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MLA Students Participate in Birmingham Summer Studio Creating Concepts for Line Park (aka ”The Cut”)

Proposal Drawing

This summer the Auburn University Master's of Landscape Architecture program offered a five-week graduate level landscape architecture studio under the direction of adjunct faculty Ben Wiesman and Kelly Homan. The studio focused on a signature site in downtown Birmingham, known to  locals as  "The Cut." This site, on 1st Avenue South, has a direct history tied to Birmingham's founding and its industrial origins. The depressed in- ground plane once included a railroad spur that allowed the adjacent businesses easy means to load/unload train cars and allowed the railroad to cross local and collector streets under the grid of the downtown streets.

The studio was comprised of seven, second-year graduate landscape architecture students. The students were challenged to conceptualize, program and design a trail system, which would use the “cut” to travel along four blocks of 1st Avenue South and connect two major downtown nodes:  Birmingham's Railroad Park and Sloss Furnace. 

The students lived, worked, and played in Birmingham for five weeks, getting to know the city, the project site and the needs and desires of the stakeholders and the end users. Each student was charged with designing their vision for the trail, resulting in seven unique concepts for the stakeholders to use and embrace.  Stakeholders in this process included the land owner (the City of Birmingham), the local fundraising organization (the Birmingham Rotary Club), and the organizers of the process (Operation New Birmingham, and Auburn University).


Students were quickly immersed into the project and the city, touring other local projects, meeting with industry professionals during the studio and participating in three juried reviews of their work with the stakeholder groups. The work was fast, intense and unique to the site and the City of Birmingham. The students produced seven unique ideas for the site, presenting all seven to the stakeholders to great reviews. 


Line Park (as the students re-christened the site) is now entering its next phase with the stakeholder groups and its funding sources.  They continue to use and showcase the students' work and expect to incorporate some of these great ideas into the final design and development of the trail. The City, Rotary Club and Auburn University have embraced this project and are working towards its completion.

The blog developed by students to  document the studio and the process they experienced  can be found at: