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Architecture Student Wins Kudos and Cash in International  Competition

Architecture student Sean Harry just received the best of graduation presents: News that he was the winner of an international design competition with a $6,000 prize.

Date: 7/19/2006
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover and submitted by Sean Harry
UC ingot University of Cincinnati architecture students have built a winning season during this latest academic year.

In May, architecture students from UC’s top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) nearly swept the prestigious Lyceum Fellowship architectural design competition, bringing home five of the six top international awards.

Sean Harry

Now, UC architecture student Sean Harry (who just graduated with a master’s degree) is rounding out his education with a win in an international design competition that sought the best ideas for transforming hospitality design. Harry won the top prize (and a $6,000 cash award) in the competition titled “Hospitality Transformed: Resort Hotels in 2055” sponsored by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the prestigious hospitality design firm Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo.

To win the award, Harry submitted his UC senior thesis project: A futuristic resort hotel located in Manhattan in the year 2055 that was judged by an international committee of  design professionals and educators. In winning the contest, Harry beat out entries from 84 universities in 24 countries.

Said Harry, “It was great to learn I’d won. Because my thesis project was futuristic, focusing on a building that flexibly changed in terms of interior space usage, it was a vision that I felt I risked a lot on. After all, I’d spent an entire year researching and realizing this vision. It was hard for me to step back and know if it was a feasible vision, was it worth all the hours of problem solving I’d put into it?”

Rendering of Harry

With this international award, Harry definitively states that all the work was worth it. “It was about six months worth of 16 hour days, seven days a week. You’d work on something, decide to take a different route, scrap the first thing and start again. It was a lot of patience and persistence with this project,” said Harry.

Not only did Harry’s thesis project win the international resort hotels competition, it also won local awards. The project, titled CORE or Corporate Resort Experience, also received recognition at DAAP’s own end-of-year exhibit of student work called DAAPWorks. At DAAPWorks, which was held earlier in June, Harry’s project won

  • Best of Show from the Cincinnati chapter of the American Institute of Architects
  • A Directors’ Choice Award as best Master of Architecture project
  • An award from the office of local firm, MSA Architects, Inc.
  • Award for Distinguished Thesis from DAAP’s architecture and interior design faculty

The basic idea of Harry’s design revolves around creating flexible space within a resort hotel interior, located in Manhattan. The resort, as designed by Harry, consisted of very simple private guest rooms located along the exterior edge of the multi-storied building. When the simple, box-shaped guest rooms are not in use, they could be “compressed, stacked or slid to a new location” to create more interior space for public use. So, public spaces could be larger during the day when needed for business, meeting or recreation needs and smaller at night.

One of the judges, Tom Davis, senior vice president of architecture and construction for Marriott Vacation Club International and Ritz-Carlton Club, remarked on Harry’s project: “This entry won by proposing innovative new technologies, understanding that buildings can and should have the flexibility to adjust to market demands, and by creating a design that is attractive, innovative and realistic for 2055.”

Sean Harry with his project

Harry, who worked for three years in architecture firms in Atlanta before coming to the university to continue his education,  credited his UC advisors Michael McInturf, associate professor of architecture, and Jay Chatterjee, professor of architecture and of planning, for “just letting me go as far as I wanted” on this project. He stated, “It’s been amazing to come to this school. The teaching has been amazing. Michael and Jay allowed me to pursue my vision, encouraged and guided me. And the students are the greatest talent pool. We all just feed off one another.”

And with all of his awards, Harry feels empowered to pursue his research of “kinetic architecture” as he calls it. He explained, “It makes me want to work even harder now. I’ve learned if you pursue your ideas, great problem-solving concepts can result. It’s been great to see one project through from beginning to end this way. On our co-ops, we’re part of working teams in professional firms, but we don’t usually see the end results of our work because the projects take years to complete, and we’re only working on them for a few months.”

While a UC student, Harry co-opped in London for six months in the offices of Metaphor, master planners of museum exhibits, where he conducted research – and traveled to Egypt – in connection with the firm’s involvement in the Cairo effort to build a Grand Museum of Egypt.

That co-op was a dream come true for Harry since one of the reasons he selected UC was the opportunity to co-op. “The co-op program here at UC outclasses any internship program any other school might offer. And I specifically hoped for a co-op experience overseas, and I got that too,” he said.

Rendering of Harrys project

Harry’s not sure what’s next now that he has just graduated. As part of his prize for winning the competition, he’ll be offered an internship with Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo in one of their U.S. or European offices.

But long term, he has an eventual goal in mind: Working for the Santa Monica firm Morphosis, designers of UC’s new Recreation Center. “They have so many interesting, dynamic, large-scale projects, and I’d like to be a part of those kinds of project,” he explained, adding, “It would be a new challenge.”

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