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Architecture Student Is Merit Winner in Prestigious Lyceum Competition

UC student Anna Pietrzak is receiving a merit award in the Lyceum Fellowship architectural design competition, arguably the nation’s most prestigious such contest for students.

Date: 5/29/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Anna Pietrzak

UC ingot   The winners of the nation’s most prestigious architectural design competition for students were recently announced, and bringing home one of the awards is Anna Pietrzak, 23, of Indianapolis, Ind., a student in the University of Cincinnati’s nationally top-ranked graduate architecture program.

Pietrzak won a Merit Award in the contest that is only open to students from select schools. Each year, the Lyceum Fellowship contest seeks to advance the development of the next generation of architects through a challenging design project.

This year, students were asked to design a “Zero Energy Rest Area” (a “green” rest stop) to be located in The Great Salt Lake Desert along Interstate 80 in Utah. Each entry was also asked to engage with a proposed art installation for the area, entitled “Earth Curvature,” 341 logarithmically decreasingly spaced poles that form a straight line in space and intersecting with the curvature of the earth at the rest stop site.

For her entry, Pietrzak worked in a 2011 winter quarter studio under the direction of Lucie Fontein, adjunct assistant professor in UC’s School of Architecture and Interior Design, part of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). Pietrzak received news of her competition win during the current spring quarter while she is working a required cooperative education quarter in New York City at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the largest architecture firm in the New York area.
Anna Pietrzak's entry for the 2011 Lyceum Competition

In her contest entry, Pietrzak paid homage to the invisible line created by the proposed “Earth Curvature” art installation. Her design integrates a bridge across the rest stop site, an element that could also serve as an observation tower and to provide usable space during the site’s seasonal flooding.

She explained, “The area floods in the winter. It’s virtually a shallow lake of a couple of inches during the winter. So, we had to take into consideration more than the prevailing desert environment and landscape."

And just as her design’s bridge element makes the invisible line of “Earth Curvature” visible, Pietrzak similarly incorporates lightweight fabrics – to move in the wind – as part of the rest stop café in order to make visible the breeze that can be found at the site.
Anna Pietrzak's entry for the 2011 Lyceum Competition

Still, she readily admits that it was a difficult site to work with: “Since there are no existing buildings in the area, there is only transient highway culture and infinite landscape to reference. We actually visited the site as part of our class, and I felt a responsibility to preserve the sanctity of this pristine place.”

Pietrzak added that though the Merit Award is good news, the best part about participating in the contest was the variety of entries created by her classmates: “We had a strong group of entries from the studio. I was intrigued to see all the different directions this project could go in.”

As for her own strategy for a winning entry, Pietrzak specifically sought to make her submission stand out due to its graphics. She completed six drawing, one per page. Each drawing was completed by hand, with cut-out photographs of people that were glued into the drawing – giving the architecture scale and a sense of how one might experience the place. Said Pietrzak, “I sent all original drawings knowing that they would not be returned. And instead of including the numerous drawings that the brief called for, I only had a photo on the cover, a concept drawing, a site plan and four building elevations.”