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The Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design, Michael Speaks, 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 kick off event at the Henderson, KY riverfront on July 22 to celebrate the College of Design’s project, “Kentucky River Cities,” inclusion as a “CounterSite” in the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). Student work from “river cities” studios will be exhibited April - August 2012 at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The event 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) in The Netherlands.
Dean Speaks will tour these river cities to better understand their economies and culture and to develop partnerships with government, non-profit 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.
Dean Speaks describes the value of working in these communities: “The River Cities project is a multi-year, urban research and design project in which students confront problems experienced in Kentucky and challenges them to innovate solutions that could be reproduced on a global scale. This project also allows students to work directly with local government, private industry, non-profits and neighborhood groups.”
The College of Design has initiated projects in two “river cities.” In Henderson the college has worked with the non-profit, “River City Renaissance,” and with the city and county to redevelop HMPL#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 US 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.
For the 2011 – 2012 academic year the College of Design 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 Historic Preservation Program researching the region’s historic structures. In the spring semester the college will focus on developing a specific project.