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Competition: Mason Street improvements, Fort Collins

An open ideas competition has been launched to improve the public realm along Mason Street downtown corridor in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA (Deadline: 29 July)

The contest, which is backed by Colorado State University’s Urban Lab, the city government and the Downtown Development Authority, seeks strategic upgrades for a 370m section of the busy multi-modal transport route.

According to the brief: ‘This three-stage public design competition is soliciting exceptional design concepts which addresses the interface between the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad right-of-way and the public streetscape along the Mason Street Downtown Corridor.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Fort Collins, Colorado

Mason Street downtown corridor

‘The purpose of this design competition is to provide designers, planners, and citizens with an opportunity to create compelling design concepts for this unique urban condition that enhance the streetscape and address the aesthetic, social, multi-modal transportation, and related safety issues for the segment of the Mason Street corridor along the BNSF Railroad that runs from Laurel Street to Mulberry Street.’

Mason Street connects Colorado State University on Laurel Street to the south with the Mulberry Street neighbourhood to the north, which features a mix of residential and commercial development.

The central thoroughfare is a key route for many journeys across the growing city, which has population of more than 160,000 including 32,000 students.

Transport modes that converge on the site include the MAX shuttle bus service, which has two stations and travels in both directions along Mason Street.

The busy Mason Trail bicycle path also merges onto Mason Street near Laurel Street where it connects to Fort Collins’ wider cycling network.

The BNSF Railroad meanwhile divides the street, causing noise and air pollution which limits pedestrian experience of the area’s amenities.

Concerns highlighted during previous Urban Lab public consultations include a lack of pedestrian safety, pollution, confusion over shared spaces, poor aesthetics and a lack of cultural facilities.

Proposals should promote harmony between pedestrians, cyclists, and automobile and rail users, while also improving wayfinding and creating a more healthy living environment.

Schemes are encouraged to create a memorable identity for the thoroughfare, and deliver a new ‘ecologically sustainable, socially inclusive, and economically vibrant’ environment.

Judges include Fort Collins mayor Wade Troxell, landscape architect Walter Hood of Hood Design, architect Hansy Better Barraza and creative strategist Ed Goodman.

The winner will receive US$3,000, while a second place prize of US$1,500 and third place prize of US$500 will also be awarded.

How to apply


29 July


Professionals: US$75
Students: US$25

Contact details

Institute for the Built Environment
1501 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins
CO 80523-1501

Tel: 970.491.5041

See the competition website for more information

Nottingham Old Market Square case study: Q&A with Neil Porter

The founding partner of Gustafson Porter discusses lessons learned upgrading Nottingham’s Old Market Square



Source: Image by Martine Hamilton Knight

Old Market Square by Gustafson Porter

What considerations are important when designing streetscapes incorporating active rail or tram lines?

At old market square we were aware that leaving the square open to the movements of the tram would leave unsafe and vulnerable edges. These would be most apparent when the city wished to place major events and diverse activities adjacent to the tram route. By placing raised seating terraces and a water feature at the edges of the square adjacent to the tram line we framed the pedestrian entrances into the square ensuring that people walking through, or using the centre of the space, did not randomly come into conflict with its presence. As a result these seating terraces have become a place where people wait for the trams and buses as they move around the city.

How would you set about redesigning a multi-transport public space to boost aesthetics, cultural activity and safety?

Routes through a square that connect it with the major pedestrian and vehicle routes of the surrounding city enable simple and safe road and tram crossings. These routes also lead to chance encounters, and encourage its use as a place to meet and socialise. Understanding the movement of sun and shade and topography, combined with an understanding of the natural movement routes, provides an understanding of where people wish to sit, wait, relax, perform and watch the world go by. Once these are known and the movement and settled areas of the square agreed, one can plan a flexible and layered approach to how cultural events, markets and installations occupy the square, creating a safe and popular destination within the city.



Old Market Square by Gustafson Porter

Luxtram case study: Q&A with Alex Lifschutz

The director of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands discusses lessons learned revitalising the tram network in Luxembourg

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

Alex Lifschutz

How did your Luxtram project respond to its context and users’ requirements?

This scheme for the revival of Luxembourg’s tram system is inspired by the city’s topography and transport heritage. Its extensive tram network had been demolished in the 1960’s in favour of an overreliance on cars which, given the huge number of ‘frontaliers’ (workers crossing daily from neighbouring Belgium, France and Germany) had created an increasingly hostile urban environment.

The scheme is based on three simple ideas: firstly remove the clutter of motoring signage; secondly install locally sourced high-quality stone paving with specially designed street furniture and finally re-configure the boulevards and public squares to respond to the buildings that line them.

Luxtram by LDS


Luxtram by LDS

The tram stops and street furniture had to respond to the varying urban contexts in Luxembourg – from the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the heart of the city with its deep ravines and bridges to the motorway at Kirchberg as the tram line snakes towards the airport.

The stops are bronze clad steel and glass, the latter working structurally to minimize any obstruction on the narrow pavements in the historic quarter. Street furniture is in folded stainless steel plate with brass insets and the catenary cables carrying power for the trams are suspended in diagonal formations from tapering posts, again with brass studs or cladding at street level to provide a wearing and decorative quality.


What considerations are important when designing streetscapes incorporating active rail or tram lines?

Naturally 11 kilometers of new tram system necessitates working closely with the civil and railway engineers. We worked hard to reduce to a minimum signaling, furniture, lighting and graphics to allow the city to emerge from its existing clutter.

Hard landscape was inspired by the tram rails with linear stone lines interspersed with tarmac for the pavements; only at key junctions are the surfaces fully paved with stone. The sculptural masts supporting the catenary wires also support signage and street furniture, again to reduce obstructions to a minimum. Illumination was divided into flying saucer fittings for vehicles suspended from the catenary cables over the road and smaller, more frequent fittings for pedestrians at lower levels over the pavements.

How would you set about redesigning the Mason Street Downtown Corridor to boost aesthetics, cultural activity and safety?

Instil clarity and simplicity, identify key nodes and secondary spaces and treat them accordingly. Work with natural assets and existing conditions, open up lost connections and create new ones between buildings and spaces. Guide rather than command cyclists and pedestrians. Impart a sense of looseness and overlapping in the public realm and share rather than segregate streets between pedestrians and cyclists, buses and taxis, cars and trucks.



Luxtram by LDS