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New DGRI parklet plans give KCAD grad students real-world architectural design experience







Organizers with Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. are working with graduate students from Kendall College of Art and Design's new Master of Architecture program to design a new parklet outside of DGRI's downtown Grand Rapids offices at 21 Pearl Street. 

Tim Kelly is DGRI's planning manager, and he says the idea to use the parklet project as a real world learning experience for KCAD graduate students was the brainchild of DGRI Director Kris Larson and KCAD's Master of Architectures Program Director Brian Craig. 

"It seemed like a natural fit in terms of scale and real world applicability -- something they could design and build that could meet up with their school schedule," Kelly says. 

Students spent the first semester designing the parklet, and will spend next semester working out cost estimations and building details. Kelly says he's met with KCAD's architectural grad students a handful of times throughout the process to give them an overview of the parklet program, and other local architectural firms have come in to help review designs, give feedback on new ideas and answer questions about the process. 

"We try to give them as close to real world experience as we can and treat them like a normal contractor or client," says Kelly. "There’s always that component of wanting to give them the learning experience, too, so we might give a little bit more direction in terms of the process and the best way to go through design or development phases, groups you need to make sure you're talking to." 
 
The DGRI parklet will be different from past parklet projects by Barfly Ventures, both in its modern, almost abstract aesthetics and in regards to its public accessibility. In other words, you don't have to be a patron to use the parklet's seating or space. 

"I think, really, when the parklet program started we really wanted to explore some interesting and creative uses for those spaces that were formerly just for automobiles," Kelly says. "I think this speaks to the intent of the program. We love the parklets Barfly did and they’re pioneers in terms of getting them installed and available for people to use, but the students recognize that there is an opportunity for creativity and making things that are aesthetically pleasing for those walking by and those able to sit in and use them." 

Costs of the parklet and construction details will be hashed out by KCAD students over coming months, with construction slated to start in April near the close of the spring semester, which is also the beginning of the city's build season. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc./Kendall College of Art & Design 
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