|Albemarle County Office Building, formerly Lane High School. flickr credit|
At some point a decision was made to convert the Albemarle County office building from a pedestrian-serving building to a motorist-serving building. Given the changing context over the last century, one can hardly blame them. The adjacent roads have been widened, and the entire neighborhood to the south was destroyed in the 70's and replaced mostly with parking lots. The highly attractive facade of this building is an historic accident reminding passersby of a different kind of city.
Architects I've spoken with describe the front door problem as one of the most challenging design dilemmas they face. Most commercial and civic establishments can only have one public entrance, whether for security reasons or quality control (one information desk, for example). Automobiles, by virtue of their size, require an amount of space that deters pedestrians from passing through. This forces a stark either/or dichotomy over transportation systems: cars or people, but not both. The new design of another Albemarle County building, the Crozet library, was recently
Even studied attempts at a balance between cars and people have reverted to the dominant system in time. The well-known planned suburb of Radburn, New Jersey had each home designed with two faces, one facing the cul-de-sac and the other facing a network of walking paths. In time, residents have mostly closed up the walking entrance in favor of the driving entrance.
I know that bloggers are supposed to have an answer for everything, but I don't for this one. There's only so much influence a single building can have on the travel patterns of its users, so form should follow function. Yet the face of a building does convey a powerful symbolic gesture to the public realm, especially when you consider them all together. Are there any creative ways to address this that have worked well?