SPOKANE, Wash. — More than 100 local design students at Washington State University Spokane soon will propose design concepts for a question that has been facing the community of Spokane since 1908.

On Tuesday, Aug. 27, just one day after fall classes begin, students at the WSU Spokane Interdisciplinary Design Institute will meet for one of the more rigorous and intense group projects they will complete as part of the Sixth Annual Community Design and Construction Charrette: The “Great Spokane River Gorge.”

Every year during the first week of school, design students studying architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and construction management tackle a design problem that is of community interest. This year, the up-and-coming designers will collaborate to propose solutions for a design project along the north bank of the Spokane River as it flows through the Great Gorge west of downtown.

The charrette familiarizes students with Spokane since many of them come to the urban campus from Pullman to complete their degrees. It also makes the design students apply the interdisciplinary part of their studies by taking one student from each design focus and pairing them up to propose a professional-grade design concept.

“This is for educational purposes only,” said David Wang, charrette organizer. “It is a great way for the students to get to know one another and usually new ideas emerge from the variety of proposals.”

Several public and private Spokane organizations have been working to bring to fruition the “Great Gorge Park” idea that was proposed in 1908 by the landscape designer Fredrick Law Olmsted. The project was chosen for the charrette because of its community interest.

Final proposals will go beyond physical land improvements to provide experiences unique to the historic backdrop. These experiences include a tribal interpretation center for the area rich in artifacts and once known for its great salmon fishing. Viewpoints of the breath-taking falls that are the essence from which Spokane grew is another experience to be provided.

The design project encompasses the north bank of the Gorge along the Spokane River, starting from the former Salty’s restaurant on Post Street at the eastern end, and stretching along the river to People’s Park on the western end. Specific existing components to be included in the student designs are Salty’s, the Courthouse, People’s Park, the Centennial Trail and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Elements of the design project that students must address for the assignment include:
1) Revitalizing the north edge of the river by proposing a series of interventions including a cultural center, a plaza for the courthouse, a trail linking to future mixed-use development along the river, and a tribal Nature Center at People’s Park.
2) Allow for the Spokane Indian Tribe to have an enhanced presence in the heart of Spokane by providing office and exhibit spaces at both the eastern and western ends of the design.
3) Accomplish both of the first two goals in such a way that fosters the values of sustainability. This includes considerations for renewable energy use, use of green materials, design sensitive to natural processes, and human-scaled development. Cues should be taken from the way of life of the historic Spokane Tribe as an exemple of sustainable communal existence.

The Great Gorge Group, who has compiled community input into developing conceptual guidelines for The Great Spokane River Gorge, may be able to use some of the ideas produced by the charrette.

“It’s a great way to start the school year,” said Wang, associate professor of architecture at WSU Spokane. “It is our hope that ideas produced can be used for community enhancement.”

On Friday, Aug. 30, a panel of community judges from design professions will critique each team’s proposal, a 3-D poster board complete with scaled-to-size models, construction plans and drawings. First place wins bragging rights, resume material and $300.

Charrette sponsors include Metropolitan Mortgage, Spokane Art Supply and U.S. Bank. Special thanks goes to Friends of the Falls. The Interdisciplinary Design Institute can be found on the web at www.spokane.wsu.edu/academic/design .

Sample List of Community Judges:
Rick Hastings, president of Friends of the Falls and architect at 3E Design Group.
Bryan Flett, Spokane Tribe.
Greg Kessler, director and associate professor, WSU School of Architecture and Construction Management.
Bill Hendrix, chair and professor, WSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
Sara Ellerd, planner at Studio Cascade.

Media Opportunities during Charrette Schedule:

Interviews of design students and faculty can be arranged throughout the week by calling Kaarin Appel at 509/358-7528. Student stories include:
— 4+1 Students (BA/MA articulation in Interior Design)
— Career-change students returning to school for B.A. OR M.A.
— Students obtaining dual degrees in architecture and interior design – one career change, other is an international student from Estonia

Tuesday, August 27
11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tour of site – Call 358-7528 for directions and parking information

Thursday, August 29
Students wrap up work on presentation boards in design studios.
Interviews available by calling 358-7528.

Friday August 30
10:30 a.m.-noon Announcement of awards and comments on each entry by judges Gallery of Phase I Classroom Building, Riverpoint campus, 668 N. Riverpoint Blvd.

Contact Kaarin Appel at 509/358-7528 or kappel@wsu.edu to arrange video coverage and interviews with faculty and students.