Balance of Artistry & Architectural Lighting
Urban Streetscape design reinforces the University of North Dakota's campus life and culture through bespoke LED illuminated columns.
A feeling of energy and forward momentum resonates in the "Path of Perspectives," or University Avenue, the primary roadway that stretches through the heart of the University of North Dakota campus. RDG Planning & Design, a Midwest architectural firm specializing in creative placemaking, led the streetscape revitalization featuring a series of twelve custom-designed architectural towers with interior LED illumination. The goal of the contextual art installments was twofold: to embody UND's philosophies and provide accessible light, wayfinding, and exceptional curb appeal for students, faculty, and local community members to savor.
RDG's unique approach to the university streetscape design reflects a unique perspective seen in all their works – integrating in-house architecture, art, branding, graphic, and lighting design, with all contributors housed within one firm. This approach requires detailed master planning, visual compositions, and collaboration between the extensive RDG creative team and the stakeholders on the project, but offers fully realized plans where implementing creative ideas isn't hindered by complications found during construction.
There's more than meets the eye of the bespoke light columns. Constructed of powder-coated metal and polycarbonate paneling, KURV in static white line the interior of the 10-foot tall towers, powered by mounted LED drivers. Each structural section was cleverly engineered for accessibility and future Maintenance.
Landscape Architect Patrick Dunn of RDG, one of many collaborators on the project, shares a high-level overview of the years-long development: "RDG has been fortunate to work with the University of North Dakota for several years, not only on the overall campus master planning but on this roadway, which is the primary visible portion of the campus, but also on the transformation of full reconstruction from building to building, including the roadway, the pedestrian corridors, landscape improvements, and raised medians."
North Dakota's extreme weather conditions presented product limitations—finding a manufacturer that offered a breadth of multi-purpose LED lighting solutions capable of enduring winter's sub-zero temps to stifling hot summer months while providing options suitable for the integration in the additional campus developments was critical. Ultimately, Q-Tran made the final cut.
RDG Lighting Designer Shelby Klooster discloses, "Maintenance on campus has always upheld the desire to keep things consistent. It was important to find a manufacturer that had a wide array of optics and flexibility in mounting. The fact that I can specify where the wire comes in and can modify as needed for the different case studies was a major reason we went with Q-Tran".
The miles-long streetscape delicately balances artistry with architectural elements, curating moments of change in perspective that convey the story of each college within the university. Foot-travelers are encouraged to pause in admiration as they journey along the march of illuminated LED towers.
The mastermind behind the spectrum of visuals needed for the illuminated art installment was RDG's in-house graphic designer, Mindy Alverez. Dunn comments, "Every design had to be vetted through the colleges to make sure the representation of imagery was appropriate for each and told their story. We struck a balance of those two things. She worked a miracle in making these pop the way they did. The visual result is just amazing. All of them are different."
"The university has really embraced the columns from the moment they first went up; there's been a very positive reaction," he concludes.