Weeklong collegewide charrette takes aim at local thoroughfares

Darla Callaway

Darla Callaway

Kurt Culbertson

Kurt Culbertson

Ming-Han Li

Ming-Han Li

Students from all four departments at Texas A&M’s College of Architecture will join in a weeklong charrette early next semester to create unifying, practical and affordable proposals in two areas along one of College Station’s main thoroughfares.

The project will be the central focus of Design Week, an interdisciplinary, weeklong charrette engaging approximately 330 students, faculty, practitioners and the local community in a studio-based learning environment, Design Week is a venture by the college’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and the Design Workshop, a firm that has conducted weeklong DesignWeek charrettes at 12 universities since 2003.

Students will develop plans for two areas: University Drive between Wellborn Road and Discovery Drive, and another area bounded by University Drive on the south, Texas Avenue on the east, Nagle Street on the west and a jagged northern border that includes Brookside Drive and Inlow Boulevard.

Working in 25 teams of 12-13 students each, with a faculty member assigned to each team as an advisor, students will generate ideas and plans addressing challenges and opportunities in the designated areas.

Students will also be working with landscape architect Kurt Culbertson, chairman of Design Workshop, and Darla Callaway, a landscape designer at Design Workshop.

Culbertson served as principal of the firm’s master planning efforts for High Desert, a sustainable new community in Albuquerque, N.M. and the firm’s design and planning efforts for South Grand, a mixed-use, walkable development in St. Louis.

He will also present a public lecture, “Research and Practice: Opportunities for Collaboration Between the Academy and Practitioners,” at 5:15 p.m. Jan. 15, 2013 in Preston Geren Audtorium.

Ming-Han Li, LAUP associate department head, said the areas students will focus on in the weeklong charrette have plenty of potential.

“The two areas contain the old and the modern, the past, present and future,” said Li, LAUP associate department head. The area bordered by University Drive and Texas Avenue includes residential and business buildings of varying ages, municipal parkland, some undeveloped lots and student housing. The section of University Drive between Wellborn and Discovery is part of the Texas A&M campus, with buildings including the Veterinary Small Animal Hospital, the Medical Sciences Library and the Reynolds Medical Sciences Building.

University Drive is a six-lane arterial with high automobile, bicycle and pedestrian traffic with conflicts between different transportation modes and movements.

“As many as 3,000 additional residents will be arriving in the area in the next couple of years,” said Li. “A conservative projection indicates that an additional 70,000 square feet of new retail and entertainment uses in the area, adding to the approximately 27 restaurants and 23 bars already in place, are projected to occur in the next few years.”

Stakeholders in the two areas include Texas A&M, the Texas A&M System, the Texas Department of Transportation, the cities of Bryan and College Station and many private property owners.

Design Week is a tremendous opportunity for students, faculty and practitioners to come together and brainstorm solutions, said Jeremiah Dumas, professor of landscape architecture at Mississippi State University, which hosted the event in 2006.

“Too often, students are immersed within a closed realm of application with an endless realm of possibilities, but Design Week brings forth reality and demands students think in a manner that is cross-disciplinary and applicable for projects that have significant impact capability,” he said.

posted October 24, 2012