Downtown Fargo Urban Infill Competition
Client: Kilbourne Group
Design: Monolab, team: J.W. van Kuilenburg with H. Varela Morales, I. Planelles Naya, G. Pastore
Year: 2010


…a small scale pedestrian paradise


Downtown Fargo can be re-activated if it escapes from its generic grid and its vehicle-driven urbanism. In order to generate social space with natural flow, connectivity and surprise, our design is very well embedded and more than an infill. The efficiency and generic character of Fargo’s current urban grid is very helpful to Re-Active Tissue.


Fargo will densify if it fulfills the need of an improved public environment. Stacking different functions will enrich urban programming and improve user and visitor densities. From bottom to top we stacked parking, retail, office and residential programs in a mosaic layout. Retail space is situated at ground floor (city floor). At higher floors retail is to be avoided as it will decrease public life at street level. Office space is placed in between retail and apartments in the upper floors. A roof scape on top of the project makes an environment for privileged penthouses.


An urban tissue solves many issues. If we are to avoid public indoor space, the harsh Fargo winter climate requires a small scale urban layout with narrow streets that protects pedestrians. For a human and friendly living environment the project is as flat as possible. It makes cross connections to other downtown city blocks. In addition to the given program we planned a square with cultural core at its heart. We keep pedestrians at the city floor and we also take up the current air bridge system. A set of cores serves all floors levels, city floor and parking. So called master cores and sub cores are linked by private pedestrian bridges crossing over pedestrian streets. The project fits into the Renaissance Zone planning. It connects to historic Fargo through classic facades at Broadway and by giving the streets back to the people. It connects to future Fargo through its pedestrian pattern, mixed programming, cultural heart and its comfort. The project’s ambition is to enhance communication between citizens with a focus on the outdoor quality of relaxed public space. Its architecture is largely made of floors and not so much made of dividing walls. Facades and partitions are mainly screen-like, not solid.


The project is based on straightforward underground parking facilities with a gold painted concrete cassette ceiling, colored glass cores and specific lighting qualities along its perimeter wall for a permanent exhibition of historic Fargo images. The 8.00-m span parking grid makes the tissue on top feasible.


The project has different skins (glass, louvers, solar panels and evergreen ivy) that enhance the performance of the project.The ivy also covers some streets adding up to the overall comfort. All facades have individual tuning through sliding panels and all glass sliding doors. All floor slabs can have hydronic water systems, the most popular and cost effective radiant heating and cooling system available. An energy cell unit and solar roof panels deliver heated and cooled water. The water is pumped through tubing embedded in the concrete floor slabs.


True social space goes beyond an efficient grid. At best it is a coherent environment, in which citizens feel comfortable, involved and committed. No more hit and run consumer behavior like in the huge malls, but a healthy, outdoor, human-scaled environment that also offers culture along the commercial and business programs. The layout of the project indeed is derived from old historic European city cores that perform very successfully after their transformation into pedestrian environments.