The first architecture competition I was in was only three weeks into my education. As part of the first year education at Carnegie Mellon, all of the students had to learn to plane a 2×4 from rough lumber, so as all of the students would learn the basics in the wood shop. The professors went a stage further and asked that we all design sculptures out of our studio’s 2x4s using all of the wood and no glue or fasteners to hold them together. They also stipulated that the sculptures create two distinct spaces. I, however, was far more interested in the rule that said that we had to rely on gravity for adhesion, and went about playing with scale strips of chipboard, trying to make the tallest thing possible. The first sculpture design was small, using only 19 2x4s and was an interlocking shape:
For the next studio session all seventy-two students had to design much larger sculptures using all of the year’s 2x4s with the same rules for assembly. The professors wanted everyone to make two 1″ = 1′ chipboard models, and said that all of the entries would be lined up and the top three would be selected and that we would have twenty minutes a piece to build them at full scale. Again I was more interested in the structural challenge than the spatial one that the professors had laid out. Using the Rainbow Bridge of Kaifeng as inspiration, I experimented with interweaving structures and produced these two models:
The model in front was praised by the professors for its elegance and the depth of thought put into it. Despite the fact that it was not at all what the professors expected, they selected it as the final challenge for construction. I was given charge of the group, and using only my model and the help of three student “foremen” to whom I had explained the design, got the full scale structure up within twenty minutes.
This photo of the finished sculpture (first image above) was taken by one of my professors, and was given the honor of being the banner image of the school of architecture’s webpage for some months.EPIC Metals Design Competition 2011
At the beginning of every spring semester at CMU, there is a design competition within the third year sponsored by the EPIC Metals Company, who manufacture primarily steel decking. In my third year the competition was for the best design of a foot bridge over the street which runs by the Carnegie Mellon campus. Each pair of students had a week to produce a model and an 18″x24″ poster, and the winning group would get $500 a head. Following a meeting with my partner during which neither of us had much inspiration or initiative, I had a brainwave halfway through the competition. From the whispers i had heard form other groups, I knew that their proposals made lots of programmatic additions to the brief of “foot bridge”. I decided to take the opposite route, design something streamlined, elegant, functional, and showcasing the EPIC product range. After finishing all of the design, editing, and 2d production materials, and nearly disqualified because my partner built a model of only part of the bridge the size of four postage stamps, my entry won.
Whereas at the end of my ninth semester I was working flat out, at the beginning I had so much time on my hands that I entered a design competition for students in the northeastern US sponsored by BLT Architects in Philadelphia. The prompt was to design a mixed retail-residential development in an existing parking lot in a struggling neighbourhood in North Philly. Just to the south of the site was the campus of Temple University, to the west rows of brownstones, and the Amtrak line ran NW-SE across the northeast corner. Having studied urban development and history, I chose to design an interventino which would be welcoming and affordable to everyone around it, rather than gentrify the neighbourhood to the point of exclusivity. I believe that the key to the success of urban spaces is allowing people of different cultures and income brackets to occupy the same space. To that end the parti that I used to fill in my blank lot was simply to reflect and extrude the different building typologies that surrounded the site. In the center of the site, clearly visible and accessible from both the east and west was a small, around which I placed townhouses and apartment buildings. They would naturally be more expensive than the surrounding neighbourhood, but since the park was left open on both sides, the residents of the existing neighbourhood would feel welcome there, that it was a city park and not a private garden. I dealt with the commercial part of the outline by designing an urban shopping mall with a large arcade facing the busiest corner at the northeast. The arcade would attract foot traffic and act as a gateway to the park, as well as being a public space encouraging visitors to the neighbourhood. Above the mall facing the Amtrak line, a tower of large condominiums acting as a landmark and beacon for the revitalized part of the city.
In total, I spent about three weeks on this project, working for a couple of hours a night whenever I had time. The poster I entered took about four days to produce, which was a lot less time than I spent building the Rhino model that I used for the drawings. The Image above is a photo collage done by using a white rendered Rhino model in Vray as a skeleton, then collaging content over it. I won second prize in this competition, and five hundred dollars.