Planning Board: Student architects too costly

Reprinted with permission of the Daily Hampshire Gazette. All rights reserved.

Planning Board: Student architects too costly


By Chad Cain

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NORTHAMPTON - While they don't mind graduate students using the city as a design studio, the Planning Board last week turned down a bid from the University of Notre Dame's School of Architecture, saying it was too expensive.

Members of the board said they thought the Notre Dame proposal would be too costly, too resource intensive, and would not have built enough consensus among residents, said Wayne Feiden, director of the office of planning and development.

"It's hard to beat students with no pay, but the transportation costs were too high," said Feiden, referring to the $15,000 to $20,000 price tag in travel and lodging costs.

He added that the board also wanted more time to find the right design team that would meet the needs of the city and provide a more interactive process with residents.

Professor Philip Bess, director of the university's architecture and urban design program in South Bend, Ind., made a pitch earlier this month in which a handful of his advanced graduate students would make classical and traditional architectural proposals for the city's streetscapes and established neighborhoods.

While the program is designed to help communities build consensus around difficult design and development questions, its primary mission is to educate future architects rather than provide services.

The city council asked the Planning Board to decide whether it wanted to sponsor the group. The board likes the general concept, and will explore other opportunities to bring experts in, Feiden said. Some of those ideas include finding a design firm already located in Massachusetts that does these kinds of studies or possibly partnering with one of the many local colleges in the area.

The board also might look at using a regional and urban design assessment team from the American Institute of Architects. Interns from the AIA completed a sustainable design program with city officials about four years ago. That report involved providing the city about $20,000 in professional resources and centered around the issues of land use, open space, transportation, economic development, housing, and energy.

"Notre Dame had lots to offer, but it was too short a timeframe to look at how to do something," Feiden said.