Luo, Social, Infrastructure, eating
The thesis re-imagines the operation and impact of the roadside food business, by studying commuter drivers’ eating practice through a social lens. Proposing a manualproduct- test design mechanism, the thesis links roadside eating to the larger plurality of a city’s social life, and in return reconstructs the life of American cities based on the existing highway infrastructure and people’s common need for eating. Commuters’ eating practice is problematic; the drive-thru as a prevalent building and business typology has created spatial and social isolation for various parties in the society. The social isolation has two implications. On one hand, as drivers eat alone in the car, they are isolated from other eaters, thus degrading the social value of food. On the other hand, because the drive-thru is standardized and franchised, people cannot shape the experience in their own creative ways, thus negating the social value of design. Therefore, the thesis is a critique of both the space for commuter eating and the design process of how that space is made. This project thus proposes an alternative spatial type to liberate eating from its confined situations, and propose a systematic design process in three steps: from a manual, to a product, and then to a local test, within which planners, architects, food vendors, commuter eaters, and the neighborhood community can together shape their space for food, eating socially and creatively. The project tests the space and impact of the 3-step design process in five different scales, from the roadside, to buildings, to open spaces between roads and buildings, to the distance between highway and neighborhood, and finally to the entire highway in the city. The design system has a few fixed elements to ensure regularity, but they are not rigid or unchangeable. In fact, they encourage customizations and collective input by local users as designers, so that eating becomes a collective event, and the highway space is integrated back to the plurality of a city’s social life. Therefore, the idea of picnic in this thesis is a metaphorical one. It means the concept of eating with others, while exploring new spaces and engaging with other social activities. Picnicking is the antithesis of rigidity, and the thesis addresses the issue caused by rigidity, with the proposal of design mechanisms that foster socialness, creativity, and spontaneity.
Luo, Yuxiang, "American Picnickers" (2014). Architecture Senior Theses. 194.
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