July 03 2014

Building for Intellectual Growth in Madison: Wisconsin’s Future Idea Center

The “Wisconsin Idea” is a principle that is ingrained in every young mind that enters the University of Wisconsin. The basis of the Wisconsin Idea is that the university should improve people’s lives beyond the classroom. This can range from public service and volunteer work to teaching and research.

In 2010, a group of design professionals created a Design Visions appendage to Madison’s Downtown Plan. The document details design ideas that the city of Madison hopes to pursue in the near future. One of the most exciting potential projects is the creation of a Wisconsin Idea Center. This facility would be a place where the University of Wisconsin, the state government, and citizens could come together to solve issues that both the community and state face.

University of Wisconsin professor of landscape architecture, Phil Lewis, came up with the vision of creating this interdisciplinary center where the arts, humanities, design and public policy can come together to develop solutions for more sustainable communities. He concluded that Madison needs a location where both the state and university can collaborate to generate positive changes for the state of Wisconsin. Many of these issues can be investigated visually through GIS, satellite imaging, virtual reality simulations, computer assisted planning, and other new technologies that the university is working on.

This diagram illustrates Phil’s  Wisconsin Idea Center concept, Madison, Wisconsin


This partnership between non-profits, the university, the state, and citizens could provide solutions for how to effectively expand urban areas without destroying more farmland and wooded areas in the process. It could also go beyond just coming up with these ideas, but also advancing them through public policy.

However, this design vision remains just a concept on paper. There is no big push by either the state or university to begin construction on this interdisciplinary center anytime soon. Nevertheless, the design professionals who detailed this idea suggested a potential location for the Wisconsin Idea Center. The U-Haul site on Bedford Street near the West Rail Corridor was recommended to be an ideal location. Not only is it next to a regional rail and bicycle network, but it is also adjacent to both the university and state capitol.

A potential location for the future Wisconsin Idea Center, Madison, Wisconsin

The nearby railway and bike network, Madison, Wisconsin

How feasible do you think the Wisconsin Idea Center is? Does your community have a similar structure where academia, the government and local citizens can come together to develop positive, sustainable change?

Credits: Images by Kaylie Duffy. Data linked to sources.

Kaylie Duffy

Kaylie Duffy is currently pursuing a B.A. in Environmental Studies, Geography, and Russian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. While writing and photographing for the university’s student newspaper, The Badger Herald, she developed a passion for architecture and sustainable urban planning and design. Her other interests include traveling, reading, writing, and drinking copious amounts of coffee. She stays connected to her community by volunteering in neighborhood gardens and at her city's Literacy Network. Kaylie hopes to eventually pursue a Masters in Urban Planning and GIS in order to develop more walkable and bike friendly cities across the U.S. She is now busy discovering how Madison, WI is becoming one of the greenest medium sized cities in the country.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 at 9:59 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Engineering, Environmental Design, Government/Politics, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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