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architecture project
UTSA architecture students are in "Awe"... literally, the name
of the design project they are inside.

UTSA students' structures study human response

By James M. Benavides
Public Affairs Specialist

(May 5, 2009)--Each semester, first-year UTSA architecture students go through a rite of passage. Their final assignments draw together the principles they learned over the semester into a hands-on design-build project. It's the first time these students get to walk into their own structures -- a defining moment for aspiring architects.

UTSA Associate Professor Stephen Temple sees students through this learning experience, appropriately named "PASSage." This semester's PASSage project brought 16 student-built structures to the Downtown Campus Durango Building lawn the morning of April 21.

"Architecture can have subtle to profound affects on people experiencing these places and structures," said Temple. "What's so special about this project is it's the first time our students get to walk into something they have designed and built on their own."

Student design teams are assigned themes based on the bodily experiences of conditions such as "peace," "confusion" or "awe." The intent is for students to create structures that can illicit these feelings or emotions in the people who pass through them.

Transition between inside and outside spaces is central to the architectural experience -- people move in and out of buildings every day. The students' structures represent entryways from an exterior space to an interior space.

To carry out the design-build project, each team is provided with eight-foot wood lathe strips, a single binding material such as nylon cord, a single sheer fabric and dimensions of six feet by six feet. The three-week process goes through drawing and small-scale models before the final build phase. UTSA faculty, College of Architecture alumni and community partners are invited to participate in the grading.

"It's uncommon to assign students a design-build so early in their curriculum, but it's essential," said Temple. "Architects must experience the structures they've designed and built themselves to truly understand their responsibilities to those who will use and inhabit the world they build."

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