Student Union Building
PO Box 444264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264
1031 N. Academic Way,
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
The Basque Project
Written by Amy Huddleston
The University of Idaho is in the business of helping people, and students are learning to put differences aside to achieve a common goal and gain real-world experience.
Through collaboration and innovation, Idaho students and faculty from Moscow and Boise set aside athletic rivalries and partnered with Boise State University to benefit the Boise Basque Community in a redesign effort to create a sustainable economic outcome and a sustainable culture. The College of Art and Architecture project, led by Sherry McKibben and Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, incorporated community and cultural aspects in the redesign effort.
The Basque community in Boise is the second largest active group in the world outside of the Basque country in Spain. The Basque Block includes a number of buildings that encourage and facilitate important cultural elements. The block has five main buildings, including the Basque Center, the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga boarding house, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Fronton building and Gernika, a Basque pub.
More than 50 University of Idaho students and seven Boise State students worked together as a multi-disciplinary team in the areas of architecture, virtual design technology, interior design and construction management to design a new look for the Basque Block. The project focused on preserving the cultural identity of the Basque while implementing new ideas to unify the community's different businesses.
Miranda Anderson, assistant professor of interior design, said the most important element in the areas of redesign focused on creating sustainable designs and capturing the rich culture of the Basque.
“The eight week project was an opportunity for students to participate in a study abroad experience without leaving the state,” Anderson said. “Students had to research and really immerse themselves in the Basque world to find out how to make this project work well.”
Students studied Basque communities around the world to find a way to weave new designs in and around existing buildings. Students in architecture and construction management addressed exterior issues to bring a cohesive atmosphere to the Basque businesses for the entire community. Efforts centered on “green” sustainability elements by finding ways to cut down on energy use, including natural lighting and heat conservation designs. The ideas were tested in Idaho's integrated design lab.
Boise State University's seven construction management students conducted a site assessment of the Basque Block to look at cost, constructability, implementation of different construction phases and traffic management.
Idaho's interior design students worked closely with the virtual technology and design class to find a way to match the flow of the inside of buildings to the culture and history.
After an eight-week immersion into the project, students presented a book of designs and recommendations for local and sustainable materials as their final product. The books will act as a tool to assist the Basque community as they decide next steps.
Nick Hubof, architecture student, said the real life, hands-on approach will be helpful in his career. “This was the closest we’ve gotten to actual clients. Usually we are working on imaginary sites. This project was real, it involved rules and real people and deadlines,” he said. “We had to listen to their hopes and dreams for the site and then try to make it work.”
“Students did amazing work on this project. Clients and constituents were overwhelmed at the depth and detail that went into this,” Anderson said. “The Basque Center is looking for a change. Hopefully the work students will give them something to think about.”
Additional efforts to assist the Basque community are ongoing. A virtual technology and design class, led by University of Idaho assistant professor of virtual technology and design John Anderson, is creating an interactive virtual world of all things Basque. The real-time interface will be used to educate and engage people about the Basque community and has similar elements to a time-travel machine. It incorporates elements of dance, theater, myth, food and music while giving users a chance to travel backward and forward in time.