Millburn Students Rethink Downtown
High schoolers present a study of downtown and a proposed civic district with a new municipal building to township officials.
Millburn High School's architecture students recently presented a study of downtown Millburn and a proposed civic district with a new municipal building to Millburn Mayor Sandra Haimoff and Deputy Mayor W. Theodore Bourke.
“The students did a wonderful job of considering new ideas both for the civic center as well as the ‘green’ thinking that must become a part of our future planning in town," Haimoff said.
Local architect Nancy Doughtery, AIA of Studio 1200 who provided design review of the students work joined township officials.
The project began with a study of city planning historically. Research was done and ideas presented to the class on planning icons from Hausmann, and L’Enfant, Ebenezer Howard, Le Corbusier, even Walt Disney and the concepts of Disneyland and Epcot Center.
They then had a meeting with Haimoff where the class asked questions about the current civic buildings and the downtown master plan.
Armed with a general exposure to the town, students set out in groups to try to determine a local vernacular by documenting the existing conditions of town. Twelve areas of town surrounding the existing civic buildings were determined and assigned to groups.
The groups documented in words and pictures the sidewalks, signage, streetscape, site amenities, lighting, parks and planters, seating, awnings and other visual elements that collectively evoke a feeling of the town of Millburn. These studies were reviewed and a general consensus of the existing conditions was proposed.
Students used this information, and their exposure to ecological and sustainable architecture from Architecture 1 class, to conceptualize what might be needed, where it might be located, how it might work in a green way to support future savings of energy, perhaps even net zero energy or surplus energy given back to the grid.
The final part of the project involved a study of the existing municipal building, considering what current and future space needs might be and preparing schematic design concepts for a new municipal building.
Included in this part of the project were suggested locations (including issues of eminent domain), parking, office space, organization of core areas and proximity of more public spaces to entry areas as well as how the building location might be tied to the vernacular of Millburn by site features, sidewalks, lighting and so forth. Students also gave thought to what to do with the old municipal building.
Architecture class teacher Roger Keller, Ed.D. explained, “The cross-generational learning that occurred between town leaders, the architect, and the students was a satisfying culmination of this real-life exploration project. This type of authentic learning is possible when professionals like architect Nancy Dougherty, AIA and township officials are willing to work collaboratively with schools to bring real world situations in the class to enrich the learning experience.”