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Architecture Students Bring Home Five of Six International Design Awards!

It’s nearly a sweep! The winners of the world’s most prestigious architectural design competition for students were just announced. And one school is bringing home nearly every prize: the University of Cincinnati.

Date: 5/10/2006 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Submitted by Terry Boling, Ryan Newman, Dawid Pol

UC ingot  

The Lyceum Fellowship architectural design competition for students is the most prestigious in the world, in part due coveted prizes awarded to the winning students.

First prize is $10,000 to fund six months of travel. Second prize is $6,000 to fund three months of travel. Third prize is $1,000. This year, University of Cincinnati graduate architecture students won every one of those prizes as well as citation and merit awards, according to the just-released results of the 2006 competition.

View of Michael Hatter's winning design

Jon McKee, chair and founder of the Lyceum Fellowship Committee, said, “It’s happened very, very rarely that one school has so dominated the competition since it was founded 21 years ago. In the early 1990s, the Moscow Architectural Institute won four or five prizes, and one year, Arizona State won three. Back in 1999, the University of Cincinnati had a very strong showing with two or three prizes at that time.”

He added the individuality and expressiveness of this year’s entries from UC stood out. Even though the judging of entries is done “blind” so that all entries are critiqued without any student/institutional identifications, McKee said it’s often easy to guess which school and entry is from because each design program trains its students according to a certain pattern. “Or,” he explained, “I can at least tell which entries are from the same school. That wasn’t the case here. I don’t think any of the judges had a sense these projects were all from one school. They were just so individual and uniquely strong. That was something that struck me powerfully as, time after time, the winners’ identifications revealed they were from the University of Cincinnati.”

Participation in the annual Lyceum Competition is open to schools by invitation only, and only the world’s best design programs are selected to take part. McKee founded the competition – which is now organized and operated by an independent board – because he so strongly believes in the value of travel as part of designers’ education. He stated, “I traveled after I’d graduated from school, and at the time, I’d wished I’d been able to travel two or three years earlier, when I was still a student. It would have been so helpful to integrate what I learned while traveling into my studies.”

The 2006 Lyceum Fellowship winners are

  • Michael Hatter, University of Cincinnati
    First-prize winner of $10,000 to fund six months of travel
  • Ryan Newman, University of Cincinnati
    Second-prize winner of $6,000 to fund three months of travel
  • Dawid Pol, University of Cincinnati
    Third-prize winner of $1,000 grant
  • Don Schonhardt, University of Cincinnati
    Citation winner
  • Magdalena Wala, University of Cincinnati
    Merit winner
  • Eric Halpin, McGill University
    Merit winner

View of Ryan Newman's design

In the competition’s design project – judged by working architects from across the nation – student participants were asked to resolve a real-world challenge: They were asked to design a residential penthouse for placement atop a historic Boston building in that city’s financial district.

The UC students worked on the challenge during a winter quarter 2006 studio led by Terry Boling, assistant professor of architecture. During the first weeks of the course, Boling and the students actually took a road trip to Boston to study the site first hand.

Said Boling, “Obviously, visiting and studying the site in person helped the students in terms of meeting the design challenges. Construction on the roofs of existing commercial structures is difficult. There are issues surrounding constructability and privacy. At the same time, for this project, the students were asked to emphasize advances in materials and energy efficiency. It’s a very advanced task to ask of students.”

First-prize winner Michael Hatter, 36, will use his prize money to travel Europe before he graduates in 2007. He entered the competition because his particular area of interest is urban, residential architecture, and he credits the success of the UC students to his teachers, especially Terry Boling.

Hatter stated, “The formula given to us in meeting this challenge was simply to develop a strategy for resolving the problem, research it thoroughly and then experiment a way to success. We were given complete freedom to develop our strategies, and our teacher had the confidence in us to allow us to do that. With this project in particular, we were given the freedom to find a way to success, not the way.”

Second-place winner Ryan Newman, 23, is currently on a required cooperative education work stint in Amsterdam, where he’s employed by SeARCH Architects for six months. When the six months are up at the end of the summer, Newman will use his Lyceum prize to travel through Asia and Africa.

View from above of Dawid Pol's design

Fellow winner Dawid Pol, 24, actually completed his Lyceum competition entry while also working his required cooperative education quarters – with STUDIOS Architecture in New York City. By day, he worked on a STUDIOS project – an interior commercial office design for the corporate offices of MTV. In the evenings, Pol worked on the Lyceum competition project.

Explained Pol, “At some points, I nearly gave up. Two weeks before the final project was due, my computer crashed, and I lost about a week’s worth of work. It was awful. I really did just want to give up, but – via long distance – Terry [Boling] just insisted that I continued because he liked the ideas I’d been coming up with. He really wanted them to have a public showing.”

“Obviously,” added Pol, “I’m really glad now that he did convince me to continue. It taught me some important lessons. First, in doing an important project, push the boundaries and follow the creative concept that is distinctly your own. Also,” he joked,  “Back up your work daily.”

Pol and the other UC students, all from the university’s top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, were ready for the real-world challenge of the Lyceum competition thanks to both the college’s curriculum and UC’s vaunted cooperative education program, according to Michael Pride-Wells, director of UC’s School of Architecture and Interior Design.

All undergraduate and graduate students in architecture and interior design at UC are required to “co-op.” That means they alternate quarters spent in the classroom with paid, professional work in industry, working in architecture and design offices around the globe before they graduate. UC’s co-op program, the oldest in the nation, is ranked among the nation’s Top Ten by U.S. News & World Report.

In surveys of design and engineering professionals, the university’s graduate architecture program is ranked number two in the nation in terms of overall quality while the architecture program overall is ranked first among the Top Ten Most Innovative Architecture Programs, beating out Harvard University, Cornell University and Columbia University among many others. For seven straight years now, UC’s interior design program has been rated the nation’s best.