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Paul Bierman-Lytle, a professor at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, walks us through the Dandelion Fountain Enclosure Project his 3rd year Architecture students are working on.  The goal of the project was to provide an enclosure for the notable Dandelion Fountain, as well as optimize the views in the park.  He discusses the site and climate constraints as well as the historical and economic value of the site.

Practical Applications

The third year students, architecture students, designed an enclosure for our famous dandelion fountain located in Loring Park which is the central park of downtown Minneapolis. And the models behind me and next to me show the scale model of the entire park as well as some of the enclosure models by the students.

There's a Friends of Loring Park, who's a client. There's a Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. And there's also the Planning Board.

Hello, where I'm standing right now is where once we've evaluated the site conditions in the neighborhood, this particular site is higher elevation where the fountain is right now and we basically can analyze the different views that we'll be able to develop an orientation point for the fountain. So behind me you'll probably see the pond which is a direct view down to the beautiful pastureland down there and then to my left you'll see the chapel tower and then on the far right if we start pruning some trees we'll be able to see the other Basilica Cathedral and a nice avenue, which a lot of people actually use this pathway to come here. And behind you over on this direction another college of technology so this would be an access to that corner of the park.

And obviously some of the challenges that the clients face with this project is that the fountain itself, the materials are deteriorating, so they're actually thinking of replacing the parts. So when it's shut down, basically reassemble the fountain in new materials. You'll also see the spray, I don't know if you can see the spray, but when the wind's blowing the fountain spray will actually make it impossible to sit on the other side of where the spray's falling.

And we're discovering that because of the climate environmental conditions and constraints, it does actually put a hamper on the fountain itself, which, in fact, the fountain, as you'll see, is a spraying fountain called the Dandelion. So it sprays water. So in the wintertime, it shuts down, and so we're talking about maybe four, five, six months out of the year where it's actually no longer usable.

So what we're actually doing is demonstrating to our client, the mixed group of clients, that there's a lot of economic value just in the natural capital. It's water, the trees, the vegetation, et cetera. Another example which I'm encouraging them to study and present to the client is what we call biomimicry.

Obviously there's fire, and I think the other major concern we're gonna deal with code-wise are the regulations of removing trees because in the perspective that we've got, this is the location of the fountain right now, and this is where we're proposing to move it. And if you can see our red lines, this is indicating we've got beautiful avenue views from that perspective, which you do not have from its current location. So in order to relocate the fountain here we're gonna have to take some trees down.

It's a historic landmark, it's on the national registry of historic places so there's a lot of historic buildings that surround this park. And there's a lot new features, for example, across the street is the Walker Art Center, which is down here, which is a modern building. And across the park is also the Sculpture Garden, so you'll see a lot of famous sculptures across the park there.

The only thing I can really add to the quantitative, as I said, was the whole issue of the urban canopy and the value, the economic value, of this forest within the city and if you just drive around Minneapolis every day, you'll pass through urban canopies and this has huge economic impact, yet, seldom do architects take and consider that economic impact or benefit that these urban canopies give to their buildings. For example, a tree sitting next to a building. If it's providing shading to that building, it will actually reduce the heating and cooling loads for that building, so there's energy conservation and savings.

One of the first things to do is to really go out and spend time on the site and understand its climatic conditions and its existing conditions right now. So what we did was we went out there in the summertime when it was a real beautiful day. Sun was shining.

There are a number of existing historic buildings on the site including the headquarters and also a couple of ancillary buildings on site. So, those are going to be untouched. They're going to be respected and celebrated in the designs.

One of the assignments the students currently have right now is to develop what we call the OPR, the Owner's Program Requirement. The Owner's Program Requirement is really essential because the client is the number one priority for the project. An architect could go and design something in their own design concepts, but if you're not really focusing on what the client wants at the end of the day, then I think there's been a disservice to the project.

One of the owner's program requirements specifically stated that they want to see the entire park in this neighborhood achieve LEED neighborhood development certification. So, in order to achieve that, we would actually have to have some of the buildings in the project represent some sustainability principles. So one of the things we'd be looking at would be the energy systems for this entire park.

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