School of Architecture College of Design

Grad Student Finalists in Knight Cities Competition by Sara Marquardt

Grad Student Finalists in Knight Cities Competition


Since 2012, graduate students in the landscape and architecture programs have been collaborating to re-envision a resilient future for the city of Duluth. The studio, Design Duluth, itself is an award winning program, winning the Collaborative Practice Award in 2015. Now, the studio can boast of two of its teams from Fall 2015 studio becoming finalists in a grant program: Knight Cities Challenge.

The Knight Cities Challenge calls for applicants to submit ideas to “help spur civic innovation at the city, neighborhood, and block levels, and all sizes in between.” Twenty-six communities are within the competition framework for proposals, Duluth being one. At its core, the challenge is founded in “attracting talented people, expanding economic opportunity and creating a culture of civic engagement.” ( In total, 4500 applicants applied for the Knigh Cities Challenge, and 158 finalists were selected.

From our school, the two teams are (1) Katie Loecken, Al Rahn, and John Rasmussen; and (2) Aaron Ausing, Brian Olsen, and Jiawei Li


Team: Opening the Can of Worms

Loecken, Rahn, and Rasmussen’s project title is Opening the Can of Worms. The project’s focus is rethinking infrastructure by using community engagement and installations as a catalyst for growth within the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

From their project proposal:

Over time a series of man-made boundaries have isolated a pocket of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood from the adjacent community, and river. Our Proposal is to convert the barrier into connective tissue by activating space beneath the highway infrastructure to create public space to connect Lincoln Park to  its adjacent waterfront . Utilizing the space beneath existing highway infrastructure known as “The Can of Worms," one begins to experience the outdoors differently beneath the dominant overhead mass of the highway structure.

We propose the knight competition as a catalyst for larger development in the area. We propose to do this through a series of community engagement events that either become infrastructure for gathering/ monitoring/ collecting data (be it ecological, animal, or human) and/ or leave behind a permanent amenity for the site and to facilitate connection.

We propose to use community engagement to discover what would be most effective for the community in this space. Not pre-determining what form these become, but letting the engagement process inform the outcome.

(Above: Proposed intervention under overpass within project, Opening the Can of Worms)


Team: industrialPARK

Aaron Ausing, Brian Olsen, and Jiawei Li are proposing an integration of solar energy infrastructure into the park system of Duluth.

From the team’s project proposal:

This project, located on Dock 7 in the Irving neighborhood of Duluth, enhances connections between trails and recreational spaces along the St. Louis River. With a desire for economic development in the port of Duluth, solar energy production will be integrated into the recreational landscape through a series of "solar ready" parks linked by the Western Waterfront trail. A variety of trail typologies, combined with specific areas of land and water based recreation, will be integrated with the developing solar industry. This proposal will create unique recreational and educational experiences for visitors and community members while producing clean energy and jobs for the City of Duluth.

(Above: one potential "solar ready" location along the Western Waterfront Trail as proposed in industrialPARK.)

We wish the best to both teams! The winners for the Knight Cities Challenge will be announced in March, with projects beginning in June 2016. Stay tuned!  


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