Spark Space

Three perspective renderings of the SFS team's design.

Sam Fox School team takes third in NOMA competition

Posted by Katherine Koss October 19, 2009

A team of Sam Fox School architecture students took third place in the National Association of Minority Architects (NOMA) Student Design Competition, for the project "The Spark that Weaves: Intertwining family and neighborhood in Benton Park."

The student team featured six graduate architecture students – Eduardo Ponce, Jonathan Stitelman, Brad Cooke, Roberto Jaime Deseda, Ekta Desai, and Jeffrey Sullivan – and freshman architecture student Ryan A. Wilson. Their accomplishment was recognized at NOMA's annual meeting, hosted and organized by the St. Louis Chapter of NOMA. 

Deseda, vice president of the School's NOMA chapter, credits Charles Brown, an architecture alum (LA96/GA98) who's working at Bond-Wolfe Architects, with encouraging the students to reopen the School's NOMA chapter and participate in the competition.

The competition challenged students to design holistic urban infill housing. The Sam Fox School team designed a single-family residence for a multi-generational Columbian family moving into the Benton Park neighborhood.

The program called for a "spark" space, or a multipurpose space that would gather all of family's activities into one room. Rather than forcing the family to occupy one room for their diverse activities, the student team interpreted the "spark" to be the energy that ties separate rooms in a house into a home. The communal rooms in their design pulled together in the center of the house around a large, open-air courtyard. The transparency of the courtyard activated views from separated rooms and opposite ends of the house, enticing family members to move out of their comfort space and into someone else's through this ocular "spark."

The team from Georgia Institute of Technology took first place out of 14 entrants in the competition, and the University of Florida came in second.

This was the first year the Sam Fox School entered the competition. Making the team's third-place finish all the more impressive was the fact the students decided to enter the competition just three weeks before the deadline, whereas other schools' teams had started on the project last spring.

"Working together as a team was quite a memorable experience," Deseda said. "We somehow had to funnel all of our different strengths, ideas, and experiences into one cohesive design and then manifest our concepts through drawings and models – all in three weeks!"

Despite the short turnaround, Deseda said he and his teammates worked together seamlessly and "never felt rushed to make design decisions."

Approximately 400 design professionals and students from throughout the country gathered for the NOMA conference. Karl Grice (LA74, SW76, GA76) is the current president of the St. Louis Chapter of NOMA; Brown and Richey Madison of Christner were co-chairs for the conference.