The Catholic University of America

March 19, 2010

CUA Architecture Program Receives National Honor

  Senior architecture majors Jenna Edelmayer and Patrick Manning work on the James Hoban Memorial in Kilkenny, Ireland.

Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design, a program in CUA’s School of Architecture and Planning, was recently recognized by the National Council of Architectural Review Boards (NCARB) as one of six national recipients of the council’s Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education in the Academy.

Spirit of Place offers students the opportunity to research, design and construct projects. Since 1993, the class has traveled to places such as Peru, British Columbia, Nepal and Italy. Whereas most architectural design courses end with the schematic design phase, the CUA course enables students to see a project through to completed construction. 

The NCARB Prize recognizes courses that are taught in collaboration with non-faculty architects to provide students with skills that will make them better practitioners.

“ ‘Spirit of Place’ has been our signature design/build program at the School of Architecture and Planning for more than a decade,” says Randy Ott, dean. “The program deeply relates to the overall mission of our campus, and our own school’s mission of ‘building stewardship.’ It is very gratifying to see this type of recognition for the program in competition with many other creative integration of practice and education programs nationally.”

Students participating in this year’s project, “Kalevalakehto: Shaman's Haven of the Kalevala” in Helsinki, Finland, will have design work on display as part of an exhibit at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C., through April 18.

Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design is a series of two courses, usually held during the spring and summer semesters. The first course is the design phase, which includes working with licensed practitioners who oversee the students' development of the construction drawings. Students also give presentations on a variety of aspects of professional practice based on issues that arise during the project.

The summer following the design phase students travel abroad to construct their design in about nine days as part of an additional course. In this phase, students work with local contractors, community members and the client.

Students in the Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design program designed and built the memorial in 2008.

“History is replete with architecture that is inspired by world cultures, vast landscapes, and the realm of the spirit,” says Travis Price, director of CUA’s Cultural Studies/Sacred Space Concentration and creator of Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design.

“The highlight for me is to see a very classical idea come to blossom each year with our students creating cutting-edge, modern architecture. From the heights of poetic design in the classroom to the smell of mud on their hands working in distant lands, the gleam of realized creativity in their eyes makes my personal quest for new knowledge and their growth a seamless joy.”

Price says that in its 16 years, the program has been one of the most popular architecture and planning elective courses, always reaching enrollment capacity.

The program also offers a graduate studio focusing on the location and culture of the current undergraduate project. In addition, Spirit of Place hosts public lectures on the architecture and culture of the project's geographic region.

To coincide with this year’s project, Price will present a lecture on “The Archeology of Tomorrow” on Wednesday, March 24. The lecture will explore the Helsinki project as part of the overall Spirit of Place program. For more information, visit