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Ideas for Urban LINK

Sixteen students from the Virginia Tech School of Architecture & Design were in Winston-Salem on Friday to present projects to two panels regarding the reconstruction of Business 40 and the Strollway.

A one-mile stretch of Business 40 will soon be under construction by NCDOT to repair pavements, bridges and ramps to ensure safer travels on one of Winston-Salem’s busiest roads.

The repair process requires that a one-mile stretch of road starting west of Fourth Street to east of Church Street be shut down while it is being reconstructed.

According to a recent press release given by NC- DOT, the construction process will begin in 2016.

The Virginia Tech students showed off their hard work Friday afternoon to local stakeholders and community leaders, and they gathered at CBI Showroom 210 in the evening to be rewarded for their hard work throughout the semester.

The project was called Winston-Salem STUDIO:

Ideas for an Urban LINK. The purpose for the project was for students to study the area and culture of downtown Winston-Salem and create a design that would “link” with the spirit of the city as well as figuratively “link” the Strollway to Business 40.

The students first presented their projects to the Winston-Salem chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for an award based on the best concept for architectural design. AIA of Winston-Salem is made up of about 120 members, mostly from Forsyth County, who help foster emerging talent in the architectural field.

Brad Rucker, president of AIA Winston-Salem, was present at the reception on Friday evening to present the award.

“We can’t emphasize enough how extremely difficult this project was for these students,” Rucker said. “The range of stuff that we saw today was very impressive.”

The runner-up for the AIA Architecture Award was given to Amber Jurgensen.

“This project really engaged both sides of Business 40 at different levels,” Rucker said. “It looked very nice, and it brought the whole site together.”

The winner of the AIA Architecture Award was given to Alexander Cheng.

“This project tied together the old and the new as well as the current and the future,” Rucker said. “It made sense to all of us.”

Cheng’s design incorporated wind towers and solar panels along with the raised walkway which he called a “skyway.”

“It was a lot of hard work,” Cheng said. The projects were also shown to members of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership and Old Salem Inc. They were in charge of giving out the Urban Design Award for the project that best responded to the urban design that is unique to downtown Winston-Salem.

Adam Sebastian, member of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership and architect, was present to give the DWSP/Old Salem Inc. Urban Design Award.

“All of you should be very proud of all the hard work you’ve put into this,” Sebastian said. “This is 3rd -year level work, and your work is commendable. I appreciate you all.”

The runner-up for the DWSP/Old Salem Inc. Urban Design Award was Min Choe.

“She really articulated the structure with the larger pieces relating to Winston and the smaller pieces relating to Old Salem,” Sebastian said. “It was a nice, subtle gesture.”

The winner of the DWSP/Old Salem Urban Design Award was Kelsey McLean.

McLean’s project included designs that would incorporate housing, retail and a recreation center.

“We felt that her project held an iconic power to it,” Sebastian said. “From a vehicular standpoint, if you were driving past Winston-Salem, it would be seen and appreciated.”

This STUDIO project was done for academic purposes. All design proposals were made from abstract ideas that do not involve property owners in or around the Business 40 project.

“The awards are really just for recognition of their hard work,” said Brian Kubecki, project manager.

Kubecki is a graduate of the Virginia Tech School of Architecture & Design and is now an architect at the Winston-Salem’s Walter Robbs Callahan & Pierce.

“My role in this project was being a voice of the community,” Kubecki said. “I met with the students three or four times during the process to look at their work.”

Kubecki said that the stakeholders in the community were interested and involved in this project even though it was only a project for academic purposes.

“It was cool to see people so interested in it,” Kubecki said. “They saw the final review today, and they were impressed.”

The idea for the project came about in late fall of last year, and Kubecki worked with Jim Basset, Assistant Professor of Architecture at Virginia Tech, to bring this idea to life in January of this year.

“Jim and I have asked the students to tackle one of the most difficult problems in the built environment of downtown Winston-Salem,” Kubecki said. “Their creative approaches to this challenge are a testament to the value of architecture and design concepts in the improvement of our neighborhoods and communities.”

Basset was applauded for his effort in leading the students throughout the semester on this STUDIO project.

“This was quite a challenging sight,” Basset said. “A project like this takes a great deal of effort, and I feed of the students’ excitement.”

The students’ efforts on the STUDIO project began when they were given the assignment in January. They were encouraged to document the process of their work by uploading photos to Instagram using the hash tags “#WS- DesignStudio14,” “#WSUrbankLink” and “#WSNC.”

“I encourage people to look at the photos they uploaded during the process,” Kubecki said. “It is really quite impressive.”

The students even made the threehour trip from Blacksburg, Va. to Winston-Salem during the semester so that they could get an understanding of the culture.

“It was interesting to stand in the vicinity of where our projects take place,” Cheng said. “I noticed that it was very windy, so I wanted to address that in my project.”

Winston-Salem STUDIO was the second project that involved architect students at Virginia Tech. The first STUDIO project was set up in 2012. Students of that project studied the Theatre District area around the Milton Rhodes Center for Art.

Students of the first STUDIO project chose locations and developed designs they believed would enhance the area by adding a type of entertainment or cultural venue.

Milton Rhodes, President and CEO of the Arts Council during the first STUDIO project, was impressed with the first collaborative effort.

“It was an academic exercise,” said Rhodes. “But the ideas those students developed really got us thinking and were received with great interest by the local arts community, elected officials and civic and business leaders.”

The first STUDIO project was a success, and it helped the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County receive a $30,000 grant from the SmART Initiative program.

The Winston-Salem STUDIO project is funded, in part, by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County’s Innovative Project Grant.

While the projects may have been created for academic purposes, the architectural skills of the students were seen by many important stakeholders and architects in the Winston-Salem community. Like the first STUDIO project, the Urban LINK project could help the city receive more grants for the SmART Initiative program. !