Arts & Entertainment News

University of Cincinnati Urban Design Exhibition at The McAlpin Condominiums

The University of Cincinnati’s top-ranked Interior Design program took center stage this Wednesday at the inauguration of a month-long Urban Design Exhibition at The McAlpin Condominiums downtown.

Students from UC’s nationally renowned College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning (DAAP) opened a showcase of over 25 unique designs proposals for a 3,350 square-foot high-end condominium and 4,500 square-foot mezzanine retail venue. These two spaces, both currently awaiting development, sit within the historic McAlpin Building, which was originally constructed between 1859 and 1873 by architects James McLaughlin and James Keys Wilson, to house the John Shillito Company and the Robert Mitchell Furniture Company.

With a nod to the building’s rich architectural heritage and historical acclaim, the current Urban Design Exhibition gives a younger generation of local designers the chance to try their own hand at proposing a designing for the structure’s redevelopment. In Wednesday night’s opening ceremony six awards were given to Interior Design students whose work received acclaim from the property’s developers, local design educators, and the general public.

“The opportunity to work with so many young minds to explore so many creative designs has been terrific” Joseph Straka, head developer for 4J Redevelopment at McAlpin, remarked at the exhibit’s opening. “We thrive on innovative design.”

And with so many inventive development schemes, who could disagree? “How many interior design students across the country have the opportunity to design in a renovated 150-year-old building in the heart of the urban core?” asked Geoff Scholl, 4J’s project manager at the McAlpin. “When UC’s School of Architecture & Interior Design inquired about using our shell mezzanine retail space and one of the unfinished residential units we were happy to oblige, both for our benefit and students’.”

Rachel Harris, a second year Interior Design student whose work was featured in the Urban Design Exhibition, concurred, explaining how beneficial it was to be given the opportunity to take on the challenge of designing for a real interior space.

“By working with the developers of the McAlpin we were able to fully understand their plans for the space,” she said, gesturing to the whitewashed walls of the exhibit that will one day be transformed into tiled and painted finishes of an upscale urban condominium, “after experiencing the space in person I was actually able to picture myself inside while developing my design.”

“This is the real world,” remarked Professor Edson Cabalfin, one of several University of Cincinnati Interior Design educators in attendance, “and this studio provided an exciting experience for students to be in the space they are actually designing for.”

Scholl couldn’t agree more, and added that from a developer’s perspective, “partnering with a local institution like DAAP gives young students experience while providing us with ideas and designs that are on the cutting edge.”

Mayor Mark Mallory was also present to give a keynote speech. He summed up the excitement of the event by saying that the innovative designs produced by the University of Cincinnati’s Interior Design students are part of his vision for “putting creative young minds to work… the students at the University of Cincinnati have been given a voice in this design challenge and have shown their desire to step up and make an impact.” He continued, adding that, “Cincinnati needs to reduce its brain drain and take advantage of the young local talent by allowing students and young graduates to do meaningful work in high-profile urban spaces such as The McAlpin Condominiums.”

Since re-opening several years ago as a premier downtown residence, the McAlpin has also served as host for past Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon receptions, several Opening Day celebrations, as well as scores of Downtown Residents Council and Business Chamber events.

Scholl continued his praise for the Interior Design program, boasting “not many cities have a top five design school like DAAP, let alone one that willingly extends itself to its community. When we heard that the university was looking to do not one, but two studios in the McAlpin, we seized the opportunity to help them increase their presence in Cincinnati while providing us the benefit of being the backdrop against which their talents were shined.”

“We’ve worked with nationally recognized professional designers in the past,” added Straka in his opening speech, to a gallery packed with over two-hundred eager visitors, “and honestly, some of the work represented by these students tonight is on par with, or better, than what we have seen anywhere else in the country.”

The Urban Design Exhibition at the McAlpin will run through April 3rd at the McAlpin Condominums, 15 W. 4th Street in downtown Cincinnati. Contact mailto: with questions or inquiries regarding the ongoing Urban Design Exhibition.

Urban Design Exhibition photograph by UrbanCincy contributor Jake Mecklenborg.