Design team advances in competition
A group of OU students has advanced to one of four spots in the final round of one of the largest urban design competitions in the country.
OU’s team began working on their design for the Urban Land Institute Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition over winter break. The competition began January 16.
Brandon Coates, architecture senior and team leader, said the team started with a clear vision of the work they hoped to accomplish.
“We set a baseline of making our entry better than the last two winners,” Coates said.
This is the first year an OU team has competed in the competition. Team members said the idea was brought to them by professor of architecture and planning industry and current team faculty adviser Blair Humphreys. Humphreys came to OU from MIT and won the competition two years ago. Humphreys sought out Coates, and the team grew to include regional and city planning master’s student Ben Trantham, architecture senior Jordan Maxwell, business administration master’s student Christopher Maupin and architecture senior John Postic. The team also includes another faculty adviser, architecture professor Hans Butzer.
The contest required 153 teams from across the U.S. and Canada to redesign an existing section of the Mount Baker area of Washington in a way that showcases cultural diversity.
Postic said the redesigned area is the most diverse zip code in America.
Team members said they worked to create a very pedestrian-friendly area while still appeasing traffic concerns. To accommodate local businesses, they installed a community center around existing tree canopies and a park alongside new retail and business centers.
Postic said his team sought to reach out and invite people with architecture and urban space with their design, called Rainier Boulevard.
The beauty and atmosphere the trees create give value to the businesses in the area, Maupin said.
“With all of the unique things in this site, how do you put a price on trees? How many cents per square foot do these trees make? It’s unquantifiable,” said Maupin, who was in charge of the financial and business aspects of the project.
The team had to prepare for the competition around hectic schedules.
“We did all of this while we still had school, jobs and families,” Trantham said.
Coates said the team focused their work on grabbing judges’ attention from the moment they first saw their design.
“The project has to be appealing in a matter of seconds,” Coates said. “Unless it catches the judges’ eyes in about three seconds, you’re out.”
Coates said as the team approaches the final round they will have to rely not only on their project’s visual appeal, but also an oral presentation.
The project also challenged team members to hone their skills in areas not specifically addressed by their fields of study, Postic said.
“There’s not a lot of architecture that’s been done on this project. The goal is urban design,” Postic said.
The competition also is sponsored by Hines Development.
The competition employs 12 top designers, bankers, developers and more professionals from around the nation as judges.
Perhaps as important as this jury are the city leaders in Washington who also will see these plans, team members said.
The team received $10,000 after becoming competition finalists, which they will split. The winning team will receive $50,000 to split, with $5,000 of the money allocated to the winning team’s school.
Coates and Postic said the team has had an outpouring of support from the OU community.
Team members said the Dean of the College of Architecture has made frequent visits to check their progress. Professors and administrators have been on hand to answer their questions and discuss ideas with them, they said.
The team has a week left to correct mistakes, make enhancements and meet new guidelines for the final step of the competition. The final round will take place March 31, and the winner will be decided that day.