CHUD awards 5 Mitchell-Dockery Prizes for public interest designs

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Five student projects selected as outstanding examples of public interest design — design addressing social, economic and environmental issues in a way that benefits a community, rather than an individual client — were named by a jury of designers and social justice advocates as winners of the Mitchell-Dockery Prize in Public Interest Design, sponsored by Texas A&M’s Center for Housing and Urban Development.

The winning solutions included an innovative retirement home concept, community centers for the disadvantaged and for deaf children, and permanent housing solutions for the displaced tent-dwelling residents of Port-au-Prince Haiti.

One of the winning projects, a design by Master of Architecture student Jason Minter, transformed a bare porch at a downtown Bryan bakery into an inviting place for enjoying pastries and coffee. It was chosen to be featured June 7 – July 25, 2013, at bcSHOPFRONT, an exhibit demonstrating the impact of the public design movement on architecture education.

The exhibit is hosted by bcWORKSHOP, a Dallas-based community design center, located at 416 S. Ervay St.

The annual Mitchell-Dockery Prize in Public Interest Design competition is open to students enrolled in any degree program at the Texas A&M College of Architecture, said Shannon Van Zandt, CHUD director. It welcomes design projects of any scale that address the needs of a vulnerable, disadvantaged population, or a group traditionally underserved by architects. For consideration, the entries had to:

  • engage with the site and respect its local context,
  • consider the community and neighborhood’s opinion or culture,
  • amplify voices of those who have limited access to design services,
  • use a sustainable approach to design, or
  • display innovative and creative design solutions.

 Each winner received $500.

The prize-winning entry from Ana Escobar and Daniel Garcia, sophomore environmental design students, upends the traditional concept of a retirement home with a design that pairs skilled nursing services and residents according to the level of care required. The facility is designed to allow residents to age in place without the need to move to another room or home as their healthcare needs escalate.

“This configuration promotes a sense of community that encourages residents to interact with each other and establish long-lasting relationships,” said the designers.

Escobar and Garcia’s design also changes the staff’s relationship to patients by placing work areas within common household living spaces, creating an homey ambience rather than a more sterile facility environment.

Winner Keenan McCord designed a community center in downtown Bryan that caters to the city’s lower-income residents.

 “More than one-third of Bryan’s citizens are living in poverty and have limited venues for community activities,” said McCord.

The three-story building, located at the corner of Main Street and 23rd Street, would include a performance stage, space for exhibits, administrative and service rooms connected through a central atrium ending in a 400 square-foot window, which McCord designed to provide a waterfall during rain showers that feeds into a recycling system for the site’s landscape irrigation.

McCord said his design would create a new attraction in downtown Bryan and improve its economy.

Lauren Sobecki's winning entry, a center for children's hearing, employs principles of DeafSpace, an architectural approach unique to the deaf community’s relationship to the built environment developed by architect Hansel Bauman.

“Bauman’s work illustrates the design needs of a community that historically has not been represented in architecture,” said Sobecki.

The built environment, largely constructed by and for hearing individuals, presents a variety of surprising challenges for the deaf, who have responded in kind with DeafSpace, a unique way of altering their surroundings to fit their unique needs.

To that end, Sobecki designed her center with diffused lighting, which reflects the negative effects that glare, shadow patterns and backlighting can have on the highly visual nature of deaf communication. Her use of wide, curving walkways addresses a tendency of people who use sign language while walking to maintain a wide distance for clear visual communication.

Another winner, Master of Architecture student Kevin Walsh, designed an environmentally sustainable, disaster-resistant permanent housing community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Envisioned as a catalyst for reformed urban development in the impoverished Caribbean nation, his design was chosen as one of the year's top Texas A&M Master of Architecture projects. It was designed to house Haitians who've been living in tent cities since the 2010’s earthquake and to provide employment opportunities for those trained to construct the homes from prefabricated panels.

“This will create jobs for unemployed Haitians, help develop the skills of many and encourage economic development in the region,” said Walsh. “Once a community is established, construction can begin in other areas of the city.”

Walsh's design includes markets and healthcare centers, as well as designated green areas and community centers where children can safely play and socialize.

posted June 6, 2013