infill Preservation inspiration. Deftly tucked into a narrow former parking lot on a densely occupied business district street, the new Cambria Hotel represents a successful approach to urban infill in a historic district. The project transformed an empty space into a handsome and vibrant hotel building. Thoughtful design and careful planning took care to recognize the scale and context of the surrounding neighborhood, utilizing a simple palette of materials commonly found in the district that is respectful of the mix of historic buildings and converted warehouses around it. (Please reread these highlighted sentences just short of memorization.)
Infill can be added to an existing structure, become a new layer over the old, placed on an irregular shaped site, or it can fill an abandoned lot. This infill will include mixed-use and multi-functional purpose to a site or building, promoting different uses at different times.
Compatibility of this infill with the overall design strategy should always be a strong goal focused on integration with the surrounding area. Infill should not overpower nearby buildings. Successful infill projects are those that go unnoticed; apparent only upon examination. These simple, but vital requirements for any planned infill in the downtown historic district of Rocky Mount must include sensitive and respectful attention to the surrounding architecture.
I hope you agree. Leave your thoughts below.