The Grand Finale

Posted: December 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

After a detailed data collection process, intensive benchmarking, observational studies, thorough stakeholder engagement, and the creation of countless physical renderings, our College of Engineering Facilities Master Plan studio is finally wrapping up the final report. Our completed comprehensive plan will serve as a valuable tool for the University in moving forward with implementation of the One Framework Plan, giving particular guidance in shaping the future of the North Academic Core and College of Engineering (COE) district.

The proposed greenway would connect Academic Core North with the Oval and offer benefits such as improved campus lighting and a separate bike path.

The proposed greenway would connect Academic Core North with the Oval and offer benefits such as improved campus lighting and a separate bike path.

Conservatively, the entire College of Engineering facilities plan can be implemented for about $250 million with the Neil Avenue extension, or $235 million without the extension. The fiscal analysis is based on recent renovations, new builds, and street rebuilds on campus, and is therefore quite accurate. In addition, this price tag is relatively low considering the numerous recommendations in the plan, and will be a key factor in having the plan realized on campus.

The excellent renderings created by our studio design team will also go a long way in persuading the college administration and University planning staff to implement specific strategies and tactics proposed for the North Academic Core.

This before and after representation of 18th Avenue highlights the key advantages of rebuilding internal campus streets as woonderfs.

Photoshop and SketchUp renderings were created for many elements of the facilities plan, including the main greenway connecting north campus to the Oval and the woonerf street rebuids proposed for 18th and 19th Avenues.

The overall success of our Facilities Master Plan studio can be measured by the final review and studio showdown. The showdown consisted of a materials review, a pecha kucha presentation, and Jeopardy and Pyramid game show challenges. Our studio took first place at the event, sweeping most of the individual categories and particularly impressing the audience with our pecha kucha and game show talents.

The client presentation provided us a great opportunity to present all of our deliverables to the College of Engineering dean and several other reviewers. The presentation lasted about one hour and included posters and a powerpoint overview of our data and physical plans. Studio members fielded questions from reviewers very confidently and professionally, surprising even ourselves with how much we knew about our topic.

The Facilities Master Plan final report will be complete by the end of this week and ready for wider consideration. It is our hope that we can one day return to Ohio State as alumni to see how our recommendations have helped shape this great campus.


Tactical Success

Posted: November 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Last week’s Transforming A Block tactical urbanism salon was a great success. The weather, being our biggest concern beforehand, came through with a crisp but pleasant forecast. Jason Roberts, founder of the Better Block project, kicked off the day with an excellent lecture on everything from success stories of better blocks in Dallas to broad alternative solutions for reinventing any city corner. Our Dresden colleagues also joined us all the way from Germany via teleconferencing to add valuable international flavor to the discussion.


The RedHot food truck served a delcious tex-mex lunch and was an example of what could be in the plaza

Following the lecture, Columbus and Dresden participants parted ways in the ether, and those on the local side headed to Knowlton plaza for a delicious lunch provided by RedHot food truck. Meal choices included tacos, chips and fresh salsa, black beans, and rice –a perfect hot meal for a cool afternoon.

Most importantly, though, is that the food truck itself attracted lots of attention on the plaza. Students passing by on their way to class could not help but notice the new food option in the vicinity and were trying to buy lunch there during the event. It was very obvious that a food truck program in the Knowlton/Hitchcock plaza would be welcome –an idea that will likely be translated into our studio’s final recommendations. A similar program has proved very popular at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library Mall, where over 40 vendors sell every type of food imaginable to those who work and study in Madison. They have set a great precedent for food truck courts that could easily be replicated at other universities, including Ohio State.

After lunch, we dedicated the rest of the day to participatory workshops and the actual transformation of the plaza. The workshops varied in degrees of success; but, the whole purpose of the salon was not to find perfection but rather to be active and sample whatever ideas came to mind for the space. Jason Roberts’ earlier discussion urged phased planning and smaller, less capital-intensive projects, which set the stage for workshop participants to excitedly transform the plaza through chalk art, hanging mirrors, way finding signs, and a temporary bike lane.


Bikers using the temporary bicycle lane

The bike lane was perhaps the most interesting experiment. Many people seemed glad to see a little order brought to the plaza, but even more ignored the bike lane altogether. Regardless, seeing the infrastructure physically drawn out on the pavement gave everybody at the salon a better idea of how users would react if a bike lane were actually built –observations that are a lot cheaper to obtain with a temporary lane than building a permanent and expensive one that ultimately fails.

The artistic transformations on the plaza – chalk art and vertical design –seemed to draw more people to the area and slow everybody down who wanted to view the happenings. The engagement in the finished chalk art game was surprisingly successful, and would have been even more so if the weather were warmer.

The conclusion of our tactical urbanism salon left our studio with many thoughts, concerns, and visions for this particular space and the College of Engineering. The salon was unlike anything most of my classmates or I had ever organized or participated in before, and it proved to be a great learning experience for all. Here are a few key takeaways from the day:

1. The chalk art was beautiful and very fun to create but was more time-consuming than expected.

2. The availability of food will almost always attract people, and can be a serious tool in reinvigorating all types of space.

3. The bicycle lane was a practical approach to changing user behavior in the plaza and is an experiment that could be replicated in many other areas around campus as an inexpensive way to gauge cyclist, pedestrian, and driver response to infrastructure changes.

4. As a studio, we all struggled with the short time frame in which to organize this Tactical Urbanism Salon. However, a great lesson was learned in “blackmailing” ourselves with a deadline in order to force change. By embracing the chaos and pushing forward with the project, we were able to make things happen by doing instead of just talking an idea to death.

In addition to compiling a comprehensive data report, our studio has also spent the past several weeks pulling together the details for a unique tactical urbanism event.

This inaugural Columbus/Dresden biannual planning salon will be a fun and interactive way to re-imagine existing and underutilized urban space. The purpose is to bring students and planners together in a one-day takeover of the

The open space in front of Knowlton Hall will serve as the platform for a Better Block transformation at Ohio State

outdoor plaza between Knowlton Hall and Hitchcock Hall on the Ohio State campus, with the final set up serving as a visualization of the full potential of this particular space. Specific elements of the salon will also provide on-the-ground examples of tactics that could ultimately be part of our facilities planning studio recommendations for the College of Engineering.

Our inspiration for a tactical urbanism salon stems from Jason Roberts’ Better Block initiative. Since 2010, the Better Block project has been a tool for community and business leaders to demonstrate ways that unsafe and forgotten neighborhood blocks can be revitalized through a little effort and creativity.

Elements typically found in a transformed block include pop-up businesses, temporary bike lanes and cafés, live performances, art displays, movable seating, extra trees and plantings, food, vibrant color, kids’ activities, and of course, plenty of people to enjoy the new space.

When transforming any block, several broad topics must always be addressed: safety, shared access, and stay power (encouraging people to gather and linger). Within these general realms, the possibilities are endless for those who are willing and determined to transform a block where they see potential. And, although the space takeovers are temporary, the best part of the Better Block project is that these events can inspire real change by helping local leaders and politicians see where improvements can be made, identify where code is outdated, and find ways to reinvigorate the local economy.

Kansas City Better Block Project

Tactical urbanism is characterized by being bold, rapid, and interesting. Roberts’ how-to video on building a better block details some of his original projects, all of which were successful because they weren’t afraid to break a few rules, push the envelope of expectations, and do it all in just one day. This flash-mob style of planning skips the bureaucratic process altogether and jumps right to implementation –a planner’s dream come true for a day and an effective way to showcase real ideas.

Ohio State’s rendition of Transforming a Block will feature several workshops and a luncheon provided by RedHot food truck, with the rest of the afternoon dedicated to site transformation and enjoying the new urban space. The workshops will engage participants at a more detailed level and include pole design, a how-to for temporary bicycle lanes, chalk art, guerilla gardening, and yarn bombing.

The salon will take place from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM on November 13, and has been submitted for five hours of Certification Maintenance Credit. Jason Roberts himself will be kicking off the event as our guest speaker – and we are very excited to have him join us on campus. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to collaborate with fellow Central Ohio students and planners in learning unique tactical urbanism techniques that can be used to improve your own community. Visit the APA Ohio website for more information and instructions on how to register.

This week’s midterm review marked the halfway point for the semester and our Facilities Planning studio. Everybody came together in a great show of teamwork at the beginning of the week to finalize the data report, which was the central product of our midterm presentation, and create a poster as well.

The report is divided into three sections: facilities assessment, stakeholder engagement, and transportation assessment. The facilities assessment section contains two-page spreads for each building in the College of Engineering. These illustrate the facilities’ current conditions through pictures, summaries, space evaluations, charts, and quotes from users. Results from the occupancy assessment are also summarized in part one. The second section –Stakeholder Engagement –summarizes specific surveys the studio conducted, including a photo questionnaire and post-occupancy surveys. Finally, the third segment of the report contains information about various transportation surveys undertaken by the studio. The results and conclusions for the bicycle study and origin-destination surveys can be found here.

The purpose of the report is to provide clear, legible descriptions and data for the facilities and traffic patterns surrounding the College of Engineering. This will inform our goals and design strategies in the coming weeks.

The midterm studio review was a great way to provide the other three studios with constructive feedback on their progress, as well as receive feedback on our own efforts. There are four studios this semester, and each displayed their work in the main hall of Knowlton from Wednesday-Friday. Next week, we will comb through the comments from the review and make changes as necessary before pushing forward.

It feels good to have effectively visualized our work. Along the way, each studio member has already gained valuable experience in data collection and analysis as well as learned more about the specifics involved with compiling a report under time constraints. An expression from the beginning of the studio is being realized now –we have blackmailed ourselves into producing deliverables by setting tight deadlines. We have embraced the chaos and we are ready to plow forward.

Renovation Inspiration

Posted: October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

As the data collection period comes to a close, it’s time to start thinking about some broad goals and conceptual designs for the College of Engineering. To get the ideas flowing, our studio toured several recently renovated buildings on campus. Rich Hall, Associate Executive Dean for Research and Facilities, led the tour and specifically highlighted those renovation features that have failed and those that have been highly successful. The tour began at the Biological Sciences Building and moved through Aronoff Laboratory and Cunz Hall before ending at Hagerty Hall.

Two new floors were added to Prior Hall – Spring 2012

The guided tour prepared us for the team renovation assessments that we completed later in the week. Teams headed for Mirror Lake, Pomerene Hall, Thompson Library, Jennings Hall, and several other buildings to examine the various renovations across campus. Some facilities, such as the Ohio Union, are new builds, while other renovation examples can be found in more historic settings, like Hayes Hall. Both types of construction offered important insight into the effects of renovations on facility appearance and functionality.

The ultimate purpose of exploring campus renovation examples was to generate inspiration. Understanding the goals, successes, and failures of completed renovations has helped us visualize similar ideas that could be incorporated into the physical plan for the College of Engineering.

After the assessments, teams presented their findings and impressions to the class. Each team identified several specific features they would like to see translated to the College of Engineering, but a few themes were obvious across the board:

  1. Windows are a hot commodity, and sometimes hard to come by
  2. Transparent work areas encourage interaction and allow natural light
  3. Modern lab spaces are both flexible and comprehensive
  4. Social spaces near elevators and restrooms foster spontaneous interaction
  5. Unique furniture, bright paint, and interesting materials create character



Renovated lab space in the Biological Sciences Building

The design phase is upon us and our studio is ready to deliver. This week we will finish gathering post-occupancy survey information from users across the College of Engineering, which will complete our data sets. We will be challenged to visually diagram the massive amount of information that has been collected over the past seven weeks, but successfully doing so and also reflecting on the renovations we’ve seen will fluently transition us into the physical planning process.

The initial College of Engineering facility assessments were successful and offered great insight into current building conditions and use. Teams also identified many opportunities for improvement in various buildings. We presented our findings during studio to receive feedback on the assessments and share opinions based on personal experiences in the facilities. This open dialogue between classmates led to even more discoveries –perhaps most notably that the Scott Laboratory lecture hall chairs are noisy nightmares for students and professors alike.


Students present their findings from the initial building assessments

By the conclusion of the presentations, we had compiled a laundry list of problems and needs, as well as an equally important inventory of positive qualities, to focus on as we move forward in the planning process. The following is a summary of some of the facts and significant findings for each building:

 Scott Lab

  • Modern and functional equipment with the exception of the squeaky chairs in the lecture halls
  • Each of the wings is physically and visually connected, but navigation can still be confusing


  • Complicated connections with adjacent buildings
  • Poor upkeep overall
  • MacQuigg’s basement could be a model for updating other basements in COE


  • Exterior of the building is in good shape
  • Issues with way-finding and interior circulation


  • Slated for demolition – and team agrees
  • No areas for casual gatherings or group work


  • Designed to be students’ “home away from home”
  • Questions of form over function
  • Built to inspire the imagination and create aesthetic appeal

 Caldwell Lab

  • Building located on “prime real estate”
  • Designed primarily for Electrical Engineering students in mind


  • Two identifiable parts – the original building and a newer addition
  • “Themed” academic floors to group programs and function together
  • Main entrance is not suited for the high volume of traffic in the area

Baker Systems

  • In need of furniture and equipment updates
  • Opportunities to improve flow between Baker and Dreese


  • Does not stand out as the College of Engineering “headquarters”
  • Main lobby space is a great asset


  • Main entrance has great potential for improvement
  • Very “average” appearance and layout 


  • Both have major issues with general wear and tear
  • Asbestos
  • Office spaces need to be updated


  • Facilities meet the Biomedical Engineering department’s needs now, but there is little room for growth
  • Building is located on west campus and can seem isolated

The web-based occupancy assessments are a great tool for evaluating how space is used

Since the initial assessments, teams have continued to collect data by conducting facility occupancy assessments. Each team is responsible for completing 24 occupancy assessments in their building over a period of 30 days. Using a unique web survey, team members are taking turns touring every floor of the COE buildings and logging how many people are in each room at that time. Once compiled this data will reveal trends in office, lab, and classroom use to help determine if changes need to be made in certain areas. Although the occupancy assessments can be tedious and time-consuming, the iPads have proved to be a critical and convenient tool in conducting this type of survey and have expedited the whole process. The pre-made web survey ensures that none of the assignable engineering space is left out of the assessments and allows comments to be made about a room when necessary. This has been a comprehensive way to gather both qualitative and quantitative data.

Additional data has been gathered over the past two weeks on circulation in the north academic core. We used the iPads to survey bicyclists outside COE buildings to understand how they enter, leave, and traverse campus and ask their opinions about the amount of bicycle parking and traffic. Each team also collected information on pedestrian flow using the GISPro route-capture feature on our iPads. This feature allowed real-time tracking of pedestrian routes throughout campus to identify areas of heavy traffic, understand where crosswalks are or are not being used, and pinpoint common origin-destination pairings.

This data will all be analyzed in the coming weeks to help our studio formulate goals not only for the College of Engineering facilities but also for the north academic core where these buildings are situated. The importance of the relationship between individual buildings and the surrounding public realm continues to be emphasized in our studio as we work to find the potential of the College of Engineering within the overall University Framework plan.

 Keep checking in with our Mobile Planning blog as we head into the data analysis phase, explore the fiscal realities of the college, and tour some of the recently renovated buildings around campus for applicable ideas.




Our facilities planning studio is focused on evaluating and making recommendations to improve the College of Engineering (COE) portion of the One Ohio State Framework plan. But, in order to improve a system or plan, you first need to know what you’re working with.

Our first week of studio built the foundation for the rest of the semester as we began by examining the current Framework plan and reviewing some traditional campus planning and design literature. We also broke into smaller teams for the semester using the CATME Team-Maker tool. Each student took an online survey to assess individual work styles and personalities, and then CATME placed us into coherent groups accordingly.

Next, teams were assigned one or more buildings in the College of Engineering to evaluate space and current conditions. Specifically, the initial assessments focused on six main factors:

  1. Context: The school building’s setting and surroundings.
  2. Massing: Buildings are organized in some type of form to give both meaning and variety to the building.
  3. Interface: How the internal and external parts of a building relate; flow.
  4. Wayfinding: The ability of students, teachers, staff, and visitors to discern routes, traffic patterns, or passageways in and around the building.
  5. Social Space: How the building environment accommodates diverse human needs.
  6. Comfort: The environmental conditions that affect human comfort, including thermal control, lighting, and noise level.

Using these criteria, teams assessed each of the following COE buildings: Beavis, MacQuigg, Watts, Smith Lab, Koffolt, Fontana, Knowlton, Caldwell, Hitchcock, Bolz, Dreese, Baker Systems, Scott.

Planning Meets Technology

The initial building assessments were our first challenge in using iPads for data collection –a pilot project of the City & Regional Planning department. We evaluated facility conditions using a SurveyMonkey “Walking Tour” survey that allowed teams to grade each facility based on the above six factors. The mobile convenience of using iPads was obvious during this phase because we could explore the buildings while simultaneously filling out the survey and taking notes. The survey helped us gather data in an organized and coherent fashion and ensured that the buildings were considered from various perspectives (i.e. from the street, from within a classroom, or from a visitor versus a student’s point of view).


GISPro links geo-data to each photo

Another important component of the initial facility tours was to take plenty of pictures. It is always easier to summarize the positives and negatives of a structure with visual displays. We got our feet wet using the costly but invaluable GISPro application (app) during this process. The app’s geo-location camera tool let us take pictures that were pegged on a map with every shutter click. When paired with the great quality of the iPad’s own camera, we were able to produce high-resolution images backed with data.

Finally, we uploaded all of our facility pictures to Dropbox, a free file-sharing program (and app) that serves as a public platform for our studio teams to pool facility information and photos.

Completing the Walking Tour survey for Hitchcock and Bolz

My team examined Hitchcock Hall and Bolz Hall, which are in the north academic core and are actually connected. My team members and I spent about two hours exploring the buildings both inside and out. We took pictures of everything, but especially focused on aspects of the facilities that were in very poor condition or that were unique and could be used as an example elsewhere in the college. In Hitchcock, for example, we found the first floor to be a great open space for exhibits and social gatherings but the basement classrooms were dark, damp, and hidden. A glaring problem we noticed in Bolz was that the building lacked a distinct main entrance and common space, so we made a note that this could be a point for potential renovation.

The initial data gathering stage was quick but thorough and technologically enlightening. Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks to see the results of the initial walking tours and COE facility assessments. We’ll hash through the good, the bad, and the ugly as teams present their findings early this week. We will also continue using our iPads in the coming weeks as we conduct occupancy assessments in each COE building to see how the college and various departments are using certain spaces. The results will probably be surprising –and they will certainly guide and inspire our future facility plans.