Planning of the Southside Settlement emphasized a positive interaction between people of all ages and backgrounds in common facilities including a gymnasium, community kitchen, clinic and assembly room. The project uses a vocabulary of simple materials which are carefully assembled to create a durable and functional environment for community activities, sports and neighborhood celebrations.
The design intent was to elevate the use of common materials and convey a no-nonsense attitude toward finishes by invoking geometry to confer a strong sense of personal space, and imbue the users with a secure self-image. The settlement sympathizes with the vernacular over the corporate and tolerates differences as opposed to imposing uniformity.
A limited inventory of materials offers the opportunity to address thematic variations of elements within a syntactic framework. Given the elemental nature of construction materials, simple events, such as the rotation of a structural grid, acquire meaning unattainable with a monolithic material. The hand of the laborer here is never disguised. The screws, mortar, battens, and metalwork bear the mark of human manufacture and assembly, which we felt was critical to a prominent building in a working-class neighborhood. At Southside we attempted to sustain this character through cabinetwork, handles, and railings that are there as much for the hand as for the eye. "The collective genius of the balloon frame, of corrugation, of the right angle, and of the concrete block is ours to reveal."