Ryan earned his Bachelor of Design in Architecture and minor in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida. Through his emerging professional career in various healthcare and office related architecture internships, Ryan has discovered a passion for creating future spaces that not only have a fundamental impact on a community but also enhances the human experience and benefits the environment. As he continues his graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Ryan seeks to elevate his design language and refine his digital/analog skills in order to design meaningful architecture that complements its social and physical contexts.
McDonnell Academy Global Leadership Visions | OPINION
Filling a Void
When one envisions urban life in America, images of bustling public squares, busy streets and well-kept neighborhoods often come to mind. However, the blighted and deserted areas of these cities are often forgotten in the shadow of their prominent counterparts. Alan Mallach, a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, states that “vacant and abandoned properties are a familiar part of the American landscape.” In other words, vacancies have become such common occurrences in the United States that it has evolved into magnets for crime and arson, economic decline, and a decrease in quality of life. Consequently, it is the responsibility of future architects and urban planners to address these struggling areas through initiatives such as adaptive reuse design, demolition funding, and stricter code enforcement.
Although a building may deteriorate and become devoid of any activity, it does not have to be the end of its life. Architects sometimes have the opportunity to preserve the historical significance of an abandoned building by incorporating it into their designs.
Adaptive reuse retains the familiarity of a building’s presence in a community while resurrecting it with a new purpose. For example, Sk8 Liborius Church located in a struggling neighborhood in St. Louis is a project that involved the renovation of a historic Catholic Church built in 1889 into a skate park. Though this project was unconventional, it ultimately revived the abandoned building and attracted curious tourists to the community. Nevertheless, not every building is salvageable and those beyond repair must be demolished to make space for newer architecture that could benefit the community. Not only do buildings that are in disrepair damage a city’s reputation, but they also tend to lower property values, attract crime, and become dumping grounds for trash. Known as the “Broken Window” theory, the existence of these properties only brings negative impacts to the area around it. Lastly, stricter code enforcements are needed to discern buildings that have the potential to be rebuilt and those that are beyond saving. In the Old North region of St. Louis, a disproportionate amount of sound buildings that could have been converted to future housing were destroyed while structures that were barely standing are left as ruins decorating the desolate landscape.
As the mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson, once stated “vacancy affects all of us on personal, local, and regional levels.” Though we may not reside in these particular neighborhoods, they are still integral to the reputation and well-being of the city and we have a responsibility to acknowledge the living conditions of the residents who do live there. Therefore, although there are countless methods to combat blight, the most important initiative is to replace empty architecture with programs that invite people back to that community. Whether it be restaurants, theaters, or convenience stores, the best way to combat vacancy is by filling it with life.