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Students prepare for an international exhibition in the Netherlands

March 16, 2012   |   School, Students

University of Kentucky College of Design (UK/CoD) architecture students have been preparing their work for exhibition in the prestigious 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR), April thru August 2012.

This year’s Biennale, titled “Making City,” addresses the future of cities: “In just a few decades cities will contain 80% of the world’s population, 90% of global economic wealth and cover less than 3% of the earth’s surface. Given this trend, cities must rethink the way they govern, plan and design.”

UK/CoD’s entry for the IABR, “Kentucky River Cities: Paducah, Henderson,” proposes “Making City” projects for two Kentucky cities located on the Ohio River, Henderson and Paducah.

The Henderson Project proposes a redevelopment of the Henderson Municipal Power Plant (HMPL#1), a decommissioned coal fired power plant located on the Ohio river, in the heart of Henderson, KY. By re-functionalizing HMPL#1 and bringing new public amenities to the site, the project is intended to revitalize Henderson’s waterfront and have a positive effect on the region’s business, tourism, and urban fabric.

Architecture graduate student, Brian Richter, has been building a large scale, and highly complex three-dimensional model of HMPL#1, “When I began building the model I was unaware of the complexity and precision that would be involved. Although I have access to digital fabrication tools such as 3D printers, CNC Routers, and laser cutters, the amount of hand finishing involved in the model is compounded by the limitations of each respective machine. Nonetheless, the process has been intense and difficult, but also extremely enjoyable. Having the opportunity and the means to create a model of this magnitude has been incredible. With the help and guidance of my professor, Martin Summers, I am proud to be a part of something special for the school, the city of Henderson, and Kentucky.“

The Paducah Project took on the tremendous challenge of developing a one hundred and fifty year plan for Kentucky's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PDGP), one of the most contaminated top-secret sites in the United States. As the point of origin for all fissile materials bound for both energy and defense during the last sixty years, the site now finds itself with a five-mile long heterogeneous plume of contaminants running beneath it.

The PGDP once provided ten thousand high-paying jobs, which have diminished over the years and will soon be eliminated upon the plants closure. Rather than see these numerous problems as cause for the region’s demise, the students looked at the problem as the solution. The studio proposed a new economy generated by the complex process of cleaning up the site.

To promote this kind of undertaking, students in the Paducah Project developed a scale model of the site’s geographical features, its subsurface conditions, and the plume of contaminants. The model will be used as a tool to provoke conversation and debate among scientists and the public, with the hope of stimulating progress toward cleaning the ground contaminations, enabling a regeneration of the site and region.

Architecture graduate student, Joe O’Toole describes the process of building this highly complex model, “The fascinating challenge presented by this model was the precision required to combine multiple materials that are fabricated on multiple machines. We used laser cutting, 3-axis milling and water jetting, to manipulate high density tooling board, sheet aluminum, sheet plywood, aluminum tubing, acrylite and plexiglas. The model is also under-lit with small LED lights. All these materials had to come together with the smallest possible tolerance to fit with the other components. The complexity that went into creating this model was a great challenge, but was also a tremendous learning experience.”

Assistant Professor Gary Rohrbacher, who has led the Paducah Project, discusses the work his students have put toward the IABR exhibition, “Students have been working hard for over a year now, they're focused on the work because they believe in it, and because they want to share their discovery that at least sometimes the solution lies directly within the problem. They also know that the prospects for successful real-world outcomes increase radically through distributed and networked collaboration and interaction.”