Architecture, design and engineering students and faculty worked with town officials on three-year project
The flatbed trailer beeped as it backed into position May 10 outside Norwich University’s Collab, ready to take the bus shelter students and faculty had made off campus and into Northfield’s Depot Square.
The 16-square-foot steel, fabric-cast concrete and wood kiosk-style shelter took three years and six semesters to complete, its progress several times interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Seventy-seven students and six faculty members from the College of Professional Schools’ architecture and engineering programs worked on the project.
Norwich’s Design + Build Collaborative, AARP Montpelier, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Oakland Foundation and Northfield residents Bonnie Donahue and Lydia Bright sponsored the work, and local residents donated money and materials.
The kiosk will have an official dedication Tuesday afternoon at Deport Square during the season's first in-person Farmers’ Market.
Seizing an AARP Placemaking Grant, students partnered with AARP, the Northfield Energy Committe and Green Mountain Transit, with a walk audit, researched Northfield’s culture and demographics and investigated public transportation.
Faculty included professors Eleanor D’Aponte, Danny Sagan (architecture) and Adam Sevi (civil engineering), adjunct professor Sabrina Fadial (art), lecturer Mark Atwood, shop manager Tom Yacawych and College of Professional Schools Dean Aron Temkin. A design advisory board of Bright; Donohue; Northfield Energy Committee Secretary Gail Hall; Northfield Community Development Network board member Jason Endres; Northfield historian and Northfield Select Board Vice Chair Julie Goodrich and retired Norwich University history professor Gary Lord.
“The students … brainstormed what (the kiosk) would look like,” said Hall, who was on campus to see the kiosk’s move. “And it has evolved.”
At the Collab, volunteers from the university and North Main, a Northfield car repair garage, moved the shelter onto a trailer for its short ride to Depot Square and its site on Wall Street. A textured wall pattern nods to Northfield’s five covered bridges; hasta lilies and a rain garden near the structure will link to nature.
Armstrong and D’Aponte described the structure as an example of biophilic design, which emphasizes human adaptations to the natural world that have helped advance health, well-being and fitness. Biophilic designs use nature, space and place to connect buildings with natural environments, bringing the outdoors in.
The bus kiosk project, like The Veterans’ Place room renovation project from academic year 2021-22, reflected the university’s push to partner with Northfield to build a tighter, more inclusive community. The town and university are also working to improve sidewalks along Main Street and lighting around the town’s commons.
For the bus kiosk project, the Northfield Energy Committee, Historical Society and the Select Board worked with Norwich’s student designers and faculty to work with a local historian, a landscape architect, an artist, engineers and community organizers to build an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible bus stop. Besides offering seating for Northfield residents commuting to Montpelier (the bus goes twice daily to the state capital), the kiosk will post bus routes and pickup times, a historical Northfield timeline and information on local activities and resources.
School of Architecture + Art Director Cara Armstrong called the kiosk an example of a continuing conversation between Norwich and Northfield, important because they’re neighbors and partners. Hall said students, including a set of special liaison students, spoke and collaborated often with town officials.
“There was a lot of give and take between the students and me, particularly in the beginning, as I was regarded as their client,” she said. “They had to iron out differences and see what they could come up with.”
Armstrong added, “This helps the students because they can see how design can … make a difference in a community. It’s been important for them to have the opportunity to talk to all these different community groups and understand it’s not just because they might have a great idea, they have to work with the community and get input to make a project that is meaningful.”
(Slideshow photos by Matthew Crowley/Norwich University.)
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