Meet Will Metcalf, 2018 Research Assistant in Practice

July 6, 2018 by Janette Law

For the last five years or so, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation has gratefully accepted a Research Assistant in Practice (RA) from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Landscape Architecture. Through this program, graduate students get in-depth work-learning experience and the Parks Foundation benefits from the students’ design skills and fresh thinking. Over the years, the Parks Foundation’s RAs have helped research next generation parks around the world, concepted the rainwater reuse program at Water Works, and created an interim-use plan for future riverfront parks on the Upper Mississippi River.

Will Metcalf is our RA for summer and fall 2018. He’s working with Parks Fellow Bruce Chamberlain to create high-impact visual resources to advance our RiverFirst work. Here, he shares with us some thoughts on design, parks, and nature.


(Parks Foundation) Tell us about yourself …
(Will Metcalf) I’m originally from Kansas City, but graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2015 with a B.A. in Geography. I traveled to China briefly afterwards, and after searching for what to do next I wound up at a startup in KC that’s making software for architects and other designers. Just after I began there, I was applying for landscape architecture programs, and chose the University of Minnesota because I love Minnesota, the Twin Cities, and wanted to be near my friends from college. I’ve had a great time so far and the program is a really good fit for me.

What are you working on for the Minneapolis Parks Foundation?
Bruce and I have been having sessions every week to storyboard a narrative for the RiverFirst project. I’m turning that into an online story map that can be used as a resource for people to learn about the campaign and how it aims to connect us back with the Mississippi. With it will come some new graphics and maps to help tell that story to a wide audience.

What do you hope to do next and how does this position help get you there?
I’m really interested in how people connect with place and vice versa, and how built landscapes are just one part of the narrative of those places. This entire project is about those two ideas and how to communicate them with the public. Looking forward as a designer, I hope to bring this experience with me into a practice that’s mindful of that continuity.

What is a favorite childhood memory of being in a park (it doesn’t have to be Minneapolis)?
In the neighborhood I grew up in, there’s this linear park along a creek that my friends and I would always play in. We built a tree house, swung with ropes over the water, and I even had soccer practice there sometimes. We called it the “magic forest” because the trees were taller and bigger than anything else in the newly-developed neighborhood. Whenever I visit my parents, I still go for runs through there.

Beaches, trails, or playgrounds?
This is a tough one. It’s not like a beach most people would imagine, but Hållö in Sweden is this billion-year-old granite island that we sailed out to for a geology trip during study abroad. The granite was shaded pink, with patterns carved out from glaciers thousands of years ago. The rock slides right down into the North Sea with cold, dark-blue swells crashing on it. No vegetation or sand. It was like being on an alien planet.

Featured image courtesy of Will Metcalf

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