By Melody Harclerode
Students gather around tables in the Georgia Tech West Architecture Building listening to Herman Howard, their professor of architecture as well as the KAI Design Build director of planning and urban design. Howard announces an upcoming school event and his goal to critique their work during the class.
The project deadline looms in a few weeks, yet the twenty-something young people head to their desks with excitement. They enjoy the opportunity to design buildings and outdoor spaces that improve the quality of life for the residents in the northwest Atlanta neighborhoods near Georgia Tech. Brooke Chafin, a 3rd year student, raves about her class saying, “We look at architecture at a different angle.”
As an urban planner, Howard has worked tirelessly to revitalize underserved local stadium communities, which includes the Vine City, English Avenue and Castleberry Hill neighborhoods, as well as ones in other states and countries through collaboration with developers, non-profit organizations and the government sector. This commitment inspires his students with their projects during the semester.
For the first assignment, the professor gave the designers a choice to redevelop an area along Maddox Park making connections to the Georgia Tech campus. Brooke presents her colorful computer drawings for the redevelopment at the Atlanta Community Food Bank site and accompanying properties along Lowery Boulevard. Her plans include a farmer’s market, educational center and urban farm. Mindful of the budget restraints if this project were actually built, her eye-catching design for the farmers’ market stand is reinforced with affordability.
She teams with classmate William Fryer for the current and final project of this semester: to create transit-oriented development at the Bankhead MARTA site. Other students focus their attention on the communities surrounding other transit stations.
Brooke proposes a mixed-use project near the Bankhead MARTA station with townhomes, retail commercial spaces, apartments and a park encouraging more people to live near the transit stations and lessen their reliance on cars.
William shares his renderings of camp for youths at Proctor Creek with pedestrian crossings along the waterway and the MARTA station. This project could bring attention to the restoration of a long polluted, yet once popular creek in northwest Atlanta and the adjoining neighborhoods.
While people think of architects as elitists in ivory towers who are detached from the social issues facing communities, Brooke, William and their counterparts at other architectural schools demonstrate that my profession is nurturing a new generation of imaginative and socially conscious architects.