Does DESIGN MATTER in our Downtown? Volume 2

Posted On: July 28, 2012
Posted In: ,
Comments: No Responses

Does DESIGN MATTER in a Downtown?

In the previous article, I mentioned how “Space Making” directly influences the sensory perception of the people inhabiting these special areas. But it is more than the creation of space that creates the uniqueness, it is the “Use” of the Space that creates the synergy. In a Downtown, it is imperative that there be many types of uses that share a domain or public realm. We all enjoy strolling along wide sidewalks to shop, grab a coffee at Starbucks, pick up our dry cleaning or dine in a open air cafe. The Variety of Uses is key.

It is the synergistic combination of Uses that create this magnetic attraction. Royal Palm Place, originally and I must say fondly known as the Pink Plaza was Boca Raton’s, First Plaza designed shopping Center constructed in 1965. It’s architectural strategy was based on continuous Loggias, four sided glass retail buildings for varying street frontages, diverse shopping experiences, dispersed parking fields and quintessential “Mizneresque” Architecture. The original buildings of Royal Palm Place are historically designed around italian styled piazzas and shopping districts. It is this reference to 1,000 year old proven case studies that creates the warmth and attractiveness we seek when deciding where to dine or shop on a beautiful cool South Florida morning or evening.

The outdoor cafes that spill out onto the sidewalks create delicate aromas of Italian, French, Japanese, Tai, and now German:) cuisines. Just walking around the Plaza and viewing into these remarkable restaurants and cafes is enticing enough. However, to truly understand what makes it special, you must dine and shop in that environment. You then become the spectator looking out to the Public as  compared with looking in. The cafes have evolved with their own planning strategies as well. Walls, doors and windows have been removed so that the inside/outside environments meld into one. This cohesive joining creates the Specialness of the Space. The overlapping functions of the parking fields as a “Green Market”  or  an “Art Fair” creates diverse uses and pedestrian inviting events. The addition of a stage and tent on the south end of the Plaza anchored so precisely beneath the Addison Mizner Statue  creates the metaphoric reference that was so evident in his work. Addison Mizner believed that the south Florida climate and architecture should work fluidly together. This monument not only signifies how important this great Architect was to Boca Raton, but  it’s base is now a new Center Point in our Downtown. You can enjoy the craft fairs, live Music, car shows and the very Important Civic  “Walk of Recognition”, celebrating the remarkable citizens who have also contributed to making our community the special place it is. This is another ideal example of synergistic overlapping spaces.

Royal Palm Place has evolved over it’s lifetime, as it should, in order to maintain pace with the changes in Retail Service, Downtown Living and of course the escalation of land values. The recent addition of the Royal Palm Place Luxury Rental Community, the Mixed Use Office and ground floor Retail/Restaurant space clearly demonstrate how successful these combinations work in concert with one another. The buildings themselves also add the Pedestrian Realm. Walk along Plaza Real South and you will feel the scale of a ten 10 story building on one side with a three story residential building on your other side. The sidewalks weave in and out of landscape planters and the buildings give way to covered walkways offering multiple walking paths. Some of us may want to walk in the sun,  while others prefer the shade. It is the flexibility in the choice that Creates Special Spaces. I will show more examples of how “Public Paths” enhance our Downtown in a future article.

Time will tell how the rest of Royal Palm Place will evolve, but it is clearly irrefutable that the unique open plaza design, the variety of shopping and restaurant options and the architectural scale of the buildings makes it a vital Urban Planning Component of our Downtown.
This Architectural and Urban Planning strategy has been and will continue to be the catalyst for Future Development which will result in Significant “Space Making” in our Downtown, thereby continuing to demonstrate why DESIGN MATTERS…..

Douglas A. Mummaw, AIA, NCARB
President – Mummaw and Associates, Inc.
President – The Rotary Club of Boca Raton, 2011-2012
Adjunct Professor – Palm Beach State College – Architecture Department