Campus News - January 28, 2002

Schluntz names Childs DPAC director
Center improves urban landscape statewide

By Carolyn Gonzales

Mark Childs is the new director of DPAC. Photo by Carolyn Gonzales.Roger Schluntz, dean of the UNM School of Architecture and Planning, named Mark Childs director of the Design Planning Assistance Center, or DPAC, effective at the start of the semester. Although he’d been involved with former director Dick Nordhaus and DPAC projects over the last three years, Childs quickly learned that one of the biggest tasks as director is taking phone calls from individuals and groups requesting assistance.

“I’ve answered three calls today. There is a greater need out there for assistance than we can begin to meet,” he says.

Childs has been part time and adjunct in the seven years he’s been at UNM and is now finishing the second year on tenure track.

“I was introduced as new faculty for three years,” he recalls.

He earned his bachelor’s in science and architecture from MIT, master’s in architecture at the University of Oregon and master’s in public administration from the University of Washington. He lived and worked all around the west including “one long year” in Galveston, Tex.

Childs is trying something new in the DPAC studio this semester. The students, mostly graduate students in architecture and landscape architecture, will be engaged in two four-week and two 12-week projects.

“The four-week projects have to be in response to a very specific question,” he says. One project’s aim is to improve Main Street in Artesia, NM. Focusing on the façades on Main Street businesses, DPAC makes suggestions, giving Artesians options for improvements. “We also will provide design options for specific façades,” says Childs.

The Main Street program is a national initiative to improve Main Street America. Outcomes include economic development and restructuring, says Childs, noting that DPAC has a contract with the program.

The second four-week project involves work with the City of Albuquerque in the Thaxton/Carlisle neighborhood. Located near Gibson, it has characteristics of a neighborhood center. A parking lot at the intersection can be looked at with a “new urbanist view,” says Childs, noting that it can be used as a plaza when not used for parking. “The area has a commercial core, higher and lower population density and accessible public transportation.”

The area needs reenergizing, he says, noting that the students are talking to people in the area about what they’d like to see in the neighborhood. Are they interested? What would they like to see? In four weeks they’ll know.

More than 30 years ago DPAC worked with Martineztown residents to develop what is now south Martineztown. “As one of the 12-week projects we are working with that neighborhood again to look at space at Longfellow Elementary School and how it interfaces with St. Joseph’s Hospital. How does the interface work? How should it? How could it?” asks Childs, who is also considering the addition of public art to the area.

The other 12-week project involves the Lomas Boulevard corridor plan. In the City of Albuquerque’s Centers and Corridors program, Lomas is a corridor and Martineztown a center. Paul Lusk, team teacher in the program, is working on this project to develop the interface between main and north campus. “The goal is to make Lomas a great street,” says Childs.

Thinking more broadly, Childs sees the studio developing more service-based learning. In his seminar, “Civic Places and Public Art,” he encourages students to develop a proposal for public art with a “real” client. He’s invited Gordon Church and Sherri Olson, proponents of the 1% for the Arts with the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, respectively, to come visit the class to talk about possible projects, clients and desired results.

Childs would like DPAC to build relationships with other organizations and centers on and off campus. The contract DPAC has with the State Main Street Program gives students experience working with real clients on a real project, says Childs. More collaborations means more experience for the students and greater positive impact on the communities they serve. “We want to build more long term relationships,” he says.

“We are not in competition with architects. We help communities and non-profits around a project so they can hire an architect,” he says, adding, “We are also looking for linkages for student internships.”

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