Three West Virginia University students were recently challenged to design outside the box and were rewarded by being named finalists in the 2009 ReCycle This Site design competition.
Nina Chase, Calin Owens, and Kyle Stauffer, all senior landscape architecture students in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, make up half the field of finalists with the other students hailing from Virginia Tech, University of Arizona and Clemson University.
Sponsored by the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, a four-county, local government planning and development organization in Western North Carolina, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the national competition encourages architectural students to design an environmentally sound space to live, work and play in Asheville, NC.
Finalists will give their presentations including a short video highlighting their designs March 26, 2010 to a committee of North Carolina businessmen and women, local artists, architects, landscape architects, and other stakeholders. The winner will be announced in late spring and receive a $2,500 scholarship, the opportunity to present at national conferences and be featured in national publications.
Situated on 13 acres in the center of Asheville’s River Arts District and adjacent to the French Broad River, the site currently holds 11 buildings and warehouses. Additionally, it was once home to the largest tannery in the United States.
“Most design competitions don’t fit with the academic schedule; however, this one did,” said Peter Butler, assistant professor of landscape architecture. “It was a great opportunity for the students to practice the skills they’ve learned at a competitive level, much like it will be on the job. To have three of the six finalists come from our program is very impressive.”
Butler and Steve McBride, associate professor of landscape architecture, served as faculty mentors for the students during the competition. The project was a part of their LARC 450 senior design studio course.
Students were asked to design a multi-use site where people can live, work and play while incorporating existing buildings and materials, landscape, riverfront access and stormwater management, renewable energy sources, U.S. Green Building Council LEED design, and the site’s contaminated soil and brownfield status.
A brownfield is a property with contaminants or pollutants present or potentially present that may hinder the redevelopment of the site.
“The brownfield status of the site added an interesting dimension to the projects because the students were forced to build up and away from the contaminated soil in their designs,” he said. “At the same time, the complexity of the project allowed them to integrate technical and design solutions to maximize the site’s potential. These types of remnant industrial sites are an ever-growing component of professional practice, as cities look to reusing areas in the urban core rather than developing greenfields on the edges of town.”
When taking all elements of the site into consideration, Chase, a native of Morgantown, segmented her design into three vertical layers ecological, heritage and sociocultural.
“The site really has a cool industrial vibe,” she said. “I wanted to take advantage of its proximity to the River Arts District, incorporate the site’s historical character and remove visitors’ experiences from the soil.”
The ecological layer includes methods to improve and stabilize the soil while preventing movement of existing pollutants, stormwater rain gardens, solar panels to generate energy, and “open air” first floor parking.
Elevated walkways at the 100-year flood plain level reference the flood of 1916, building facades reminiscent of the railroad industry, and salvaged concrete used in paving all create the heritage level.
The sociocultural layer features residences, shops, restaurants, artist studios and galleries, and performance space, as well as a plaza for farmers and flea markets.
Owens, from Saint Albans, W.Va., focused on stormwater retention and treatment with permeable paving and a subgrade drainage system that will channel runoff toward a central wetland.
“The site as a whole is flat with a lot of drainage and flooding issues,” Owens said. “When green-thinking and sustainability come into play, you really want to make use of the excess water, not shed it as was thought in the past.”
Owens also noted that outdoor activities, utilizing the French Broad River and fostering an up-and-coming music scene were important to the community. To accommodate those needs, his design incorporates a recreation center with water access and an amphitheatre.
Stauffer, who is originally from Millersville, Pa., organized his site design in a radial layout reminiscent of the rising sun and expressed common themes of succession, recycling and community expression.
“It represents promise for the future for both the site and Asheville community,” he explained. “I also wanted to achieve balance between man and nature through low-impact development and best management strategies for stormwater runoff.”
In his design, succession was illustrated through heavy industrial concentration at the site’s edge bordered by railroad tracks and transitioning to a grassland-like area along the river. Recycling can be seen in the use of existing materials to create new structures including parking, walkways, stores and residential units. He also created a dual-purpose plaza to cap the ground contamination and provide space for community expression.
Each finalist is in the process of creating a video compilation about his or her project to be shown during the final presentation.
For more information on the ReCycle This Site competition, visit http://www.recyclethissite.org.
CONTACT: Lindsay Altobello, Public Relations Specialist
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