Samuels Wins National Architectural Education Award

Once an uninhabitable alley, the SLUG is now a fully functional public space.

Posted by Liam Otten January 31, 2020


A community development project led by Linda C. Samuels, associate professor in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, and Christopher Trumble, associate professor at the University of Arizona, has won a national Architectural Education Award for Collaborative Practice, presented by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

The project, titled Sustainability Laboratory and Urban Garden (SLUG), centered on a narrow alleyway located between Tucson’s CITY High School and a neighboring property acquired as part of a middle school expansion. Measuring just 12 feet wide and 127 feet long, the alley represented the school’s only outdoor space. In summer, it could easily reach 120 degrees.

“Tucson is brutally hot,” Samuels explained. “The combination of masonry and asphalt elevate and hold higher temperatures in the alley, where a hot dry wind exacerbates conditions. It was virtually uninhabitable.”

Over the course of a year, the SLUG team—which included design students, educators, gardeners and middle and high school students—both reimagined and rebuilt the alley as a place for hands-on learning, play and urban agriculture. Major components included an aquaponics system, condensate water harvesting, and “ribbons” fabricated for sitting, eating, and climbing (with a hidden braille message). Other components ranged from a new textured slab with increased permeable surface, a custom-designed and fabricated steel gate and outdoor sinks for washing vegetables.

Carrie Brennan, principal of CITY High School, calls the space, which was completed in 2015, “a wonderful oasis,” adding that, on one hot summer day, she noted “a breeze flowing out of the garden that felt like an air conditioner or a fan.

“I was convinced that doors had been left open and we were feeling inside air—but that was not the case!”

About Linda C. Samuels

Samuels teaches interdisciplinary studios and seminars on infrastructural urbanism, urban history and theory, and alternative sustainability metrics. Recent studio partners include Virgin Hyperloop One and Food Forward in Los Angeles; Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects in Los Angeles and Detroit; and the Bistate Research Institute and Dutchtown South Community Corporation, both in St. Louis. In 2017, she served as faculty advisor to the Sam Fox School student project “First Class Meal,” which won the international design competition Urban SOS: Fair Share.

About the Architectural Education Awards

The Architectural Education Awards are presented annually by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) to honor exemplary work in building design, community collaborations, scholarship and other areas. This year’s awards will be presented during the ACSA’s 108th annual meeting, which takes place March 12-14 in San Diego.

Founded in 1912 by 10 charter members (including Washington University in St. Louis), the ACSA is a nonprofit association of more than 200 member schools in several categories. These include full membership for all accredited programs in the United States and government-sanctioned schools in Canada; candidate membership for schools seeking accreditation; and affiliate membership for schools for two-year and international programs. Through these schools, the ACSA represents more than 5,000 architecture faculty.