Iowa State University students do a little learning in the landscape

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 14, 2004

Clusters of college students were found all around downtown Natchez this weekend, etching with pencils in large drawing pad, engaged in what they called a &uot;design intervention.&uot;

It was all part of Iowa State University’s requirements for second year landscape architecture student’s to travel to other cities to discern layout problems with streets and buildings in downtowns and how they can be fixed.

The group, that has already made stops in St. Louis and Memphis, is working its way down the Mississippi River on a three-week trip that they will conclude in New Orleans this week.

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What do they think is the biggest problem with downtown Natchez?

&uot;The city dissolves before the river,&uot; said professor Mira Engler.

&uot;There needs to be a development to carry Canal Street to the river, something to bridge the disconnect,&uot; she said.

To remedy this, the group, consisting of 30 undergraduates, three graduates and three professors, was split into three teams.

The teams then fanned out over downtown Natchez to study the architecture integrity of the city in order to find solutions to the problem.

Many of them also found an appreciation of the city and its people.

&uot;Natchez is a friendly little place,&uot; student Michael Molkenthin said. &uot;It seems like everyone here stops to say ‘Hi.’&uot;

Student Carolyne Hawes said that she found the various architectural styles in Natchez intriguing.

&uot;Its very unique. I really like the fact that you will see French architecture on one building and right next to it you will see a building with Roman columns,&uot; she said.

The group arrived in Natchez Friday and spent the weekend camping out at Natchez State Park. Students said that they have spent nights in either

hotel rooms or living in tents at parks since they left Iowa.

And what could Natchez do to improve its downtown?

Lots, according to Iowa State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture.

&uot;The bluff is an obstacle, but it can also be a great opportunity,&uot; said Engler. &uot;I think that Natchez could do a number of things. I see terraces, an amphitheater, and gardens as just a few things to open up the river.&uot;

Some students said that the trip was their first to the South, and Natchez especially has given them a glimpse to a world very different from the one that they have known.

&uot;I really liked it. I love the history and the landmarks are interesting,&uot; 19-year-old Erin Conway said.

&uot;The old plantation homes are gorgeous. Its like nothing I have ever seen, except on TV or the movies,&uot; she said.

The group left Sunday for New Orleans to continue their study.