Mediative Urbanisms seeks input on vacant parcel (courtesy IHNA)
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After a controversial shopping center on Lexington Avenue fell through earlier this year, a former scrap metal yard in the middle of Irish Hill still sits vacant and windswept awaiting development proposals. That’s where you come in.

Competition site is currently an industrial wasteland (BS File Photo)
Competition site is currently an industrial wasteland. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

The Irish Hill Neighborhood Association with the support of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, 9th District Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, Friends of Irish Hill, and the LEO recently announced a design competition dubbed Mediative Urbanisms to garner ideas for the 30-acre site, now an abandoned industrial wasteland in the heart of the neighborhood.

Mediative Urbanisms seeks to bring about a creative discussion about the site that will help in connecting the neighborhood to the surrounding city while viewing neighborhood features such as Beargrass Creek as community assets. The competition is open to urban designers, architects, landscape architects, and artists (but if you don’t hold those titles, I’m sure you won’t be barred). There is a $70 entry fee, but generous prizes for winning entrants.

To put it mildly, Irish Hill has boundary issues; the competition site is a case-in-point. Entrants are asked to deal with potential barriers such as railroad tracks, an Interstate highway, a walled cemetery and Beargrass Creek in such a way as to create a vibrant, connected neighborhood center.

Combine that with the need to focus Irish Hill’s unique history and identity as an urban and centrally located neighborhood on a plan that enriches the area, and you find yourself in the middle of a challenging design quandary. That’s what Mediative Urbanisms is all about. How can you push the boundaries (literally) of what’s possible in an urban plan?

Irish Hill already has a few guidelines in mind that it wants to see in competition proposals. Here’s what the Irish Hill Neighborhood Association is looking for:

Of particular concern in this competition/exhibition is to provide an expanded idea of the site’s possibilities for public consideration. At minimum, each entry should include specific attention to three program elements. First, entries will examine the potential for the Lexington Road corridor to become a mixed-use zone accommodating pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Second, entries will provide a bus hub capable of accommodating the confluence of three separate routes with adequate waiting areas for riders. Third, entries will provide ample pedestrian/bicycle access between the north and south edges of the site. The site is bordered to the north by an operating railway, which currently isolates the area from the Butchertown and Downtown neighborhoods, minimizing its commercial potential.

Jurors for the competition include a well rounded panel of urban and architectural thinkers:

  • Chris Bowling, Architect
  • Jason Scroggin, Assistant Professor of Architecture, University of Kentucky
  • J. Michael McCoy, RLA, Center for Neighborhoods Director of Planning
  • Bruce Scott, Kentucky Waterways Alliance
  • Barbara Sinai, Architect

The Mediative Urbanisms competition allows for a unique set of ideas to emerge not commonly associated with real estate development. That’s the strength of an open design competition. Put on your thinking caps and take a leisurely stroll down Lexington Road and then take pen to paper.

This is an opportunity to imagine the site’s potential. Consider the idealistic opportunities within the site, the boundary between natural and urban, and how the site can anchor a neighborhood. You have until September 15 to register, so get started. Be sure to read LEO editor Stephen George’s write-up as well for the story of the frustrations the neighborhood felt with the former development proposal.

Competition site in context (image courtesy IHNA)
Competition site in context (image courtesy IHNA)
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Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

6 COMMENTS

  1. They should have some type of preservationist as one of the Jurors since Irish Hill is surrounded by several Historic Districts and, itself, has a number of potential National Register properties. That would insure that the historic view-shed and character of Irish Hill would be taken into consideration.

  2. check out the site boundaries, matt. if a particular submittal reaches beyond these, they may get into something historic but within the boundaries there would be very little to worry about.

    this is a project which demands a lot of consideration and sensitivity for what remains, of course. a successful designer or team will have to recognize several things about this area that are significant while also correcting past mistakes.

    the ‘character’ of irish hill is not any one specific thing. it’s certainly not unable to accommodate a variety of design approaches.

    knowing who most of the jurors are, i can assure that these are architects, designers, and specialists (e.g., in waterways) who will recognize the importance of the historic fabric and how the projects would either be liabilities or enhancements.

  3. I was actually thinking more of outside the project boundaries and the historic viewshed. You don’t want a 3 or 4 story building messing up the Historic view from within Cave Hill.

  4. i just noticed last week that the old station above baxter at lexington was removed. i had hoped to reach OUT of the site boundaries to wrap that into a proposal. it was a nifty little structure and i’m sorry it’s gone.

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