Former students help build top sand sculptures in AIA contest


See photos of all the sandcastle contest entries.

Sand sculptures depicting dinosaurs, dragons and Dr. Seuss characters built with help from former students at Texas A&M snagged the top two awards in an annual sandcastle building competition hosted May 28, 2015 by the Houston chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The event, which took place on Galveston, Texas’ East Beach, pitted more than 60 sand sculpture-building teams of AIA member firms vying for awards in an overall competition and in several categories, including Best Traditional, That's Entertainment, Most Complex, Stars & Stripes, Best Architectural, Most Hilarious and Most Lifelike/Realistic.

Judges rated the entries on originality, artistic execution, technical difficulty, carving technique, and utilization of the site.

Three former students at Kirksey Architecture, which teamed with Metzger Construction helped create the contest’s Golden Bucket winner for best overall entry, a sculpture depicting dinosaurs wreaking havoc on Dr. Seuss characters.

The former students were Scott Cutlip, vice president and design principal who earned a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree in 1992; Jay Weiss, a senior associate who earned a BED degree in 1971; Carrie Greene Conner, an associate on Kirksey’s healthcare team who earned a BED degree in 2001 and a Master of Architecture degree in 2003 and Rafael Vasquez, a member of the firm’s hospitality/residential team who earned a BED in 2012 and a MARCH in 2014.

The award for the contest’s second-place overall entry, the Silver Shovel, went to a team from Gensler, an architecture, planning and consulting firm, whose entry depicted a giant dragon and turtle carrying sandcastles on their backs.

“The main tower of our entry started out 10 feet tall but it collapsed with just 90 minutes left in the contest, and it ended up being eight and a half feet tall,” said Tommy Bett, who earned a BED degree in 2011 and is an architectural designer at the firm.

Despite the mishap, the Gensler entry also nabbed the Best Traditional Sandcastle award.

Additional former students on the Gensler team were Ashton Holliday, an intern who earned a BED in 2014 and MARCH student, Luke Scott, a project architect who earned a BED in 2002 and and a MARCH in 2005, and Ken Wiesehuegel, a project manager and senior associate who earned a MARCH in 1986.

Teams begin preparing for the event months in advance, generating ideas, developing designs, and assigning duties. When competition day arrived, teams built the sand sculptures from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m using only sand and water, which must be moved to the site using only human power, or by a machine that does not run on fossil fuels.

posted July 1, 2015