SPOKANE, Wash. — A gateway can invite you in or shut you out. The need for an improved gateway to Spokane along Division Street, from I-90 to the Spokane River — one of the key elements in the revitalization of Spokane’s urban identity — serves as the subject of the Seventh Annual Community Design and Construction Charrette at WSU Spokane’s Interdisciplinary Design Institute.


The charrette takes place Aug. 26-28, with final judging and awarding of prizes on Aug. 29.


In a charrette, students learn to work together in interdisciplinary teams and to take broad visions and turn them into a design presentation that includes large-scale plans, cross-sections, three-dimensional images and construction detail. The charrette brings together undergraduate and graduate students in architecture, construction management, interior design and landscape architecture in their first week of class. They will get an overview of the project Tuesday (Aug. 26) morning and must pin up their designs by 5 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 28) — completing a full-scale design project in roughly 48 hours, if they don’t sleep.


Of course, a city of Spokane’s size requires more than one gateway. The gateway contemplated in this project would mark a major entrance to the city and link the Central Business District and downtown core to the emerging University District centered on the Riverpoint and Gonzaga campuses.


David Wang, associate professor of architecture at WSU Spokane and coordinator of the charrette, said, “The possibility of a designated University District is one that will be addressed through a public planning process. The goal of this charrette is to contribute a voice to the larger dialogue over the future of downtown Spokane and the University District through an intensive real-world learning experience.”


Forster Ndubisi, director of the Interdisciplinary Design Institute, pointed out, “It was the design studio work of just such interdisciplinary teams that provided an early conceptual look for the University District. This led to interest and support from Spokane’s elected officials and congressional delegation. Utilizing the University District concept as a learning and instructional tool through the charrette builds upon the work of past WSU Spokane students and faculty, further enriching our students’ education as design professionals.”


In their design concepts, students must leave in place all existing structures and functions, with ideas for improved visual attributes and amenities. Required elements of their work—all included as design challenges to stretch their creativity—include pedestrian-friendly walkways and/or overpasses across Division Street, student housing, parking, commercial establishments and a health clinic.


They must redesign Division as a visually coherent “promenade” leading to some type of gateway element at the intersection of Division and Spokane Falls Boulevard, which might be an architectural or sculptural statement. The design must also include an explicit linkage between the existing Central Business District and the emerging University District.


Their work is judged by members of the local design and construction community, and prizes are awarded to top designs thanks to the generosity of event sponsors Avista, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, the City of Spokane, Office of the Mayor and Spokane Art Supply. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, who is working to obtain federal Department of Transportation funding for the City of Spokane that would be used to enhance this stretch of Division Street, and her representative will attend the awards presentation.


Past charrette subjects have included the Great Gorge Park, the Holley-Mason Block and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, among others. The Interdisciplinary Design Institute at WSU Spokane advances knowledge to enhance the quality of people’s lives in the built and natural environment through interdisciplinary instruction, research and community service: www.idi.spokane.wsu.edu.




Note to photographers and assignment editors: You are welcome to set up coverage of any/all of the activities listed below if you want to follow the process. Please contact us for assistance: Barb Chamberlain, 509/869-2949 (cell) or 509/358-7527 (office) or Kaarin Appel, 509/358-7528 (office) or 509/981-9134 (cell).


Location of all events below except site visit:

Phase I Classroom Building, 668 N. Riverpoint Blvd.


Tuesday, Aug. 26:

  • 8:30 a.m.: Opening remarks/instructions, David Wang, associate professor of architecture, and Forster Ndubisi, director, Design Institute (Auditorium)
  • 8:50-10 a.m.:  Opening remarks: John Powers, mayor of Spokane; Mike Edwards, director, Downtown Spokane Partnership; Judy Cole, AVISTA, director of business and public affairs; Tom Reese, economic development advisor, City of Spokane (Auditorium)
  • (break 10-10:15 a.m.)
  • 10:15-11 a.m.: Tour of site (Division St.); good visual/audio opportunities; students on streets looking at the site, discussing challenges and ideas.
  • Students may work in studios on second and third floors the rest of Tuesday.

Wednesday, Aug.  27, and Thursday, Aug. 28:

  • Faculty will be touring the studios on the second and third floors of the Phase I Classroom Building as needed to assist students. Good visual/audio opportunities generally available; some students may choose to work at home. Contact us to determine best availability.

Thursday, Aug. 28:

  • 4-5 p.m.: Students pin boards up in Design Institute Gallery.

Friday, Aug. 29:

  • 8:30-10:30 a.m.: Closed jury by invited judges, Design Institute Gallery and conference room (not open to media)
  • 10:30 a.m.-Noon: Announcement of awards and comments on each entry.
  • Noon: Barbecue for Design Institute faculty/students follows on the patio outside the Phase I Classroom Building; good time to interview students on the experience now that it’s over and they know the results.