Alena Miller and James Lennon Receive AIA Student Awards


Each year, AIA Cleveland recognizes excellence in design by inviting local firms and students to submit their best work to be reviewed by nationally renowned juries from all over the country. This year we are excited to announce that two CUDC graduate students received awards. Alena Miller received the Merit Award and James Lennon the Honor Award. Both submitted work from their Graduate Design Studio, focused on Cleveland’s Opportunity Corridor.

The studio explored new urban planning and design approaches for redeveloping the Corridor through adaptive reuse of vacant land. Led by co-instructors David Jurca, Jeff Kruth, and Pravin Bhiwapurkar, students developed alternative visions for the local neighborhood intended to establish connections with emerging economic development in the region. Of particular interest was the potential for physical interventions to build social cohesion, ecological value, and cultural resources through short- and long-term actions.

We spoke with Alena and James about their studio experience and design process. First, Alena tells us about her experience and her project, Urban Seam.

“The summer studio was a unique graduate experience, because it required a concise analysis of the current proposal for Opportunity Corridor. My design process began by identifying strengths within the Kinsman neighborhood that may be viewed as constraints and acknowledging that the existing urban fabric was not useless, but compromised. From this point, I developed a “sewing kit” of urban design strategies that identified formal and informal design solutions that were culturally appropriate for the existing population. These “patches and stitches” create multiple scenarios for future development in the neighborhood. Further expansion of the “residential patch and stitch” included a typology study and the design of alternative housing units that better served the existing population’s needs. The housing typologies met the required density for transit-oriented development while offering social and recreational amenities to the residents. Overall, the design of Urban Seam focused on the positive impact of the Opportunity Corridor on an existing population by creating design strategies that were culturally appropriate, transitional, and a catalyst for future development.” – Alena Miller

2Urban Seam, Alena Miller

9Urban Seam, Alena Miller

If you would like to see more of Alena’s award winning project, you can view it here.

James also shared his overall impressions of the studio and the design process for his project, Reintegration.

“As far as the Studio experience goes, it was a great learning experience. In general, I believe that the project itself was an excellent opportunity to share insights and generate excitement for possible design solutions in a real world scenario. Being from another city, it was great to see how open-minded Clevelanders are to improving the city with new ideas. The support and feedback we received from a number of city officials and project stakeholders allowed us to better understand problems relative to the site. We were offered an inside look at how these projects may develop.

I also benefited from having three studio co-instructors. They each provided expertise from different perspectives, forcing us to use critical thinking in making our own decisions for the project. All nine students collaborated well together throughout the semester and served as a great support system. The design language and principles learned in this Urban Design Studio reinforced and improved my understanding of Architecture and its related fields.

Reintegration_Reintegration, James Lennon

The design process for my work involved identifying key social, economic, and environmental problems that exist within the site. The solution was to leverage existing anchors and amenities in order to provide a cohesive site that encouraged user interaction through transitional “social condenser” spaces. Interaction with diverse community members will serve as a support system for people who have been recently released from incarceration. My project’s ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism. The design itself was a response to current conditions while also acknowledging the history of the site through various urban design interventions. The programming is organized to connect people with landscape, architecture, and each other.” – James Lennon

Reintegration_13Reintegration, James Lennon

If you would like to see more of James award winning project, you can view it here.

Alena and James both set high personal goals that extended beyond the studio requirements. It is evident by their achievements that their hard work and dedication has paid off. We can’t wait to see what they will accomplish in the future!




CUDC Alumni ‘Branch Out’ at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens

The Cleveland Botanical Garden has a special exhibit on display called Branch Out. They invite you to explore a series of magical, interactive tree houses throughout the garden. Its a chance for kids (and adults) to put away technology and let their imagination run wild. Each tree house explores a theme connected to learning and fun including art, music, reading, math and play.

The tree houses were designed by local architects several of whom are CUDC alums. Two Teams of CUDC alums participated ThenDesign Architecture who built Jack and the Giant Pulpit and Sap +Iron Design|Build who built Acoustic Canopy and Seasons.

The team from ThenDesign Architecture included CUDC alums Wade Kratzer, Mia Katz, Claire Markwardt, Steve Bell, and Scott Alleman. Jeff Henderson of Ohio State University and Ed Parker of Kent State University were also on the team. We spoke with the team about their design,  Jack in the Giant Pulpit. Here is what they had to say about their design process and working with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

“We surround ourselves with design; it is our livelihood. All of us find ourselves in nature whether it’s exploring on our own, or designing within, so when the Cleveland Botanical Gardens released a Competition to design a Treehouse, it was something that we could not pass up. It combined the opportunity to design with nature in the most literal way. During the competition process, we challenged ourselves to understand what a treehouse was and what a treehouse could be. Is it a shelter? Is it a private getaway? Is it a platform to overlook nature? Could it be all of these and more?

Our love of nature skewed us to think of what nature is. How big in reality it is compared to humans and how our imagination always leads us to get lost within it. We began thinking of folk-lore and Science-Fiction and other childhood tall tales that involved nature. This led us to expand upon the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, giving us the opportunity to work a Giant Jack in the Pulpit into the story, so that adults and children alike could have the opportunity to participate in the tale.”


The team from Sap + Iron Design|Build  consisted current and former CUDC students including Mykie Hrusovski, Alan Hipps, Jessie Hawkins, Adrian Marti, and Charles Fredrick who is an Assistant Professor and Interim Director of the Master of Landscape Architecture Program. Of the five projects that ultimately got selected for construction via a juried competition, two of their submissions were accepted. Of note, the jury was headed by Pete Nelson, the Tree House Master!

The houses each have a particular theme, Acoustic Canopy being a tree house that has built-in, bespoke musical instruments that encourages children to make and discover noises within the tree canopy, and Seasons being a small outdoor reading room for children. Both houses have a lot of custom details and features that were either planned from the beginning, or evolved as the project progressed. Another important note to emphasize is that Sap + Iron’s contractor was unable to commit to the project as it was beginning, so their team ended up constructing, rigging and installing everything by themselves.

acoustic canopy

Interesting facts:

  • The Acoustic Canopy project weighs well over 2.5 tons, and was lifted manually by only four people over the course of 2 days.
  • The tree that supports it is a Dawn Redwood which is a species thought to have gone extinct many millions of years ago, but was rediscovered and introduced to the U.S. only about 50 years ago as seeds and saplings. It’s already about 160′ tall.
  •  The Seasons Reading Room’s exterior is wrapped in Western Red Cedar that was hand-charred with a torch. This gives it its iridescent black color which serves a couple of purposes; a pleasing aesthetic, weather protection, rot resistance and insect repellency, (bugs don’t enjoy the taste of burnt wood).

We’re pleased to see our students working on such creative endeavors. The tree houses will be on display from now until August 23rd. Go out and explore the tree houses today!


Urban Agriculture in Cuba: film + talk


Please join us for a brown bag lunch talk with Cuban agronomist Isis Salcines along with a screening of the film, Tierralismo

This free event will take place at the CUDC (1309 Euclid Avenue, Suite 200) on May 27 from noon-1pm. Please bring your lunch–we’ll provide drinks and snacks.

About the film…

TIERRALISMO A film by Alejandro Ramirez Anderson

On the outskirts of Havana, sandwiched between highways and public housing, a revolution is taking place. Here, in the district of Alamar, a 26-acre farming co-op provides employment for dozens of workers, while producing vegetables and medicinal plants for the local community and beyond.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s, Cuba was no longer able to access machinery and agricultural chemicals from its former Communist allies. In this difficult environment, the government relaxed economic rules and allowed the formation of cooperatives like the Organopónico Vivero Alamar.

What began as necessity—farming without pesticides and chemical fertilizers—has become a source of pride to coop members. They fertilize with compost and cow manure, raise their own insects for biological pest control, and have even created a fully biodegradable alternative to the plastic bag for use with seedlings.

Tierralismo introduces us to everyone from agronomists and senior management to workers who plant, plow, and propagate. The film also covers non-farming aspects of the operation, such as human resources and accounting practices where transparency is paramount.

Lovingly photographed, TIERRALISMO offers a behind-the-scenes portrait of the Organopónico Vivero Alamar and a stirring defense of the importance of farm work and sustainable farming practices.


About the speaker…

Following the film, Isis Salcines, Projects Coordinator in the Projects and Investments Office at the Organoponico, will give a presentation about her work. Ms. Salcines holds an advanced studies degree in Agricultural Engineering and has been with Organoponico since 1998. During her time at the cooperative, she has launched a new food preservation project and has focused on the marketing and distribution of local organic produce to domestic and international markets.

For more information about the event, please contact the CUDC here.


EASTSIDE HUB multi-family living for a multicultural population


Congratulations to Kent State CUDC graduate student Alena Miller who took 3rd place in the 2015 Cleveland State University Real Estate Market Analysis Competition. Alena competed in a field of 20 students. Her project focused on the design of a community to support an influx of immigrants and refugees, in accordance with resettlement criteria outlined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Using a site in Cleveland (E. 61 Street, just south of Chester Avenue) she developed a plan for 180 apartment units plus 156,000 SF of urban agriculture. The inclusion of  urban farming generated 25 on-site jobs for the refugee community.

PowerPoint Presentation

Alena’s project is especially timely, given the large and growing numbers of people who are forced to flee their homelands each year due to political conflicts and violence. Greater Cleveland receives approximately 600-700 refugees a yeara number that could grow if planning, policies, and programs are in place to support these populations.

Her work represents a unique investment opportunity that advocates for the future of Cleveland. Congratulations, Alena!


Call for Volunteers


The City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is looking for engaged and enthusiastic volunteers for the 2014 Sustainable Cleveland Summit. The Sustainable Cleveland Summit is a great opportunity to contribute to the greater conversation about sustainability in Cleveland, while making connections and meeting new people also involved in changing our region.

Summit information and volunteer details are below:

What: 2014 Sustainable Cleveland Summit (Registration)

When: Wednesday, September 17-Thursday, September 18, 8:00AM – 5:00PM

Where: Public Auditorium, 500 Lakeside Ave E , Cleveland, OH 44114

Cost: Free for volunteers! $40 for non-volunteers

Want to sign up to volunteer? Need more information? Contact Cathi Lehn at clehn[at]city.cleveland.oh.us –or- 216-664-2421.


From Kent to Cleveland Down The Cuyahoga


This summer, July 25-26, Kent State University faculty and staff will embark on the first ever Crooked River Commute. This kayaking trek along the Cuyahoga River from Kent State University’s main campus to Kent State’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative is intended to promote the river as a shared regional asset for education, recreation, and sustainability.

Cheer us on. 

Meet us at the start and finish of the trip. We’ll begin early morning (7-7:30am) on Friday, July 25th at Heritage Park in Kent and end with a celebration late evening (6-6:45pm) on Saturday, July 26th at the Coast Guard Station during The Burning River Festival in Cleveland.

Follow us for updates. 

We’ll keep everyone posted on trip details through the CUDC’s social media accounts.
Follow us at: CrookedRiverCommute.org
Facebook: ksuCUDC
Twitter: @ksuCUDC 

Share our story.

Tell your friends, family and social network about the Crooked River Commute. We’ll live-tweet during the trip, using hashtag: #RiverCommute

Read the two-page summary below to learn more about the backstory and goals of the trip: 




CUDC Students Place 2nd in International Architecture Competition for Downtown Miami


Congratulations to Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) graduate students Jeff Jasinki and Matt Dureiko for receiving 2nd Place and $1000 in the 2014 DawnTown Alternative Mobilities Design Competition in Miami, Florida!

DawnTown is the annual public international architecture ideas competition for Downtown Miami.  DawnTown’s mission is to bring innovative architecture to Downtown Miami, and to tell the exciting urban story of Downtown Miami to the world.

The 2014 Alternative Mobilities Design Competition was sponsored by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The Miami DDA’s Master Plan called for the promotion of regional connectivity and creative mobility solutions. This inspired DawnTown to develop a program based upon the alternative strategies people can take to moving around their downtown without having to rely on a single automobile. Using examples such as bicycle storage and sharing, car sharing, and ride sharing, they asked designers to create a nexus of where these strategies could meet and call home. This central hub would be located in a dense part of downtown’s Central Business District and would not replace the existing options we have; On the contrary, the proposal would bolster Miami’s transportation network.

Their project “Mobile Miami” stresses the importance of intermodal transportation as a growing urban trend in the city. The concept projects real-time digital information to communicate the availability of all modes of on-site transportation. This allows for absolute freedom of choice on how to better connect with Miami.

Jeff Jasinki and Matt Dureiko are both graduate students in Kent State University’s College of Architecture & Environmental Design pursing their dual degree, Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Design, at the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.







Bike Box | Living Roof Lab


The Bike Box Living Lab was headed by Dr. Reid Coffman who brought together a team of CUDC graduate students consisting of Claire Markwardt, Neil Reindel, Josh Thomas, and Pasquale Esposito to explore design and experiment concepts that would be tested on the flagship bike box at Gordon Square adjacent to Happy Dog. With help from local fabricators, Rustbelt Welding, the bike box was prepared for conversion into the first bike box with a green roof in Cleveland, and now the site of the Living Labs exploration in soil compositions effects on water quality.

The Bike Box represents existing concepts re-imagined in the exploration of point source water mitigation and filtration. With water quality being a prevalent issue in many cities including Cleveland, The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District granted funding that spurred the Bike Box Living Lab concept to be explored within the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.



The roof itself is divided into two separate zones; the first being a control side, the second implementing mycorrhizae to test its ability to increase productivity of native species while reducing nutrient and runoff discharge. Mycorrhizae, are natural occurring soil fungus which form symbiotic associations with the roots of vascular plants. In a mycorrhizal association, the fungus colonizes the host plant’s roots, and aides in the plant’s uptake of water and nutrients.

Runoff water from the roof is collected into two separate tanks storing water separately from the two experimental zones of the roof. This provides the ability to test water quality improvements that result from the use of mycorrhizae. A pump is connected into the storing tanks allowing the collected water to be reused as the roof irrigation system. This hand pump is placed in an easily accessible location which allows the public to directly interact with the roof itself.

The project was made possible by sponsorship from Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and performed in cooperation with LANDstudio.

Dr. Reid Coffman and the CUDC have committed to studying the roof for 10 years. Beginning this summer they will be recording water and planter interactions that will be studied over the long-term. A summary of the project and the initial findings will be presented by the students at this year’s CitiesAlive Conference in Nashville, TN November 12-15, 2014.

For more information and a detailed description of the Bike Box Living Lab download the project sheet here.


Neither a Duck, Nor an Island


Last weekend the CUDC was all-hands-on-deck for a three-day neighborhood planning charrette in the micro-neighborhood of Duck Island, a small neighborhood nestled between Ohio City and Tremont. The near-west side of Cleveland has recently attracted a lot of development interest, and subsequently there has been lots of speculation around Duck Island, which we see as a potentially transit-oriented and walkable neighborhood whose under-the-radar identity is a refreshingly appealing asset. This autumn Tremont West Development Corporation, in conjunction with Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, issued a planning RFP to pull speculative development into a cohesive plan for the neighborhood that takes into account existing residents’ needs and concerns.

The CUDC facilitated a kickoff community meeting and work session last Thursday, using a series of brainstorming and engagement tools to draw out issues and opportunities from Duck Island residents and stakeholders. Residents engaged in break-out groups around four distinct areas of design potential: open space; neighborhood infill; streetscapes; and neighborhood identity.


Ultimately, our team pulled together a working plan based on two primary organizational structures: the main corridor of Abbey Ave, which we envisioned as a small-scale mixed-use street at the heart of the neighborhood; and a series of open space and landscape strategies linked in a ring around the neighborhood, along its existing sloping topography. Additional recommendations around housing infill, connectivity, and safety and maintenance were also included for review by participants.

Currently we’re pulling the recommendations into a draft, which Tremont West will then distribute before Christmas in order to give residents and stakeholders some time to review and evaluate the work. A final community meeting will be scheduled for mid-to-late January, to provide final feedback.

If you’re a resident or stakeholder of Duck Island and you didn’t get a chance to participate in the charrette process last week, feel free to contact Kristen Zeiber (kzeiber @ kent.edu) and we’ll make sure your voice is heard!

-Kristen Zeiber, Project Manager



Friday’s Lunch Lecture | David Beach, Director of GreenCityBlueLake

Join us, Friday, October 25th from 12 pm-1 pm, as David Beach presents Building the Livable Edge: Best Practices for Urban Waterfronts.

David will be discussing what makes a great urban waterfront and what are the possibilities for Cleveland.


David has been a visionary voice for sustainability and the environment in Northeast Ohio for more than 25 years. He has been responsible for initiating numerous organizations and projects, including EcoCity Cleveland, the Citizen’s Bioregional Plan, Greater Ohio Policy Center, the City of Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability, and the Cleveland EcoVillage. His writing, editing, and public speaking have helped to shape major civic issues such as regional land use, watershed planning, transportation priorities, and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Recently, he coordinated the PNC SmartHome exhibit of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the first building in Northeast Ohio designed to meet the Passive House standard for energy efficiency. In the coming years, he is interested in helping people in Northeast Ohio think more deeply about what it will mean to create a society that will be truly healthy and sustainable in the long run. He lives in the Shaker Square neighborhood of Cleveland, where he enjoys being in a walkable, transit-rich environment. He is a graduate of Harvard University.

1309 Euclid Ave. Suite 200
Cleveland, OH 44115
12pm – 1pm


September 20th Lunch Lecture | Jeff Knopp, ASLA, Behnke Associates


Join us at the CUDC this Friday from 12- 1pm for our Fall Lecture Series featuring Jeff Knopp, ASLA, of Behnke Associates. Jeff’s discussion will focus on Urban Design from a Northeast Ohio Landscape Architect’s perspective.

Jeff Knopp is a LEED Accredited Professional and Certified Irrigation Designer with the Irrigation Association and a WaterSense partner. Jeff’s expertise lies in the area of project management, and has an extensive background in irrigation design, site construction detailing, cost estimating, and specification writing. He has been a part of numerous projects around Northeast Ohio, including renovations and landscape design at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Botanical Gardens, a pedestrian mall at St. Ignatius High School, and project manager for the Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway & Multi-purpose Recreation Trails.

Cleveland Botanical Gardens – Terrace

Jeff Knopp, Urban Design from a Northeast Ohio Landscape Architect’s perspective
CUDC, 1309 Euclid Ave., Suite 200, Cleveland, OH 44115
September 20, 2013

This lecture is free and open to the public.


LECTURE: The Professional Guide to Green Roofs with Co-Author Lisa Lee Benjamin

Lisa Lee Benjamin is a catalyst for the planet profoundly dedicated to altering the way we live. With a botanical background, her work focuses on international collaboration to open possibilities and challenge our ideas of sustainability and community. She has led and consulted on projects from California to Kenya.

Her new book, The Professional Guide to Green Roofs, is a collaborative venture with designers to aid practitioners in green roof design. Come hear her speak about vegetative roofs in our changing world.

12 – 1pm
Friday, April 19th, 2013
CUDC 1309 Euclid Ave., Suite 200
Free and open to the public

Lisa will also speak on the Kent State main campus the same day at 3:40pm in Rm 202 Taylor Hall.



Corine Vermeule ‘Movement’ (2012)

Corine Vermeule ‘Movement’ (2012)

Discussion with Terry Schwarz and Corine Vermeulen
Thursday, April 11th, 7 p.m. at the Transformer Station.

Terry Schwarz, director of Kent State University’s Urban Design Collaborative, and photographer Corine Vermeulen will lead a discussion about their work and shared interest in art’s role as a catalyst for improving and enriching the urban landscape.

Corine Vermeulen photographed the citizens and landscape of Detroit in her 2005 project, Your Town Tomorrow. Recently, she contributed to thanks for the view, mr. mies: layfayette park, detroit, a volume of interviews and photographs about life in the largest collection of Mies van der Rohe buildings in the world. She says, “Detroit represents a unique and great vehicle for change where old structures are no longer in place and the possibilities of something different to happen are endless.”

Terry Schwarz launched the CUDC’s Shrinking Cities Institute in 2005 to address the implications of population decline and large-scale urban vacancy in Northeast Ohio. She established Pop Up City, a temporary use initiative for vacant and underutilized sites in Cleveland.

Bellwether is an open-ended series of discussions and events that aims to discover the possibilities and limitations of art as a transformative tool in the city of Cleveland. Bellwether is a project of the Contemporary Art Society of the Cleveland Museum of Art.


Full Video + Slides from Susannah Drake’s dlandstudio Lecture

Proposal for southern tip of Manhattan by dlandstudio for MoMA Rising Currents exhibition

Thanks to everyone that attended Susannah Drake’s presentation at the CUDC. If you were in the audience, then we’re sure you found her dlandstudio projects to be as creative and inspiring as we did. Fortunately, for those unable to attend the presentation, we have the full video available online. The 1 hour 18 minute presentation is divided into 3 parts, including introductory remarks from CUDC Director Terry Schwarz and updates on the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District‘s green infrastructure plans from Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, followed by Susannah Drake’s detailed presentation of several public projects ranging from city-wide infrastructure plans to temporary pop-up parks. Enjoy!


Susannah Drake Lecture 3/2/12

Susannah Drake Lecture
Friday, March 2, 2012
8:30 AM – 10:30 AM
CUDC Conference Room
1309 Euclid Ave., Suite 200
Cleveland – PlayhouseSquare

Susannah Drake is founder and Principal of dlandstudio llc, an award winning multidisciplinary design firm. She will discuss dlandstudio’s recent public projects including the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park, a public open space system designed to absorb and remediate urban storm water, and the Brooklyn Bridge Pop-up Park, a temporary waterfront open space that attracted almost 200,000 visitors over six weeks of operation in 2008.

This event is free, but reservations are required. RSVP for the event on our Facebook page here, by email at cudc@kent.edu or give us a call at (216) 357-3434.

Continuing Education credits are available for landscape architects.

Sponsored by The George Gund Foundation, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and the Kent State College of Architecture and Environmental Design.