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U of U Students Make their Mark on Salt Lake’s Cityscape

April 9, 2007 — Do cities shape people, or people shape cities? This April, the University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning Honors Program will present an exhibition of student projects investigating the symbiotic relationship between communities and the spaces they inhabit.

“Both Sides of the TRAX: Investigations in the Gateway District” will take place Friday, April 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Utah, 329 West Pierpont Avenue. Part of the April Gallery Stroll, the event is free and open to the public.

The exhibit will showcase eight student projects focused on the Gateway, Road Home and Warehouse Districts of Salt Lake City. The projects cap a year-long University Professorship course designed and taught by Keith Bartholomew and Mimi Locher, assistant professors in the College of Architecture and Planning.

In its first year, “People and Place: Experiences in Community Development” offers an integrated curriculum in architecture and urban planning with a focus on community development through the built environment, as it relates to the natural environment and the socio-economic condition of the community.

The course successfully presents beginning students an opportunity to examine community development through experiential mentorship with local nonprofit, state, government and private-sector architecture and planning firms.

In creating the University Professorship course, Bartholomew explains that most communities have been designed with little regard to the natural processes of the environment and the long-term consequences to the community.

“They have developed in ways that tend to promote socio-economic segregation, support over-reliance on the automobile, and lead to sprawl and the disintegration of community-based cultural and commercial areas,” he states.

Bartholomew and Locher explain that the goal of the course is to draw from the knowledge of a broad range of disciplines in order to provide leadership for the creation of the built environment, including anthropology, business, communications, economics, engineering, environmental studies, history, law, political science, public administration and sociology.

“Careful integration of these areas through planning policy and architectural and urban design leads to a human-made environment that can be ecologically sustainable, beautiful, functional and accessible for everyone,” says Locher.

With this ambition guiding them, course participants have worked in teams on eight projects ranging from affordable housing, economic development and social services, to civic space, historic preservation, neighborhood planning, transportation and local business.

Each project is unique in its focus and mentors. One group concentrating on transportation is working on the pedestrian/bicycle connections in the South Davis Transit Study, a research effort funded by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and developed as part of the settlement of the Legacy Parkway litigation.

Two students, Josh Yost and Jack Matheson are working with mentors at Fehr and Peers Transportation Consultants and recently presented their project to the steering committee comprised of top officials at UDOT, Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and Salt Lake City and Davis County municipalities. It was so well received that Salt Lake City has requested an encore presentation to their staff.

Another group examining economic development has been working with various elements of the Salt Lake Greek community at the Hellenic Center and the Holy Trinity Cathedral on using the cultural history surrounding Greektown as an economic development strategy.

Bartholomew and Locher report that coincidentally UTA is building a new TRAX station right in the center of Greektown. Two students, Bob Sonntag and Chase Hearne, have effectively organized the Greek community to come out in support of naming the station “Greektown.”

Sonntag and Hearne have made two presentations to the UTA Board, which will vote on the issue in April. “It looks like they will prevail, but even if they don’t, they will have affected all future station namings in the UTA system,” Locher says, noting that in response to their last presentation, the board directed the staff to develop a new agency policy requiring that historic and cultural factors be incorporated into all future station naming actions.

About the University Professorship

Each year, at least one faculty member at the University of Utah is selected for the special rank of University Professor. This professorship recognizes individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary skills in teaching, distinguished scholarship in their field, and an interdisciplinary approach to undergraduate instruction.

The University Professorship offers faculty the opportunity to launch new projects in undergraduate education that will make significant differences in students’ educational experiences. The University Professor holds this position for one academic year. S/he receives an award of $5,000, plus up to $10,000 to cover developmental costs associated with her or his project. This amount may be used as reimbursement for release time, supplies, teaching assistants or in other ways that allow for project goals to be accomplished.

For more information on the “Both Sides of the TRAX: Investigations in the Gateway District” exhibit or the “People and Place: Experiences in Community Development” University Professorship course, contact Keith Bartholomew at 801-585-8944 or Mimi Locher at 801-585-8946.