2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase - Part XXXIII

Welcome to the final edition of the 2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase! In Part XXXIII, we highlight student work that centers on public spaces. The showcased designs include public parks, meeting spaces, community centers, commercial retail spaces, parking structures, pools, and more.

Re-encontrarse (Re-united) by Sophie Esther Zurhaar Ortiz, B.Arch ‘23
Universidad Anáhuac Querétaro | Advisors: Jorge Javier & Francisco Paille

This project seeks to generate an urban design proposal for the recovery of public space in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Aiming to propose meeting spaces where all kinds of activities can be carried out, recover the railroad tracks to stop being a physical barrier, and defragment the urban fabric, offering cohesive, healthy, and functional meeting spaces that together can regenerate the social fabric.

Instagram: @sophiezurhaar, @arqwave

PROSPECT NEW ORLEANS by Olivia Georgakopoulos, B.Arch ‘23
Tulane University | Advisor: Ruben Garcia-Rubio

This project proposes to open the building to the city, creating a place that adds to its rich urban fabric. The site is a parking lot at the corner between the Contemporary Arts Center and the WWII Museum. While there are many voids in the surrounding context, like this site, they are not habitable. This project provides a much-needed public space for the many visitors to the surrounding museums. Taking inspiration from the L-shaped building typology in New Orleans, the building opens to the city, creating a public plaza. 

The building functions as an open-public platform connecting Camp Street and Andrew Higgins Blvd. The glass-enclosed first floor is fluid and can be completely opened, allowing for space not to be defined by interior or exterior. Rather, programs can spill out and interact between the interior and the plaza. The ground floor then becomes animated by human activity. The public programs, gallery, cafe, lobby, and lounge are housed on the first floor, and spaces to support the art center are above. 

Transparency of the building is achieved through the aluminum louvered facade, which acts as a theatrical scrim. This veiled facade reveals the animation on the inside of the building. This transparency is also experienced from the inside looking out: the interior programs interact with filtered and framed views of the city. 

A chain of internal double-height spaces forms a visual cascade through the building, providing internal transparency and animation with continuous views from the bottom floor to the top floor and the sky. The overall design provides continuity between the interior, the plaza, the street level, and the city.

Instagram: @rubgarrub

Los Angeles Media Library by Charlotte J. Love, B.Arch ‘23
Tulane University | Advisor: Ruben Garcia-Rubio

The Los Angeles Media Library began by building upon the urban design. The building began with the broken urban block typology found throughout the site, this promoted a continued focus on mobility within the project. The urban block shape was altered to accommodate one large building wrapped in louvers and two smaller pavilions hosting different program focuses on a plaza. This iteration of the broken urban block creates an inviting place for a public plaza. This plaza being at the literal intersection of the business and arts district makes it a perfect spot to hold a media center and library. This is relevant for both the site and the Greater Los Angeles.

The plaza has a number of public transportation stops and is located across the street from two museums making the plaza equally important to the design. The open space has a café, reading area, pavilion, and an outdoor theater. The buildings and walkways align with the surrounding roads and buildings leading to a central sunken space at the center of the plaza. Held within the building are two zones with thickened walls holding private programs such as classrooms, dark rooms, offices, etc. This allows the rest of the building to be much more open with a number of double heights as well as spaces with an indoor-outdoor feeling. This allows the building to be fluid and connected to the plaza, blurring the line between public and private spaces.

Instagram: @rubgarrub

HALLOWED GROUND by Ramona Reinhart, M.Arch ‘23
University of North Carolina at Charlotte | Advisor: Chris Jarrett

In “Taoka Reiun and Environmental Thoughts in the Early 1900s,” Ronald Loftus addresses Reiun’s cultural critique of Western modernization and the devastating forms of pollution that followed during Japan’s Meijin state beginning in 1880. As an early environmentalist and anti-modernist, Reiun argues that these natural disasters are ultimately a result of humanity’s disconnection from the natural and spiritual world. 

Located in Shibuya, Hallowed Ground proposes “The Under Line,” a linear futuristic public park, lab farm and market, integrated urban meditation spaces, and a museum for environmental disasters as a response to Tokyo’s culture of hyper-consumerism and capital development that “buried” many of Japan’s spiritual traditions and natural ecologies. The constant strive for economic growth resulted in large areas of impervious surfaces in the city. Surfaces that are now being hollowed out.

This project won the 2023 Best Architectural Diploma Project. As well as 2023 Excellence in Architectural Representation.

Instagram: @_ramonareinhartg

Little Megastructure by Yiman Yiman, M.Arch ‘23
UCLA Architecture and Urban Design | Advisor: Greg Lynn

“Little Megastructure” configures an inclusive community of aggregated spatial prototypes that celebrates social connection and belonging while supporting individuality. The prototypical forms can be combined and composed in a variety of ways to create a wide range of spaces. Clusters of parks, plazas, courtyards, and atriums in between modules throughout the megastructure foster a sense of community and belonging. With a clear hierarchy of spaces that are designed for different purposes and activities, having all the components of a city creates a sense of urbanism.

Park! Park! by Motomi Matsubara ‘23
UCLA Architecture and Urban Design | Advisor: Greg Lynn

“Park! Park!” offers a set of housing towers, their shapes, and scales informed by the interplay between the behavior of residents inside and automobile traffic outside. One of the towers is taller and leaner; another more lateral and rectangular. Here, fillets perform not only as an intimate icon, each interacting softly with adjacent housing towers, but also as mediators of the different scales of motions between two different physical bodies–people and cars.

Instagram: @m2c_works

Undefined Parking by Katie Yuan, M.Arch ‘23
University of Southern California | Advisor: Yaohua Wang

The lines drawn on maps to define the borders of countries and territories may appear solid and definitive at a glance. However, when magnified and viewed at a larger scale, these lines are composed of segments, curves, and dashes that intersect, connect, and overlap. Lines are one-dimensional, but when given 3-dimensional qualities, they become less concrete and defined. In other words, when lines are given different widths and heights, they are no longer elements that separate or confine objects, but rather they embody multiple conditions that can become spaces, tectonics, connections, and circulations.  

Formed through a series of intersecting, shifting, and offsetting lines, Undefined Parking appears as an urban boundary that separates the UCLA campus and residential area at an urban scale. In this condition, the boundary becomes a partition wall. At an architectural scale, the parking structure becomes the destination for both entering and exiting the site. Yet simultaneously, the structure’s various programs (offices, classrooms, green space, etc.) blur the distinction between the university campus and the urban site. In this condition, the boundary becomes a destination. At a model scale, the volumes, ramps, walls, and planes are interlocked and joined together through the distinct tectonic elements of each individual piece. In this condition, the boundary becomes a connection. 

Perhaps, lines or boundaries exist in multiple conditions and cannot be defined…

This project was awarded the USC Master of Architecture Distinction in Directed Design Research.

Instagram: @katie0712yl, @yaohua_wwww

High-Rise Building by Jermaine Jones, Dominique Lang, Javon Hayward & Derrick Ayozie, B.Arch ‘23
Prairie View A&M University | Advisor: Huiyi Xu

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimates from 2021, there were 69,094 new residents added to the Greater Houston area. Some developers have purchased land in the Houston City Centre area, on the corner of I-10 Hwy and Beltway 8 in the City Centre, and plan to build an iconic high-rise building. This project is a mixed-use office building. The location of the project is in the Memorial City district of Houston, Texas. City Centre is a 50-acre development with 2.1 million square feet of gross floor space, including 400,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, and entertainment, a 149,000 square foot fitness facility, 425,000 square feet of office space, a variety of rental, and non-rental residential developments: a Microsoft office, Memorial Hermann Hospital, Memorial City Mall, Houston of City College, and diversified restaurants such as Taste of Texas, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, and other retailers are all around it. 

This project will bring more people to this area to contribute to the local business and land value. The potential tenants of the high-end office building with commercial spaces and a parking garage will be the headquarters offices, banks, medical offices, high education offices, etc.

DIGNITY by Macinnis Kraus, M.Arch ‘23
The University of Texas at Austin | Advisor: Nichole Wiedemann

Working with a local church in West Campus and inspired by the student interest in “serving” over “services,” the design is for a re-combination of worship, living, and service. Two transitional housing towers provide residences for formerly itinerate populations and create bookends to the public landscape. The individuals may work here –apprenticing in the artisan maker space or running the restaurant– providing some financial stability for the immediate and the future. In addition, public showers, laundry, and bathroom facilities support the broader community. Embracing the pragmatic and poetic potential of water, light, and body (human-scale moments), the project seeks to provide dignity for all user groups.

This project was nominated for Design Excellence at the UT School of Architecture.

Instagram: @nicholewiedemann

Intertwining blocks in Los Angeles by Joey A. Tomshe, B.Arch ‘23
Tulane University | Advisor: Ruben Garcia-Rubio

Intertwining blocks is proposed to act as an agricultural information and research center for the previously designed master plan, and, in the future, there would be more of these spread out around LA which are connected. It will feature many new innovations in the agriculture field with the goal of informing the public about the advanced research being performed in LA today.

The initial concept for this project was to intertwine four blocks, creating an indoor street that acts as a social condensing space, relating to the distinct street types created in the master plan, with the social condensing space containing lighter elements than the heavier blocks. The project features six types of farms, a mediateque, and research stations for botanists. The form of the social condenser space comes from trees in plan view, then those same circles are introduced in sections to influence the roof. To combat the heat from glass roofs, the proposal will be installed with an automated computer system that processes and manages a database to optimize comfort and energy efficiency. Along the face of the roof structure is a series of operable louvers that can open and close, which allows for natural ventilation as well as sun deflection. Similarly, on the roof the northern faces of the arches can pivot open, allowing for full circulation. Furthermore, the roof allows for rain collection with built-in gutters and features solar panels on the north two blocks. Due to the repetition of louvers on the roof, a facade of varying size stone panels is introduced to disrupt this rhythm and add variation. Some panels were removed for windows and others, on the south facade, were turned into farming panels that interact with the farm in front.

Instagram: @rubgarrub

USC Students Raise Awareness About Homelessness

From trash to treasure, University of Southern California (USC) students Jayson Champlain and Joseph Chang are transforming forgotten materials into tiny portable houses that could serve as temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

According to LA Times, “Jeremy Carman was driving around Boyle Heights recently when he spotted a rolled-up garage door on the side of the road.

‘That’s it,’ the 25-year-old thought. The garage door would make the perfect roof for the 8-foot-tall house that he and four other USC architecture students were building over the weekend to draw attention to the lack of permanent supportive housing for the homeless in Los Angeles — and to raise money for a solution.”

The students gathered materials from construction trash bins, street corners and alleys in LA then came together to build a small white house with a bright orange door, “complete with a cupola, eaves, and wheels for mobility.”

The students built the house at the Dwell on Design Conference, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

To learn more, read the original post on LA Times entitled “Trash to Treasure: USC Architect Students Build Tiny Portable House to Raise Awareness About Homelessness.” 

Visit USC’s Study Architecture Profile page to learn more about their architecture program!

USC Professor Develops Architecture-Inspired Video Game, Block'hood

(via USC News)

Architects are no strangers to technology. Even so, Jose Sanchez is a little less than traditional when it comes to his design tools.

Sanchez, an assistant professor at the USC School of Architecture, has earned acclaim for his architecture-inspired video game Block’hood.

Released for Windows and Mac in April, the indie title just won “best gameplay” at the 2016 Games for Change Festival. The annual event recognizes innovative games that explore health, education and social issues.

“It is really humbling to receive this award among incredible contenders like That Dragon, Cancer and Life Is Strange, Sanchez said. “The jury recognized how the mechanics of the game are fundamentally defining its ecological narrative. It means a lot for someone like me coming from architecture to be recognized outside my field, validating all the effort in attempting interdisciplinary research.”

Cost and effects

The game lets players stack pieces and construct communities of their own design. Each piece has its own particular costs and effects: apartments, solar panels and shops all play different roles in the health of your building. Ecology is a key concern, with players being forced to think about greywater use and the effect of growth on the local ecology in a bid to maintain successful communities.

Sanchez was inspired by games like SimCity and Minecraft, open sandboxes that let players create their own designs. He was interested in exploring how gameplay could extend the kinds of debates architects have about urban planning to a wider group of people: What leads communities to weaken or decay? How do you take care of waste? How do you balance needs like electricity, jobs or food with population growth?

Asking these kinds of questions are “grand challenges” for architecture, Sanchez said. But he also wanted this game to appeal to more than just architects. He designed it to be playable for people ages 10 and up, with the hope that it could provoke these ideas in the minds of future creators.

“I think the architects of tomorrow will grow up playing Minecraft or games like this, where the ideas of systems are more pressing,” Sanchez said. “The game can simulate and model notions of gentrification, social change and segregation. These are problems that architects have to deal with at all times — and it’s doing it in a creative way.”

Architecture and society

As a model for how architecture can affect society, Block’hood is fairly unique. Computational design has long been a part of the field; Sanchez said he was drawn to that side of the discipline from early on. He pursued a master’s degree that allowed him to simulate biological systems, using procedural generation to create complex, organic forms that would change shape under different conditions.

At the same time that he was studying architecture, Sanchez was learning programming. He used specialized software to explore the concepts that attracted his interest. But most of this software was designed for people with technical backgrounds — something he felt set a high barrier for entry to artists, tinkerers or others who would also enjoy exploring those concepts.

“If you use software designed for more people and people who aren’t highly technical, that software needs to teach you how to play,” Sanchez said. Create software that teaches people how to use it, and voila: Your program starts to look like a game.

It took a lot of experimentation to develop Block’hood. Along the way, Sanchez received help from Gentaro Makinoda, a graduate student at the USC School of Architecture, as well as Bryan Zhang and Alan Hung, graduates of USC Games. Sanchez collaborates frequently with the USC Games program more widely, where he gives lectures.

“I think Block’hood is a wonderful example of how many faculty at USC are involved in innovation in games,” said Tracy Fullerton, USC Games director. “It’s so great to have an architecture professor doing such deep work in games here.”

Want to learn more about the USC Architecture Program? Check out their profile on!