West Virginia University landscape architecture students and alumni will come together for an alumni charrette on March 1-2 to focus on creating a more vibrant landscape for the city of Elkins. Their efforts will be centered on Railroad Avenue, including the gateway corridor and open spaces along the corridor in the historic railyard.
The two-day charrette will be held in the Agricultural Sciences Annex on the WVU Evansdale Campus in Morgantown. Peter Butler, associate professor of landscape architecture in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and WVU Extension Specialist, coordinates the experience, which has become an annual event for the landscape architecture program in the Davis College’s School of Design and Community Development.
“A primary learning outcome of our alumni charrette is to expose our students to a professional-level experience,” Butler said. “Typically in a studio setting, they might spend several weeks on a project, analyzing different elements of the process, but during the charrette, they’ll be forced to draw a concept very quickly for the client.”
Additionally, students gain the benefit of working alongside an industry expert.
“Students are grouped in teams of five, and each team is paired with a current practitioner who is also a graduate of our landscape architecture program,” Butler explained. “They’ll work together to try and meet the goals of our client, in this case, Elkins Main Street.”
Students and alumni will develop ideas to improve the entry space and the landscapes along the Railway Avenue gateway corridor, including the Roundhouse site at the historic Depot and the area behind Elkins City Hall.
“This area is a great focal point in our efforts,” said Mike Bell, president of Elkins Main Street Board of Directors. “It certainly serves as the gateway to Elkins for both tourists and residents. Main Street envisions a vibrant, livable downtown, and that first impression – or even daily impression – can add a lot to that.”
The Elkins Main Street Board, along with many community members, are eager to get started.
“We have been working to develop proposals for downtown streetscaping and, of course, are always interested in economic vitality,” said Maryann Durland, chair of the Design Committee for Elkins Main Street Board of Directors. “So when this idea came up, I thought, ‘that sounds like a great project.’
“The Board and others in the community with whom I’ve talked are all very excited to partner with the WVU landscape architecture program and bring this vision to life.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Butler and his students made a site visit to Railroad Avenue and met with members of the Main Street Board to discuss the project and survey the area.
Last year, the Davis College’s alumni charrette focused on the redesign of the Tomblin Plaza, a newly established main entrance for the State Fair of West Virginia. Many of the design elements from the students’ proposals were implemented in the final design and construction of the plaza, named in honor of former West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.
“Similar to last year, our students and alumni will be charged with designing a space that reflects the values, character and traditions of the area while solving practical problems of circulation, open space, service areas and visitor experience planning,” Butler said. “We’re excited to get to work and extremely grateful for the opportunity to bring our alumni and students together while partnering with Elkins Main Street.”
This year’s alumni charrette participants include: Conway Bristow III, landscape designer, EDSA, Inc. (Baltimore, Md.); Orrin Burke, designer, Larson Design Group (Morgantown); Jacob Burns, landscape designer, Community Solutions Group at GAI Consultants, Inc. (Charleston); Jim Christie, project manager, Site department, Larson Design Group (Morgantown); Todd Schoolcraft, senior landscape architect, Community Solutions Group at GAI Consultants, Inc., (Charleston); and Anna Withrow, design specialist, Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center.
Pictured above, upper left: Landscape architect and alumnus Rob Dinsmore works alongside students during the 2016 charrette. Right side: (1) Part of the area in Elkins on which students and alumni will focus their efforts; (2) WVU landscape architecture students meet with Elkins Main Street to discuss the project during their site visit on Feb. 22. Lower left: Students discuss their project with Stefania Staniscia, asst. professor of landscape architecture, during the 2016 charrette.
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