The next time you practice your grapevine step during Greek Fest or peruse the offerings of Junk Food Alley, you might want to take a moment to remember a name: Eric Kuhne.
In the 1980s and ’90s, after Fort Wayne suffered devastating flooding of downtown, Kuhne was put in charge of coming up with a plan to ameliorate such events in the future.
Part of that plan was designing and overseeing the development of what has become Fort Wayne’s Festival Central – Headwaters Park.
Kuhne, who grew up in New Haven, has gone on to become an internationally known architect whose London firm, CivicArts, has worked on multimillion-dollar public projects in places as far afield as Kuwait, Dubai, Turkey and Sydney, Australia.
He’s returning to Fort Wayne as part of a lineup of speakers for the annual symposium sponsored by Friends of the Parks of Allen County, a group that advocates and raises funds for area park lands. The event, The Wealth We Hold in Common: Landscape and Urban Design, takes place Sept. 23 and 24.
Julie Donnell, Friends’ founder and president, says Fort Wayne would look very different if not for work by Kuhne. And the city might look even more different if Kuhne’s vision, which included plans for development of the north side of the St. Marys River and a sports stadium, had been fully implemented, she says.
Donnell says as the riverfront areas become more of a focus, the Friends would like to tap the 62-year-old’s brain again. His firm recently was concept designer for the mammoth RMS Titanic memorial attraction in the shipyards of Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ill-fated luxury liner was built, and is now working on re-imagining Toronto’s waterfront.
He’s a visionary and can talk about what it takes to create and implement a comprehensive vision for a city going forward, Donnell says. He is one of the most comprehensive minds you’ll ever encounter.
Other symposium speakers also have expertise in issues relevant to Fort Wayne, according to Donnell.
Speakers include Steven Schuckman, who helped develop riverfront park areas as superintendent of planning and design for the Cincinnati Parks Department; Gregg Bleam, a landscape architect who once worked with Dan Kiley, landscape designer of the Concordia Theological Seminary campus in Fort Wayne; and Alexander Garvin, a former New York City parks official and author of Inside America’s Parks who is considered an expert on park administration and funding.
On Sept. 23, symposium participants will have expert-guided tours of Fort Wayne’s parks and boulevard design, Shoaff Park, the Concordia campus and Headwaters Park. Monday’s talks will take place in the theater at First Presbyterian Church downtown.
Rather than having a single theme, Donnell says the event tries to highlight the abundance of the heritage Fort Wayne has that we don’t always acknowledge or appreciate.
People don’t realize it, she adds, but landscapes are ephemeral. We want to bring that to the forefront.