Students With Diverse Backgrounds Find New Use For Grain Bins


POLK COUNTY, Iowa –Graduate students from around the country are in Iowa this week enjoying nature. They’re also here to work as part of a four day residency program. Their goal is to repurpose something that’s common across the Iowa landscape.

Nine graduate students from around the country are in Polk County as part of RDG Planning and Design’s residency program. The design firm partnered with Polk County Conservation to tackle a design problem at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt in northeast Polk County. The land includes three grain bins that are now empty.

Hans Klein-Hewett with RDG Planning and Design said, “It could be anything from something that is very practical and useful that the park could use. It could be something that is completely avant-garde, something we’ve never seen before.”

Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt features 9,000 acres of wetlands, prairie restoration, hiking trails, a bike trail, campgrounds, trap shooting, and hunting grounds, but no welcome center, research hub, or cabins. The students will address those needs while creating a design.

This is the 6th year for the program, and the graduate students have different academic backgrounds. Gabriella St. George said, “I now go to school in upstate New York in Hyde Park, so pretty much study culinary arts.”

Greg Sheward said, “I moved to Brooklyn, New York, and I study architecture at Pratt Institute.”

The students spent a day and a half exploring the greenbelt and will spend another two brainstorming at RDG’s office in downtown Des Moines, bringing together their diverse backgrounds to form a plan.

St. George said, “My thought was, obviously from my food background, to integrate something that would involve food to bring that locality and bring the agriculture and knowing food identity of Iowa into the grain bins.”

Sheward said, “To have some kind of interactive station for the kids to show what’s actually going on out here, where things are happening, and have opportunity to learn.”

You can see what they come up with. The students will present their plan to the Polk County Conservation Board Friday from 4:30 to 6:30. The public is invited to RDG Planning and Design’s office at 301 Grand Avenue for the presentation.