LAND students’ master plans turn historic block into city destination

Bruce Dvorak

Ahmed Ali

Three master plans by graduate landscape architecture students at Texas A&M turn a historic but mostly empty block near downtown Bryan, Texas into a new Brazos Valley destination.

Students presented their concepts at the end of the spring 2016 semester to city of Bryan officials and Karl Hoppess, president of a foundation that gifted the land, two blocks east of downtown Bryan on the William J. Bryan Parkway, to the city.

“It was exciting to see the students’ projects evolve over the semester,” said Lindsey Guindi, city of Bryan director of strategic projects, who advised the students and viewed the presentations.

The city, she said, is working with Hoppess, who also advised the students, on a long-term plan for the block that captures the vision of the Hoppess family. The block includes two of Bryan’s oldest buildings, a house and carriage shed, built by Hoppess’ ancestors in 1872.

All three of the student plans, developed as final studies in an interdisciplinary design/build studio led by Ahmed Ali, assistant professor of architecture, feature space for a structure to house a farmers’ market, which environmental design and construction science students collaborated to design and build during the 2015-16 academic year.

Each master plan for the block features a major theme.

One theme, Seasonal Gardens, developed by Tiantian Lyu, includes a flower garden, ideal for weddings and memorials, Pumpkin Plaza, for fall family gatherings and photo opportunities, and Christmas Tree Plaza, a place for civic and family holiday events.

Another concept, Urban Agriculture, developed by Jingwen Lu, features a large community garden that could be used nearly the year round because of the area’s lengthy growing season.

The third concept, “Historical Connection,” created by Kendall Raabe, emphasizes the block’s historic significance with a flower garden and signage in the footprint of a house, no longer standing, that was built in 1903. The garden would host weddings and other formal events, and other signs on the block would recount the history of the block’s inhabitants and agricultural history.

Raabe also proposed a “Carriage Loop” for horse-drawn carriage rides to the numerous sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places within a half-mile of the block.

Her plan also includes a visitor center, courtyards for exercise classes, picnics, gazebos and more.

In a nod to the site’s agricultural past, all three plans also feature three silos placed closely together with interior exhibit spaces teaching visitors about the Brazos Valley’s history of agriculture. Silos, a common site in the area in years past, were used to store grain or feed.

Development of the master plans, as well as the farmers’ market design and build collaboration, were funded with a $23,000 grant from Real Projects, a Texas A&M College of Architecture community outreach initiative engaging students from multiple disciplines in efforts benefiting Brazos Valley residents.

Past Real Projects initiatives have included the design of a new home in Bryan, along with student development of construction cost estimates and landscape designs for the home, and a weeklong charrette to create scenarios for the future of University Drive in College Station between Texas Avenue and College Avenue.

posted July 21, 2016