BIN(ge): Repurposing an Agricultural Icon

Students to Help Polk County Conservation Convert Grain Bins to Welcome Station

Iowa’s agricultural heritage is not often celebrated through our public lands – but that changes next month with the arrival in Polk County of a group of graduate students from across the country. The students will arrive here the first week of October to participate in RDG Planning & Design’s sixth annual Design Residency Program. The RDG Residency gives the students a four-day intense problem-solving curriculum, focused on a real-world challenge.


This year, Polk County Conservation Board (PCCB) partners with RDG as the students tackle converting three abandoned grain bins at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (CBG) into a welcome center for CBG – a conservation and recreation showcase. The students will investigate how the grain bin – an icon of the agrarian landscape – can take on a new life, new form, and new identity.

And they will do this work from wide-ranging perspectives. This year’s students represent Pratt Institute in New York, Johns Hopkins University, and Minnesota College of Art & Design – just to name a few. They represent disciplines such as cultural geography, industrial design, sustainability, agricultural engineering, education and more.

Chichaqua’s 9,000 acres stretch across ten miles of the Skunk River Valley in northeast Polk County, nestled in the midst of farmland. The Greenbelt includes wetlands and prairie restoration, hiking trails, a popular biking trail, campgrounds, lodge, trap shooting and hunting grounds – but no welcome center, research hub or cabins. The students intend to address these needs.

An agenda for the students’ nearly four-day residency is below. On Friday October 7, the public will have an opportunity to see their work at a presentation at RDG’s offices, 301 Grand Avenue in Des Moines, followed by a reception for the students and attendees. The event is free and open to the public. The presentation is slated for 5:00 p.m. Doors will open at 4:30 p.m.


BIN(ge): Repurposing an Icon, October 4-7, 2016 … ending with a Public Event October 7

Tuesday, October 4

4:00-5:00 pm Meet at RDG for Introductions of Students and Staff
5:00-5:45 pm Travel to Chichaqua
6:00-7:00 pm Dinner at Chichaqua
7:00-9:00 pm Client Discussion: Vision for Chichaqua, Vision for Bins
Residents spend night at Longhouse

Wednesday, October 5
7:00-8:00 am Camper Breakfast
8:00-11:15 am Site Tour, Presentations by County Staff
11:15-12:00 pm Travel to RDG
12:00-1:00 pm Lunch at RDG
1:00-2:30 pm Info Gathering: Ag Culture & History
3:00-4:30 pm Info Gathering: Alternative Uses for Grain Bins
5:00-8:00 pm Dinner at RDG, Brainstorming with Design Learning Committee
Residents spend remainder of nights at Hotel

Thursday, October 6
8:00-9:00 am Breakfast at RDG, Program/Presentation Discussion
9:00-11:30 pm Brainstorming, Content Creation
12:00-1:00 pm Lunch at RDG
1:00-4:30 pm Brainstorming, Content Creation
5:00-9:00 pm Dinner at RDG, Presentation Prep

Friday, October 7
8:00-9:00 am Breakfast at RDG, Agenda Setting
9:00-11:30 pm Presentation Prep
11:30-12:00 pm Lunch at RDG
12:00-1:00 pm Dry-run of Presentation to RDG Staff
1:00-4:00 pm Presentation Finalization
4:30-6:30 pm Final Presentation, Q&A, Reception

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