Rockford Design Workshop

Article by: Civism and Cities

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In the spring of 2010, Michael Watkins (Michael Watkins, Architect; Gaithersburg, MD) suggested to LiveWorkLearnPlay (LWLP), Montreal, that they consider the Judson Traditional Architecture and Urbanism group as a potential academic resource in their consultancy to the Rock River Development Partnership (RRDP), the latter purposed to revitalize Rockford, Illinois.

In May, a team of JU students, new graduates, and alumni convened in Rockford on East State Street in an empty storefront to set up a week long design studio.  The studio team, directed by Nathaniel Brooks and Christopher Miller, Ph.D. comprised  Nicholas Gouwens, Brendan Herr, Seth Holmen, Aaron Holverson, Matthew Imburgia, JoAnna Landers, Sam Lima, Tracy Mau, Jared Natalino, Jessica Otte, and Benjamin Scarbro.

The purpose was to work with LWLP in urban design proposals for the RRDP and to create the urban design and architecture visualizations for the RRDP.  The visualizations were to be employed in creating a positive public support for change in Rockford.

The team worked long hours with great intensity.  A number of organizations, most notably Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP) and the City of Rockford were enormously helpful in the provision of documents and mapping.  Of course, the RRDP provided all the logistical support; LWLP provided professional support to the studio and, at the end of the week, participated in a constructive review for a push to the final visualization product.  At the end of the week, there was hope for a continued relationship of service to the RRDP and to the City of Rockford.

The image above is an indicator of the team effort.  The market building was designed and produced in AutoCad by Seth Holmen and Nathaniel Brooks.  The perspective virtual view was produced [Perhaps the team can help me reconstruct this narrative.]  Christopher Miller created the line drawing and Samuel Lima made the watercolor.  Finally, Nathaniel Brooks populated the image digitally.

What follows is an excerpt from a letter from Daniel Byrne (LWLP) in thanks for the team’s work in Rockford.

Let me start by letting you know how impressed we all were with the considerable talent, and technical expertise of your group. Our team has had the privilege of working with many of the marquee groups in urban planning and architecture, and the design quality and visual presentation of the material you collectively prepared was truly worldclass. Our high hopes for the week we spent together were very much surpassed.

The design work you completed this week will form the foundation of the phase 1 revitalization for Rockford. LWLP, the RRDP and countless members of the community are working diligently to make this revitalization a reality for Rockford that will result in a more inclusive, cohesive and functional community. We thank not just you but your husbands, wives, children and friends for the time you took from your busy lives to help Rockford become a better place. This contribution is particularly notable given the grueling pace that finishing your school year and, in many cases, your graduate degrees, must have entailed over the recent weeks and months.

We had the opportunity to see a few of your projects when we toured the Judson facilities in March. Needless to say, the work we saw then, and last week, gives us great confidence in your professional prospects and abilities. It is reassuring to know the next generation of urbanists is such a talented, generous and capable lot. There is a small but growing community of people dedicating themselves to improving the quality of place across America, I suspect Rockford has just met some of the movement’s future leaders.

The in-residence design studio, similar to a charrette, is the most recent of such efforts.

On March 31, 2007, Judson architecture students (Rhyse Altman, JoAnna Hastings, Nick Gouwens, Brendan Herr, Tracy Mau, and Brian Mork) and Christopher Miller assisted Prof. Karl Sandin and Denison University students and supported Ohio State University’s Neighborhood Design Center in Newark, Ohio, for the Historic East End Visioning Charrette.

In 2005, the Quincy Student Charrette was a week-long intensive visioning and masterplanning effort,sponsored by the City of Quincy, the Great River Economic Development Foundation, and Quincy Young Professionals, with input of local stakeholders, resulting in proposals for the Quincy hotel district and riverfront loft district.  Christopher Miller and Nathaniel Brooks, a Quincean, co-directed the effort that included a team of 15 students.

Christopher Miller, a member of the 2001 Calvin College Summer Seminar, New Urbanism and Communities of Faith, supported the Wealthy-Jefferson Neighborhood Design Charrette, organized by Jonathan Bradford of the Inner City Christian Federation  in 2002.  The seminar and the charrette was directed by Philip Bess, now the Notre Dame University School of Architecture graduate director.  The charrette team included Patrick Pinnell, Douglas Duany, Peter Swift, Patrick Seligman, Cecilia Holloman, Heather Aldridge, Kim DeStigter, Brad Frey, Benjamin Northrup, David Gobel, and Jim Reminga.  The charrette production was supported by Andrews University students and Judson student Nathaniel Brooks.  See the ongoing effort at Wealthy-Jefferson Development Initiative.