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Smith Creek Park, by Virginia Tech’s Design/buildLAB, has reinvigorated a neighbourhood of Clifton Forge, Virginia.

A pedestrian bridge and an open stage in Clifton Forge, Virginia, may be modest in scale, but their impact has been enormous. Besides adding a vital community hub in place of a brownfield, the double-barrelled project has given the students of design/buildLAB a chance to see how urban renewal can re­invig­orate a neighbourhood.

As part of Virginia Tech, the lab places experiential learning at the core of its architectural program. The third-year curriculum requires students to problem-solve real issues, and a select group gets to don tool belts and see their vision through to completion. Over two school terms, two teams realized the adjoining projects and worked collaboratively with the town’s residents.

The Masonic Amphitheatre, com­pleted in 2012, was built first. Its cresting wave profile – made from white oak, among other local­ly sourced materials – offers a simple form for solving practical requirements, including an acoustic shell to buffer the sound of a nearby creek. To complement the venue, a 30-metre-long bridge was constructed, to shorten the journey between the main street and the theatre.

With each new piece of infrastructure, design/buildLAB is helping Clifton Forge to realize its own aspirations of becoming an arts centre, with one small but groundbreaking project at a time.

About the designers: Team members – Professors Keith Zawistowski and Marie Zawistowski with Bethel Abate, Aiysha Alsane, Tyler Atkins, Justin Dennis, Lauren Duda, Huy Duong, Derek Ellison, Megumi Ezure, Katherine Harpst, Ryan Hawkins, Catherine Ives, Anna Knowles-Bagwell, Michael Kretz, Kyle Lee, Jennifer Leeds, Stephanie Mahoney, Leo Naegele, Margaret Nelson, Stephen Perry, Fernanda Rosales, Leah Schaffer, Katherine Schaffernoth, Amanda Schlichting, Ian Shelton, Brent Sikora, Claudia Siles, Emarie Skelton, Samantha Stephenson, Taylor Terrill, Daniel Vantresca, Bryana Warner, Samuel “Aaron” Williams and Samantha Yeh.

Design/buildLAB gives architecture students hands-on experience, from concept development to realization. The program’s newest structure, completed in June, is a field house for Clifton Forge’s Little League team. designbuildlab.org

What the jury said: “It’s amazing to see a project like this go from design to fruition, and on such limited resources.”
– Jamie Gray, juror

Winner: A+ Award for Student Work
Smith Creek Park

Smith Creek Park, by Virginia Tech’s Design/buildLAB, has reinvigorated a neighbourhood of Clifton Forge, Virginia.

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