Rebirth of the Town Hall
There is a rebirth happening in 21st century American Cities, in particular smaller cities and towns in the Midwest - a drastic public redirection toward the crafted, the small, the local. One need only think of the exponential interest in local food and groceries / local craft beer / smaller local schools. It is this smaller and focused, that is emblematic of the heritage and history a given particular area. While larger retailers nationwide have suffered, there is a strengthening support for small-scale, local retailers along newly designed main streets - especially in walkable pedestrian environments.
Secondly, public perception of government is also exhibiting similar trends, in particular growing dissatisfaction with federal and state governments, and increased trust and participation with local governmental bodies. This is best surmised by the often quoted [Wall street / Main Street].
This increased participation in local government, coupled with a desire for local heritage and quality, provide an opportunity for what we are calling the ‘Rebirth of the Town Hall.’
As part of the design process for the Ontario City Hall project [click here], MKC Architects undertook an investigation we called the ‘Image of the Civic.’ At the forfront, its aim was to establish a series of design principals we would employ in the design of a new governmental office serving the Ontario // Mansfield area of North Central Ohio. Our basis of design for the project were the following: Relationship between Public and Government [citizens & civic] // Perception of Governmental Bodies [traits of the civic] // Design Principles [architectural > urban] // Image of the City & Image of the Civic.
Drawing from Kevin Lynch’s seminal work ‘The Image of the City’, which appropriates how citizens perceive and understand underlying structures of the city, we to are proposing an ‘Image of the Civic’. This is most appropriately applied with the public perception of local governmental bodies through the image that is put forth. This happens in three ways [people / policies / participation]. Collectively, there are certain traits of civic institutions and governmental bodies that exude their role in relation to the people, policies, and participation. These are known as the traits of the civic: [Validity // Transparency // Stability // Permanence].
Civic buildings, however, do not exist in isolation. They have a long standing role in the urban. Town planning principles since Greece have emphasized the relationship between citizens and government. As we have progressed through this historical time-line, the tendency toward a governmental edifice at the center of town, easily accessible by the public, has gained traction. As such, some of the design principles at an architectural scale can translate to a civic scale - that of the city.
For more information, and a complete description of the design process for the Ontario City Hall, please click here.