April 26, 2012
Spirit of Place Architecture Program Receives Top Honors
|The Memorial to the Magar Ancestors in Nepal.|
Inform magazine recognized Catholic University’s Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design architecture program this month with an honor award for the best landscape architecture for a memorial built in Nepal.
Spirit of Place provides students the opportunity to research, design, and construct a project in a remote landscape. The goal is to explore the design and construction of architectural forms that are able to successfully respond to their natural and cultural settings.
The Memorial to the Magar Ancestors was constructed by Catholic University students — led by architect and adjunct professor Travis Price and Kathleen Lane, director of the Spirit of Place Institute — in Bhedetar, Nepal, in June 2011.
Villagers in the Himalayan foothills of eastern Nepal adhere to a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. In the course of creating new agriculture learning fields near their traditional burial grounds, old tombs had been disturbed. People of the Namje and Thumki villages feared their ancestors were disrespected while their souls were regenerating and reincarnating.
Using symbolism derived from regional burial customs — in which mourners carry stones up the hill to create burial tombs — the team of students created a place of communal reflection where village shamans could also conduct ceremonies.
The 7-foot-high stacked-stone walls surround a 3- by 6-foot opening in the earth, edged with standing stones — symbolizing the sea of souls — and covered by laminated glass. The glass connects the reflected sky above with the earth visible beneath it.
Through Spirit of Place projects “each student with their own hands makes a dream come into reality,” says Price, a professional architect who founded the program at Catholic University more than 18 years ago.
|The 2011 Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design team.|
Winning awards such as this “validates that their education can take them to the top of their profession. They are not just building the humdrum, but are designing and building new and award-winning works.”
Students involved in the design and construction of the memorial include Andrew Baldwin, Miguel Castro, Liz Marie Fibleuil, Suzanne Humphries, Carrie Kramer, Ashley Marshall, Kristen McKenzie, Chloe Rice, Abigail Rolando, Arvi Sardadi, Allie Steimel, Kevin Thomson, Lauren Warner, and Evan Wivell.
“This student design-build project for a memorial in Nepal is an extraordinary example of how a deep understanding of a place and its local building and religious traditions can lead to a very powerful and evocative structure,” noted the jury. “The stonework in the memorial is very beautiful and the simple forms and the central void have an almost primeval quality.”
The awards drew 149 submissions and seven projects received honor or merit awards. Another 28 projects were recognized as exemplary design works, and among them were two other designs by Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design built in Finland in 2010 and Ireland in 2009.
“For Spirit of Place, these awards recognize that not only are the projects aesthetically top-notch, but more importantly they touch on the very mission of Catholic University’s School of Architecture,” Price says. “As a key part of the Cultural Studies and Sacred Space Master’s Concentration, the Spirit of Place projects foster a new language of architecture for the 21st Century, one that the architectural community not only embraces but — as witnessed by these numerous awards — sees as a guidepost for the profession.”
|Students construct BENCH/WALL.|
Also recognized by Inform was BENCH/WALL, an installation built in 2011 outside of CUA’s Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies, which was designed and built by the Advanced Digital Design and Fabrication class. Students who worked on the project include Robert Blabolil, Timothy Banks, Paul Baines, Jeremy Haak, Patrick Keeney, Abigail Rolando, and Charles Selden. Associate Professor Luis Boza and visiting lecturer Andrew Cocke oversaw the project.
Another architecture student — senior Christine Chlebda — will be honored next month with the grand prize UNBUILT Award from the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Recent graduate Ryan Erb will receive a merit award.