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University of Houston

November 2, 2011

Students from the University of Houston Graduate Design Build Studio constructed a "Solar Shade Tree" for McReynolds Middle School. The project soon will be honored with the Mayor's Proud Partner Award (presented by Keep Houston Beautiful). Credit: Courtesy of UH Graduate Design Build Studio

During one of Houston's hottest summers on record, students from the University of Houston's Design Build Studio (GDBS) designed and constructed a "Solar Shade Tree" for McReynolds Middle School.

The long days spent under the sweltering sun creating this innovative structure have not gone unnoticed. Since its completion in August, McReynolds students and faculty are using the solar-powered, steel tree as a place for socializing and studying. In addition to the applause from the school's community, the "Solar Shade Tree" recently earned the Mayor's Proud Partner Award. Presented annually through Keep Houston Beautiful, the award honors projects that enhance and beautify the city.

GDBS director and architecture professor Patrick Peters and GDBS students will receive this award during the 27th Annual Mayor's Proud Partners Award Luncheon at 11:00 a.m., Oct. 31 at the Houston Post Oak Hilton (2001 Post Oak Blvd.).

"Students receive accolades and criticism from teachers throughout the semester, but it's wonderful for them to be recognized by a panel of outside professionals," said Patrick Peters, director of the GDBS. "An award like this helps them understand the relevance of what they're learning at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture. It also allows them to see how their work impacts the community at large."

Comprised of UH graduate architecture students, the Graduate Design Build Studio focuses on contributing community-enhancing structures for schools, parks and nonprofit organizations. The "Solar Shade Tree" is the studio's 22nd annual project.

The "tree" offers the McReynolds campus with a shaded area with seating, ceiling fans and lighting. Powering the fans and lights are four solar panels (150 watts each). The steel structure is 13 feet wide, 44 feet long and 12 feet in height.

"I've visited the site recently and have been pleased to see McReynolds students and members of the local community using the 'solar shade tree,'" Peters said. "I've seen families gathered there to watch soccer games in the shade and to take cover from a short rain downpour. It's serving its purpose."

"131 The Overview Effect" with comments by Assistant Professor Wendy W Fok regarding the artistic and technological role of Design Fabrication and Digital Tooling was published in the NEW ART/SCIENCE AFFINITIES book, published by the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University + CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry.

COA Assistant Professor Gregory Marinic organized Envisioning A Completed East River Greenway: winners announced for “Close The Gap” Competition.

Transportation Alternatives and d3 are pleased to announce the winners of the “Close The Gap” design competition, which invited architects, landscape architects, urban designers, engineers and students worldwide to envision the completion of the East River Greenway. Submissions from Architects and the design team of James and Madeline Stokoe were selected by the jurors for their outstanding work. The competition called for proposals that fundamentally transform how people move through Manhattan by filling in a 22-block gap along the East River.

“The competition drew responses from all over the world, from 22 countries, ranging from Canada to Iran,” said Sandy McKee, principal of Yoshihara McKee Architects and competition co-director of d3. “They all assumed that we can redesign New York to make it a better place to live. We started the competition when the goal of closing the East Side Gap seemed like an impossible dream, but we are now one step closer with innovative, thoughtful and exciting ideas to explore.”

“The winning submissions envision a vibrant East Side waterfront that enables the full scope of possibilities for urban transportation,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “From the team’s focus on increasing access to open space in Manhattan with an eye to integrating new and old infrastructure to the Stokoe’s design, which challenges us to rediscover the power, potential and history of the East River, these teams took the hopes of countless East Side residents and brought them to life.”

Earlier this month, Mayor Bloomberg approved a land swap agreement that will allow the completion of the East River Greenway. By selling three properties to the United Nations, the city will have the funds to the fill in a 22-block gap along the East River greenway.  Demand for waterfront space has been growing steadily in Manhattan, resulting in a greenway surrounding virtually the entire island--with the exception of Harlem’s East River shoreline above 120th Street and the gap between East 38th and East 60th streets. As a result, the East Side currently has the lowest ratio of open space to residents and workers in the city. Closing this gap in the East River Greenway will finally bring more open space to the East Side waterfront and enable access to active transportation like bicycling and walking.

d3 competition co-directors Sandra McKee and Gregory Marinic assembled a jury of architects, landscape architects, and stakeholders in the East River revitalization effort.  The jury included Victoria Marshall, Till Design; Michael Szivos, softLAB; Paul Steely White, Executive Director Transportation Alternatives; Audrey Matlock, Audrey Matlock Architect; Rob Rogers, Rogers Marvell Architects; Hiroki Yoshihara,  Yoshihara McKee Architects; Steve Vaccaro, Chair of Transportation Alternatives East Side Committee; Mark Thompson, Chair of Manhattan Community Board Six; and Laurie Beckelman, Beckelman+Capalino.

d3 is an organization committed to advancing innovative positions in art, architecture, and design by providing a collaborative environment for artists, architects, designers, and students from throughout New York City and around the world.  Founded in 2008, its program of exhibitions, events, competitions and publications is focused on generating dialogue and collaboration across geographic, ideological and disciplinary boundaries in art and the built environment.

Selected conceptual process works generated through Assistant Professor Gregory Marinic’ practice, Arquipelago, are included in the 'AxA' exhibit at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture.  The exhibit runs from October 27 through November 18.

Professor Marinic’ Project: Bleunoir from his practice was recently published in 'Case Study of Remodeling'. by DAMDI Architectural Publishing Ltd., Seoul (Sept. 2011). 

Professor Marinic serves as director on d3, a New York-based organization. The competition is, a New York-based organization that I serve as director.

'Close the Gap' an international competition, a collaboration between Transportation Alternatives and d3,  and co-directed by Marinic and Sandy McKee, AIA was recently juried in New York (October 2011).  'Close the Gap' solicited proposals for re-envisioned public access to the East River waterfront in Manhattan

Gregory Marinic also authored an essay recently published in Form & Faith: The Interfaith Journal on Religious Art and Architecture.  Volume 44, Issue 3, Out of the Mainstream (theme issue) (Sept. 2011)   Qur'anic Queens: The Temporal Mosques of Astoria'

Many on-the-job injuries are preventable. That fact stuck in the minds of University of Houston industrial design students as they prepared projects focused on workplace safety.

Recently, three of these projects took top honors during the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) “Prevention Through Design” conference in Washington, D.C. Their mentor, EunSook Kwon also was recognized at this conference. Kwon, an associate professor in UH’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, received the conference’s “Excellence in Teaching” award.

“The best part of being an educator is seeing your students receive awards like this,” Kwon said. “It was a great moment. For me, my award was only made possible through their achievements.”

The student grand prize went to “Spinal Cord,” a design for a safer, more efficient extension cord to be used on construction sites. Designed by industrial design students Jennie Macedo, Ya-Han Chen and Juan Jimenez, “Spinal Cord” proposes a safer, durable, easy-to-use extension cord. In creating a practical design, students researched traditional extension cords used on contemporary work sites. Their findings included statistics from the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission, which indicated that 50 percent of fractures, lacerations or sprains at work sites are caused by tripping over extension cords. They also observed a lack of resilience in traditional cords, which caused breaks, tears or exposed wires. They also observed these cords’ tendency to become easily tangled.

Macedo, Chen and Jimenez developed a cord design that is segmented to retain its original structure (avoiding tangling), easily rolls into a circular carrying case and is resistant to damage or strains. Also, users would be able to only extend portions of the cord from the case as opposed to unraveling all of it. The cord would remain flat on the ground without coiling up.

Among the other finalists was “Beehave,” a design for a modified beekeeper’s uniform. Students Rick Salinas, Meredith Tucker and Anna Ho developed a concept for a jacket that provides beekeepers with enhanced protection against stings. Students learned that the protective gear used by beekeepers is time consuming to put on, cumbersome and hot. Taking cues from zip-up hoodies, the students designed a lightweight, yet protective, jacket with hood and screened mask. The jacket also contains a section for scented (citronella, peppermint) stone to deter bees.

The other runner-up was “Out of Sight” by Kellee Kimbro, Ryan Pursel, Alan Nguyen and Thi Vu. This project was focused the design of a device that provided a safer way of removing glass particles from work sites. By visiting glass industry sites, students learned more about the dangers posed by such particles (cuts, lacerations, lung disease). The design for “Out of Sign, Out of Mind” proposes an aluminum dustpan with a built-in fan from a Dyson vacuum cleaner. When particles are swept into this pan, they would be sucked into it. It would be lightweight and can be used to dispose of large and small glass particles.

Projects were designed and developed in spring 2011 as part of UH’s industrial design third year studio. During the “Prevention Through Design” conference, student teams participated in poster sessions and delivered presentations that were judged by a panel of reviewers.

“It’s great to see that the three finalists at the ‘Prevention Through Design’conference were teams from our industrial design program,” Kwon said. “Everyone was dedicated to their work and utilized excellent time management skills. They raised the bar of excellence and really deserve these awards.”


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