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A little creativity may steer city plans.

Byline: JOE MOSLEY The Register-Guard

HARRISBURG - It's known as an architectural problem - a set of spacial, structural and aesthetic needs that require some real-world solutions.

In this case, the problem is a future Harrisburg Municipal Complex. A new City Hall and administrative offices. Municipal court staff offices and a sheriff's substation. A library and community center.

And all 9,000 square feet of it jiggered onto property occupied by the existing City Hall and a couple of private offices on a city-owned parcel across Fourth Street.

"It's a relatively small problem, but it has lots of smaller points," said associate professor Gary Moye of the University of Oregon's School of Architecture and Allied Arts. "Like, how do you make something like that have a civic look?"

Fourteen answers to that and other questions went up on the walls of Harrisburg's current City Council Chamber/Municipal Courtroom on Wednesday as each student in Moye's intermediate architecture studio presented his or her vision of the city's ideal civic core.

"I guess the most challenging part was to put all the pieces where they needed to be - and still fit on the site," said Megan Nielsen Hegstad, who is in the architecture class as part of an exchange program with the University of Tennessee.

In Hegstad's plans and in those of her classmates are depictions of clock towers and courtyards, parking lots and reflecting pools, sloped roofs and skylights, and even a "strengthened" Heritage Park.

But this was an exercise, not a competition to create a final design for the Harrisburg complex.

"One of the things I told them at the beginning was not to expect a solution," said Moye, who sees his students' work as more of a starting point for the city's design process. "The real value is that (the student projects) probably can make some generalities that help you frame the problem."

That was what City Administrator Bruce Cleeton had in mind when he wrote to the architecture school to ask if any students would be interested in preparing conceptual designs for the municipal complex, which probably won't be built for at least five or six years.

What he got was a collection of 14 designs that can be pondered as city officials settle on a configuration that best suits the community.

"I think these designs are going to be very useful in helping the citizens of Harrisburg, and our City Council, focus in on what we want to do," Cleeton said.

"It's unlikely you'll ever see anything built based on any one of these designs. But I think we can incorporate parts of many of them."

The class is a mix of students in the university's five-year undergraduate and three-year master's degree programs.

Moye said he always looks for real problems - rather than abstract scenarios - for his students to tackle, and small-town situations such as the municipal complex are ideal because they force students to blend innovation with common sense.

"There's a kind of (small-town) sensitivity that's interesting to come up against," he said.

Joshua Brandt, a second-year student in the master's program, agreed that it was challenging to design facilities appropriate for Harrisburg after studying Portland's urban setting and "the Eugene hodge-podge" in other classes. He felt that a central plaza and incorporation of nearby Heritage Park were more critical to his plan than the structures themselves.

"As a civic building, I think the projection it has around it is just as important," Brandt said.

Josh Partee, a third-year student in the undergraduate program, said he expects whoever ultimately designs the city complex to take advantage of the students' work.

"As far as research and procedure is concerned, I would imagine he or she would look over all of this for some inspiration," he said.

City residents are welcome to view the plans at City Hall, 354 Smith St., any time the chamber/courtroom is not in use. They can also phone 995-6655 for more information.

An open house will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 12, in conjunction with the grand opening of temporary community and family resource centers, in a pair of modular buildings acquired from the Harrisburg School District.


Josh Partee and other University of Oregon students post their plans for a new Harrisburg City Hall in the current City Hall building Wednesday.
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Title Annotation:Harrisburg: UO architecture students pitch in with their visions of what the town's ideal civic core could be.; Government
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 6, 2001
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