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APLA Works in Avondale

Students presenting at a charrette to Avondale

This fall students in both the fifth year Urban Studio architecture program and first year graduate students in the Masters of Community Planning program came together for an intense three-day charrette in the Avondale neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama. Avondale is one of Birmingham’s up-and-coming neighborhoods with recent public and private investments across the area. The students spent their time working, learning, and interacting with the Avondale community. This work started with a tour of the neighborhood led by Urban Studio director and instructor Alex Krumdieck, Planning Professor John Pittari and adjunct faculty Ben Wieseman. They were joined on the tour by Birmingham City Councilwoman Valerie Abbot.

Students were then divided into teams of mixed studios to work on specific analysis tasks. These tasks included researching the historical and neighborhood character; understanding the existing pedestrian, vehicular, and development patterns of the neighborhood; and analyzing specific neighborhood conditions such as topography, hydrology and building typologies. At the completion of the three-day charrette, the students presented their work and findings to a group of community stakeholders.

During the next eight weeks, planning students returned to the main campus while the architecture students remained at the Urban Studio, continuing their studio projects about the Avondale neighborhood. The architecture students were challenged with selecting several sites to make architectural interventions that would benefit the community. They were divided into four teams, and each were responsible for understanding the site, developing a building program, and designing the facility. Planning students continued work at a master plan level for the community and also providing specific concepts for streetscapes and neighborhood growth and development. The two studios used their analysis to select the specific sites the architecture students would design. This work culminated with projects ranging from a new library, museum, and restaurant site in the park, an urban food hub with community gardens, food processing facilities, retail and restaurant, a community center with active and passive programming along with additional neighborhood infill development and finally a mixed use project with housing, grocery and street markets.

After eight weeks working apart, the students returned to Avondale to present their projects. This meeting was put on in conjunction with Design Week Birmingham. The partnership of this event allowed for not only community members but also other residents throughout the city interested in design topics to attend. Attendees were able to hear from each student group as they presented and showcased their projects for review.