'The Yes Project' Hajjar Scholarship 2013 design winners announced

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The 2013 William and Anne Bortz Hajjar Memorial Competition for third-year bachelor of architecture students in the Penn State Department of Architecture has five winners this spring. “Upcycle it! Education Center” design competition winners worked with program instructors Ute Poerschke, Reggie Aviles, Katsu Muramoto, Sandra Staub and Malcolm Woollen in Arch 332, Architectural Design IV.

The A. William Hajjar and Anne Bortz Hajjar Memorial Scholarship, established in 2001, honors the memory and talents of Bill Hajjar, a beloved professor and senior design critic in the Penn State Architecture department from 1946 to 1965. His neighboring houses may still be seen in State College and, in fact, two were located near the project site this year.

The fund, generated from Hajjar’s family and friends, originally raised more than $80,000 in Hajjar’s name and was set up as a charitable trust. It provides approximately $4,000 annually towards the tuition expenses for three students during their semester abroad in Rome, completed in their fourth year. This year, competition was vigorous, with two students winning first and second prize, and three earning honorable mention.

The State College site the students were challenged to address had many subtleties of design and targeted educational outcomes. Located at the southeast side of Corl Street, in the Holmes Foster neighborhood, projects were required to relate to the Corl Street Elementary School property with several existing parameters — students had to work around the school’s playground, pathways and walkway flows to position a new upcycling pavilion building within the defined area. They also had to integrate appropriate workshop teaching spaces for educational programming to operate in the conceived building.

Facing the reality of society’s overflow of refuse, the design challenge they confronted forced students to consider the difference between recycling and upcycling, and created an opportunity for impacting young students at the State College school. By integrating a workshop space, elementary schoolchildren (ages 5 to 10) will gain experience with different materials that would otherwise be thrown out — paper, wood, metal, plastic and fabrics. The design students needed to help make new, creative objects by processing materials in child-appropriate ways.

The students’ final models included an array of materials — from glittering school refuse and newspaper-wrapped graded elevations, to newspaper trees and branded cafeteria products and cardboard — all gathered from the surrounding neighborhood, from students’ families, and from the school’s cafeteria. The bulk of the mixed media ending up on the submitted designs was pre-defined and allowed for school paper, newspapers, cardboard, egg cartons, wooden items, cans, foil and foil containers, plastic bottles, milk cartons, yogurt containers, old crayons, old computer parts such as keyboards and mice, plastic eating utensils and Styrofoam to be used. Utilizing the supply chain from inside the school allowed students to come into contact with the school and the site, where they came face-to-face with the constant flow of abundant refuse.

As part of the design parameters, the architecture students were challenged to “pay careful attention to structure, day lighting, and strategies for the storage and creative display of material — integrating these aspects, both conceptually and functionally, into your design. The building should also make creative but realistic (i.e., cost-efficient) use of heating and cooling concepts.” The tactical theory had to incorporate State College Borough’s zoning requirements, including allowable setbacks and lot coverage.

The students each had three minutes to present their project in front of the jury and guests. Aspects for evaluations from the jury included judging the specificity of the design idea and clarity of formal and functional solution. Jurors also had the students’ handouts as a reference during their deliberations. The jury consisted of Mehrdad Hadighi, head of the department of architecture; Darla Lindberg, professor of architecture; Henry Pisciotta, arts and architecture librarian and assistant head of the arts and humanities Library; and Craig Zabel, head of the department of art history.

The winning building design parameters required students to inspire the children to think about materials and their properties in new ways. The resulting working pavilion the students created integrated classroom space for Corl Street Elementary School (grades K to 5); a designated art/ecology teacher will, in theory, guide students in their projects, with classes using the pavilion on a rotating basis. Ultimately, if built, the pavilion may also be used for afterschool “enrichment” classes and summer camps. The winning first-place design by Ryan David was the only project with a title. Fittingly, it was called “The Yes Project.”

The Hajjar houses are documented at www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/digital/hajjar.html.

First place winner Ryan David:
"The project was given to us with a fairly strict set of parameters, and a less than ideal site, so my first instincts were to go site 'less,' -- design in a vacuum so that the project could theoretically exist anywhere. The second stipulation was to explore cradle-to-cradle design philosophies. These philosophies are very often misunderstood for being about recycling (as was the case with a few of the entries). So naturally, the idea for a system that could be used as pedagogical architecture to facilitate cradle-to-cradle philosophy training to a young demographic was the obvious choice. The 'YES Project!' (Youth Education in Sustainability) was designed to be a shelter that schools can order, and have their students erect, that would be made entirely by the student from materials that will easily return into their proper metabolisms, and eventually the structure will cease to exist as well. It comes with a 10-week curriculum, and will degrade into mulch in about 11 weeks (give or take). It was designed to have very low overhead costs, so in theory it could be built tomorrow with things you find at a school. I do plan on doing the normal college-student-in-Rome experience next year."

Connor Pritz, second place winner:
What inspired you most about the project. What was the most dynamic part of the competition as a whole with the other students work too?
"To me, the most inspiring aspect of this project is the idea of incorporating sustainability into the early years of education.This shows that sustainability is not simply an elective course or an area of interest, rather it is a critical aspect of how our society will progress.

What thoughts did you "canvass" and what was your approach? Will it ever get built? What are the prospects?
My design is centered around the visual cycle of reuse in an effort to clearly demonstrate the benefits of materials reuse to students. Non-biodegradable waste from the site is used in the material of the building itself as aggregate in concrete blocks, and biodegradable waste is composted and used as soil for new plant life, which is irrigated with collected rainwater."

What are you doing in Rome next year and how does this play a part?
"We will be studying and drawing historical precedents in Rome next year, as well as continuing with design courses. Hopefully, the exposure to classical architecture will allow us as students to design with the sense of taste and timelessness that Mr. Hajjar was able to achieve in his buildings."


Media Contacts: 

Flora Eyster Newburgh

Work Phone: 
Last Updated March 12, 2013