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Create possibilities: Landscape architecture students envision multi-use space for downtown Fargo

NDSU students learn valuable life and workplace skills by participating in hands-on projects. For instance, third-year landscape architecture students recently completed projects that enhance their real-world skills.

Seventeen students in two courses combined their talents to envision new uses for a small 12-vehicle parking lot adjacent to Spicy Pie Pizza in downtown Fargo. The courses are Landscape Architecture Design Studio taught by Jay Kost, lecturer of landscape architecture, and Landscape Site Systems taught by Matthew Kirkwood, program director and associate professor of landscape architecture.

The students were asked to merge the design and construction aspects they are learning to imagine a multi-use space to replace the parking lot that is 25 feet by 160 feet. 

“I go to Spicy Pie for lunch once a week, and that’s what started this project,” Kirkwood said. “I proposed to the owner that instead of a parking lot, what if it was a community space? This was a fun project for students and they really took ownership of it.”

During the ensuing four weeks, the students worked on a variety of ideas, ranging from park-like sites to intricate dining spaces.

Rikka Senum, a senior from Pembina, North Dakota, laid out a small plaza named “Ridge Square,” a place to dine and relax among trees and flora.

“I gained an understanding of small spaces and detail,” she said, noting the experience will be a major plus when the students move into the job market. “It’s going to help us relate to clients more. I now have a better understanding of what we should be creating when we get out in the real world. We have not put together fake things that could not actually be built.”

Senior Zach Unruh designed a space called “322 Broadway” that combined seating with open areas for games like outdoor checkers and bean bag toss.

“It is interesting to see how everyone has a different way to attack a situation. I learned a lot about detailing – I like to get down to the nuts and bolts of things,” said Unruh, who is from Carrington, North Dakota. “Everyone now has awesome work to put in their portfolios. This was a great project for that.”

And that was the point, to produce high-quality work that is much like what they will do during their careers.

“The students practiced the professional skills they will need when they eventually graduate. From conceptualization to the smallest details of construction aspects, they worked on areas needed to someday make projects realized,” Kost said. “The students have their own individual projects, but they are also seeing what others come up with. That is an educational experience in its own right.”

What becomes of the concepts? Will any of them become reality? Maybe.

“This project might grow legs and be constructed,” Kirkwood said. “But either way, it’s been fun to look at the ‘what if’ scenario.”

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North Dakota State University
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