A Plan for the Future

Putting on paper some plans for, say, the year 2050, is almost a pure definition of working with a blank canvas. But for a handful of Utah Valley University students — and the up-and-coming city of Vineyard, Utah — that canvas provided a high-level undergraduate learning experience.

And may provide the city with a unique living space.

David Barker teaches UVU’s architectural design classes and often incorporates outside activities in his special projects class. One of the more recent class projects was to provide the city of Vineyard some speculation drawings of a possible library design — again, for years in the future — but the positive outcome of that presentation was a continuing relationship between Vineyard and the UVU architectural design students.

Barker says city officials wanted some visionary ideas regarding a promenade through the heart of the city, from UVU’s property on the east to the planned UTA FrontRunner station in Vineyard, and then on to the lake, connecting with a trail there.

“This idea has a lot of backing behind it,” Barker explains. “They are actually putting this trail in the general plan and it’s been kind of marked out already, with possible locations. They want to start construction on it after they have some engineering services done on it. They needed some ideas for it — what it could look like, how they can show and sell this to the public, how it can be different from anything else any other city has — so that’s where it started.”

Barker says he had a lot of trust in the students to get things done.

“It was all pretty self-directed,” he says. “I just made sure the ship was going in the right direction. It was very ‘real world’ — it was not just a class. They got to meet with the client, find out what they want, and how to respond to it. The students came up with the graphics and visuals to tell this story.”

Student Amy Miller, 29, says the class experience helped her feel like a “creative visionary, which is what most people in the architectural field want to do.” She said it was fun to come up with the ideas and let other people execute them, and perhaps one day she will be able to see those things in place.

“I was very interested in the Vineyard trails because I love nature, l love the outdoors,” Miller says. “It’s cool to think that this could actually be built. Vineyard is hoping to have the whole promenade, the main part of the city, completed by 2050, so that’s still far off, but it’s still cool to be a part of. It’s fun to be a part of the planning because I really want to live there. The whole city is going to be so different from anywhere else.”

Spencer Weakley is two semesters away from his associate degree in architectural design, and is hoping to finish later with a bachelor’s degree. Though he admits the presentation to 

the Vineyard City Council was “a bit intimidating,” he says he enjoyed the planning that went into the proposed promenade.

“It just flows down from UVU’s Vineyard Campus to the lake, and it’s really a mix of everything,” Weakley says. “There are different sections that are more park and natural areas, and a section in the middle that has businesses and high-density projects. It’s a pedestrian-only promenade about a mile long. It’s not a little walking or bike trail, but a wide trail with businesses down the side, with lots of attractions.”

Barker says he told students — and presented to the council — the idea that the promenade was like a “river flowing through the city.”

“There needs to be swift current, there’s slow water, there are places to stop and relax, there are little eddies and pools you can go into,” Barker says, “and we used that metaphor throughout the design process. We created places in the city center where it was narrower, and a tendency to move faster through there. Then we open up to parks and community pavilions, an amphitheater, and we slow down, so to speak, with parks in more open spaces. There are lots of little bridges and waterways and features. And the students came up with all of that.”

Both Weakley and Miller say the class relied on a series of deadlines to get things accomplished, but all class members worked on their own a lot to accomplish the final goal.

“In class, we did a lot of talking and brainstorming,” Miller says. “The majority of the work we did was outside of class. In class, we set up who was doing what and found out who was struggling. We helped one another, set deadlines, that sort of thing. Dave said it was more like a graduate-level class structure because it was very open-ended — you could get your work done when you needed to get it done.”

“That’s why I’m really glad to be at UVU,” Miller continues. “I feel like they are more open to doing things differently than most universities. They are not so staunchly set in how they go about teaching.”

Weakley said one of the main reasons he went into this special project was because he envisioned it as a “resume-building opportunity.” He said it ended up being “a real-life experience, with a client, who tells you what they want and you are able to bring it to life for them. I thought it was awesome.”