A team of architecture students from the Sam Fox School took first place in the 2020 AIA Central States Region Virtual Student Design Competition, held September 21-22.
The annual competition calls for student teams from universities across the Central States Region to participate in a 12-hour charrette, in which they devise a proposal responding to a given site and program. The following day, they present their proposals to a jury of professionals.
This year’s competition emphasized reconnecting the community to civic infrastructure, focusing on enhancing social resiliency and reinforcing a unique sense of place within the built environment. Teams were asked to create an integrated community project proposal for an undeveloped, 200,000-square-foot site on the east bank of the Des Moines river in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. The proposed building and site needed to provide, at a minimum, three diverse program types that, when combined, would promote a resilient place for social engagement. The project’s goal was to provide a community resource through health, education, and opportunity, allowing for diverse user groups and a thoughtful approach to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Zhuoxian Deng (MArch20), Megan Gooden (MArch23), Claude Luo (BS21), and Olga Sobkiv (BS21) took top honors in the competition—including a $4,000 award—for their proposal, titled “Alluvial Gardens.” This proposal allows the De Moines River to delicately flow onto the site, creating an integrated landscape of recreational spaces and open communal gardens, framed along by a stepped architectural intervention holding flexible “start-up” spaces for small businesses along the east, a boathouse for local residents along the south, and learning center along the north.
The concept combines the practical need for local food access with entrepreneurial opportunities and attractive recreational functions along a meandering ”lazy river” that includes boating, tubing, swimming, fishing, climbing, and picnicking. Just as an alluvial plain is where a river deposits fertile silt and nutrients, local residents can come to the “Alluvial Garden” to leave their mark by growing herbs, fruits, vegetable, or even an innovative business idea.
“This design charrette is a terrific learning experience for both the students and myself,” said assistant professor Wyly Brown, who served as faculty adviser. “It is wonderful observe a group of students from diverse backgrounds who have never worked together discover teamwork and cooperation in just a few hours’ time. Furthermore, this year they had to produce creative and innovative ideas for a site that they had never actually visited, while maintaining physical distancing from each other. A complex challenge, indeed!”