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October 17, 2018

UMA architecture students design weather-resistant benches friendly to seniors

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The benches at Augusta's Mill Park designed by UMA architecture students are connected to granite foundations, but the seat can be removed in the event of flooding or heavy snow.

Augusta's Mill Park features two new weather-resistant and senior-friendly benches, the culmination of a year of design and building by three students from the bachelor's of architecture degree program at the University of Maine at Augusta.

The project began in early fall 2017 when the city was asked for more benches for senior residents in the city, according to a news release from UMA.

The end result, with involvement from several central Maine businesses and organizations, are two benches on granite block foundations along the winding path that skirts the Kennebec River.

Students participating in the project were Andrew Treworgy, a fourth-year student from Gardiner, Shauna Riordan, a third-year student from Lisbon and Sam Gerken, a fourth-year student from Yarmouth. Oliver Solmitz, of Waterville, UMA's architecture lab supervisor, led the group. Leif Dahlin, director of community services with the city of Augusta and Duane Scott of the Augusta Age Friendly Committee worked with the students to fine-tune the concept.

The students were inspired by the history of Mill Park — once the site of the city's Edwards Manufacturing mill — and its views of the river, as well as the granite blocks on the site.

The seasonal flooding of the Kennebec River was a key design criteria that was taken into account in the design.

"Students went through countless design iterations followed by working drawings and prototypes" resulting in seats that can be removed from the underlying granite supports if there's a flood, or in excessive winter snowfall," the release said.

Great view of the river

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The benches at Augusta’s Mill Park are on the park’s walking path and look out to the Kennebec River.

The benches were fabricated in the UMA Architecture Department's new woodshop center.

Helping with the project were Elwell's Masonry, of Bowdoin, which drilled holes in the granite bases of the benches. Stainless steel fabrication was provided by Dufour's Welding, of Augusta. The Augusta Public Works Department employees, led by Foreman Chris Blodgett, provided heavy equipment, manual labor "and years of experience with the Mill Park site" during the installation, the release said.

The Augusta Age Friendly Committee, in cooperation with the Augusta Downtown Alliance and a financial contribution from Melda Page, of Augusta, first proposed the benches to the city, and worked with UMA on the concept.

The bachelor's of architecture degree program at UMA is the only five-year professional architecture degree program in Maine, and provides students with a path towards architectural licensure.

The program's faculty teach architecture through engagement, educating and empowering students to explore, investigate, and analyze the built environment, the school said. Engagement brings students into active contact with each other, their coursework, and community partners across Maine.

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