Knowlton School Students and Alumni Participate in Olentangy River Corridor Charrette

Student teams from Knowlton present a new vision for the Olentangy River Corridor.

A river runs through it. So too do the opportunities to rethink a six-mile stretch of the Olentangy River Corridor that connects the Ohio State campus and Downtown Columbus. Visions of the reimagined corridor were presented publically at Knowlton Hall by three teams from architecture, planning and landscape architecture design firms NBBJ, West 8, REALM, TLS Landscape Architecture and MKSK.

“One of the things that is an interesting feature on our campus is the Olentangy,” Ohio State President Michael V. Drake said before teams presented their proposals to a packed audience. “[It] looked, in some of our drawings, like a barrier or an impediment, and we wanted to reimagine what we think of that space; to look at it as a high-quality water feature that helped to enhance the quality of our enterprise and the quality of the university.”

Knowlton School Students and Alumni Participate in Olentangy River Corridor Charrette

The proposals offered a variety of transportation enhancements and multimodal alternatives, from autonomous shuttles and light rail to a re-aligning of Olentangy River Road and removal of State Route 315. Plans also took advantage of the more than 850 acres of potential greenspace along a study area that stretched from the Turkey Run tributary to the Scioto Peninsula by adding additional parks, walking and bike paths, pedestrian bridges and even a Buckeye beach near Ohio Stadium to open up access to the river.

“I think Ohio State’s campus would honestly benefit from a combining of all three charrette schemes,” commented Tim Cousino (BSARCH ’10, MARCH ’12), Associate at NBBJ who participated in the charrette. “My biggest surprise in the final presentations was that not only did each scheme focus in on very different areas and scales of study, but that I could easily see all three fitting strangely well together.” 

Knowlton School Students and Alumni Participate in Olentangy River Corridor Charrette

The genesis of these proposals was a two-day, three-team charrette hosted by the Knowlton School and sponsored by Ohio State, the Columbus Downtown Development Corp., the Columbus Partnership, Nationwide Realty Investors, MORPC, and the City of Columbus. The campus venue for the charrette provided the opportunity for Knowlton School students to contribute as members of the professional teams.  

“Working with professionals in this charrette was very fast paced. Every minute mattered in terms of successfully representing and articulating the goals set forth,” said senior landscape architecture student Abby Anacki.

“The time constraint of the Olentangy River Corridor Charrette created an environment of iterative thinking that was completely different from the collaboration with studio classmates that I've experienced as a student at Knowlton,” stated Sarah Lagpacan, a senior in the city and regional planning program. As a result of rapid feedback and revision during the charrette, she added, “I have less hesitation about asking for critique from those I work collaboratively with because I had the opportunity to see the quality of what can be produced from constantly revisiting the drawing board – literally.”

Public Presentation of the Olentangy River Corridor Charrette Proposals

In addition to gaining real-world experience in their future professions, the students also had the opportunity to gain insights into the methods of the school’s other disciplines. “Although I am an architecture major, I understood the vital need to think like a planner and landscape architect to be effective in this project,” stated senior architecture student Ashton Harrell. The nature of the project made this multidisciplinary approach natural, Harrell added, because the teams had to respond to the Olentangy River Corridor as a region, with varying conditions such as green spaces, natural river systems and riverfront connections, and pedestrian movement and transportation within a large-scale scheme.

“Right off the bat, as I pulled out maps and written descriptions of existing conditions, the landscape architect I worked with pulled out trace paper and colored markers; for the rest of the day, I was immersed in the visual thinking that landscape architecture stresses differently than planning,” Lagpacan added. “I even got to employ this different way of thinking by finding pictures of different development densities and typologies to pin up in order to better illustrate our ideas around future land use possibilities.”

From her landscape architecture perspective, Anacki added: “The multidisciplinary approach of this charrette was one of my favorite aspects. It was great to hear the perspectives of the city and regional planning students, especially concerning topics such as development and transportation.”

Portion of the Olentangy River Corridor along Ohio State Campus

A recent graduate of the undergraduate Landscape Architecture program, Mariel Fink (BSLA ’16) participated in the charrette as a member of West 8/REALM team. “For me, it was really exciting to get to work on a site that I knew on such a deep, personal level. As a student, I spent a lot of time walking or biking along the trail and I have a lot of fond memories of the space, so having the opportunity to imagine its best version was almost surreal,” she stated.

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