CALA, State Fair join forces in research

by Anna Weggel

Beyond giant pickles on a stick and loud country music, Dean Tom Fisher of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, sees the Minnesota State Fair as a living laboratory for his students.

Fisher and other University and Minnesota State Fair representatives announced a new research partnership at the fair’s University of Minnesota Building on Thursday.

The partnership will enable the State Fairgrounds to serve as a learning opportunity for CALA students, as well as improving the fairgrounds and area buildings, Fisher said.

“We don’t know why we haven’t done this before,” Fisher said.

Fisher said students and faculty will first assess the state fairgrounds, which will help identify the work they need to do.

Then, the students and faculty will take on a series of projects throughout the years. They will include developing durable trees which will provide more shade, using new digital technology, and making the buildings more energy efficient and sustainable.

The United States needs to use alternative forms of energy, Fisher said. Those types of improvements at the state fairgrounds are often the same things people can do in their own yards, he said.

“We want to show Minnesota what you’ve been investing in,” Fisher said. “We saw this as an opportunity to bring some of that forward.”

Other projects proposed in the presentation included an increased plaza area, a permanent bridge across Como Avenue, and improved gates at the entrance of the fair.

Jamie Proulx, University Relations assistant program director, said the students involved will include mostly CALA students at first, but other departments will eventually join the efforts.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Proulx said.

Minnesota State Fair Executive Director Jerry Hammer said the changes will help improve the fair for everyone.

“Over the years you’ll see things just keep getting better,” Hammer said.