University of Kentucky opens satellite architecture studio in Portland

University of Kentucky College of Design Dean Mitzi Vernon talks about Studio Louisville. | Courtesy of Studio Louisville

Graduate students in the University of Kentucky’s School of Architecture will give a fresh look at a historic neighborhood.

UK, in partnership with the city of Louisville and developer Gill Holland’s Portland Investment Initiative, has opened a pop-up architecture studio called Studio Louisville in the Anchor Building, 2509 Portland Ave.

The studio is opening in Portland following conversations with Holland, an investor and developer who has spent the past several years focusing his efforts on revitalizing the neighborhood, as well as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Holland donated three classrooms and shared space within the Anchor Building for the college’s use.

“This Louisville neighborhood is about a bigger idea: the power of place,” said College of Design Dean Mitzi Vernon. “What better opportunity to give students than to sit inside a place and be part of its reshaping, to understand a community and build inside it. This is the beginning of a dynamic relationship between Louisville and the College of Design.”

Vernon said that opening the studio required minimal investment in items such as desks to furnish the space for the graduate students taking a course at Studio Louisville.

“Our goal for Studio Louisville is to listen, to hear, to attend, to understand, to internalize and respond,” said UK associate professor David Biagi, who will lead to the studio.

Graduate students in architecture will spend the entire fall semester in Louisville learning about the Portland neighborhood, connecting with residents and organizations and then making actionable recommendations for the neighborhood. The course is worth 12 credit hours.

“This inaugural studio away experience will immerse UK’s School of Architecture students in a community that is thirsty for further development. Our students will physically work in this environment, engaging with residents, community organizations and other key groups to address the needs in the area,” said UK president Eli Capilouto.

He went on to say that Studio Louisville demonstrated the university’s commitment to serve the entire commonwealth.

Studio Louisville is the first of multiple design studios UK plans to operate around the state, and it will be the beginning of a Louisville satellite campus for the College of Design, Biagi said. In the spring semester, the university’s historic preservation program will start offering a course in Louisville, and then in fall 2018, the School of Interiors is expected to do the same.

UK is currently going through the approval process for a new urban design program that Biagi said could start offering a course at Studio Louisville in fall 2019.

The studio also will have a keynote chair thanks to the Brown-Forman Visiting Chair Endowment, which was specifically created for UK operations in Louisville. The endowment will sponsor a different keynote chair each year. This year, architect Jeanne Gang will fill the role.

Biagi described Gang, a MacArthur Fellow, as one of the top female architects in the world today. Her work includes the Aqua Tower in Chicago; the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York; and Polis Station in Chicago, to name a few.