Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Brian Lonsway, Associate Professor
Theodore Brown, Professor
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Architecture | Urban, Community and Regional Planning
The heart of our existence lies within regions. Loosely defined, these territories are defined by what we do, not by what we call them. It is where we live, work, shop and socialize, characterized by an infinite multitude of interactions with other people and environments. The concept of “regionalism” is best described as a set of overlapping factors that together characterize the shared interests and dynamics of its people and environment, whether social, cultural, ecological or something else. This dynamic, constantly-changing overlap is most apparent at the center of the region, and least so at its edges.
Regionalism is especially relevant to the application of architecture, the discipline of designing built environments. Architectural theorist, Keller Easterling proposes the theory of “Organization Space,” a framework of architecture and spatial expression which focuses not on form or geometry, but on the interrelationships, temporal components, and active parts that define a spatial system. This framework can be used to respond to complex systems and problems opportunistically in a way that conventional modes cannot. When the concept of “regionalism” is merged with the architectural qualities and potentials of Easterling’s “Organization Space,” the concept of the “Regional Exchange” is formed. The regional exchange provides a framework for current regional architectural nodes to evolve more responsively to lifestyle and culture. It is a built environment that organizes a region and is integral to its “interests and dynamics.”
How can architects influence regional exchanges effectively? Although Regional Exchanges are constantly evolving and changing, the results of this change can be guided and controlled via what Easterling defines as “switches.” Switches are common development protocols or everyday tools, often overlooked, that influence interactivity and linkages and, if recognized and engaged, can be used opportunistically to reorganize regions. When you apply a switch to a regional exchange, a radical restructuring will result in a completely new exchange.
At the heart of small-town America, the concept of Main Street as a corridor of social activity framed by commercial buildings was arguably the first major regional exchange that defined social and commercial dynamics within the United States. The later introduction of the automobile to mainstream America served as a turning point as the car quickly became adopted and loved by the America people. Architects generally did not embrace this switch, and had little design influence as it shifted the key interests and dynamics of Main Street to the regional shopping center. This new center was essentially derived from the same elements, yet with a different organizing force.
The current switch that has now made the shopping center model vulnerable to yet another evolution is the smartphone, which, since its introduction has become an essential component to American lifestyle even more quickly than the car, changing the way in which people engage in both social and commercial activity. Unlike their response to the automobile switch, if architects can recognize and accept the smartphone as a evolutionary tool, then they can take a center role in designing the next major regional exchange. This new social and commercial regional spatial organizer is still desired to be a physical place, however it would be reorganized around the role of the smartphone in this place. It would accept the recent movement of people back to urban cores, maximize a desire for not just physical mobility but also access to information, and balance regional diversity with global demands. It would consist of a range of specialized programs and functions, or “Apps,” integrated with mobile devices, that assist, enhance and adapt to everyday social and commercial activities at multiple scales. If the automobile was able to evolve the organization of Main Street into the Shopping Mall, then the smartphone can evolve the Shopping Mall into the Regional App Market.
DePalma, Chris, "The Regional Exchange: From Main Street to Shopping Mall to App Market" (2013). Honors Capstone Projects - All. 7.
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