2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase - Part XVIII

Welcome to Part XVIII of the Study Architecture Student Showcase! Today, we take a look at student work that focuses on empowering women across the world, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Chicago. Each project addresses the systemic inequalities and marginalization women face and proposes architectural solutions to promote education, safe spaces, violence prevention, and the dismantling of colonial and patriarchal structures.

KUSHIRIKIANA: Une approche architecturale collaborative et résiliente supportant la prévention de la violence sexuelle à l’Est de la République Démocratique du Congo by Jonathan Kabumbe, M. Arch ‘23
Laurentian University – McEwen School of Architecture | Advisor: Dr. Emilie Pinard

Sexual violence against women and children in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a problem rooted in a long history of violence and raises a number of political, security, cultural, economic, and educational issues. The latter three issues relate specifically to discrimination against women, their economic vulnerability, and poor access to education. Social architecture provides the socio-economic and educational principles that can empower a community. Predominantly male, the building process expands these avenues specifically for women. This thesis explores how architecture, in particular the construction process, can contribute to transforming the image of women in order to support the prevention of sexual violence in Eastern Congo. The thesis revolves around the creation of an architectural guide for NGO development projects, and its application in the design of a women’s crafts and agriculture center in Businga, South Kivu province. (translated from the original French version) 

This thesis received the following accolades: 

– Thesis Commendation

– RAIC Student Medal

– RAIC Honour Roll

– AIA Academic Excellence Medal

– BTES Edward Allen Award (Medal)

– Ontario Association of Architects – Exceptional Leadership Through Design Excellence Scholarship: Equity, Diversity & Inclusion [$2500]

– Nominated by the School for the Canadian Architect magazine Student Awards of Excellence

Instagram: @jonathan_kabumbe

Women Inequality: A New Malala Center for Guatemala by Ariana Caquías-Acosta, B.Arch ‘23
Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico | Advisors: Pedro A. Rosario-Torres & Juan C. Santiago-Colón

Women have been marginalized due to inequality, discrimination, and lack of opportunities. Through spaces, design, and architecture, we can provide opportunities and tools for women in these conditions to balance this disadvantage. The project seeks to generate an architecture that contributes to solving problems, with a focus on design in response to the specific needs of inequality towards disadvantaged women.

This research was conducted for Guatemala, the country with the highest rate of gender inequality in Latin America. Women represent 51% of the population, with a 62.5% rate of illiterate women. Statistically, 11% of girls and adolescents between 11 and 19 years of age have not received any formal education, representing the highest percentage of those who cannot read or write in the region.

The project expands on an existing Malala Center in the location, as an organization that seeks and prioritizes education and equal resources for women. Malala Centers have a program for the education of indigenous girls in Guatemala. The educational programs proposed by the centers are taught in indigenous languages and are based on indigenous culture reinforcing skills in favor of personal and socioeconomic development. The educational foundation Fe y Alegría, and the municipalities become stakeholders for this proposal.

The final objective of the Malala Center is to ensure the full and effective participation of women and girls and establish equal opportunities for leadership at all decision-making levels in political, economic, and public life.

Instagram: @caquiasacosta

Viaduct Housing by Tim Wood, B.A. in Architecture ‘23
University of Illinois at Chicago | Advisor: Alexander Eisenschmidt

In the blocks surrounding Douglass Park in Chicago, over 80% of households are led by single mothers. In addition to performing paid labor to financially support their families, these mothers also perform thirty hours of unpaid domestic labor for their families per week, leaving little time for rest, play, or personal development. This project proposes a monolithic housing collective that spans three city blocks, sitting on the viaduct of an unused rail line. Domestic labor is outsourced to dedicated programs that stretch into the surrounding neighborhood. Collective meals are hosted in the shared kitchen and dining facility, and an on-site cafe is open to both residents and the public. A laundry service takes dirty clothes and returns them washed and folded. Children are cared for at different ages in different facilities, with a nursery and daycare for young children, an after-school program for the nearby elementary and middle school, and a recreation center for older children. By freeing overburdened mothers from this domestic labor, they are able to rest, play, and nurture themselves and their children.

Instagram: @Eisenschmidt_a

Her Block by Phebe Davis, M. Arch ‘23
University of Oregon, School of Architecture and Environment | Advisor: Elisandra Garcia

Women experience gender-based violence all too often – whether it be psychological, physical, or sexual.

Violence against women exists in all sectors of our lives: violence in politics (laws restricting access to abortion and gender-affirming healthcare), violence in the workplace (unequal pay or sexual harassment), violence in healthcare (not being heard by healthcare providers), violence in education (being discouraged from pursuing ‘masculine’ fields, specifically those in STEM), and violence at home (domestic violence).

I am interested in what constitutes a safe space for women. If we can create safe spaces for women, those spaces will be safe for almost everyone.

Once safety is achieved, empowerment can begin. This is how we will combat the violence that we experience, by creating a space that instills confidence in young women to fight back against the violent, patriarchal society that we exist in.

I recognize that my project alone will not dismantle the patriarchal society in which we live, but will hopefully spark inspiration for others to try to design with women in mind.

This project was recognized as one of “10 selected projects by the University of Oregon – Dezeen Magazine”

Instagram: @phebedvs7, @_elistudio

The Sundarbans’ Heroines: Gender and Climate Change in Action by Farzana Hossain, B.Arch ‘23
Cornell University | Advisors: Lily Chi & Felix Heisel

“The Sundarbans’ Heroines: Gender and Climate Change in Action” presents a comprehensive framework that empowers women through various tools to promote sedimentation, nurture mangroves, and safeguard freshwater resources. These initiatives aim to support the cultivation of indigenous infrastructure built upon local practices of living and working with water. In doing so, this project raises essential questions: How can design empower communities to adapt to a changing landscape? How might the vernacular inform and contribute to systemic amelioration to facilitate those most vulnerable to the climate crisis? 

The Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta river in Bangladesh receives 1.2 billion tons of silt each year from the Himalayan glaciers. This silt is vital for 600 million people relying on the delta for freshwater. Mixing with the Bay of Bengal’s saltwater, it forms the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans. The British East India Company arrived in the 17th century and gradually extended its control over vast territories in the Indian subcontinent. Motivated by the strategic importance and abundant resources of the Sundarbans, the British colonial regime had a profound effect on the local population and the delicate ecology of the Sundarbans. While the locals celebrated the “Bonna” season, characterized by floods and silt deposition, the British aimed to control and manipulate these natural phenomena. Their interventions, such as clearing mangroves, constructing polders, and developing railroads, disrupted the annual cycle of silt deposition necessary for land elevation against rising sea levels. Consequently, silt accumulation diminished, leading to the obstruction of riverbeds. Inadequately designed polders exacerbated monsoon flooding, while saltwater intrusion damaged arable land during dry seasons.

Today, the degradation caused by colonial infrastructure is causing men to migrate to urban areas in search of employment, leaving rural women to bear the brunt of these environmental disasters.

This project won the Charles Goodwin Sands Memorial Award (Thesis Prize) 

Instagram: @felix.heisel

Jubilant Emigration by Alex Torres, B.Arch ‘23
Cornell University | Advisors: Peter Robinson Sydney Maubert

Set in the 1980s Salvadoran Civil War, this investigation starts with acknowledging the history of violence against trans female sex workers who made their living tending to military soldiers of the time in La Praviana, San Salvador. With the continued need for trans female sex workers to escape violence today, this thesis calls for the reactivation of the Salvadoran National Railway that will serve as a moving infrastructure that mobilizes queer bodies away from harm. The site of intervention is an antique railcar of the national railway, known in English as “The Silver Bullet”. This intervention will transform the interior railcar into a place for rest, utility, sex, empathy, and celebration. 

This semester-long thesis culminated into an exhibition that lasted for a week inside the Sibley Hall basement, room B56.

See you next week for the next installment of the Student Showcase!

Buildings that Grow, Breathe and Burn Calories

(by Zach Mortice via OZY)

Buildings That Grow, Breathe and Burn Calories – Zach Mortice

Last fall at an exhibition in Chicago, something was pumping and hissing. Twenty-two tanks, all in a stack, filled with water and framed in wood. Weird art? But clearly it was some kind of wall system. So … weird architecture? And getting closer doesn’t clarify matters.

The name of this oddity: “Amphibious Envelope,” a project by David Benjamin of The Living. In each tank, there are aquatic plants, snails and a small frog. Triggered by motion sensors, the tanks suck in air. Stand back, and when oxygen levels in the water are depleted and the frogs surface to breathe, motion sensors trigger the inhalation of air — yeah, just like breathing. The frogs are acting as living sensors, and the resulting inhalation of air through the water weeds out particulate matter and other junk.


And it’s way more than a high-tech party trick — it’s part of a radical frontier in thinking about architecture, namely in how buildings of the future will function.

There’s a growing consensus that it’s time to tear down the strict division between “inside” and “outside”; to let light, breezes and data pass through the borders of buildings. Some say that tomorrow’s buildings won’t be hermetically sealed off from their environment. Rather, their environment will be co-opted to make them more efficient and sustainable. Designers have begun to shift from systems that mitigate carbon emissions to ones that actively produce positive environmental benefits. “Sometimes you want to be one with [the environment],” says Ihab Elzeyadi, an architecture professor at the University of Oregon who runs the FIT Lab, which tests facade systems. “Sometimes you want to amplify it. Sometimes you want to reduce it.”

Driven to create more energy-efficient buildings, architects are finding all kinds of ways for the outside surfaces of buildings to regulate interior temperatures and humidity. They’re sussing out ways to generate energy that make solar panels look as old-school as window panes — and they’ve got ideas for controlling breezes and ventilation a lot more nuanced than hand-operated windows. Buildings are already measuring their own energy usage, water usage and interior environmental quality. From here, the sky’s the limit … kind of literally.

For one thing, who says walls and building exteriors have to feel hard, like solid ground, to do their job? Geoffrey Thun and research partner Kathy Velikov, architecture professors at the University of Michigan, are researching a mechanical system called Responsive Pneumatics that’s examining ways to make buildings soft. All you cold-weather dwellers, picture your favorite parka: Their system uses air-filled membranes as interlocking, structural elements. Sensors detect environmental conditions and pipe air into plastic membranes, inflating or deflating them to vary the amount of air that can pass through the facade and vary the amount of thermal insulation. “You can inflate the buildings like a puffy coat in the winter, and then can you deflate parts and allow air to pass through in the spring when you don’t need so much insulation,” says Velikov.

Thun and Velikov expect this research to lead to buildings than can lean and twist in order to better regulate their internal environment. Imagine a building leaning westward toward the afternoon sun to gather up a bit more heat that keeps the hot yoga class inside at a balmy 98 degrees.
Schools involved: