AMES, Iowa ― Projects Iowa State University completed with 23 Iowa towns are featured in an exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., June 27 to July 1 and July 4-8.
Iowa State's exhibit, "Transforming Communities: Design in Action," was one of only 17 from land-grant universities selected to be part of the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year's festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of the founding of land-grant universities. More than 1 million visitors are expected to visit the event.
Created by a team of faculty, staff and students, Iowa State's exhibit highlights the central role of design in the land-grant mission. Iowa State has a unique, ongoing partnership between the College of Design and ISU Extension and Outreach that enables faculty, staff and students to apply design thinking to help communities solve problems.
Iowa State's exhibit uses a blend of advanced, interactive technology and old-fashioned personal conversation to demonstrate techniques and processes designers use to create, innovate and help transform communities. Two flat-screen monitors will show a video about more than 50 projects in 30 towns worldwide, demonstrating how Iowa State's collaboration between design and extension impacts communities.
The Iowa projects included in the video are listed alphabetically by town/county and described below. Additional information about Iowa State's exhibit at the festival can be viewed on the exhibit website at http://www.iastate.edu/designinaction.
The exhibit also will be at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Aug. 9-19, and at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Aug. 28-30.
Prairie Bridges Park
The City of Ackley wanted to attract tourists by turning a 120-acre vacant space into a prairie park with fishing and recreational trails. Ackley took part in a park improvement program through Iowa State to start developing Prairie Bridges Park. As the park grew in size and scope, the town continued to work with Iowa State through the Community Visioning Program and a landscape architecture community design studio.
Presbyterian Village Memory-Care Garden
A care facility with a new dementia-care wing wanted a garden to help patients recall memories and make connections. A memory-care garden improves the mental and emotional well-being of dementia patients. Iowa State landscape architecture students designed and built a viewing garden and a work yard that help patients remember growing up in an Iowa farming community. The design included input from facility staff so that specific needs of dementia patients were addressed.
High poverty rates and unstable home environments can lead young people to engage in dangerous behaviors, such as substance abuse. Communities need help to strengthen families and support healthy behaviors in youth. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach joins with local schools to provide the Strengthening Families program in Buena Vista County. The seven-session program builds youth skills and gives families tools to help children become responsible young adults.
Sustainable economies program
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Center for Industrial Research and Service identified five clusters of communities that would benefit from looking at detailed economic studies and receiving technical assistance as one unit. Carroll is one of these community clusters, called regional trade centers. CIRAS helps these centers and their businesses identify opportunities for sustainable growth. They help the trade centers understand financial, social and environmental issues in their regions and create plans for changes that will lead to sustainable growth.
Sustainable, affordable housing for flood-damaged communities
June 2008 tornadoes and flooding displaced thousands of Iowans. The state needed a plan to provide safe, affordable housing as quickly as possible to help people rebuild their lives. Iowa State University's College of Design Bridge Studio students worked with All-American Homes and the Iowa Finance Authority to design sustainable, affordable housing for Cedar Rapids that could be built quickly using modular construction systems. Students created housing options that included single- and multiple-family arrangements, different numbers of bedrooms and varied exterior styles. They used “green” building materials, appliances and fixtures to lower utility bills. Their designs could be adapted to any town in need of fast, affordable housing.
Ellis Boulevard urban farm and village
Historic flooding of the Cedar River in 2008 damaged or destroyed many downtown businesses, public buildings and nearly 6,000 homes in Cedar Rapids. Many areas that once had housing are vacant, and the city needs help to restore its neighborhoods. Iowa State University's College of Design Bridge Studio students created sustainable revitalization plans, including affordable housing, stormwater management and urban agriculture for one of the flood-damaged neighborhoods. Students proposed ways to make good use of the land while protecting the area from future flooding. They worked with a nonprofit organization, a neighborhood association and a design firm on an urban farm project and revitalization strategies to provide the area with options.
Interactive GIS helps public participate in community planning
Getting people involved in the city planning process is sometimes difficult because it's not always convenient for residents to attend meetings. They also may be uncomfortable sharing opinions in a public setting. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach created a system that lets people give input on interactive maps from personal computers. Suggestions and comments made by residents are uploaded directly to a database and are viewable on the map. The interactive system allows residents who cannot attend meetings to give input. Designers can address potentially controversial issues during the planning process. And planners and designers use the information collected as they work on community projects.
The Iowa House
Small towns don’t have enough affordable, energy-efficient houses. Most houses are old, drafty and expensive to heat and cool. Iowa State University College of Design Bridge Studio students designed an energy-efficient house that could be built by local contractors and priced for low-income families. The two-bedroom house is well insulated, has the smallest furnace available and is situated to benefit from the sun’s energy. As a result, utility costs are low. The house also is accessible for aging in place. Iowa State worked with federal, state, and local agencies and groups to create a prototype house for Corning. Students worked with residents on the design that local contractors built. Because of The Iowa House, other towns want to work with Iowa State on affordable, sustainable housing projects.
Alternative futures for Lake Delhi and the Maquoketa River
In summer 2010, record flooding on the Maquoketa River caused the Delhi Dam to break. The nine-mile lake behind the dam drained, homes were destroyed and tons of sediment washed downstream. Residents and business owners asked for help to recover from this disaster. Iowa State landscape architecture students created three designs for the Lake Delhi area. Each plan considered the needs of residents and businesses and of people living downstream. They submitted a report of their ideas to the governor’s task force on rebuilding Lake Delhi. Students engaged residents in different ways to understand their needs. They studied the area’s economy, demographics and water quality. Their designs also showed the possible impact of different decisions.
Des Moines Water Works Parkitecture Challenge
Des Moines Water Works wanted a plan for Water Works Park that would address flooding, restore the park’s crab apple arboretum and improve traffic flow and parking. Iowa State University landscape architecture students collected current and historical information on Water Works Park, and created an international competition to help Des Moines Water Works obtain creative plans that address the park’s needs. A team of two design firms won the competition, and Water Works is raising private funds to move the project forward. Iowa State University helped Des Moines Water Works realize the importance of the 1,500-acre park and expand the project scope to get a better result. The competition brought students, professionals and community members together.
Energy efficiency in small commercial retrofits
Many historic buildings use a lot more energy than necessary. The Green & Main project wants to turn current buildings and neighborhoods into more sustainable communities. Green & Main is using sustainable design strategies like natural lighting, a vegetative roof and geothermal and solar energy to retrofit an abandoned building in a historic Des Moines neighborhood. The project will create a manual to help other communities renew their own historic buildings. As a Green & Main research partner, Iowa State’s Center for Building Energy Research will evaluate how cost effective the renovation project is. The center will install equipment to monitor how much energy the building uses for heating, cooling, ventilation and electricity.
King-Irving neighborhood and Sixth Avenue corridor
Residents of a historic neighborhood in Des Moines wanted help creating a community garden and revitalizing the business corridor through the neighborhood. Iowa State University landscape architecture students worked with residents to design and plant a community garden. They also helped residents create plans for outdoor school spaces and local food access. And they offered proposals for improvements to the business corridor. Student creativity helped expand the original project to include community education programs, “green” building strategies and ways to create a community identity. Iowa State University continues to work with the neighborhood and business corridor on community design projects.
Elkader and Turkey River community design and visioning
In 2008 the Turkey River in northeast Iowa flooded. This caused serious damage along the river corridor, especially to Elkader. Damaged homes were torn down after families relocated, leaving a large, unused green space. Elkader worked with Iowa State University’s landscape architecture community design studio to come up with designs that would prevent future flooding while providing usable space, such as a riverfront park. Students interviewed people who live in town and farmers who own land along the river to learn how the flooding affected them. They offered different ways for people to provide input so the proposed designs would meet the varying needs and still be functional.
Iowa Small Business Development Centers
Entrepreneurs in Iowa need help to start and grow small businesses and to transfer ownership when they retire. Iowa State’s College of Business hosts the Iowa Small Business Development Center program. The program’s 13 centers provide advice, counseling, training and access to other resources to help Iowa’s small business owners. The Small Business Development Center helped the owner of a fused-glass retail shop and classroom move her business from her home to a storefront in downtown Fort Dodge. The center helped her complete the documentation needed to get financing for the retail space. The center also provided advice on improving and growing her small business.
Downtown retail district graphic identity project
Downtown retail districts must look vibrant and eclectic to compete with larger retailers. Each business must appear unique. The Grinnell Chamber of Commerce saw how graphic design had helped other communities, and wanted help for its own district. After studying the needs for each business, Iowa State graphic design students created new logos, signs and storefronts to help set each store apart and make it more competitive. Students interviewed business owners to understand their customers and goals. They analyzed the existing graphics and storefronts to help owners understand why their graphic messages were falling short. Then, students used new graphic images to create a unique visual “story” for each Grinnell store.
Partnering Landscape and Community Enhancement Program
Iowa State University’s Partnering Landscape and Community Enhancement (PLaCE) program offers assistance to towns that want to enhance and promote themselves through community improvement projects. Students, faculty and staff from the Iowa State College of Design and Iowa State Extension and Outreach work with Iowa communities to explore a variety of design options. Successful projects have included downtown streetscapes and riverfronts, neighborhood gardens, a new main gate at a county fairgrounds and a junkyard converted to a trailhead park.
Redefining Prison Landscapes
Iowa is building a new facility for inmates of the Correctional Institution for Women. The prison wants outdoor areas that aid in rehabilitation while maintaining security sight lines. Iowa State University landscape architecture students designed a landscape with recreational opportunities to improve health, vegetable gardens to decrease food costs and improved visitor areas where offenders can meet with families. The class researched prison life, spoke to inmates and staff and visited the site. The design meets inmates’ needs and maintains staff security requirements. Offenders wanted spaces for recreation, learning and visiting. Prison staff required clear sight lines, no hiding places and secured landscaping materials.
Two highways that used to go through Mount Pleasant were rerouted. The community needed to create new connections between central parts of town and the highways. Faculty and students from the Iowa State University College of Design created a new graphic identity for Mount Pleasant. They also proposed designs to renew the town square and surrounding area as well as the grounds of the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, an event that attracts thousands of visitors annually. Designers created a work plan that combined technology, human need and beauty. GIS software was used to create a video of the town to serve as a planning tool. An urban design class created new visions for downtown. Interchange development plans were created. Public participation activities were used to gain resident input.
Community visioning program
Small Iowa towns often can’t get the design services they need, because the cost is too high or the city doesn’t have its own planner or engineer. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach created a process that helps town leaders and volunteers work with designers to create new approaches to community betterment. The Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning Program is a joint effort by Iowa State, landscape architects and Trees Forever, an Iowa nonprofit. The Iowa Department of Transportation funds the program. Since 1996, the Community Visioning Program has helped 183 towns make improvements to their streets, sidewalks and landscapes. Of these towns, 94 percent have finished at least one project.
Embracing diversity for a sustainable future
The City of Perry wants to bring its growing Latino community together with long-time residents to create a more sustainable future. Since 2006, the Iowa State University College of Design and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have helped Perry create opportunities for residents from all backgrounds to work together for community improvement. Iowa State brings people together through workshops, surveys and public meetings. Using input from these activities, students have proposed improvements including an urban park, community signs and a downtown plan. And students built a studio in a remodeled bank building, which is used as a meeting place and idea center.
Multicultural community planning project
Public participation across cultures can be a challenge in towns with residents from many backgrounds. Iowa State community planning students worked with the Town/Craft center in Perry to get public input in a way that crossed cultural barriers. Latino residents did not attend public meetings, so students found different ways to involve them. They discovered that small focus groups and interviews were more successful. Students worked with local leaders and staff at Town/Craft to network with business owners, youth and other residents.
Iowa Small Business Development Centers
Entrepreneurs in Iowa need help to start and grow small businesses and to transfer ownership when they retire. Iowa State University’s College of Business hosts the Iowa Small Business Development Center program. The program’s 13 centers provide advice, counseling, training and access to other resources to help Iowa’s small business owners. The Small Business Development Center helped a 23-year-old entrepreneur save his business when it was struggling. The center counseled him on how to keep expenses under control and increase sales revenues at his award-winning restaurant and ice cream shop in Prairie City. The center also provided business-training classes, where he developed a support system with other entrepreneurs.
The town of Red Oak wanted help to improve the physical appearance and economic condition of its downtown area. An Iowa State College of Design community planning class proposed designs for downtown storefronts and published a report. Red Oak used the report to create an incentive program for storefront renovations. Seventeen businesses around the town square took part in the revitalization program. Students took photos and videos to learn about the town and the business environment. They used a written survey and design workshop to collect input from residents and business owners. They based storefront design proposals on this information.
Iowa Small Business Development Centers
Entrepreneurs in Iowa need help to start and grow small businesses and to transfer ownership when they retire. Iowa State University’s College of Business hosts the Iowa Small Business Development Center program. The program’s 13 centers provide advice, counseling, training, and access to other resources to help Iowa’s small business owners. The Small Business Development Center helped the owners of a vineyard near Scranton build their business. The center provided advice on identifying new markets for their products, redesigning their marketing materials and finding ways to use their extra grapes. They are familiar faces at area farmers’ markets, where there is often a line for their grape pie.
Midtown Family Community Center
Midtown Family Community Center in Sioux City offers resources for a diverse population. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach provides programming for youth and adults at the center. The center provides a unique setting for Extension and Outreach programming, and resources for a diverse population. Latino families have access to extension nutrition, parenting and finance education offered in Spanish. Young people can join 4-H clubs that meet at the center and attend science, music and other camps throughout the year.
High poverty rates and unstable home environments can lead young people to engage in dangerous behaviors, such as substance abuse. Communities need help to strengthen families and support healthy behaviors in youth. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach joins with local schools to provide the Strengthening Families program in Waterloo. The seven-session program builds youth skills and gives families tools to help children become responsible young adults. Working with local schools helps Iowa State University identify at-risk youth and deliver the program more effectively. Involving local resources, like businesses and community organizations, gives participants the best chance to complete the program.
The People's Garden School Pilot Project
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is one of four state extension services working on a pilot gardening program at schools. Thousands of students in elementary schools in urban, suburban and rural communities are learning about nutrition and gardening. They also get to plant and tend a garden. When kids grow their own food, they are more likely to eat it. The gardens also provide a way to learn about nutrition, obesity and other health issues. The People’s Garden School Pilot Program establishes school gardens that help students learn and get excited about nutrition and making healthy choices.
GPS and iPhones for Safer Routes to School
The Federal Safe Routes to School Program offers funding to communities to make it safer for children to walk or bicycle to school. Towns need help creating and evaluating their Safe Routes to School programs. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the state public health department created Iowans Walking Assessment Logistics Kit (I-WALK). This tool helps towns and school districts plan safer routes to school, and it helps them assess the routes on an ongoing basis. I-WALK combines technology, cognitive science and participatory design methods to create safer routes to school. Residents learn to photograph barriers with an iPhone and enter descriptions. This information is mapped on a live digital map, making problem areas easy to identify and fix.