Creating the Space Between Buildings

by | Feb 12, 2020 | Uncategorized

by Deanna Murphy, Principal, Planner
Tulia Scott, Senior Associate Architect, Project Manager
Jonne Smith, LEED Green Associate

The space between buildings can pose a creative challenge for architects, planners and designers. On many projects, these spaces are left blank as an afterthought. Their unique shapes and sizes or limited budgets often prohibit developers from fully utilizing the spaces.

But at Sizemore Group, we believe there are ways to maximize these in-between spaces to serve the community and promote better integrated design.

The spaces between buildings are equally as important as the spaces within, and a good design will gather, frame and inspire those informal and formal gathering spaces to maximize public benefit. 

The space between buildings can create the heart of a community by integrating outdoor community spaces with public buildings.

Sizemore Group worked with the City of East Point to build a new city hall in the heart of the city’s historic town center. We strategically positioned the new building to welcome the community. The building wraps around public green space, which formed an amphitheater to host community events, concerts, farmers markets and public art. The courtyard boasts water features, drawing people from the inside to the outside.

We recommended the closure of a short street to provide a larger site and increase the green space. This created an urban courtyard that connected the city hall to transit and the heart of downtown, ultimately creating a place for people not cars. 

The space between buildings can create outdoor community spaces out of underutilized public space.

Sizemore Group worked with the Atlanta Regional Commission to create a cultural placemaking master plan for the city of Fairburn and look at underutilized space between buildings.

We identified two abandoned spaces, an alleyway stretching from a parking lot to the city’s theater and city hall as spaces for public art. We used art to enliven the space and set it up to be used for community events and outdoor functions. We discovered an abandoned underpass that connects the existing school to downtown. We looked at how to create better connections, such as stairs, art, benches, music, to draw people to use the space. 

In East Point, we studied nearby nature trails and paths and tried to connect them through the new city hall building so the community could use the trails to interact with the site and get to public transit.

The space between buildings can engage residents to explore the outside of a building through creative design and art.

On our East Point City Hall project, we designed a beautiful plaza outside of the building’s breakroom to draw tenants outside and encourage them to enjoy the public space.

At Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Atlanta, we are creating a prayer trail that runs from the front of the church to the back, ultimately flowing into an outdoor prayer and meditation garden. 

At the front of the church, we’re drawing inspiration from the African American tradition of using the front porch as a place of connection and family engagement. We designed a portico area that looks and feels like a front porch, which can be used for weddings and events. 

The space between buildings can be seen as a backdrop for the arts and culture.

The new East Point City Hall building was designed to embrace the site and community. We looked at the building as a backdrop for the public life that would take place in front of it. The stage in front of the building encourages large events for the community and provides opportunity for public art performances. We designed the lawn to also serve as seating for the stage.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church has a large music ministry that is really important to the church. We incorporated glass and garage doors in the music room so they can fill the prayer garden and portico with music and members of the community can enjoy it.

The space between buildings can help tell a community’s story.

It is important to incorporate the community’s identity and DNA into the design of any space. When creating spaces between buildings, we draw inspiration from the people, culture, and neighborhoods that inhabit or surround the site. We accomplish this through community engagement and meetings with clients to truly understand who they are and their needs. The spaces between buildings can be a powerful vehicle for telling a community’s story.

The space between buildings should be approached through a multi-disciplinary process.

At Sizemore Group, we approach all projects with a multidisciplinary, inclusive team. Each project begins with the whole team of architects, planners and designers meeting with the client to shape the design, site planning, architecture, etc. We approach everything as a workshop so that all specialties work together instead of silos.