Creenan, Courtney Elizabeth
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Residual spaces between buildings are often overlooked as a design opportunity and are seen rather as a by-product of regulatory actions, which as a result, perpetuate the status quo of planning and design rather than challenge or enable design. Often, these codes are understood as givens, rather than guiding principles, leading architects and planners to not stray from status quos. These regulations often only set minimum requirements, which begin to dictate building setbacks and declare non-conforming uses in those setbacks to ensure life safety. Varying greatly by allowable uses, these residual spaces should be taken into greater consideration when being constructed either formally by architects and planners or informally by users. The use and appropriation of residual spaces is often better understood by the user and not by designers. Understanding social constructions, perception, and ownership in addition to legal land rights of these residual spaces is vital to bridging the fields of architecture and urban planning. By understanding these intricacies, architects can begin to answer the question of how existing regulatory frameworks can be subverted to challenge common design practice norms. Traditionally seen as a top-down, expert-driven design approach in the 20th century, planning in the 21st century has the opportunity to foster a method of study and comprehension of site development and reactivation that can work with regulations to reshape existing communities by realizing the potentials of residual spaces. The built environment is typically designed as a set of objects, rather than a system that understands impacts that go beyond a project's borders. By understanding more of the individual users' needs, routines and habits, both architecture and urban planning professionals can create customized spaces based on individual desires. A series of historical texts will be analyzed which document the creation of zoning laws and their impacts. Through case study research, precedents will be analyzed to discover modes of site analysis, informational graphics and DIY planning and design. Using these precedents, spaces studied most likely will be small in scale, traditionally not seen as activated spaces, useful or have the need to be officially designed. By playing with the large overall nomenclature and wordage of the tax assessor's code and local zoning codes, architects can design for the actual use and needs of residents within these transitional neighborhoods. This will also answer the larger thesis question: How can architects play with zoning codes in a way that introduces unconventional uses and designs in transitional suburban space? Rather than continuing to let older suburbs fall by the wayside, as they become less and less suited to newly emerging, more diverse families and lifestyles, this thesis proposes a strategy of suburban acupuncture that can pro-actively generate new and diversified uses which effectively "reactivate" these suburbs. This work seeks to offer new ways both architects and planners can address site planning and development, and neighborhood design. However, these design proposals and methods of study are not exclusive to the WNY area, but intend on furthering the development of the architecture and planning professions. After developing a catalogue of loopholes in the zoning code an architectural proposal will be constructed, which demonstrates new uses that activate of the site and reintroduce "play" to the neighborhood within the existing code constraints. This instigator will be a starting point from which neighbors can be inspired to develop their own acupunctural uses.