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Dean Michael Speaks visited Northern Kentucky as part of the college's "River Cities Tour" on Sunday, Sept. 11. The event at BB Riverboats at the Newport Landing, in Newport, Ky., launched two new fall studios that will explore development opportunities in a string of Northern Kentucky river cities.
The Newport program included the presentation and display of a design charrette focused on Northern Kentucky communities on the Ohio River. The event also celebrated UK College of Design partnerships with the development corporation Catalytic Development Funding Corporation; Vision 2015, a Northern Kentucky nonprofit; and Suprastudio, a design studio at the School of Arts and Architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Studios working on concepts for such "river cities" as Bellevue, Bromley, Ludlow, Covington, Newport, and Dayton will begin this fall at UK with an architecture studio developing an overall planning study of the region and a historic preservation studio researching the region’s historic structures. In the spring semester, the college will focus on developing a specific project. The studio projects will be informed by existing and ongoing neighborhood, city and regional planning efforts.
The "River Cities Tour" began with a kickoff event in Henderson, Ky., in July. As part of the tour, Dean Speaks is visiting river cities along the Ohio River 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.
Speaks thinks the work UK College of Design is doing in the Commonwealth's communities is valuable for both the cities and the 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, non-profits and neighborhood groups.”
To date the College of Design has already 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 (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.
The "Kentucky River Cities" project is already earning the college international acclaim and 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.