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LAES Pedestrian Passageway Project Receives Grant

Cal Poly liberal arts and engineering studies (LAES) professor David Gillette, along with architecture professor Thomas Fowler, received the Hearst Foundation Award for Scholarship in Education for their “2Towns Passageway” project, also known as the K Street Pedestrian Tunnel in Sacramento.

The project is a collaboration between The Downtown Sacramento Partnership and Cal Poly — primarily the LAES program and the Architecture Department — to help upgrade the underground pedestrian passageway between Historic Sacramento and Downtown Sacramento.

“The goal is to make it more inviting and something families want to come to with their children — something that’s a little more of an event than just a passageway,” said Gillette.

The $30,000 award has gone toward the design of interactive installations in the passageway. The vision is to create a space for rotating interactive media installations that make use of the latest display and communication technologies, including virtual reality, augmented reality and motion-tracking systems.

The partnership between the organization and Cal Poly started two years ago when Sacramento architects and Cal Poly alumni, Rachel Glabe Taylor and Greg Taylor were invited to work on the project. They contacted Fowler about getting his students involved. A few months later, Fowler and Gillette’s students presented design ideas to stakeholders in Sacramento including transportation officials and local business owners. However, the project was stalled because of a lack of funding.

With the help of the Hearst Foundation Award, students have been able to travel to Sacramento throughout the year to share new designs and perform demonstrations in support of fundraising efforts for the project.

“The best thing about this grant is that it’s funding a real-world project,” Gillette said. “This is not just a class exercise; it’s actually going to the City of Sacramento with the goal of building this and raising money.”

LAES senior Ben Cochran of Genoa, Nevada added: “I’m excited to see some of our ideas go up in a public place that people will be able to use. Sacramento is only about two hours from where I grew up, so I know a lot of people who will actually go through this tunnel.” 

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