Michele Crawford from Architecture firm Robert P. Madison International speaks with Michelle Barrett, the new president of the National Organization of Minority Architects Student Chapter (NOMAS) at Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design
by Michele Crawford
My inspiration to become an architect emerged from my educational journey. I did not have many architectural influences prior to my start on the path to architecture. My career goal was to become a car designer. I translated this ambition to the creation of interior environments and ultimately completed both a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Architecture and Master of Architecture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The study of architecture in Chicago proved to be an amazing experience. My studio space was on the top floor of The Sullivan Center, formerly the Carson Pirie Scott Building, and I could easily visit historical examples of designs from Frank Lloyd Wright, Renzo Piano, Mies Van Der Rohe, Stanley Tigerman, and others. Using the city as my classroom provided enduring inspiration.
I noticed, however, the lack of admiration of both women and architects of color in the Chicago scene and worldwide. When my professors suggested architects to use as inspiration, they were rarely African American, and never African American women. It was through my own investigations that I found images of architects similar to myself and my culture. Gradually, Paul Revere Williams became my Mies. Norma Merrick Sklarek became my F.L. Wright. Dina Griffith became my Renzo. Sharon Sutton could eloquently express my angst—preparing me for the suppression of the African American voice and visibility in the profession.
In my current position as Project Designer at Robert P. Madison International, I am surrounded by a rich history of architectural contributions from an African American owned firm, currently led by Sandra Madison. I make special attempts to show my face to those who are considering pursuing a design career, and try to persuade those with interest.
Currently, the United States has under 400 licensed African American women architects, making up just under .4% of the greater architect population. We have a desperate need for more representation. The diversity rates nationally in architecture are not keeping up with the changing communities that the profession is called upon to serve. African Americans comprise 13.9% of Ohio’s population. Strikingly, Ohio has 2,650 licensed architects, but only 63 are African American—that’s only 2% of the profession. This disparity has been evident since the inception of the profession. In 2015, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) initiated a deeper conversation about this matter. The AIA surveyed its members and supporters about the perception of diversity and also examined the relationship of diversity to success in the field. Its closing analysis suggested changes in hopes of creating greater equality and more balanced numbers. Communities and demographics are steadily changing, yet, the demographics of the designers of these same spaces are not keeping pace.
As the new president of the National Organization of Minority Architects Student Chapter (NOMAS) at Kent State University, Michelle Barrett is working towards creating and sustaining a space of support for students of color in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED). We recently discussed her ambitions to move past potential and into action in the architecture world’s quickly approaching future. Though the Kent State diversity numbers in the architecture and design programs seem to align with the national averages, the opportunity for a NOMAS chapter to spark a change is hopeful. The current minority students, and specifically Michelle, seem to recognize the importance of support for students of color at Kent State and are working towards change.
Michelle and I had the following conversation about her experience leading the NOMAS Chapter and her plans for the future.
Hometown: Gaithersburg, MD
Class / Year: Class of 2017, 4th year
MC: How did you hear about Kent State?
MB: As many black youth, I thought my future was in sports. I played soccer all of my life up until I tore my ACL during my senior year. Kent State was on my list of schools (for soccer) because my coach had past connections. After it was clear that I wouldn’t be playing sports in college, I had to approach that list of schools differently. Which one would provide the best academic value? Kent State was the answer.
MC: What inspired you to pursue the architecture path?
MB: I have always been drawn to art and design. Probably because of my mother; she is a graphic designer. But I never really wanted to be an artist. I wanted to have an impact on people’s everyday lives, to help people. I didn’t know how or what career would allow me to do that. At an away soccer tournament in Miami, a player’s mother took us on a tour of Downtown Miami. She gave us a history lesson on all the Art Deco inspired architecture and the type of events that happened there. I fell in love. At that point I realized how I could be creative, yet impactful, in society.
MC: Why NOMAS? Why now?
MB: I did not previously know about NOMA/NOMAS until CAED Associate Dean Bill Willoughby initiated discussions on the topic. He was and continues to be an integral part of NOMAS here at Kent. After the initial informational presentations he gave students, a group of us students took the lead in formalizing the organization. The other students involved included: Torri Appling, Shelton Finch, and Zai Abdi. I personally took ownership of the process because I thought it was important to have an organization devoted to minority issues (diversity, inclusion, fellowship, etc) in relation to architecture. It’s a unique niche that cannot be fully realized in groups such as Black United Students (BUS).
MC: Have you ever felt as if you were treated unfairly because of your gender or race?
MB: On many occasions, people are surprised to hear about my academic achievements—be it my choice of major or my honors standing. After many years, their surprise no longer catches me off guard. However, I still feel an injustice when said individuals expect you to be 10x better than your peers. They hold you to different standards and it is unfair.
MC: What has been you favorite studio project?
MB: My favorite studio project was in Third Year Studio—The Media Center Library—a part of the Cleveland International School masterplan. It was the first time we interacted with real clients—the community, the students.
MC: As president what are the main goals that you have for the organization?
MB: My main goals for the organization include career development (educational and professional), community engagement in the Greater Cleveland area, and to ensure that the NOMAS voice continues to be heard as a legacy organization in the future CAED community.
Historically, the voice of the African American architect has been suppressed. However, as our world continues to change, the profession seems to be committed to making the field a more inclusive and welcoming place for all. Organizations like Design Diversity are working to push accountability in this matter. Design Diversity, an advisory committee which grew out of Kent State’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC), is committed to educating, connecting, and celebrating diversity in the design professions. Specifically focusing on African American and Latino communities, this group has specific goals of awareness to the larger design community with hopes of encouraging authentic, diverse views and considerations within and throughout the design process. Ultimately, Design Diversity and NOMA/NOMAS are promoting the importance of varied voices in educational and professional design communities.
Michele Crawford, Assoc. AIA, is a Project Designer at Robert P. Madison International, based in Cleveland, Ohio. Michele serves on a number of service organizations, including the Design Diversity Advisory Committee. In 2016, Michele was recognized with the Activism Award by AIA Cleveland. Follow Michele on Twitter @initiat_ed.
African American Architects Directory
Diversity in the Profession of Architecture
African Americans in Ohio
This past Friday, the Cleveland chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and International Interior Design Association (IIDA) hosted the 2016 Design Awards. The annual event honors work by local professionals as well as students. This year, CUDC students Caitlyn Scoville and Ziyan Ye received awards for their work in the 2016 summer studio; Home Economics: A State of Housing in Cleveland. Scoville was awarded the Honor Award—the highest award possible for her project “Lead Exposed,” while Ye received an Honorable Mention for his project “The Distributed Center.”
Scoville’s winning project examined housing demolition and redevelopment through a decision-making framework in relation to levels of lead contamination and environmental hazards in Cleveland’s neighborhoods. Her scheme addresses areas of lead concentration within the postindustrial landscape using a series of scales (regional, city, community, and individual) in order to alter the fabric over time. Scoville says of her work in the summer studio, “The studio allowed us to explore different scales of interventions, from the intimate to the city at large, and I think my passion for designing across these multiple scales was articulated in my final project”.
Ye’s project examined new housing options near the proposed expansion of the Nord Family Greenway near University Circle and the Hough neighborhood to better integrate world class institutions and existing neighborhood needs. A variety of housing types and public spaces meet demands for high quality and affordable housing options across the economic spectrum. The proposed expanded greenway contextually weaves together multiple contexts, allowing for the development of multiple neighborhood anchors that tie in to a larger network.
The INDEX studio examined the relationships between two cities–Cleveland, Ohio and Havana, Cuba. The 15-week studio took place in the spring of 2016 at Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC). By comparing these very different urban contexts, the studio provided new insights into familiar places and a better understanding of the challenges facing global cities.
Read and download the full report, written in English and Spanish, below.
Twelve graduate students generated proposals for a waterfront site in each of the two cities. The Cleveland site is the now-defunct Lakeshore Coal Plant, a monumental structure on a 60 acre site along the city’s eastern lakefront. The Havana counterpart is the Nico-Lopez Oil Refinery, a 500 acre facility still functioning as a refinery on the southeastern banks of Havana Bay.
Graduate students Alexander Scott and Jordan Fitzgerald re-envisioned the Lakeshore Coal Plant as a regional destination for industrial arts preservation and production, located in close proximity to Cleveland’s University Circle arts and culture district.
Students met with a range of design professionals and local experts while in Havana. These insights and direct observations gathered during the five day travel formed the basis of urban design proposals shown in the report. At the conclusion of the studio, students received feedback on their proposals from Cuban architects Ernesto Jimenez and Sofia Marquez Aguiar during the architects’ visit to Cleveland. The students’ design work will be exhibited in Havana, at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano, in Spring 2017.
The INDEX Studio is part of the curriculum for the Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Design programs in Kent State’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED). Kent State is committed to global education and expanding the cultural literacy of our students. Cuba offers a remarkably complex and locally relevant range of design opportunities. This initial studio is a first step toward establishing relationships with colleagues and collaborators in Cuba.
View and download the full report below:
Support for the travelling studio was generously provided by The Cleveland Foundation.
This summer’s graduate studio at the CUDC focused on issues of housing in the city of Cleveland. Eleven graduate students in architecture and urban design selected sites across the city to develop a strategy for housing various ages, incomes, and forms of collective living. Titled “Home Economics: The State of Housing in Cleveland,” the studio used interdisciplinary methods for making site determinations and strategies—combining urban planning, community development, and design thinking to aspects of their project. Students studied the recent Vacant Property survey released by the CUDC with Thriving Communities Institute and other studies to suggest alternative forms of development in neighborhoods across the city. Strategies ranged from urban systems questions relating to lead contamination in housing, to dispersed housing strategies that attempt to introduce affordability as a stabilizing factor both in gentrifying neighborhoods and in under-invested neighborhoods.
The studio marks the culmination for Master’s of Architecture students at the CUDC, while students in the Urban Design program will continue into capstone research.
Below are examples of some of the student’s work featured in the report.
This summer, August 26-27, Kent State University faculty and staff will embark on the 3rd Annual Crooked River Commute. This kayaking trek along the Cuyahoga River from Kent State University’s main campus (Kent) to Kent State’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (Cleveland) is intended to promote the river as a shared regional asset for education, recreation, and sustainability.
Cheer us on as we paddle into the Great Lakes Burning River Fest.
Meet us at the finish of the trip. We should arrive in Cleveland on Saturday, August 26th, around 7:15 PM. Grab a beer at the Coast Guard Station during The Burning River Festival and watch us paddle in.
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Share our story.
Tell your friends, family and social network about the Crooked River Commute. We’ll be using social media during the trip, using hashtag: #RiverCommute
Read our summary to learn more about the back story and goals of this trip.
The College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) at Kent State University invites applications for full‐time, non‐tenure track, Assistant Professor appointment in landscape architecture. The CAED’s graduate programs in Landscape Architecture (MLA I and MLA II) are situated in Cleveland, Ohio as part of the Cleveland Studio at Playhouse Square. The Cleveland Studio houses the practice and outreach offices of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborate and serves as an alternative location for students enrolled in the Master of Architecture program seeking a degree with an emphasis in urban design.
We seek an excellent designer to teach graduate design studios and another area of emphasis: either the history/theory of landscape architecture, or the integration of construction technologies and site engineering. We seek applicants with strong representational skills (both hand and digital) who can teach those skills to their students. Cleveland and the regional context of Lake Erie offer unique opportunities and face many challenges requiring a landscape perspective. The MLA programs focus on urban, postindustrial, and infrastructural landscapes that merge cultural considerations with ecological systems and hydrological infrastructure. An MLA degree, or an accredited degree in landscape architecture in combination with an advanced graduate degree in a related field is required. Prior teaching experience and/or professional licensure are desired. The nine‐month appointment is to begin August 21,2016 and has the potential to be renewed in subsequent years depending upon program needs.
Required Application Materials:
- Letter of interest with a narrative describing qualifications for the position, including a brief summary of teaching experience, practice experience, research, and other accomplishments.
- Curriculum Vitae.
- Contact information for three references to include name, email, phone number and your professional relationship to each reference.
- Digital portfolio of examples of teaching, practice, design work, and research that could include: images of design work, practice‐based work, evidence of representational skills (hand and digital), course syllabi, student work completed under your direction, and any research or evidence of design research. Portfolio should be no more than 10MB and submitted as a .pdf file.
For a complete description of these positions and to apply online, visit our jobsite at https://jobs.kent.edu/postings/9230
Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer / Disabled / Veterans
Please join us at our Master of Landscape Architecture Open House event to learn more about the program.
For over 60 years, the College of Architecture and Environmental Design has graduated qualified professionals who are leaders in their fields. Kent State University offers a full complement of environmental design professions.
The landscape architecture profession is projected to grow by 5% nationally over the next decade. Be part of a graduate program intent on re-imagining Northeast Ohio’s landscape for the benefit of future generations. Join the vanguard of design professionals working to create a more sustainable world.
Kent State University Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative
1309 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH 44115
Saturday, June 25th, 2016
10:00 am – Noon
The program includes a presentation by faculty, a student panel and tour of CUDC facilities.
For graduate program details please visit http://www.kent.edu/caed/master-landscape-architecture or contact our Graduate Programs office in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at 330.672.3765 for additional information and how to apply.
The Nightclub, a nomadic platform for artistic practices in Miami, FL hosted, As Pure as Driven Snow: Water Fetish, which was presented by the Urban Theory Laboratory an initiative of the Master of Landscape Architecture Program.
Snow persists in the cultural imagination as a quieting blanket under which the sleeping earth rests in anticipation of Spring’s rebirth. This “poem of the air” is water’s dance across the frozen landscape of the north. Briefly airborne, she settles to mingle with her earthbound sister elements, and joins in carrying to the sea the traces of habitation.
Seemingly alien to the tropics, yet she travels incognito to threaten the coast as sea level rise. In her guise as water she bears the dual emblems of purity and contamination, and in her feminine role she inspires possession and is objectified as commodity and utility, her beauty veiled.
This work steps into the catechresis between our water mythos and our water ethos. In her snow phase water bridges this gap, and this exhibit intends to evoke her immanent and transcendent qualities through a materialization of the experience of snow on the North Coast of the Great Lakes at the Atlantic Coast of Miami. It is meant as a provocation, questioning what it means to both possess and be possessed by water and whether there is poetic means by which her purity can overcome contamination.
Presented by Urban Theory Laboratory with Ellen Sullivan and students of the Master of Landscape Architecture program of Kent State University. Students included: Jessie Hawkins, Conner Karakul, Elliot Killen, Adrian Marti, and Reuben Shaw. Urban Theory Laboratory is a platform for design investigation and engagement with the arts community.
Twenty five students from the CUDC, Case Western (CWRU) and Cleveland State University (CSU) recently participated in a two week urban design competition. The students worked cooperatively across disciplines and schools in the fields of design, finance and urban planning to neighborhood scale development proposals. This year, five teams formed at the CUDC.
Sponsored by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the Gerald D. Hines Urban Design Competition asks graduate students to design and finance a hypothetical solution for a site in an American city. Students compete for a grand prize of $50,000 for their schemes. In recent years, the Cleveland teams have won multiple honorable mention accolades in a very competitive field.
This year’s competition asked students to determine solutions for Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood near the Georgia Institute of Technology. Student schemes included solutions focused around multi-modal transit, redevelopment of the 1.4 million SF Bank of America Plaza, green space strategies, and mixed-use development near Midtown’s Technology Square. Students were guided through the fast paced competition with assistance from faculty, staff, and numerous professionals from the Northeast Ohio region.
Each year, AIA Cleveland recognizes excellence in design by inviting local firms and students to submit their best work to be reviewed by nationally renowned juries from all over the country. This year we are excited to announce that two CUDC graduate students received awards. Alena Miller received the Merit Award and James Lennon the Honor Award. Both submitted work from their Graduate Design Studio, focused on Cleveland’s Opportunity Corridor.
The studio explored new urban planning and design approaches for redeveloping the Corridor through adaptive reuse of vacant land. Led by co-instructors David Jurca, Jeff Kruth, and Pravin Bhiwapurkar, students developed alternative visions for the local neighborhood intended to establish connections with emerging economic development in the region. Of particular interest was the potential for physical interventions to build social cohesion, ecological value, and cultural resources through short- and long-term actions.
We spoke with Alena and James about their studio experience and design process. First, Alena tells us about her experience and her project, Urban Seam.
“The summer studio was a unique graduate experience, because it required a concise analysis of the current proposal for Opportunity Corridor. My design process began by identifying strengths within the Kinsman neighborhood that may be viewed as constraints and acknowledging that the existing urban fabric was not useless, but compromised. From this point, I developed a “sewing kit” of urban design strategies that identified formal and informal design solutions that were culturally appropriate for the existing population. These “patches and stitches” create multiple scenarios for future development in the neighborhood. Further expansion of the “residential patch and stitch” included a typology study and the design of alternative housing units that better served the existing population’s needs. The housing typologies met the required density for transit-oriented development while offering social and recreational amenities to the residents. Overall, the design of Urban Seam focused on the positive impact of the Opportunity Corridor on an existing population by creating design strategies that were culturally appropriate, transitional, and a catalyst for future development.” – Alena Miller
If you would like to see more of Alena’s award winning project, you can view it here.
James also shared his overall impressions of the studio and the design process for his project, Reintegration.
“As far as the Studio experience goes, it was a great learning experience. In general, I believe that the project itself was an excellent opportunity to share insights and generate excitement for possible design solutions in a real world scenario. Being from another city, it was great to see how open-minded Clevelanders are to improving the city with new ideas. The support and feedback we received from a number of city officials and project stakeholders allowed us to better understand problems relative to the site. We were offered an inside look at how these projects may develop.
I also benefited from having three studio co-instructors. They each provided expertise from different perspectives, forcing us to use critical thinking in making our own decisions for the project. All nine students collaborated well together throughout the semester and served as a great support system. The design language and principles learned in this Urban Design Studio reinforced and improved my understanding of Architecture and its related fields.
The design process for my work involved identifying key social, economic, and environmental problems that exist within the site. The solution was to leverage existing anchors and amenities in order to provide a cohesive site that encouraged user interaction through transitional “social condenser” spaces. Interaction with diverse community members will serve as a support system for people who have been recently released from incarceration. My project’s ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism. The design itself was a response to current conditions while also acknowledging the history of the site through various urban design interventions. The programming is organized to connect people with landscape, architecture, and each other.” – James Lennon
If you would like to see more of James award winning project, you can view it here.
Alena and James both set high personal goals that extended beyond the studio requirements. It is evident by their achievements that their hard work and dedication has paid off. We can’t wait to see what they will accomplish in the future!
There will be an informational session to launch recruitment for the 2016 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Urban Design Competition on October 29th at 6:00 pm at the CUDC. The competition is open to graduate students from the disciplines of architecture, urban design, urban planning, landscape architecture, finance, business, and other real estate development fields.
The ULI Competitions is an interdisciplinary urban design and development competition held over two weeks in January. It asks student teams to conceive of development program for a real, large-scale site in a major North American city. Previous cities have included New Orleans, Nashville, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Pittsburgh. Teams from Kent State, Cleveland State, and Case Western have convened at the CUDC in previous years, bringing home multiple honorable mentions from the competition. To attend the information session, please RSVP to cudc[at]kent.edu or call 216-357-3434.
(Students collaborating from the 2015 team)
On October 7th, the CUDC hosted a lecture by the influential Cuban architect and urban planner, Miguel Coyula. Professor Coyula is on the faculty at the University of Havana. In his lecture at the CUDC, he talked about Havana–past, present, and future. He organized his remarks around a central idea:
The future never happened by itself. It was created.
As many have observed, Havana is a city that feels fixed in time. Yet everything is on the verge of change. Buildings, infrastructure, and public spaces throughout the city are crumbling due to the decades-long embargo, widespread poverty, and a complex political system that allocates resources inefficiently. As foreign capital flows into Cuba at an accelerating rate, local entrepreneurs and outside investors are beginning to transform the city. The long term cultural effects and the physical form of the city in the future are as yet unknown. And Havana’s future is yet to be created.
Professor Coyula is both optimistic and concerned about the future of Havana. He sees opportunities to learn from other cities; that every city can show you something, good or bad. But despite the outside pressures and international influences that will inevitably be part of Havana’s regeneration, his advice to architects and planners in Cuba is to:
Think Cuban. Be Cuban. Don’t imitate.
In the US, we’re on the outside looking in. But that too is about to change. Havana poses many complex questions…about architecture, real estate development, historic preservation, and infrastructure networks. We have a remarkable opportunity to both support reconstruction efforts in Havana with new technologies and design expertise, and simultaneously learn from the resourcefulness and tenacity of the many Cubans who’ve held their city together under difficult circumstances for the past six decades.
Havana remains a vibrant place, though the scale of disinvestment feels overwhelming at times. But there’s good reason for optimism and the US and Cuba gradually rediscover each other.
The Kent State’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design and the CUDC are exploring opportunities to engage our students, faculty, and research staff in Cuban design issues. In March of 2015, CAED Dean Doug Steidl and CUDC Director Terry Schwarz traveled to Havana with Jorge Delgado and James Thompson of the Joaquin Weiss Institute. The purpose of this trip was to observe the physical environment of the city and provide initial reactions about how future development might evolve. We also used the trip to explore ideas for future academic programs. Our findings are summarized in a report: CUBA_observations.
The CUDC is grateful to Kent State University President Lester Lefton who provided support for Miguel Coyula’s visit to Cleveland, and also to KSU Professor Anne Morrison who organized the event. Anne is organizing a study trip to Cuba from December 31, 2015 – January 8, 2016. If you’d like to see Cuba for yourself, contact Anne at amorriso[at]kent.edu for more information.
Ten years ago, CUDC students participated in a Community Design Charrette in Youngstown, Ohio. The charrette is an annual event in which the students and staff of the CUDC collaborate on an intense, focused design effort for a nearby community, over the course of a fall weekend.
In 2005, the charrette took place in the Oak Hill neighborhood, a beautiful, but distressed part of Youngstown. The charrette helped lay the groundwork for the CUDC’s newly created Shrinking Cities Institute. The work subsequently featured in a local documentary and highlighted in the national media, including Metropolis magazine and the New York Times.
This year, CUDC students and staff are returning to Youngstown to tackle new challenges. The design team will also include students and faculty from Ball State University and Lawrence Technological University. The charrette will take place October 22-24 in downtown Youngstown. The work will target Hazel and Phelps, two key streets that terminate at the Wean United redevelopment site ion the Mahoning River. We’ll explore possibilities for creating the linkages, public spaces, and development opportunities necessary for rejuvenating this part of the city.
If you’re a CUDC alumni and remember your charrette experience fondly, we invite you to join us for this year’s charrette. We’ll provide food and accommodations, courtesy of the City of Youngstown and Youngstown State University. It will be a fun opportunity to connect with our current students, stretch your creative muscles, and help a community work through some interesting design challenges. Space is limited, so if you’re interested, please contact Kristen Zeiber at the CUDC (kzeiber[at]kent.edu) as soon as possible.
The CUDC created the post graduate fellowship as a one-year position for graduates of KSU’s Master of Architecture, Master of Urban Design, or dual MArch/MUD program. This year we welcome Sam Friesema as our Post Graduate Fellow.
As an urban and architectural designer, Friesema seeks to engage with the theory and configuration of the built environment to enhance human flourishing in our cities and neighborhoods. His interests revolve around the interaction of architecture, policy, networks, and infrastructure space, to construct development models that appropriately contribute to globalizing and mechanized urban form. Sam has over ten years of architectural design experience at firms in Cleveland and Colorado. He received a Bachelor of Environmental Design and Architecture from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a Master of Urban Design from Kent State University at the CUDC in 2014. Sam is involved in urban design, teaching, and research at the CUDC.
We’re excited to have Sam on board!
The Cleveland Botanical Garden has a special exhibit on display called Branch Out. They invite you to explore a series of magical, interactive tree houses throughout the garden. Its a chance for kids (and adults) to put away technology and let their imagination run wild. Each tree house explores a theme connected to learning and fun including art, music, reading, math and play.
The tree houses were designed by local architects several of whom are CUDC alums. Two Teams of CUDC alums participated ThenDesign Architecture who built Jack and the Giant Pulpit and Sap +Iron Design|Build who built Acoustic Canopy and Seasons.
The team from ThenDesign Architecture included CUDC alums Wade Kratzer, Mia Katz, Claire Markwardt, Steve Bell, and Scott Alleman. Jeff Henderson of Ohio State University and Ed Parker of Kent State University were also on the team. We spoke with the team about their design, Jack in the Giant Pulpit. Here is what they had to say about their design process and working with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
“We surround ourselves with design; it is our livelihood. All of us find ourselves in nature whether it’s exploring on our own, or designing within, so when the Cleveland Botanical Gardens released a Competition to design a Treehouse, it was something that we could not pass up. It combined the opportunity to design with nature in the most literal way. During the competition process, we challenged ourselves to understand what a treehouse was and what a treehouse could be. Is it a shelter? Is it a private getaway? Is it a platform to overlook nature? Could it be all of these and more?
Our love of nature skewed us to think of what nature is. How big in reality it is compared to humans and how our imagination always leads us to get lost within it. We began thinking of folk-lore and Science-Fiction and other childhood tall tales that involved nature. This led us to expand upon the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, giving us the opportunity to work a Giant Jack in the Pulpit into the story, so that adults and children alike could have the opportunity to participate in the tale.”
The team from Sap + Iron Design|Build consisted current and former CUDC students including Mykie Hrusovski, Alan Hipps, Jessie Hawkins, Adrian Marti, and Charles Fredrick who is an Assistant Professor and Interim Director of the Master of Landscape Architecture Program. Of the five projects that ultimately got selected for construction via a juried competition, two of their submissions were accepted. Of note, the jury was headed by Pete Nelson, the Tree House Master!
The houses each have a particular theme, Acoustic Canopy being a tree house that has built-in, bespoke musical instruments that encourages children to make and discover noises within the tree canopy, and Seasons being a small outdoor reading room for children. Both houses have a lot of custom details and features that were either planned from the beginning, or evolved as the project progressed. Another important note to emphasize is that Sap + Iron’s contractor was unable to commit to the project as it was beginning, so their team ended up constructing, rigging and installing everything by themselves.
- The Acoustic Canopy project weighs well over 2.5 tons, and was lifted manually by only four people over the course of 2 days.
- The tree that supports it is a Dawn Redwood which is a species thought to have gone extinct many millions of years ago, but was rediscovered and introduced to the U.S. only about 50 years ago as seeds and saplings. It’s already about 160′ tall.
- The Seasons Reading Room’s exterior is wrapped in Western Red Cedar that was hand-charred with a torch. This gives it its iridescent black color which serves a couple of purposes; a pleasing aesthetic, weather protection, rot resistance and insect repellency, (bugs don’t enjoy the taste of burnt wood).
We’re pleased to see our students working on such creative endeavors. The tree houses will be on display from now until August 23rd. Go out and explore the tree houses today!