KU News Release
May 12, 2011
Contact: Mike Krings, University Relations, 785-864-8860
Graduation stories: Godfrey Riddle envisions the future of urban housing
LAWRENCE — When he was just a child, inspiration struck Godfrey Riddle.
“I want to build a city where everyone owns a home,” Riddle told his mother.
When he receives his bachelor’s in architectural studies from the University of Kansas this month, he’ll be one step closer to making his goal of dignified living for everyone a reality.
Godfrey Riddle (photo by Chuck France, University Relations)
Like many families, the Riddles struggled to afford housing and were forced to move several times. Now, Riddle, the son of Cecil and Goldie Riddle of Olathe, plans to seek a career in urban planning, working to rejuvenate urban areas without forcing families from their homes. In addition to providing housing, Riddle feels the profession can provide strong communities that foster more opportunities for excellence and reduced inequalities among their citizens.
Throughout his time at KU, Riddle has worked to succeed academically and contribute to the community around him. Again, his childhood factored heavily into his academic interests. Seeing the film “Anastasia” sparked his interest in Russian culture. He has minored in Slavic languages and literatures and last summer traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to improve his knowledge of the language and the country’s architecture. A Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship supported the trip.
“I got to finally experience the culture firsthand and see the two buildings that made me fall in love with architecture,” Riddle said of the trip. “Living there was great. You learned the slang and what you needed to get by and build your vocabulary.”
The buildings that inspired him were the Peterhof, a UNESCO World Heritage site sometimes referred to as the “Russian Versailles,” and Catherine’s Palace, an opulent Rococo-style retreat built for Catherine I.
“The urban planning principles practiced in St. Petersburg, as well as other Slavic and Nordic nations, have many lessons that could be applied to urban rejuvenation in the states,” Riddle said.
Upon graduation, he hopes to work for a year and pay down his student debt, as he is paying his own way through college. Eventually, he plans to return for a graduate degree from KU’s highly rated Urban Planning Program.
“I feel like I’d be foolish to leave,” Riddle said.
Whether he is ultimately working in Russia or the United States, Riddle said he’d like to explore how to make compact living more comfortable and desirable. As cities were formed in the Industrial Revolution, it was often dangerous to live close to factories and plants, major sources of both employment and pollution. In a post-industrial society, that problem is much less prevalent. Americans have also been raised on the idea that an abundance of space — two car garages, expansive yards and multiple living spaces — are required as well.
“I hope to find a way to make that change faster and less abrasive, so it can happen in a lifetime, not over several generations,” Riddle said.
In addition to his class load, Riddle has made time to get involved in extracurricular activities. He served as public relations coordinator for Alternative Breaks, a program that encourages students to take service trips over fall, winter, spring and summer breaks, as well as select weekends. His efforts to interest more students in the program helped to yield a record number of applicants. He’s also put his money where his mouth is, taking two alternative breaks of his own.
Riddle took a trip to Catalina Island in California to help with the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program. He worked to promote the island’s indigenous environment and helped to educate himself and program participants on environmental concerns and how to reduce negative impact on the environment. Earlier this year, he traveled to Youngstown, Ohio, and helped to clean, reinvigorate and establish leadership manuals for the Mahoning Valley Pride Center. The organization supports area lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer individuals.
On campus, Riddle has been involved in Delta Lambda Phi, serving as the fraternity’s assistant treasurer and social activities coordinator. He worked hard to ensure members had an active calendar that provided opportunities for growth, service and education.
Kelli Nichols, assistant director of the University Advising Center, said Riddle was an exemplary employee in his time as a peer adviser.
Riddle continually “maintained his desire to learn about others and their cultures, stories and experiences,” Nichols said. “At orientation, Godfrey could and did engage nearly every student, parent or guest with whom he worked. He asks genuine questions and listens to learn. Whether in Russia or the U.S., designing buildings or developing relationships, I am confident Godfrey will leave a legacy.”
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