UK Design Dean Tours River Cities


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 1, 2011) − Dean Michael Speaks, of the University of Kentucky College of Design, will visit several Kentucky cities on the Ohio River as part of the "River Cities Tour," during the 2011–2012 academic year.

The tour began with a kickoff event at the Henderson, Ky., riverfront on July 22 to celebrate the college's project, "Kentucky River Cities," inclusion as a "CounterSite" in the fifth International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). As part of the biennale, student work from UK's “Kentucky River Cities” studios will be exhibited April to August 2012 at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam. The kickoff was attended by Henk Ovink, co-curator of the IABR and director for National Spatial Planning and of Research, Design and Strategy at the Dutch Ministry of Environment (VROM).

As part of the tour, Speaks will visit river cities along the Ohio River to better understand their economies and culture and to develop partnerships with government, nonprofit groups, and citizen-led development groups. These partnerships are essential to help overcome the many problems experienced in these industrial cities caused by global competition, increased energy costs, and decreased profits. In many cases, this has led to record unemployment, smaller tax bases for government, and, significantly, to increased youth flight.

Speaks thinks the work the college is doing in the Commonwealth's communities is valuable for both the cities and UK students, "The 'Kentucky River Cities project is a multi-year, urban research and design project in which students confront problems experienced in Kentucky. It challenges them to develop innovative solutions that could be reproduced on a global scale. This project also allows students to work directly with local government, private industry, nonprofits and neighborhood groups.”

To date UK College of Design has initiated projects in two "river cities." In Henderson, the college has worked with the nonprofit, River City Renaissance, and with the city and county to redevelop HMPL#1 (Henderson Municipal Power and Light Plant No. 1), a retired coal fired power plant built in the late 1950s. And in Paducah the college is currently working with the city, the city port authority, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to speculate about future uses for the DOE's uranium enrichment facility in Paducah (the only one in the US), which plans to halt operation in the next 10 years. Previous UK studios have also focused on proposals for Louisville, Ky.

For the 2011–2012 academic year the UK College of Design also is developing partnerships in Northern Kentucky with organizations such as Vision 2015 to develop projects in several "river cities" including Bromley, Ludlow, Covington, Newport, Bellevue and Dayton. The project will begin this fall with architecture students developing an overall planning study of the region and students in the Department of Historic Preservation researching the region’s historic structures. In the spring semester, the college will focus on developing a specific project for those communities.

For more information on the "Kentucky River Cities" project or the tour, visit  

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