RANDOLPH — Town officials hope a project by the University of Maine at Augusta architecture program will result in designs the town can use for a new fire station they’re optimistic could be started within a year.

The project allows students in the three classes participating to tackle a specific community need and work within the requirements and needs of the client, the town of Randolph.

“They’re not sitting at a desk in a classroom,” said Eric Stark, an associate professor of architecture at UMA. “They’re actually out talking to people, responding to a real need in a real situation. For the town, it really gives them a lot of possibilities.”

Town officials will review and judge the eight designs for each of the student teams at a presentation Dec. 18. Starks said even if one of the designs isn’t used for a new building, reviewing the designs “expands everyone’s vision of what’s possible.”

Mark Roberts, chairman of the Randolph Board of Selectmen, said he hopes the town can choose either one of the designs or a conglomeration of parts of the designs to use for a new fire station.

Voters at the Town Meeting two years ago approved a proposal to allow the town to buy property between Kinderhook and Windsor streets for a new fire department building and public works garage. A town committee has been working on what the town would need in a new building for more than a year, Roberts said.


The goal with the project UMA students are doing at no charge is to get a design the town can bring to an architecture firm for a final plan, he said. Roberts hopes construction could begin as early as next summer.

“The end result is a functioning fire station at a reasonable cost that will be viable in the future,” he said.

Roberts said the town doesn’t yet know how it would pay for the new station but plans to look into grants or other funding sources.

The roughly 50-year-old station housing the town’s volunteer fire department on Water Street falls in the floodplain and is too small, said Fire Chief Ron Cunningham.

If the Kennebec River floods during the winter, the town has to find another place to house the two fire trucks, he said. When ice and snow is brought into the station on the trucks, the water ends up draining right into his office, Cunningham said. The station is also inefficient to heat, and parts of the floors and walls are separating and cracking, he said.

Cunningham said he hopes a new station will also attract more volunteers to the fire department, which has around a dozen members.


The town is asking students to consider including a space for larger meetings because Randolph holds its Town Meetings in T.C. Hamlin Elementary School, which the school district has previously considered closing. Cunningham said another important factor students need to consider is how to design the building so it fits with the rest of the mostly residential neighborhood.

Stark, the professor in charge of the project, said limitations like those are what make the project exciting for students. As opposed to a blank canvas, students need to satisfy specific needs of the client while being economical with their designs, he said.

“That’s the puzzle,” Stark said. “How do you deal with all these limitations and create something beautiful?”

Starks said UMA’s architecture program has completed more than 30 projects in surrounding communities, but the Randolph project is only the third of this type. The teams of students have less than two weeks to develop designs and create the presentation materials, including physical models and site plans.

In the last two years, the UMA classes designed a lodge for the Bond Brook Recreation Area in Augusta and a new Readfield Community Library building.

The nearly 40 students in this year’s classes met with town officials and visited the future and current sites of the fire station Monday morning.


Adam Wallace, a fourth-year architecture student from Freeport, said the short time frame makes for a high-stress situation, but it’s still fun. He and Earl Shields, a fourth-year architecture student from Topsham, participated in the previous projects and wrote the design brief for the Randolph Fire Station project.

Wallace, 32, said giving the town eight projects allows officials to chose different parts of the designs and might reveal ideas they hadn’t thought of before.

The Randolph project is particularly interesting because the town has already paid to survey the land and a design could potentially turn into a real building, he said.

“They’re real projects,” Wallace said. “Even this one more than others, it’s not ‘design this thing somewhere in some fake land.’ It’s close to home, realistic and there are real people.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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