Whitney Hale


College: Design

UK Hosts Events for Global Town Branch Commons Design Competition

Published: Jan 28, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 28, 2013) — A competition presented by the Lexington Downtown Development Authority involving leading architects and designers from around the world is underway to determine who will design a long, serpentine park following the path of a historic stream in downtown Lexington. University of Kentucky College of Design Dean Michael Speaks and Landscape Architecture Professor Ned Crankshaw have helped select five finalists in the competition and in conjunction the College of Design and the Gaines Center for the Humanities will present several public events focused on the development proposals.


The Town Branch Commons Design Competition solicited designs from some of the world's best landscape architecture firms to design a public park downtown that follows the path of
the historic Town Branch Creek that flows beneath Lexington's streets.

"We invited firms to submit a design for the park, which will wind through downtown along the path of Town Branch," Mayor Jim Gray said. "We were thrilled to receive interest from 23 outstanding firms and felt a design competition would give us an opportunity to consider a variety of ideas and to gather public input."


Gray said Town Branch Commons will provide "a great reason to work downtown, move a business downtown, live downtown, visit downtown or have fun downtown. Other cities have done it with extraordinary results." Town Branch Commons will elevate local history. Lexington was founded on its banks at McConnell Springs.


A three-member committee including Michael Speaks, dean of the UK College of Design: Ned Crankshaw, chairman of the UK Department of Landscape Architecture; and Jeff Fugate, president of the Downtown Development Authority, whittled the list of 23 firms to five finalists in the Town Branch Commons Design Competition.


The five firms that have been selected as finalists in the design competition are: Coen + Partners, Civitas, Inside Outside, JDS, and SCAPE/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE.


Design competition submittals are due at the end of January. Design teams have been invited to visit Lexington Jan. 31 for a jury presentation and to participate in various public events sponsored by UK's Gaines Center for the Humanities, College of Design and Department of Landscape Architecture, as well as the Fayette Alliance. Each finalist will receive a $15,000 honorarium.


The first event surrounding the Town Branch Commons Competition will be presented Wednesday. The discussion "Landscapes of Confrontation" (contaminated sites) will be led by Bradford McKee, editor of Landscape Architecture magazine, beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, in the Gluck Equine Research Center auditorium, located at 1400 Nicholasville Rd. UPDATE: THIS TALK FEATURING BRADFORD MCKEE HAS BEEN CANCELLED, ALL OTHER EVENTS WILL PROCEED AS SCHEDULED.


The following day, UK's Gaines Center for the Humanities will present its Lafayette Seminar in Public Issues on Town Branch. Sponsored annually by the Gaines Center, this lecture will be an opportunity for Lexington community members, elected officials, and faculty and students to offer insights on the history of the Town Branch and examine large-scale projects from other cities and how they have been implemented. Featured speakers at this year's seminar are local architect Van Meter Pettit, of VMP Architects, and planner Stan Harvey, principal of Urban Collage. Lunch is free and the event is open to the public. Seating is extremely limited, reservations required. The Lafayette Seminar will begin 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Hilary Boone Center, located at 500 Rose St. To reserve a seat, please email Gaines.Center@gmail.com or call (859) 257-1537. The Lafayette Seminar is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Later that afternoon, UK College of Design will present "Design Adds Value to the Commons: Five Landscape Architects Discuss the Importance of Good Design for Downtown Development." The symposium will offer the public an opportunity to learn more about the participating design teams in the Town Branch Commons Design Competition. Moderated by Dean Speaks of the College of Design, the event will feature Aaron Betsky, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and McKee, as well as representatives of each of the finalists' teams. Team members will discuss a variety of projects. A question-and-answer session will follow presentations by the firms. "Design Adds Value to the Commons" will start at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, at Lexington Children’s Theatre, located at 418 W. Short St. This event is free and open to the public.


Friday, Feb. 1, a five-member jury will select a winning design for Town Branch Commons. Jury members are Betsky; Crankshaw; McKee; Speaks; and Holly Wiedemann, a local developer and founding principal at AU Associates Inc.


The finalists' designs will be on display at the Downtown Arts Center City Gallery Feb. 4 through Feb. 22, including Gallery Hop festivities on Feb. 15. The Downtown Arts Center is located at 141 E. Main St.


Coen + Partners is a landscape architecture practice based in Minneapolis, Minn. Through a process of collaboration, experimentation and questioning, the firm's work embraces the complexities of each site with clarity and ecological integrity. Coen + Partners offer a comprehensive suite of services including master planning, site design, programming and project administration for urban, green roof, rural and multi-scaled residential, institutional and commercial projects. In each area of emphasis, the practice exposes and enhances in-situ systems while highlighting the concept through site-specific materials, deferential textures, and supportive plant palettes. Each of the firm's built and in-progress works represents the site history, context and the larger architectural vision. Coen + Partners collaborates extensively with top and emerging global design talent to create site designs integrating programmatic, architectural and ecological goals with innovation and beauty.


Based in Denver, Colo. Civitas is a creative collaborative and design studio where landscape architects, architects, urban designers and planners work with clients and citizens on projects that transform cities. Driven by the desire to improve the life of people and the health of urban environments, the studio informs its designs with an insightful understanding of the non-physical - the political, economic and legal systems that make places and their regeneration achievable, responsive to markets, resonant to local culture, and sustainable as a result of the new reality, expectation and behavior of the community. Civitas has built more than $600 million in site and landscape spaces.


Founded by Petra Blaisse and based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Inside Outside is a design firm that addresses both the interior and exterior space, working on commissions of small to very large scale, all over the world. The firm begins by researching, developing a concept design and a preliminary design, working through design development, advising and controlling aesthetics during tender and construction phase. Inside Outside has a long history of professional collaboration with international architects and engineers, and this act of working together has mutually enriched the firm's joint projects globally. In its broadest sense; Inside Outside's research, designs and landscape masterplans involve professionals that operate with a similar mentality and approach regardless of discipline, location or cultural history. During a landscape commission, the firm often invites specialists into the team for a better understanding of local conditions, traditions and technical possibilities, enriching the outcome by intense interdisciplinary exchange and perpetual learning.


JDS, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a multidisciplinary office that focuses on architecture and design, from large scale planning to furniture. The office is fuelled by talented designers and experienced architects that jointly develop projects from early sketches to on-site supervision. All of which, regardless of scale, outlines an approach that is affirmatively social in its outcome, enthusiastic in its ambition and professional in its process. At the core of firm's architecture is the ability to take a fresh look at design problems through experienced eyes. The JDS approach aims at turning intense research and analysis of practical and theoretical issues into the driving forces of our design. By continuously developing rigorous methods of analysis and execution, JDS is able to combine innovative thinking and efficient production.


SCAPE/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE PLLC is a landscape architecture and urban design studio based in New York City. The studio is committed to innovative, creative design and construction of the joint urban-natural environment. SCAPE/LANDSCAPE's goal is to create and organize dialogue about the built environment, to refine the definition of the public sector to include natural processes and wildlife habitat, and to cultivate an ethos of civic participation. Within this expanded mandate, the studio's ‘design output’ takes many forms: research, teaching, writing, built landscapes, web sites, maps, documentations and master planning.


To learn more about these events, the participating firms, and the jurors visit www.townbranchcommons.com for more information.

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