Ten architecture student projects based in America

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Dezeen School Shows: from a contemporary motel in Denver to outdoor toilets for hikers in the Rocky Mountains, we’ve selected ten student projects that focus on architecture and design in the US.

While studying at institutions based in America, these undergraduate and postgraduate students chose to draw influences from the USA for their coursework projects.

The country has a diverse and faceted history of architecture and the following projects utilise this as a vehicle for change and reflection.

The students in this roundup are enrolled on architecture courses at US-based institutions including Kent State University in Ohio, University of Colorado Denver, University of Kentucky, University of Southern California, Drexel University, California Baptist University and University of Oregon.

Longs Peak Privies by the MArch Colorado Building Workshop students

Students in the MArch Colorado Building Workshop collaborated with the National Park Service on the design of outdoor toilets to be dotted along the hiking trails of Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Backcountry facilities were installed in the area in the early 1980s, however, they have since been rendered dysfunctional due to being battered by extreme weather conditions over time and require contemporary replacements.

“The final design consists of prefabricated, structural gabion walls within the gabions. Thin steel plate frames triangulate the lateral loads within the structure, while stones collected on-site are used as ballast,” said the students.

“This innovative assembly allows for rapid on-site construction and an architecture that disappears into the surrounding landscape.”

Student: MArch Colorado Building Workshop students
School: University of Colorado Denver
Course: Architecture – Studio 4: Design-Build

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Untitled by Tori Lones

While studying architectural design at Kent State University in Ohio, student Tori Lones created a model of a warped house built in the Second Empire American style, which was at its most popular in the second half of the 19th century.

The distorted building comprises horizontally orientated windows as well as a cornice that runs vertically, aiming to apply the traditional style in a contemporary context.

“The Second Empire American residential style is a combination of borrowed archetypes with its French-inspired mansard roof and Italianate lower mass – a heavy, pronounced cornice distinguishes the two domains of the building,” said Lones.

“This project aimed to express the idea of ‘almost-ness’ – the appearance of something having qualities of the original thing but arranged in a ‘not quite right’ orientation, or appearing incomplete.”

Student: Tori Lones
School: Kent State University
Course: Architecture – fourth-year undergraduate studio

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Motel by Justin Watson

In this project, architecture student Justin Watson aimed to reinstate the legacy of the traditional American motel – once places that facilitated nomadic travel but have since fallen into disrepute.

The American West was previously studded with bustling motels, which helped to facilitate the changing of settlements according to the fluctuating gold, oil, steel, tourism and agriculture industries.

“The twenty-first century has seen [motels] disrupted by the pervasiveness of inexpensive air travel and the consolidation of the hotel industry,” said Watson.

“Roadside motels at the base of the Rocky Mountains once bustling with business now often represent a stepping stone for those close to homelessness, providing day-to-day housing at a cut-price rate – this project reimagines a roadside motel on a rural site in the plains just east of Denver.”

Student: Justin Watson
School: University of Colorado Denver
Course: BSc Architecture

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Lexington Legacy Museum and Civil Rights Memorial by Ben Thornton

During his time studying architecture at the University of Kentucky, Ben Thornton created the design for a building that serves as both a civil rights memorial and a museum.

The space has an upright, sober appearance and encourages users to reflect on Lexington’s history.

“The museum’s primary focus is a large interior atrium and civil rights memorial served by a skip-stop elevator and stair circulation system,” said Thornton.

“The building’s exterior materials and subdued formal expression uphold notions of permanence, modesty, and timelessness in reverence and honour of those whose dedicated lives and hard work have profoundly contributed to the establishment, maintenance and future of Lexington, Kentucky.”

Student: Ben Thornton
School: University of Kentucky College of Design
Course: Architecture – third-year undergraduate studio, spring 2020

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The Somewhere Project by Emerson Mudd

Emerson Mudd’s work titled The Somewhere Project sees a cultural and education centre built on a mountaintop site in eastern Kentucky, which forms part of the Appalachian region.

The centre was designed to encourage cultural tourism to the area as well as bolster existing community activities.

“The Somewhere Project seeks to catalyse community development in Appalachia through arts-based programming and cultural tourism,” said Mudd.

“[The project] fulfilled three functional requirements: a timber structural system, an unimpeded span of a notional volume, and a meaningful integration of the surrounding landscape.”

Student: Emerson Mudd
School: University of Kentucky College of Design
Course: Architecture – third-year undergraduate studio, spring 2020

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Redlands Theatre by Karissa Mortiz

California Baptist University student Karissa Mortiz designed a theatre to be situated on a site that once held significance to Native Americans.

The Redlands Theatre has translucent visual elements and aims to reinstate the site’s importance.

“This project seeks to address contemporary prosperity theology through a regenerative approach to the theatre, restoring the native site,” said Mortiz.

“Thin and translucent architecture completes the aesthetic approach.”

Student: Karissa Mortiz
School: California Baptist University
Course: ARC310 Performance Design

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The Zipper: Capping the Vine Street Expressway by Ash Abedin

Architecture student Ash Abedin acknowledged the reduced need for cars in post-Covid cities and proposed an alternative for the highways that bisect many American towns.

With an increased amount of people working from home, the proposal replaces expressways with walkways and other amenities that link neighbourhoods and become urban features in and of themselves.

“The proposed project in Philadelphia seeks to reconnect the neighbourhoods of Chinatown, Callowhill West and Logan Square by capping the Vine Street Expressway and reorganising Vine Street with public spaces,” said Abedin.

“The project’s location presents a unique opportunity to link a series of existing public spaces in Philadelphia by providing a robust network of pedestrian and bike paths – from river to river.”

Student: Ash Abedin
School: Drexel University
Course: B Architecture

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Portland Maine Museum of Art Expansion by Ben Vargas

Ben Vargas’ project focuses on the expansion and unification of the existing Portland Maine Museum of Art, one of America’s oldest museums.

The overhaul of the site – which comprises a city block containing a range of heritage buildings – sees the addition of urban green space as well as creating cohesion between the existing buildings.

“The proposed expansion seeks to unify the existing site, while simultaneously creating a monument for the city of Portland,” said Vargas.

“By dedicating the entire block to equitable public urban space, the new museum generates an inclusive ‘bridge’ between the existing buildings.”

Student: Ben Vargas
School: University of Oregon
Course: ARCH 486/586: Architectural Competition for the Portland Museum of Art

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MakerHaven: A Community Arts Collaborative by Zephyr Martin

Architecture student Zephyr Martin based their project in Vinalhaven, Maine, in a former netting factory built in 1819 that once served the island’s bustling fishing harbour.

MakerHaven intends to house learning and making programmes that run all year round for use by visitors as well as local communities.

“MakerHaven is situated in Vinalhaven, Maine. Carvers Harbor in Vinalhaven is the State of Maine’s most profitable fishing harbour, as well as being highly populated with artists and makers,” said Martin.

“Re-use of the factory building and careful consideration of the tide and floodplain were integral to the design.”

Student: Zephyr Martin
School: Drexel University
Course: B Architecture

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Insurgent Border Wall Architecture by Diana Alejandra Pérez

Diana Alejandra Pérez’s project envisions a future in which the border wall between the USA and Mexico is a vehicle for collaboration and togetherness instead of separation.

Insurgent Border Wall Architecture proposes a multitude of alternative uses, from performance venues and food stands to a playground and a mini golf course.

“The USA and Mexico border wall stands as a panoptic mechanism of separation and control – however, this proposal playfully challenges its intended impermeability through insurgent design operations, activating binational human exchange,” said Pérez.

“By destabilising the wall’s vertical cantilever, the proposal envisions a future where collaboration defies division, transforming the border into a site of shared experiences that transcend imposed boundaries.”

Student: Diana Alejandra Pérez
School: University of Southern California
Course: ARCH 502B Adaptive M Isuse

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Partnership content

These projects are presented in school shows from institutions that partner with Dezeen. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.

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