Helping our communities

Believing that planning and design action research improves both those we serve and our academic programs, the Landscape Architecture | Regional & Community faculty and students engage in service learning and outreach projects. We apply our research and creative activity to address real world problems and to help communities in need. Recent projects include Design Days, Better Block KC and BOXhattan.

Design Days 2013 connected Manhattan Community’s Dreams, Students Innovations

Design Days is an annual event bringing together landscape architecture and planning students to apply creativity, design and problem solving to a project in the Manhattan community. Students tackle contemporary issues as we introduce the collaborative culture of our programs to incoming students. This year’s two-day event took place Aug. 27-28.

This year LA | RCP students were challenged to imagine a future Manhattan, one where Kansas State University is a top 50 U.S. research institution, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) is in operation and the city population has grown. Before the event, community residents were invited to share their desires for the future of Manhattan via a wish ticket. Teams of students developed plans and designs illustrating a future Manhattan shaped by these community wishes.

“Design Days 2013 gave Manhattan residents an opportunity to see possibilities for the future of Manhattan through the plans and designs of landscape architecture and planning students,” said Stephanie Rolley, Department Head of Landscape Architecture | Regional & Community Planning. “Envisioning Manhattan in 2025 helps our community make informed choices in the next decade as K-State reaches its goal of becoming a top 50 research institution.”

A public exhibit of student’s work was displayed at the 2013 Purple Power Play in the Park. Design Days 2013 was supported by the City of Manhattan, The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and Purple Power Play on Poyntz.

Past Design Days topics have included developing a more bike-friendly city, creating food-producing landscapes on campus and rethinking recycling at K-State.

Landscape Architecture/Regional & Community Planning students participate in Better Block KC event, promote sustainability

Landscape Architecture students across the program participated in “Better Block KC” on Friday, Oct. 4.

This was the second year the Student Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (SCASLA) has participated in the Kansas City event. Better Block KC is a nonprofit group that is part of a global initiative which strives to spread awareness about viability and appeal of a more sustainable community through the transformation of an under-utilized city block.

“This year the Better Block [SCASLA] committee decided to help by putting together a donor recognition board for the event,” said Olivia Pitt-Perez, MLA 5th year student and event coordinator. “The installation was made out of recycled materials in order to demonstrate the importance of sustainable design. The main challenge that we faced with this project was creating a dynamic component to add to the event that shows the community what their street can become.”

Students came together for a design charrette to first create the event’s donor recognition board for sponsors, then worked as a group to gather all of the necessary materials for the design and established a work plan among all the participants to bring the design to life.

Regional & Community Planning students participate in annual learning event with charitable twist

The K-State Student Planning Association (SPA) hosted their annual event, BOXhattan, with 44 fifth graders from Woodrow Wilson Elementary. BOXhattan took place on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the First Lutheran Church of Manhattan.

As a thank you for letting the event be held in the First Lutheran Church facilities SPA, along with the fifth graders, collected nonperishable food items for the First Lutheran Food Pantry. In total the group donated 166 items to the pantry, which were delivered on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

BOXhattan began in 2011 and is hosted once a semester. In the fall, the chapter works with fifth-graders at Woodrow Wilson Elementary. The event was created as a way for SPA members to teach the principles of planning, community involvement and urban design to elementary students.

“I have continued participating in BOXhattan because I felt it was beneficial for the student’s knowledge of their community and what planning is essential for a working community,” said Molly Emert, fifth grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary.

SPA members take students through a multi-step process which mirrors real-life planning scenarios. BOXhattan allows the children to plan their own city using boxes of various sizes. The children have to apply for “building permits” and have their building “approved” by a SPA member.

“My students enjoy the building creative aspect of BOXhattan and the fact that they have to explain and reason with a community planner when wanting to place their box on the grid,” Emert said.

Once buildings are complete, there is one final group discussion about the finished city and what the children think of it. This gives students a chance to use the knowledge they have just learned to discuss what makes a city, and what choices can make it better for all.

“My favorite part about BOXhattan is seeing the fresh perspective on city planning that children bring,” said James Wood, RCP 2nd year and president of the student planning association. “We’re used to seeing it from an academic, social, and political perspective as adults, so it’s nice to see how kids view and plan their cities.”

“BOXhattan is a wonderful participatory event for these children, as it helps them to understand that cities are acts of will, not just happenstance,” said Tim de Noble, dean of the College of Architecture, Planning & Design. “I am so pleased our Regional and Community Planning students have devised this outreach opportunity.”


1. Design Days Banner, Photos by Elizabeth Haddox
2. Better Block KC Banner, Photos by Blake Belanger
3. BOXhattan Banner, Photos by Huston Gibson and Lori Thompson