Build on the Hill Shows Teamwork

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Architecture Students Image

Amanda Stewart and Jovanny Mendoza show three of the study models used to plan their structures for Build on the Hill in May.

Teams of architecture students are designing dwellings that they will build on the hill of Dandini campus, and personally spend the night discovering how their structure stands up to the gusty wonderland for which Truckee Meadows Community College is known.

Hammers, saws, and student builders’ exclamations will mark the showdown for “Build on the Hill” starting at high noon on Friday, May 8. Four teams of between one and four students will draw their drills and levels for the event.

Media is invited to view the structures and meet students at 5 p.m., and then the intrepid architects-in-training will figure out their dinner plans, probably pizza or take-out, before camping out for the night in their creations. Architecture student Amanda Stewart hopes there is no late-spring snow, but says that her team is going to be sharing a communal space to keep warm. Another future architect, Jovanny Mendoza, references his scale model, showing four connected living sections.

“We have four members in our group and we designed ours to have private sleeping spaces with a small hallway connecting them,” Mendoza said.

Three local working architects will arrive the morning of Saturday, May 9 to judge the designs. Kreg Mebust, Architecture Instructor will introduce the teams, and then each group presents their structure to the judges.

“Students will present their case study, sustainability plan, building orientation on the site and their final design to the three professional architects,” Mebust said. “Judges will evaluate their design concepts and give suggestions.”

Build on the Hill Is the Culmination of Many Weeks of Study and Planning

Mebust said that this event was held in the past by respected TMCC professor, Ric Licata, who passed away in 2012.

“Ric Licata had assigned this as a project and had great success with student involvement,” Mebust said. “The project can best succeed with a team-oriented approach, and the group we have this year shares their ideas with each other, building on and advancing their concepts.”

Stewart agrees.

“Working in teams, you’ve got to communicate,” Stewart said. “In a team, you do change the plan a lot because everyone has different ideas and you need time to adjust the design.”

She says that the building development evolves.

“The ideas change and evolve as we try them out, talk about them and see what materials we can get our hands on and how they hold together,” Stewart said.

Steps leading up to the actual building start with research, studying the approach of a well-known architect or an architectural team.

“We pick an architect from the list, and combine their style with our style,” Mendoza said. “My group picked Studio Gang Architects, led by Jeanne Gang who is the founder.”

Stewart’s group picked with practicality in mind.

“My teammates and I picked David Adjaye because he had a simple design that we might be able to reproduce – he uses a lot of open space.”

Steps to the project include:

  1. Case study of architect
  2. Site analysis
  3. Design concepts and concept drawing
  4. Sustainability planning; find discarded, free and recycled materials to repurpose
  5. Gather the materials
  6. Start building sections of the structure off site
  7. Finish construction on site during the event

Beside Teamwork, Students Learn Hands-on Applications of Their Designs

After the class completes the case study and analyzes the topography of the site they will be building on, they work together to come up with design concepts and drawing out these ideas. Models are built to scale with materials including popsicle sticks glued together representing wooden pallets in a stated ratio such as 1-to-4.

“They have to figure out scale – how to build a study model with scale and proportionality,” Mebust said. “The students think about how livable is the space once you build it. And, of course, how does it withstand the elements.”

Some of the groups have found that gathering materials is the hardest part of the process.

“We have access to used pallets through one of our group members’ workplace,” Stewart said. “And I’ve also checked on Craig’s list. Getting the materials is the hardest part.”

Mendoza agrees with the added caveat of moving the pallets.

“The transportation of materials is also a hard part,” he said. “Each member of my group has different places to get materials. Factories have waste that we ask to repurpose.”

In addition to wooden pallets, the teams are using plywood, cardboard, PVC pipes, foam board, fabric/cloth, and a clear visqueen polyethylene plastic sheeting that allows light to pass through.

The teams are hoping for a clear day, with the winds calm and a quiet night for their event.

Students Are Working Toward an Associate’s Degree

Most students participating are at the end of their first year of study and working toward the Associate of Arts, Architecture degree.

For more information about the Architecture and Design Technology Program at TMCC, please call 775-856-5300.