A COLLABORATIVE TEAM of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from the Landscape Architecture Program in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech worked with residents of Madison County, Va., in 2008 on visioning the future of a large parcel of county land, resulting in an exemplary educational project. With many competing needs including schools, offices, and organized recreation, and limited resources, the property was being developed incrementally, often in ways that precluded future opportunities, and that sparked controversy within the community and threatened the rural character that makes Madison County a special place. The team hosted a series of design charrettes and public meetings to mediate between diverse community needs. By raising awareness of the hidden values and knowledge residing within the community, the team successfully guided residents and businesses in conceiving a significant vision for the future of the parcel and in agreeing on a vision for the future of the community that was represented in the resulting master plan. The project received a 2009 Merit Award from the Virginia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The project was led by Patrick A. Miller, a faculty member of the Landscape Architecture Program in the School of Architecture + Design, with assistance from post-doctoral researcher Suhardi Maulan, and Ph.D. student Hooman Koliji from the Architecture and Design Research Program. A key project outcome included demonstrating how engaging students with a community can go beyond supporting the community in reaching consensus and also provide a basis for creating a regionally appropriate vision for a place—a vision that is more sustainable, because it draws on the cultural and natural heritage of the area and encompasses the needs of the residents. The Madison County project also provided students with a unique and valuable learning experience and one that cannot be replicated in a classroom within the university.
Contributor: Patrick A. Miller