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Urban Studio's Woodlawn Thesis Projects

Urban Studio Presentation

Students at the Urban Studio spent their last spring semester working on a project in Woodlawn, which is a small community located four miles east of Birmingham. From its founding, Woodlawn was a very prominent neighborhood. In 1910, the city of Woodlawn was annexed into the City of Birmingham, becoming one of the five original neighborhoods of Birmingham. Woodlawn has seen a downturn in its fortunes and as with other urban communities, it was unable to escape the effects of social turmoil in the 1960s and the economic unrest of the 1970s. In recent years, strengthened by private investors, Woodlawn has begun to experience a growth and resurgence anchored by its strong community values.

Challenged by the Woodlawn Foundation and REV Birmingham, the students were charged with studying the site at the corner of 1st Avenue South and 56th Street. The students were to create a plan that included a mixed-use building, which would contain a grocery store, six retail spaces, and 35 to 40 affordable housing units.

Their work began in February with a weekend long charrette that included the graduate students in the Community Planning program. Working with Professors Alex Krumdieck and John Pittari, along with REV Birmingham staff, the students explored all the existing conditions, as well as opportunities that exist in the Woodlawn area and how they affect the site. The goal for the charrette was to clearly define five possible problem statements for the project from which each student would choose one of those statements to direct their work for the next 10 weeks.

Students worked in small groups throughout the semester with Professor Krumdieck and Birmingham architects Bill Segrest, Kyle D’Agostino, Kris Nikolich, Adrienne Retief, and Professor Emeritus Cheryl Morgan as mentors. Pinups and reviews with local architects, community members, and REV Birmingham staff proved helpful for the students in finalizing their projects.

Students presented their final projects to members of the Woodlawn Foundation and REV Birmingham at the end of the semester. Each student was able to discuss the plans they had developed for the site. An end of the year reception was held for family members of the students and the Birmingham community to display their final work.

A book was made that references all the work the students did during their full year at the Urban Studio.