Monday, May 4, 2009

Newfields Survivals: Village 1 and Village Center

In the previous post it was said things were actually built at Newfields. In fact enough was built to get a feel for what the new town might have been like.

The maps showing the HUD sell-off parcels show some of this, with “Development Area 2” having some things built

What was built was:

9 single family homes

1 duplex

12 condominiums & townhouse units

12 apartment units

...and a commercial building, community center, and swimming pool.

(funny to see a double there. It’s still standing, too).

A close –up of Development Area 2, showing how multifamily was sort of mixed in with single family, and the start of the village center. This was to be “Village 1”, the schematic design discussed in previous posts.


An aerial from 2000. Again with some of the original features labeled. What wasn’t shown on the HUD map are some aborted development areas, were curbs and roads where laid out and parking was even installed in some cases.






One can also see there’s some later development, so apparently HUD did interest some developers to come in and do conventional housing.

Village Center Planning and Buildings

The centerpiece of the design was to be a village center arranged around a small lake or pond. It’s unclear who the designer was. The Newfields book says TAC, Walter Gropius’ old firm out of the Boston area , was to be design consultant for the first village center. It’s not known if they actually did any work. But someone did design this and do some site planning. (As an aside TAC did do work in the Dayton area, designing a modern house in Centerville in the 1950s).

An office building, community center, and pool were built, and extensive parking lots laid out. Additional development was apparently to go in north, perhaps townhouses or apartments.



This village center was actually served by RTA at first, but the line was terminated probably when the development went into foreclosure.

This aerial illustrates the aborted development next to the village center, and how the community center and office building related to the lakefront


The extensive open space and cut-off walkway/patio system indicated more things might have been planned. Absent a site or development plan one can only speculate. In this case perhaps the walkways would have been extended to the outer parking lot, and would have been flanked by maybe shopping and apartments and townhouses.



The office building is unusual as it doesn’t privilege the parking lot fa├žade. For a spec office building, it is very open to the common-use public space, like the circular gathering space (maybe intended for things like craft fairs or community events of various types), and opens onto the lake with lots of windows.




To the rear, or parking lot side, are the angular geometries of late modernism, with long sloping walls of metal roof material, punctured by band windows. The building steps back following the angle of the parking lot. The design actually minimizes the bulk of the building., yet also giving a sort of futuristic look.

Angular form in the 1970s also symbolized “solar” and “ecology” (there was a ‘green movement” back then, too), so maybe a play with that symbolism, too.


Its unclear if the red vinyl siding is original. This was the corporate HQ of MotoPhoto which had red as its corporate color. The next door community center was more restrained. This design had a similar angular form, but done up in gray wood siding, giving it a more rustic and weathered feeling. Maybe that was the original color and material.

Unfortunately the sloped walls of the community center were perhaps a good invitation for kids to try to climb them to the roof, so chain link fences were installed.

The village center was a radical design concept for the Dayton region, especially if retail was going to be built. The concept was to turn away from the parking lots (orienting things to the lake), which is never done is commercial or retail construction.

Not to mention integrating offices, retail, a community center and maybe housing in a fairly tight development, instead of spreading functions out in large, separate zoning blocks. We are close to the ideas of New Urbanism here, but far away from New Urbanisms nostalgic aesthetics.

1 comment:

Bruce Kettelle said...

The circular gathering place has been the scene of several events. Most memorable was the Circle Theater production of South Pacific using the lake as an ocean backdrop. They even had a raft made up to look like a distant island! cirica late 1990s