For architecture majors and recent grads Ben Ahearn ’11 and Claire Leavengood-Boxer ’11, Geneva is not only a second home, but a vibrant city with potential for growth. Inspired by this notion, the two undertook an independent study with Assistant Professor of Architecture Kirin Makker and set out, taking cues from larger cities, looking for aspects of city life that weren’t abundant in Geneva.
“As frequent bikers ourselves, Ben and I noticed that downtown was designed primarily for cars, and in many cases lacked accessibility for bikes,” remarks Leavengood-Boxer. “Therefore, we decided to tackle the issue of designing for alternative forms of transportation, an undertaking which many larger cities are currently doing – not only to make their city more navigable, but to bring in users that prefer alternative forms of transportation.”
With this in mind, Ahearn and Leavengood-Boxer decided to create a unique bike rack that would not only help those already cycling around Geneva, but would also attract more bikers.
“There are students without cars on campus, kids in Geneva who are not old enough to drive, and residents in general who rely on a bicycle or their own two feet to get from place to place,” says Leavengood-Boxer. “We wanted to design something that would help bring them downtown.”
Together, the two studied dozens of different designs used in cities throughout the world. They studied how different models of bikes would fit into various racks, and they even consulted with the Geneva Bike Shop to better understand the important aspects a bike rack needs to maintain while allowing for bikes of varying dimension to fit.
“Our particular design is based on the idea that a bike rack could be more than just a place to park a bike, but could be a desired place to ‘be’ in and of itself, by maintaining a form of seating, or a place to lean,” explains Leavengood-Boxer. “We took the simplicity of a basic rectangular form and altered it so that at its highest point, it was at lockable height for the average bike, and at the lowest point it was the average height of a bench.”
The bike rack – or bench – itself was created from metal scraps donated by local company Vance Metal Fabricators. Ahearn and Leavengood-Boxer slightly altered their original design so that the pieces could be cut and welded together “like a quilt” – resulting in their final design.
Although the pair is not sure where their ambitions will lead them in the future, the independent study proved valuable to their careers as architects. “It taught us how to design and build for a specific location given a very limited budget, limited materials and limited time,” explains Leavengood-Boxer.
The bike rack will soon have a new home outside of local coffee shop Opus, located on Exchange Street – a highly trafficked area of downtown Geneva.