The Competition, which attracted over 23 proposals, poses an interesting challenge: to bring the Town Branch Creek, which has been underground for over 100 years, to the surface (an idea originally proposed in 2011 by architect Gary Bates and the Norway-based firm Space Group), and redesign the Commons as a two-mile linear stretch of green space to connect the eastern and western sections of downtown Lexington.
Lexington’s Downton Development Authority and the dean of University of Kentucky’s College of Design, Michael Speaks, were floored by the quality of the proposals they received – a fact Speaks attributes to Jeanne Gang‘s influence; the well-known architect has designed two plans in Lexington and lectured there recently. As Speaks told Kentucky.com, “Firms have heard that Lexington is friendly to good design, that the mayor is knowledgeable and wants good design.”
Find out which other firms have been shortlisted, after the break…
Although “daylighting” the creek will be difficult, as it currently lies under a developed part of the city, the city of Lexington is confident that the five shortlisted firms will come up with something that will rival the success of cities such as San Antonio, Texas, Yonkers, NY, and Seoul, South Korea, all of which have re-surfaced rivers. As Mayor Jim Gray shared with Kentucky.com: “It makes downtown a destination. It becomes one more reason for people and businesses to move to your city. There’s a real economic impact. It has happened in other cities, it would happen here in Lexington.”
The 5 shortlisted firms are:
■ Civitas, a Denver-based firm of architects, urban designers and planners.
■ Coen+Partners, a landscape architecture practice based in Minneapolis.
■ Inside Outside, a design firm with offices in Amsterdam, Netherlands, that addresses interior and exterior space.
■ JDS Architects, which focuses on architecture and design from large-scale planning to furniture, based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
■ SCAPE / Landscape Architecture, a landscape architecture and urban design studio in New York City.
Because of the high quality of the proposals, the 5 finalists will take part in a juried design competition in early February. The public will be invited to a symposium to see the design presentations. The jury has yet to be determined.