Design students present plans for riverfront area

Brian Kushida

Plans for the Mississippi riverfront area near the University flowed among College of Design students this weekend at “Making River Connections.”

The workshop in Rapson Hall provided design students with an opportunity to collaborate with local designers and professionals to draw up new plans for the riverfront area and the Science Classroom Building, event coordinator Patrick Nunnally said.

“It’s amazing, all the talent and depth that the students and faculty and community have in this area,” said architecture sophomore Gordon Grado. “They really knew how to facilitate a great design.”

The design site, however, was not picked arbitrarily.

After the Minnesota Legislature rejected a $40 million bonding bill request to replace the Science Classroom Building, the University continues to consider possibilities for its 2008 capital request, said Orlyn Miller, Capital Planning and Project Management departmental director.

The University’s Board of Regents has not officially approved the request, Miller said, but the University is “planning on that assumption” for a $68 million project proposal.

Miller advised participants at the workshop and answered questions about what the University is considering with the site while groups shaped their designs.

The new building will be directed toward student habitation, much like Coffman Union and the Weisman Art Museum, Miller said. “It makes sense to listen to the ideas some students have.”

Participants examined aerial maps of the area, used cardboard to cut out 3-D models, sketched their proposed designs on paper and taped their new designs over previous plans.

Some students had trouble making use of the river’s visual appeal, as well as incorporating historical elements of communities who once called the riverfront home.

For others, managing pedestrian and bike traffic resulted in a few students with sketches of forked paths but no decided direction.

But at the presentations Sunday, the tired groups were searching less for ideas and more for a cup of coffee.

Landscape architecture graduate student Carlos Principe stayed awake from Saturday night into Sunday morning to help finish the designs for his group.

“I love this stuff,” said Principe, who came to the second day with only three hours of sleep.

Some of the groups’ designs included a bicycle repair shop, riverside terraces, separated pedestrian and bicycle paths and rooftop study areas.

Architecture senior Juan Vergara’s group design was voted People’s Choice by other participants.

“Everyone came in with different views and different mindsets,” he said. “It all came together at the end.”

Selected plans will be displayed in the College of Design by the end of October and may be incorporated into final proposals.