Friday, July 31, 2009

Urban Design: Intersection

In 2003 Bibb County (Macon, Georgia) and the county's road program managers Moreland Atobelli Associates asked me to develop a design for the intersection adjacent to the courthouse. The intersection is a busy one, with typically heavy traffic of autos and pedestrians. Its functions are affected by turnaround lanes in the median of one of its streets, which allow cars to circle for on-street parking in a given block without having to go through the intersection.

Functionally I saw no reason to change the main intersection, other than reducing the distance pedestrians were "unprotected" between curbs when crossing the street. This was just the expedient of encroaching into the street paving by pushing curbs out into the intersection at the corners, into the dead space aligned with parking spaces.

Aesthetically, I made several recommendations. One was replacing highway-looking islands crossing Mulberry Street with brick crosswalks, placing trees and other plant material beside the crosswalks to separate autos from pedestrians. Places to sit in the median were suggested, along with replacement of "cobra-head" lighting with the Macon's typical historic district streetlamps. Related to the intersection but not at the intersection, I recommended shifting from two-way to one-way traffic of the nearest block of Cotton Avenue, the diagonal steet, consisent with the direction of its one-way movement in the next block. This would allow enlargment of a small park and relocation of its Civil War statue to align with the street centerline.

An important consideration any time something like this project is done, I think, lies in recognizing the inherent charm of a historic downtown, and finding appropriate hardware, paving and plant material that doesn't clash with the architectural context. This doesn't mean modern images should or shouldn't be employed, but care in choosing materials that reinforce rather than diminish the sense of the place is a goal. An example is in hardware such as bollards, streetlamps, signage. If metal for these objects is black, it visually recedes into the plant material and its form becomes less pronounced.

Suggested relocation of statue. The idea in moving the statue to the right from its existing location is to enlarge the landscaped space at the statue, putting it on the center axis of the street. This would result from the larger, functional intent of converting the street to one-way operation. This was deemed out of budget and wasn't carried out.

View down Second Street. (Statue discussed above is visible right of center.) Trees and ground cover are effective in separating the crosswalk from auto traffic.

Grand Opera House entrance. (Courthouse is immediately to the right.) Previous 12-inch high curb was eliminated, with wheelchair access continuous along the dropoff in front of the entrance.

View up Second Street. Courthouse at left.


  1. The 1860 Colt revolver was not a muzzle loader as you state in the description.

    The cylinder was loaded with black powder and the lead ball. The ram rod lever forced the ball down into the cylinder with a snug fit.

  2. Thanks! You are correct. I took the wiki article's comment that it was loaded from the "muzzle end" (of the chanber) to mean loading at the muzzle. I overlooked the reference to the chamber, and thought the lever's packing action consistent with a muzzle load.