Stuckeman architecture professor awarded inaugural Obel teaching fellowship


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Laia Celma, assistant teaching professor of architecture in the College of Arts and Architecture’s Stuckeman School at Penn State, was named an inaugural recipient of the OBEL AWARD Teaching Fellowship, a premier teaching and research fellowship from the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation.

The fellowship is named for Danish architect Henrik F. Obel. The foundation devotes most of its funds to the OBEL AWARD Teaching Fellowship “to promote sharing of new ideas globally and highlight architecture’s transformative power to create more humane environments for the common good,” according to the foundation’s website.

Celma will instruct a new research studio course at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile starting in August 2024. Celma’s design studio, which is intended for master’s degree students, will study Mina Invierno, an open-pit mine operating in Isla Riesco, in Patagonia, until 2020. Students will travel to the mine and conduct research on the mine’s impact on the region.

“They were using blasts to mine low-grade coal [at Mina Invierno], and they were permitted to do so because they said they were supplying Chile’s demand for coal, but that is not what they did,” she said. “They were selling this coal to China. It stopped because over 50 community groups complained.”

Celma’s work regarding mine fires and extraction with Pep Avilés, associate professor of architecture, is currently on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center in Pittsburgh. Their piece — “Dystopian Carousel” — highlights the continued emissions from mine fires, reflecting data collected on gas emissions, soil temperature, microbial life and the landscapes affected by coal extraction.

The OBEL AWARD fellows will share their curriculum and research results with the foundation to form an open library for other institutions to continue the experience beyond the one-year fellowship, according to the Henrik F. Obel Foundation.