After a relaxing three-day summer break, I’ve been back at ISU getting the summer studio kicked off. Nine brave souls will be tackling an age-old problem–how do you design architecture for automobiles?
The site (above) is the local dirt track–the Boone Speedway, about twelve miles west of Ames. “Iowa’s Action Track” is about 40 years old and hosts a weekly series of amateur racing in several categories. Every September, about 40,000 racers and fans from all over North America show up for the IMCA Supernationals, making it the largest town in Boone County by a factor of four.
The studio proposes that the track has won a television contract to broadcast the Supernationals, and is using these funds to double in size. A new grandstand is the focus, and students will face the question of how to provide a functional, expressive piece of architecture that does justice to the speed and “boss-ness” of the cars while maintaining the rural character of the site. “We don’t serve salads at the concession stands,” according to the Speedway’s promoter and our “client.”
We have one reading: Shop Class as Soulcraft by Michael Crawford, which examines the mechanical arts as a forgotten source of mindful engagement with the world. It’s an outstanding book, and even though Crawford mentions architecture only once (and that pretty dismissively), its suggestion that nuts and bolts are a legitimate form of intellectual “work” is an important argument for designers of all stripes.
Watch this space…