Graduate students earn national award for sustainable design excellence

CLEMSON — For the second year in a row, a Clemson University School of Architecture studio project has been selected as a winner of the COTE Top Ten for Students Design Competition. The award is given annually by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA COTE) and the Association of the Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) in recognition of student work that displays sustainable design at the highest level.

The team’s winning design is INTERCONNECT: Connecting Paths, Connecting Programs, Connecting People, a refugee integration center located in Madrid, Spain’s Plaza de las Descalzas. The proposed 55,360-square-foot center provides the city with space to acclimate refugees and help them feel a sense of belonging.

“As educators, we aim to produce design and preservation leaders who will shape the environment and create a better future for all. This competition and winning this proposal speaks to these values,” said Kate Schwennsen, director of the School of Architecture. “We are proud of our studio team for receiving this honor and of their unique vision in tackling one of today’s most complex problems. Theirs’ is a sophisticated, comprehensive, sustainable design proposal.”

Clemson’s winning student team includes Master of Architecture students Harrison and Madison Hope Polk of Clemson. The married couple also earned their undergraduate architecture degrees at Clemson. Their faculty advisers for the project are Ufuk Ersoy, assistant professor of architecture; David Franco, assistant professor of architecture; and Ulrike Heine, associate professor and assistant director of the School of Architecture.

In their abstract, the student team writes, “European cities also have been unable to find a place for millions of productive people. This scenario puts an incredible stress on our discipline, as thinkers and designers of cities, revealing the weakness of architecture to manage relevant social transformations. In such context, reimagining how a building in a dense urban context, and the public space around it can host refugees in a socially comprehensive way becomes a significant exercise that implies understanding and rethinking aspects as diverse as the potential role of the refugees in an urban setting, the possibilities for a positive social and architectural impact in the specific site, and the complexities of the perception that a building of this kind will have for the rest of the society.”

Winning designs for AIA COTE Top Ten for Students “demonstrate design moving towards carbon-neutral operation through a creative and innovative integration of design strategies such as daylighting, passive heating and cooling, materials, water, energy generation, and other sustainable systems, through a cohesive and beautiful architectural understanding.” A detailed overview of the COTE Top Ten measures and award criteria can be found in the 2018 Call for Entries.

“INTERCONNECT” will be exhibited at the 107 American Institute of Architects’ National Convention March 28-30, 2019 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

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