University of Kentucky College of Design hosts discussion panel on city design

A rendering of the New Keelung Harbor Service Building in Taiwan by Neil Denari.

On Oct. 12, the University of Kentucky College of Design hosted a discussion panel titled “Design Adds Value,” which addressed how the design of public spaces can benefit a community on an economic, physical and social scale. The discussion featured three prominent architects who are working on a regional, national and global scale.

Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects in Chicago, Roberto de Leon of Louisville’s de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop, and Neil Denari of NMDA Architects in Los Angeles presented projects to students, architects and invited guests at the Central Library in downtown Lexington. Michael Speaks, dean of the college, moderated the discussion.

Each of the three architects presented projects that addressed the specific needs of a community, which were met through their collaborative-design thinking process. Gang spoke of the importance of engaging all stakeholders throughout the design process, addressing assets and the needs of users through open dialogue.

“A good approach to design is to assess what’s there [before the project begins],” said Gang.

Gang cited her latest project, the Arcus Center for Social Justice and Leadership at Kalamazoo College, as an example of designing for the community. The center is sited to engage its three immediate contexts — the college campus, a residential neighborhood, and an old-growth grove of trees. By utilizing Michigan’s abundant, sustainably harvested white cedar and a traditional wood-masonry construction technique, Gang created an open meeting center to serve both the college and the community.

De Leon discussed how ubiquitous buildings don’t have to be as utilitarian in their design as in their function. Citing the Riverview Park Visitor Service Center building in Louisville, de Leon noted how the issues of cost, safety, maintenance and setting factor into a building’s design. By employing “passive strategies” and taking advantage of existing elements, the Service Center Building fulfills the park’s need for a functional building in an area prone to flooding and vandalism.

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