Noticing Environments (Step 1 & 2)

Step 1: Wireframing

Wireframe of a possible route through the website.
Using the online app.

Step 2: Noticing Thresholds at the CMoA

There were many ways to go to the museum. As a student coming from CMU’s campus, my choice of routes would either be walking there from campus on Forbes or if you lived in one of the Oakland apartments, you would go down Craig Street. I chose the route on Forbes Avenue in order to simulate the most common route a CMU student would take.

You first begin to see the building’s roof after crossing the bridge next to Art Park.

Panorama of the area where you first begin to see the CMOA building.
(Magenta dot) Location where the building was first sighted in relation to CMU and CMOA.

While thresholds are most commonly recognized as an obvious entry point, I had noticed many when I was on the way towards CMOA. Crosswalks, the bridge, and going from CMU grounds to public spaces are examples of what I noticed because they signified a transition between spaces of different purposes. The bridge between CMOA and CMU in particular felt like a “hard” division point between the two spaces. There is a CMU III (Integrated Innovation Institute) that exists past the bridge however.

As you approach CMOA, you begin to notice some definitive dividers between the museum property and the city’s public space.

An entrance for the parking space next to CMOA by the crosswalk.

This would be one of the possible entrances into the building if you were to take a car instead of walking.

I went in through this one.

Notice the two different materials on the ground that defines CMOA property and the sidewalk.

I noticed that this area had bike racks, a bus stop, and a completely open space with trees flanking it. This open space was very jarring. It is very noticeable as you can imagine since a massive clearing just appeared between the trees. This area is a liminal space for potential visitors thinking about going into CMOA since there were so many transportation stops in this area.

Thresholds near the entrance of CMOA.
The steps are also a significant threshold between public and museum spaces.

First, the different coloration and textures in the ground between the museum grounds and the sidewalk. Two, the changing sounds signify a different environment. The museum grounds seems to be made of a granite- like surface while the sidewalk is made of smooth concrete.

The texture of the Museum grounds.
Water fountains outside the museum.

The museum seemed to also had a way of keeping sound from the traffic outside out besides walls. The fountain and the noise it was making, drowned out most of the rush hour noise from pedestrians and traffic. In this way I find it to be an effective threshold that certainly helps a person to transition from the city setting into a museum setting.

The front entrances and walls are made of glass. I believe this is a way to gradually change the lighting to help the user adjust to the indoor museum space (which is generally very dark).

The “lobby” of CMOA

While everything outside so far seemed to be designed in a subtle way, there were a few glaring issues I found. First of which is redundancies.

Apparently there are two entrances.

Apparently there are two entrances/exits lying within 15 feet of each other. Initially I thought one was an exit and the other was an entrance. But after inspecting them closely, they can both be used as an entrance or exit. Although one had a handicap entrance, I didn’t think so many doors were needed. I presume it could be to handle more traffic but most of the time it seemed too redundant.

Looking back on this experience. I began to identify thresholds through an environmental lense. Distinguishing a threshold from it’s surroundings in the physical world can be very tricky and I found the best way to find one is to distinguish the purposes of specific environments. The overlaps or tangents between these environments would be places where you can find a threshold. I find this to be a very useful skill to have since it would help me better understand the purposes of environments and how the overall experience is made by these design decisions.

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