Students Propose NEW “Gateway” for Chichaqua

Iowa’s agricultural heritage is not often celebrated through our public lands – however, the outcome of our recent Design Residency has the potential to change that mindset. This year, Polk County Conservation Board (PCCB) partnered with RDG and nine graduate students to tackle converting three abandoned grain bins at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (CBG) into a welcome center for CBG – that is a conservation and recreation showcase. The students spent four days on site investigating and brainstorming how the grain bin – an icon of the agrarian landscape – can take on a new life, new form, and new identity.


Chichaqua’s 9,000 acres stretch across ten miles of the Skunk River Valley in northeast Polk County, nestled in the midst of central Iowa 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 student’s vision and concept plan addresses these needs, and much more.

plan-of-the-siteThe Residents propose a vision they called “The Bins at Chichaqua.” Their overarching goal for the site is twofold: to illuminate the past and explore the future. The first goal is intended to examine and uncover the changes that have been made to Chichaqua Bottoms, including the topics of natural history, cultural history, indiginous peoples, agriculture, and technology. This history will be illustrated through a curvilinear “timeline walkway,” with in the gateway area, laid out to mimic the oxbows of the nearby Skunk River. At the end of the timeline is a “contemplation grain bin” signifying our current day. At this destination, the students ask the visitor to examine the second goal of the site: to explore the future. Without prescribing a direction or passing judgement on the past, the rest of the site offers the opportunity to explore options for improving our environment and our connection to the land.

Read more about their vision here . . .

Watch the Vision and Concept Video


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