Sunday, March 30, 2014

Life of a Saluki Architecture Grad Student

By John Svast

Hello Readers!!
I have a problem… well… more like a pet peeve.
A few days ago I was diligently working in the architecture graduate studio here at the wonderful world of Southern Illinois University when I heard the gentle rapping on the studio door.  I swiftly got up and answered the door to a couple of architecture undergraduates seeking the help of a couple grad students they had spoken to earlier about help with a program called sketch-up, a program that is used often in the design profession.  Since I was the lone ranger in studio at the time, these young scholars asked me if I had any experience using Sketch up.  Fortunately, I have been using sketch-up since 2005 ,while attending College of Dupage, in my design process and also professionally while working for two other architecture firms, so I felt I was qualified to help these individuals with some questions they had.

SO!... up to their studio I went.

I perched behind undergraduate #1 and readied myself for the issue at hand.

The problem was one that is common among architect design students.  A group was chosen and tasked with the responsibility of putting a base model of the site with existing context and topography together for the class to use as a plug-in for their individual building designs.

What was this student’s question?

Undergrad #1 “heard” there was a plug-in application that would magically do all the work for him.  How great does that sound?  One do-it-all application that can solve every single problem for you with one mash of a sweaty palm?… well I digress.   
I told #1 that it may be possible that someone has gone out of their way to write said application that would give you all the topography lines in DWG. format, and if it did exist, it would probably be found on a website called (Great website BTW)  BUT! The lines given to you via google earth are not the most reliable CAD lines you can get, you should really find an actual topo map and import the image of the map into autocadd and trace over the topo lines.
#1 reply:  “I know that”
The next Item of business he wanted was to import the already designed buildings from google earth and bring them into his model for context.  Once again, I said there may be a plugin for that located on the website but instead of searching for a plugin to half solve your problem, let me tell you of a few other ways to solve this problem. I told him all the different ways I was taught by various professors and other licensed architects at different firms over the course of 10 years I have been kicking around in this profession.
#1 reply:  “I know that”
I then went on to tell him (I get a little preachy here… I do that sometimes) that school is an excellent place to hone your skills and that you shouldn’t always pick the easy way out of a design problem with technology gizmos (especially in school… you are here to learn the skills) because when he gets hired onto a firm, he will be given some task that will have to be solved with his skills on various computer programs and actual *gasp!* paper and pencil.  I told him of a few tight jams I got into on issues dealing with building context and topography lines and the ways I solved them.
#1 reply:  “I know that”
#1 then went on to ask me how to spell the word “sketchucation”… I showed him how to navigate to the website and went on my merry way.

This story is just one of many times I have experienced a student working harder trying to find an easy button then do the work.
Don’t be scared to put in the time!  You are more valuable as an employee that can quickly accomplish a task with the skills you have sharpened on the job and at school then someone who has to rely on gadgets, gizmos, and applications to complete tasks.

let me guess… “I know that”
photo of and by author

Wild Ride Equals Lessons Learned

By Phil Mevert

              Trying new experiences can be a little frightening and there is always some risk involved. When trying a new experience you always hope everything goes smoothly, but sometimes things just happen and you have to deal with it. The important thing is to be able to analyze what went wrong and how to correct or prevent it or even what to do if history repeats itself.
              A recent personal experience made me think about how life experiences can relate to experiences in the field of architecture. Something I have wanted to do for a long time is go white water rafting. My older brother was able to go when he was in high school and he told me how much of a fun experience it is. I finally had the opportunity to go white water rafting within the past week and it is just as much fun as my brother had told me about, kind of.  
               It was a nice sunny day in the Dominican Republic and there was a group of about 40 of us that were divided into 10 teams of 4 to go white water rafting. White water rafting has a class system based on difficulty of the most extreme fall on the trail. The classification for our river trail was a 4 and the max is 5, so it was a very risky experience to begin with and even more so having never done white water rafting.  After watching a training video we headed up the to our starting point on the river where we received some on land training before getting the raft into the river. We were instructed on the basic commands that our river guide would be giving us to help navigate the raft. As we began down the river our raft was one of the last rafts in the line up to start down the river.  As the raft was going down the river the guide would yell out forward, backwards, get down and pack to position as needed based on currents and various rapids.  As we traveled down the river we were able to catch and pass some of the other rafts. There were some points that three or four rafts were within a 100 feet of each other.  It seemed as we got to the midpoint of the route is where some of the class three and four rapids. As we approached the biggest and hardest rapid called Mike Tyson Sr. some of the rafts in front of ours began to pile up as one of them was stuck. As we were dropping down the 10 to 15 foot rapid and our boat went down sideways it became apparent that our boat was going to flip. As the boat flip I tried to grab the side and pull myself under so I would be able to breath, however since our raft was so close to the falling water pressure I was not able to get under and breath. I then tried to just make sure I was clear of our raft so I could at least get my head above the water. When I felt that I had cleared our raft I tried to pop my head out of the water but instead I hit my head on the bottom of the raft in front of us and continued to hold my breath under the water. I then let the current carry me under water and was finally after about 30 seconds or so able to pop up to the top and breath above the water, however I was on my back and heading downriver head first on my back instead of the preferred feet first on my back. I then was able to swim over to the rescue raft and be pulled in and wait for my raft to catch up. After having a chance to reflect on what happened, if I were ever in a position like that again I now know that I should just let the current take me away from the rapid right away instead of trying to pop up in the traffic jam. 

The reflection on what went wrong and how to prevent it or survive it at a faster rate can be translated to Architecture. For instance if you are meeting with a new client and you say something or do something that makes them give a weird look or comment to you, you can go back and reflect on what you said and then learn to change the way you talk around them.  Similarly if you are working on particular building type you have never worked on before and the process is different than what you are used to, you will have many trials and errors to reflect on and adjust to for the next time you do a that particular building type.       

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Life of Jane Drew

By Nicholas Mosher

           It is almost the birthday of the architect Jane Drew!  Who is Jane Drew you ask?  Jane Drew is considered to be one of the most overlooked female architects today despite the work that she has done1.  She was born on March 24, 1911 in England where she grew up wanting to become an architect in a male dominated profession.  Early in her working years she designed interior spaces and furniture for mostly housing.  She actually is responsible for the standard height of an over which we still use today.  In the 1950s her work took off when she started designing buildings internationally in the newly independent states of Iran, West Africa, India and the soon to be decolonized Nigeria.  He main building projects were to design housing for low income areas and that is where she stood out2.  The biggest area she worked in was in Chandigarh, India. The project was to modernize the city where thousands of refugees from Pakistan lived3.   At the time there was a universal modernist style that was very popular and a lot of the new buildings that were being built were influenced by it.  Jane decided to use that and to design responsive and vernacular buildings that fit the locations better, which also made the projects more affordable2.  By this time she was becoming better known as well as her husband, who was also an architect that worked with her.  She received a project to design a new capitol for the city of Punjab, India.  She agreed to take part in it but convinced Le Corbusier to take over majority of it because she was already very busy with designing the Festival of Britain3
             In her later years Jane Drew was a very well known English modernist female architect that many people enjoyed her work.  This caused her to become an educator but not just for any schools.  She became the first full time professor at the University of Harvard and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology2.  After her death on July 27, 1996 where she reached the age of 85, an award was created to honor her legacy.  The Jane Drew Prize was first given out a year later.  It is an architecture award given to female architects showing innovation.  The Architect’s Journal created this award and every year they give it out to someone that shows outstanding contributions to the status of women in architecture4.

1.      Rackard, Nicky. (March 8, 2013) "The 10 Most Overlooked Women in Architecture History" ArchDaily. Accessed March 19, 2014.
2.      ICA. “Jane Drew (1911-1996): An Introduction” Accessed March 19, 2014.
3.      Wikipedia. February 9, 2014. “Jane Drew” Accessed March 19, 2014.

4.      Rosenfield, Karissa. January 13, 2014. "Jane Drew Prize Goes to Kathryn Findlay (1953-2014)" ArchDaily. Accessed March 19, 2014.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Slum Dwellers International

By Kristopher Teubel

As the urban population swells in the near and distant future, urban planners and architects will have to adapt their techniques to accommodate the added strain on urban infrastructure.  There are various methods and tools to use in this effort.  Urban designers have manipulated their use of space in walkable cities versus the well-established methods of vehicle-oriented cities.  A promising aspect of urban design and architecture found in numerous regions of the world is the concept of participatory design.  The inclusion of the local citizens directly in design and building of new urban elements is seeming to produce great results currently that can also be implemented in the near and far future.
            The organization Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) has been making great strides toward the implementation of participatory design projects.  SDI is a community-based collective consisting of urban poor.  The daily lives of many slum dwellers has lead citizens to believe that there is a greater necessity put upon their own actions to improve their situations.  Often, in areas of low living standards, government inaction and corruption can be found. ("What we do," 2013)
            SDI began in 1996 in multiple slums in India and Africa.  In 1999, they officially became a formally registered entity.  Today, their actions are present in 33 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Each location has affiliate organizations that work with entities at various levels including national, regional, municipal, and directly in the communities most in need.  Their mission is to connect the urban poor various regions in order to facilitate their mobilization, advocacy, and problem solving. ("What we do," 2013)

            SDI has been able to maintain its connection with individual communities while working on a large-scale coordination effort.  The organization works to promote the design of “pro-poor” communities.  It also acts as a platform for the citizens of the poorer communities to communicate with their local governments.  SDI has done a great job at studying and organizing methods of slum upgrading efforts by the citizens of the slums themselves. ("What we do," 2013)
Inclusive Cities
This has led the organization to develop a set of logical criteria and tools to consider when working to improve conditions in a slum or squatter community.  These include the pooling of money from the community.  Though each household has relatively little income, when working together, communities can amass a collection of fairly quickly.  Mapping of the community by the citizens is a great way to facilitate future projects by ensuring the availability of necessary information at the outset of future work. The promotion of the health, safety, and welfare of women is another integral part of SDI's methodology.  As the more culturally common source of homemaking, women ought to be aided in their integral work of maintaining and improving the communities they live in. ("Making cities inclusive," 2013)
            Progress for the future comes only from those that are audacious enough to work for it.  The notion that whole communities of people should be shunned and marginalized because of their financial situation is ignorant and harmful to more than those who live in the communities themselves.  Thank you for taking interest in the effort to help others.  For more information on case studies and other topics about Shack/Slum Dwellers International, please visit (


What we do. (2013). Retrieved from

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The DR Does It Better

By Tim Shotts

The Eco Challenge trip to the Dominican Republic was quite an adventure!  The beautiful culture, the architecture, and the environment were incredible.  The architecture used natural ventilation instead of air-conditioning, long eaves, CMU block, a variety of materials for roofing ranging from thatch to corrugated steel decking, rebar projecting above terraces, and energy efficient lighting. 

Besides the incredibly comfortable weather in the Dominican Republic during mid-March, the price of electricity (at $0.20 per Kilowatt, three to four times that of Carbondale, IL) heavily influences the architecture of the DR.  The long eaves shade from the summer sun and provide a place to sit outside in the shade.  Due to the price of electricity, threat of a blackout, and heat, compact fluorescent lighting was seen everywhere, and a nice pizza restaurant we ate at the last night had LED lighting.  In addition to energy efficient lighting, louvered windows allow adjustments of natural light  ventilation and some security without trapping heat.  Dominican architecture also extensively uses CMU blocks as thermal mass and also for security.  During my visit, I saw one concrete mixing truck and one abandoned drum.  More often we saw stacks of CMU blocks and mortar mixed on-site.  When building houses and masonry walls, rebar would be left exposed for additions.

When we flew into Punta Cana, the first thing I noticed about the airport was the sugarcane-thatched roof, and once inside the open-air terminal, there was a pleasant breeze from the large overhead fans and natural light pouring in from the dormers.  Other places in the country use corrugated metal, composite metal decking, Spanish tile, and cast-in-place concrete.  To remove the rain roofs had a chain of funnels with a scalloped top, and terraces had PVC scuppers.  Most gutters would be made from either a piece of PVC pipe or bamboo cut in half. 

The trip to the DR was an amazing experience.  It showed me that how we build in the States is not so much different than how they build in the Caribbean.  For instance, they lay a piece of bent metal over the corner seam of a roof just like we do.  However, they’re widespread adoption of appropriately sized eaves, energy efficient lighting and natural light, natural ventilation, and forethought of building small with plans for growth put us to shame and I believe it’s the cost of electricity that’s driving their designs.

Rehabilitation From Substance Abuse Amongst Adolescence Through Spatial Integration

By Sufiy Momoh

Buildings and outer space between them make different lives, influence how we think, feel and behave, basically how we are. Many specialist of various fields, including sociologists, therapist and architect have repeatedly argued about how place and the figure of its blank communicate with the human soul, affecting the way in which citizens react to their lives and how they develop. And this might be said to be rather crucial for anybody who requires long terminal figure constant care or needs to recover from a period of time of physical, social and emotional instability such as loss of self brought about by drug addiction.

It is important to note from the outset that architecture is not a handling, but can most significantly become a part of the healing process through the founding of spaces and provide significance to those activities utilized to achieve gradual rehabilitation through a curative environment. Lighting within a building as well as landscape and location are essential elements of this architectural therapy. Form and space can be good shapers of person and residential district or they can nourish and help the development, both social and individual.
 A readiness which prepares patient for social comprehension and does not put in bunch up people as a radical of patient role who simply need to take their medication or stay indoors for a prolonged period of time but as active receiver of modification and personal identity . Not merely a number behind a ‘health facility’ door. Architectural designing can provide the corner of this individuality, with spaces built as an interactive cognitive operation as opposed to holding a disorder within. Even the little affair in the design of a construction can children play their part in the psychology of the healing equation; such as the way finding Ordered by Frequency. The power of a healing environment comes from the design elements that empower patients to take responsibility for their own health.
In the case of adolescent substance abuse, the goal is to aim at bringing them back to the fun existing while sober, providing activities that can rekindle what it really was like to be a teenager. Starting from providing activities that would give them a purpose to want to be in such a facility such as theatre, drama, art, sports, photography etc.
Architecture can start playing a role by the arrangement of group spaces, family spaces and private spaces. The building and spaces should come of as relaxing and less stressful. It shouldn’t jump out as a treatment area; it should be something that would help provide an experience for patients that triggers their recovery process. Design should focus on treatment of the person as a whole and not just the substance abuse. Recovery is the goal.

Designing a facility like this requires thought of how this facility would be put together in way that it provides that protection require to keep these adolescence in place but also provide a sense of openness. Doing this one would have to take consideration on the location and design of various protection materials. For instance a protective glass door can have various engraved design in the glass to take their attention away from the fact that the door is a protective door. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Analysis of Centralia, IL

By Tyler Dunahee

            A few weeks ago, before spring break, I went back to my hometown, the location of my thesis project to do some analysis to see what could help the former railroad town, and possibly see what was holding it back. 

            Centralia, Illinois faces a number of problems going forward, and in many ways, the future of this historic railroad town is in jeopardy.  Trends, both current and those decades old, have yet to be solved and a steady loss of business, and therefore jobs, and people have left town.  Between 2001 and 2003, over three thousand jobs were lost (Rickard, 2005) and the population was down nine percent from 1990 in 2012 (  The downtown sits almost completely empty, a tattoo parlor and music store occupy prime real estate downtown, most of the other builds sit empty or damaged from recent fires.  Most of these issues are a result of a number of bad decisions and bad design, most of which can be solved through good design and good planning.  The city of Centralia was built around the railroad, because that was the lifeline of the town, times have changed and the city must be able to change with the times, not just the current times, but for the future.  The first plan for Centralia, built around the railroad, worked and lasted for nearly a century and a half, but has long outlasted its usefulness.  The main idea of this proposal is a master plan for the city of Centralia primarily on the downtown area, but also a few outlaying areas of the city.  The main focus for downtown is to bring people there through a number of different strategies, as well as set up the city for future success and growth.  The focus for the Centralia outside of the downtown area is to bring more recognition to what Centralia has to offer, through signage and design.

               Downtown Centraila
Downtown Centralia
            A number of issues that Centralia faces cannot be solved with township and a new master plan for the city, as most of the businesses were small manufacturers that outsourced the work to another state or country, as well as a number of state facility closures, one closure that is currently being fought by the community, Warren G. Murray Center, would result in the loss of five hundred and forty-one jobs.  Although this proposal can do little to stop these trends, it calls for a section of the downtown area to become a mixed use, bringing new life, ideas, jobs, and people to what is now a dead downtown.  Existing downtown apartments above existing businesses shall be renovated, as well as the businesses or empty building below. 
            The Centralia Opportunity Fund established in 2006 has done a good job of encouraging business growth throughout town, as well as downtown, but businesses are still not going to move into an empty, desolate area of town that has little traffic, both automobile and foot, so traffic must be brought to what is here and by what the city can develop, then businesses will be eager to move in as well. 
            Public transit is almost invisible in the city of Centralia, modes of public transportation is to be incorporated into this new plan for Centralia, new routes, bus stops, and alternative methods are to be implemented throughout the city.  Public transit would provide the opportunity for those who can't easily get downtown the chance to at very little cost.  Centralia's citizens mean commute to work is about twenty minutes and 80.4% of them commute via personal vehicle alone (ACS City Economic Census Data). A public transportation system needs to be implemented, not only for the city itself, but for the environment.
            Bikes are another mode of transportation neglected by Centralia. There are not marked bike paths in Centralia, nor are there any bike lanes. Bike lanes shall be provided throughout the city and the use of them should be encouraged. Even though the mean time of commute is twenty minutes, over 29% of residents have commutes of less than ten minutes (, most of which would easily be bike able if given the proper means.  Encouragement of bikes isn't just an environmental advantage, bikes would provide a healthy alternative to driving and is much easier on the wallet with gas prices rising, people just need the safety of bike lanes and paths to emerge themselves in it.
            There is little to draw visitors to downtown Centralia or Centralia in general. There are a number of new buildings that could be built downtown. The first of which is a memorial or museum for those that lost their lives in the Centralia No. 5 Mine Disaster of 1947. In 1947, one hundred and eleven men lost their lives when the mine collapsed. There is just a small memoriam and shelter for these miners near the site of the accident. There is so much to be said for this accident, such a history and controversy behind the mine disaster and such a history of coal mining in Centralia. The disaster was the second largest in United States history since WWII and this new museum/memorial for the miners could draw people from all over to Centralia.  The history of the railroad in the city can be integrated into the proposed coal mining museum as well or there is enough history there to demand its own museum as the railroad is what built this down, and provided jobs has been a means of transportation since 1852.  Another building proposed is to house the Centralia Sports Hall of Fame. The current facility is located on the second floor of the city hall.  Centralia has a rich sports history and for all of the memorabilia to be housed properly, a new building should be prominently placed in town, instead of hid away in the second floor of city hall. Centralia High School's basketball team, known as the Orphans, was the "winningest" basketball in the nation for decades, their run not ending until the early 1990's.  The school owns numerous state championships in a number of sports, the first coming as early as 1918.  Centralia has also been the hometown of a number of record holders at the high school and collegiate level, professional athletes, a Globetrotter, and even an Olympian.  There has been more than enough sports history to fill a number of buildings, let alone a hallway on the second floor of city hall.  There are a number of historic artists and pieces in Centralia, as well as a number of emerging creative types living in Centralia, and with the encouragement of an artist colony downtown, an art museum could easily be opened downtown as well.
                Illinois Theater

             A number of particularly historic buildings could be renovated to meet the demands of their new use, and some already have.  The historic Illinois Theater was opened in 1922 with twelve hundred seats,  it was just recently renovated The former Centralia Community Center building, a historic building constructed in 1941 was vacant for years downtown until just recently when Centralia Good Times and Fun Center purchased the building, renovating only slightly, as the building was originally purposed for a similar use.  The Centralia City Museum is currently located downtown, however it is located in an old wholesale grocery warehouse.  The building is historic, however, so the building would have to be upgraded and renovated to be handicap accessible and better suited for its new use as a museum for the town.
            Green spaces are at a minimum downtown, parking lots and empty lots dominate most of the landscape, other than Library Park and Bell Tower Park, neither of which is located downtown, just within walking distance.  This proposal includes a number of green spaces to take place of a few of the underserved parking lots.  On Broadway and 2nd streets, the sidewalk shall be extended into the on-street parking area and a parkway shall be included, which shall planting boxes, outdoor seating areas for restaurants, and display areas for other retailers.  In order to maintain enough parking for the developing downtown, smaller parking garages with an aesthetic to blend into the downtown shall be built over other existing large parking lots on both Broadway and 2nd Street.  In regards to parking lots, the parking lot located at the intersection of 2nd and Locust street currently hosts a farmers market on Saturdays from 7am-11am between May and October. A small shelter like structure with a small office space and storage shall be designed to be placed at this location.  The facility will be designed to be a multiuse facility as to not leave it sitting empty for most of the week and year, the community and community groups could use the building for a meeting space through the spring, fall, and summer. 
Centralia Carillon
              Centralia has a carillon located just north of downtown and next to a major highway running through town. Centralia's carillon is the sixth largest in the world, standing at one hundred and sixty-nine feet and contains sixty-nine bells, ranging from 20 pounds to over eleven thousand.  The carillon and the park beneath it are always empty and without being familiar of the area, you'd never know it existed, it's hard to tell what it even is from a distance.  The city does put on concerts from time to time, however they are very short and no other events really take place at the park below, and it stands empty nearly all year.  The redesign of the downtown is to encourage a travel in this direction toward the carillon as well as the library, library park, and Pittenger Bandshell, where events could easily be coordinated.

Outside of Downtown Centralia
            Centralia has much to offer outside of the downtowns. There are a number of parks with a number of different uses, Fairview, Foundation, and Rotary Park are all different in how they are used and designed. However, unless there are ball games at Rotary or Fairview they are rarely  used, and there is little traffic at Foundation unless the Balloon Fest is going on, other than those using the Championship Disc Golf Course, even though it includes two fishing ponds, one of which is used for ice skating in the winter, an exercise trail, hiking trail, a number of shelters, and an outdoor amphitheater.  These beautiful pristine parks must be utilized in many more ways than just the current, and Centralia as a city should push and market these parks, especially Foundation and Rotary, as Foundation is not signed well and would easily be missed and Rotary Park is on the south edge of town.  Fairview Park is in a prime location, however, the history that sits there isn't well known, as there is an Illinois Central Railroad 2500 Steam Engine, only one of two left in Illinois from the booming railroad days. There are also a number of historic aircraft located in Fairview Park. A US Air Force F-105 Thunderchief which was flown widely during the Vietnam war, as well as a USAF T-33 T-Bird, which was used during the Korean War and a US Army Nike Ajax missile, which was one of the first surface-to-air guided missile (SAM) systems, which began use in the 1940's. The history of these is not well noted in the park at all and such notation and advertisement of these historic pieces is included in this proposal.
            Centralia has two lakes that have been underserved, the first, and closest lake is Raccoon Lake.  Raccoon Lake has twenty miles of shoreline and seven hundred and seven acres of water, but has no beach and just one boat dock.  Fishing and fishing tournaments are popular, but other than that, the lake is used very little. A large beach area shall be developed on the lake and the lake should be used for more recreational activities, like skiing, tubing, et cetera.  Lake Centralia covers more than four hundred acres and is currently better utilized for recreation, however access is very limited with no beach and just one boat ramp. Both of these lakes could be more of a draw if geared toward recreational activities other than just fishing and easier access.  Another building proposed is to house the Centralia Sports Hall of Fame. The current facility is located on the second floor of the city hall.  Centralia has a rich sports history and for all of the memorabilia to be housed properly, a new building should be prominently placed in town, instead of hid away in the second floor of city hall. Centralia High School's basketball team, known as the Orphans, was the "winningest" basketball in the nation for decades, their run not ending until the early 1990's.  The school owns numerous state championships in a number of sports, the first coming as early as 1918.  Centralia has also been the hometown of a number of record holders at the high school and collegiate level, professional athletes, a Globetrotter, and even an Olympian.  There has been more than enough sports history to fill a number of buildings, let alone a hallway on the second floor of city hall.  There are a number of historic artists and pieces in Centralia, as well as a number of emerging creative types living in Centralia, and with the encouragement of an artist colony downtown, an art museum could easily be opened downtown as well.
           Centralia has an award winning hospital that was recently renovated and high school that was built just seven years ago.  So many of the important health and education facilities are top of the line.  However, Evers Field, where Centralia High School plays their home football games, was recently condemned by the State Board of Education.  The high school got that ruling overturned for this football season, however by next year, a new facility has to be built, or Evers Field renovated to meet the expectations of the State Board of Education,.  The current site of Evers Field presents an interesting set of design issues.  A new turf, scoreboard, and field goal posts were installed at Evers Field in the past couple years, however parking is a huge issue at the facility. Cars line streets not designed for street parking or in private driveways, as the only designated parking is the small practice field.  There is space at the new high school for the field and the expansive school parking lot could be used during games on Friday nights.  That is why this proposal will design a new football field at the location of the new high school, as the scoreboard and field goal posts are removable and could be relocated to the new site.   
           Centralia has two lakes that have been underserved, the first, and closest lake is Raccoon Lake.  Raccoon Lake has twenty miles of shoreline and seven hundred and seven acres of water, but has no beach and just one boat dock.  Fishing and fishing tournaments are popular, but other than that, the lake is used very little. A large beach area shall be developed on the lake and the lake should be used for more recreational activities, like skiing, tubing, et cetera.  Lake Centralia covers more than four hundred acres and is currently better utilized for recreation, however access is very limited with no beach and just one boat ramp. Both of these lakes could be more of a draw if geared toward recreational activities other than just fishing and easier access.

            Centralia has such a rich history and even though there is little geographic context, there is a plethora of historical and other forms of context.  Centralia has is a true community of those who care about their town and rally around each other when there is a goal or challenge.  This town has the potential to return to its old glory days, the glory days will just have a different look focusing around different aspects of life here.
            This proposal implements new businesses and building types downtown, a refocusing on local natural features and advertisement of such natural features, and a new, much needed, football field to match the facilities at the new high school.  Centralia has the people and drive to do it, they just need a plan.

Back From the Dominican

By Lauren Hale

Well our trip is over and it was a pretty crazy week.  I’m not even sure where to start; probably the most pressing matter is the incredibly itchy bug bites that are covering my legs right now.  I’m doing everything I can to resist scratching them but sometimes it’s impossible.  Other than the painfully itchy bug bites, I would say it was a very successful trip. 
            This was my first international study abroad experience and one thing I definitely learned is that all those brochures for study abroad programs make them look like heaven on earth.  A lot about traveling is absolutely amazing but some things definitely aren’t.  These are also the same things that make me realize how incredibly grateful I am to live here in the United States.  Things like being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet and not let it sit in a trash can next to the toilet, having toilet paper at all, having toilet seats on toilets, safe drinking water, effective bug spray, reliable electricity, consistent water pressure.  I’m sure there are many more but the point is, these are things that we never have to think twice about here and finally being exposed to a country where these things are not commonplace really opened my eyes.  I’ve never been more grateful for returning to my own bathroom in my entire life.  But the Dominican also has remarkable opportunities to offer too.  We went white water rafting, helped a women’s association get their nature reserve off the ground, donated a good sum of money to their cause, and contributed to reforestation with native plant species.  I wasn’t able to say these things before and I’m very grateful to the Dominican and all the people we met there who let us help them and who helped us.      

            There will be more posts about specific stories and things that happened on the trip but until then, we all survived, learned a lot, and are happy to be back (just not happy to be back in class). 
Here we are at the ecological school building a new drainage system out of bamboo and creating a trench with river rocks.

This was our first night on the trip.  We are in Santo Domingo, the capitol city and oldest city in the Americas.

We hiked to the waterfall that is part of the nature reserve, and took a bunch of pictures.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why Travel

By Randy Thoms

            So the past week was spring break.  A week of parties, fun and excitement was in order and for a handful of us from SIU that is exactly what we got, along with no class work for the week -- except for one guy, I won't name names, who thought he was going to write a 20 page Global History paper and let's just say that did not happen.  The week began early Sunday, very early, 3am early for some with the time change, and St. Louis airport.  Then onto Charlotte where the 20 of us met up with Peru State and Lawrence Technological University students to total 40 on a trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  From there Professors, Grads and Undergrads, a local guide and bus driver meandered our way to the interior, almost geographic center of the country for work service, cultural exchange and 3 hours college credit in a week - whoo hoo!
            As the trip progressed and the bus rides mounted, most of our time was spent working on various projects for a Woman’s Center and a National Park, or Monument as they call it in the Dominican, to enhance the visitor’s experience and Eco-tourism concepts and activities. We built an Observation deck with benches and railings, sitting benches along the trials, clean walking paths, plant seedlings, build trusses and a bamboo french-drain.We also gave a 30-minute PowerPoint on economic and educational opportunities and designed a new visitor center, which are the trusses we built, to the park utilizing local building material and techniques. Only in the last day and a half were the "fun" activities of river rafting and snorkeling.
            One aspect of travel is the interaction of culture.  All our meals were prepared by our guests and were of local foods, nothing microwaved or per-packaged.  Yes I missed my usual eats, but was able to taste and experience new flavors and combinations that one would not get by staying in the tourist areas of any given destination. So not only did we see the architecture and beautiful landscape of a foreign country, we were more engaged with the community, had fun and great diversions like learning local dances, at the same time. One object I found and bought was a "Rain Chain" used for the downspouts on gutters.  They are handmade metal funnels chained together for rainwater, and since they have a rainy season, experience showed the locals this works.  So I will have a piece of Dominican Republic right out my kitchen door everyday.

            We all have lots of work to do and this was a good break and time to recharge our batteries. It helps me see what is important, wanted or needed in life. It is great for students to see and experience other cultures first hand and get out of one's comfort zone. As with the Dominica Republic we got the see how, dare I say, 75 percent of the world lives. Hopefully this will inform future design and a thirst for future travel. On the plane ride back to the States, two of us sat next to a college kid on spring break as well.  He went straight from the airport to a all inclusive resort in Punta Cana for the week and said he had a six day hangover and the food was terrible....who had the better spring break?  

Spring Break 2014

By Kayla Fuller

Most students spend their spring break relaxing on a beach for a week. As enjoyable as that may seem, this year I decided it was important to begin establishing my future after graduation. How did I accomplish this you may ask… Well my fiancĂ© and I decided to make the 16 hour drive from Carbondale, IL to Florissant, CO. I do not recommend this to everyone, it is a lot of driving, but as an architecture student I am used to going long periods of time without sleep. Also the drive out there was more enjoyable, mainly because it was our first time visiting Colorado, and as you approach the Colorado border you can see the mountains from the horizon.

            Southern Illinois is home to numerous state parks with breathtaking views, but it is nothing compared to the views from atop a mountain. The views we experienced were found from the area in which we were staying, I could not imagine if we had climbed to the top of Pikes Peak (something I hope to accomplish on my next visit).
            Unfortunately there was little time for us to explore due to interviews and a short term externship, which was my main reason to visit. So on to the business portion of the trip…
            Monday I was fortunate to have the opportunity to extern with RB+B Architects, a small firm in Fort Collins. It was a wonderful experience and hopefully will provide me with many opportunities in the future. One thing I found very refreshing was their respect for all their employees, everyone made a difference in the firm and everyone’s opinion mattered. This is definitely something you need to consider when deciding on a firm. The size really does matter, it will allow you to work on a variety of projects as well as provide plenty of opportunity for advancement. Even the short amount of time I spent there, I was able to leave an impression. They were working on a completion and had some sketches that needed to be developed into a model. Thanks to my experience with SketchUp, I was able to quickly and accurately develop them a model, which left them extremely impressed.
                As a reserved individual, it is difficult for me to fully express my personality when I first meet an individual, especially a future employer. I tend to keep to myself until I have a better grasp on their personality and expectations before I become comfortable. This makes interviewing extremely stressful for me and I do not always perform my best. Thankfully, due to their need of a model for the competition I was able to provide them with an example of my skills and work ethic. I feel this is a better representation of what I have to offer to a firm rather than a 30 minute interview of just verbal expression. There are many firms that require CAD tests to test your proficiency as well as other tests of skill.
            After completing my externship with RB+B and an interview with some other firms in the Denver area, we spent a lot of time exploring the Front Range area until it was time to head to California. I know I previously stated there were no beaches involved which is true other than brief our flight over the beach in Los Angeles. So why was I in California? Well, I was there to present a paper at the 55th Annual Transportation Research Conference. Talk about nerve-racking…  Luckily it was not a major conference, but it did allow me to gain experience. A majority of the presenters were more transportation and research based. It was refreshing for them as well as me to experience something different. It was definitely a valuable spring break experience overall and I hope to have the opportunity to return in the future.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Green Roofs

By Lani Walker

            In my Sustainable Landscape Practice class, we are learning about Green Roofs.  The project I decided to review was a green roof on the Ford Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan.  The design architect of the green roof and other sustainable updates was William McDonough + Partners in 2000. McDonough and other experts renovated Ford’s historic truck manufacturing plant to provide workers with ‘abundant natural light and fresh air that restores native habitat to the site.’  The main focus of the site is the 10-acre vegetative roof.  This green roof was the largest installation of its kind in the United States. 
            The green roof, installed by the company Xeroflora, is a very functional green roof.   It is planted throughout with low-growing, drought resistant sedum (an ornamental plant with small star-shaped flowers) that requires very little maintenance.  The roof provides many environmental benefits such as:
       The Green roof reduces the amount of energy needed (by 5% for Ford’s Tuck Plant) to moderate the temperature of the building, resulting in a more energy efficient building. 
       The Green roof can store rainwater which will be used for the plants, decreasing the stress on gutters and sewer systems. 
       The Green Roof moderates the temperature of the water and filters the pollutants out of the water if it happens to run off.  
       The Green Roof can reduce the heat island effect, which is helpful because the city of Dearborn is part of the Detroit Metropolitan Area. 
       Green Roofs can also help reduce the dust, particulate matter, and smog in the air resulting from this factory (improving the air quality). 
       Green Roofs can also potentially decrease the amount of CO2 and other polluting by-products being released into the air. 
       This Green Roof provides a habitat for various bird species which have found this spot to be a safe place to lay eggs. 
       This Green Roof has long been a symbol of the green building movement in Dearborn and perhaps has inspired other buildings to ‘go green,’ making an overall more sustainable city.  

            In my opinion, this is a very successful project.  The enormous green roof is a statement piece as well as a very functional roof.  The green roof serves the building and the environment in a variety of positive ways from saving money on energy usage to restoring the local plant habitat.  Architect William McDonough is never failing in producing long lasting sustainable pieces of architecture, and this green roof at the Ford Truck Plant is part of his collection.  For over ten years now the roof has served as an example to the local community of the green building movement and how sustainable techniques can be applied on a large factory scale.  There is nothing I would change about the design or aesthetics of this green roof because it was not meant to be a fancy, highly decorated green roof which needs a lot of maintenance, but rather it was meant to serve the building and environment in a very natural way.  
Image 1:           Here is a section I created which expresses the structure of a typical Green Roof. 
Photo by Author.

 ‘Ford’s Giant Green Roof’ – The Energy Collective
‘Ford Truck Plant Renovation’ – William McDonough + Partners
‘Giant Green Roofs’ – TreeHugger
‘Green Roof Construction Detail’ Inspiration
‘Green Roofs for Healthier Cities’ –
‘The Living Roof at Ford’ – The Henry Ford Factory

Raise the Roof

By Isaac Grayson

This spring break was much less exciting than many of my classmates. I did not leave the country, lay on the beach, climb a mountain or jump off of one. My most daring move was to not look at my thesis for five whole days! Instead I took the opportunity to work on some other projects. Focusing particularly on my non-western history project and trying to get a handle on my furniture design project. For my history project I chose to build a small model of a reciprocal frame.

                The reciprocal frame has a fuzzy history but can recently be seen making a revival in eco-communities. I have seen this sort of roof most often seated on posts with straw bale/cob infill. The roof has unique properties that allow it to not need a center support. It is also very adapt to ameba shaped floor plans. The reciprocal frame relies on a team work. Each member of the roof structure rests on its neighboring member all wrapping around so that the last piece rests on the first one.  I saw this structure first in one of Lloyd Kahn’s book that discusses vernacular architecture. 
                I found a good reference book by Olga Popovic Larsen that goes into great detail about the math needed to calculate but in this exercise I didn’t want to do the calculations. I wanted to feel the materials to mold them to be the creator and not merely the designer. I knew I was going to start with a dimensional piece of lumbar, and rip it down smaller to create something that I could carry through the door ways. After I did a rough layout of my pieces I established a perimeter to roughly keep the build within and began to stack the members. I quickly found that they were wanting to slide and twist so I had to place a nail for them to rest on and secure them with pink sting while I continued to build the revolving structure.
After I got the structure settled where I wanted it I marked the overlapping areas and numbered the boards to be able to put it back together later. Then I began to carve out the notches. For simplicity sake I only cut a notch on the top side of the members to allow myself more wiggle room to slide the pieces together. Because this is the first time doing this I did not trust my accuracy. This was a very good thing because every dry fit I did after this ended up being a little off what I had originally put together. And I had to go back and re-notch the last piece because it just wasn’t coming together correctly.
             Finally it was time to begin gluing. But after only two days of nice weather there was the threat of snow and freezing temperatures again. So it seemed in the best interest to move the project indoors and allow it to setup under more temperate conditions. With an extra set of hands the final assembly and gluing went well.  When the moment of truth came I was able to move and transport the piece all the way back to Carbondale without any mishaps. Now all I have to do is not step on it while it sits in my apartment and I wait for the due date to arrive. 

Also Check Out! The Year of Mud: Cob & Natural Building Workshops (

Saturday, March 22, 2014


By Brittany Ricker

This Spring Break I was lucky enough to participate in the ECO-CHALLENGE March 9th, 2014 – March 16th, 2014, in the Dominican Republic! This trip has brought me closer to some of my architecture friends (some a little too close… when it came time for ALOE) and I was able to meet a lot of new friends! The food was FANTASTIC, especially the fresh fruit. My next couple of posts obviously will be about this trip going into the details of WHITE WATER RAFTING, Dancing with the DR boys (Still in shock… and amazed… wow. For those of you who were there … understand exactly what I mean!), snorkeling, the island, the food, helping the Jarabacoa Community with projects, there is literally TOO much to even list but for starters… I thouht I would give you the essentials. If you plan to take this trip…. Read this.

And no… these things did not ruin my trip by any means… but if this stuff was prevented it would have been that much better! Oh and the sunburn.. thankfully the snorkeling trip was the last day before we headed back to the airport.. so that was a plus! Mind you… we laughed about this stuff the entire time and honestly, we were in the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC for Spring Break… That counted as an entire class. Yes, we worked extremely hard… but it was worth it. 

all graphics and photos are original to author

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Museums of Kengo Kuma

By Nicholas Mosher

            The Yusuhara Bridge is a very unique structure from a modern perspective.  Even though it was built in 2011, Kengo Kuma & Associates decided to use an older style of a structural system the looks just as well as it functions.  The bridge is located in Taro-gawa Yusuhara-cho, Japan where it connects two public buildings and supports a facility on top of the bridge.  Even though the bridge is small in length, around 27 meters, its short length allows for the structural system to be used with only one major column.  The bridge uses a dougong system for supporting itself up along with the walkway and rooms on top of it.  The dougong system looks like an inverted pyramid with a column connected to the tip of the pyramid.  This column supports majority of the weight of the entire bridge because of the column’s central location1
                When looking at the beautiful structure, it is clear that the pieces of it are not that large compared to modern technology beams and supports.  In fact all the pieces are is square timber that slowly gets longer near the top of the structure.  It is the arrangement of the timber that gives it its strength.  The strength comes from the interlocking of the pieces without any glue or fasteners.  The most common shape of this pyramid of interlocking is in a rectangle or square.  Each level of timber runs in the perpendicular direction tying in each one treating the whole system as one giant piece.  This is very similar to Lincoln Logs even though it was used way before Lincoln Logs ever existed.  The Chinese use this style thousands of years ago and it has proved to be very stable in all kinds of situations2
                Another one of Kuma’s museums is located in Aichi in central Japan and it is called the Prostho museum Research Center is a wooden building with a very small structural grid which allows for its structure to be the eye candy for the building.  The structure is composed of over 6000 cypress rectangular sticks the form several hundred open cubes.  This gives the building a shape and yet it is completely open from all angles.  The museum inside has no need for much artificial lighting because of how transparent the walls are3.  At certain points the 50cm grid in both the X, Y, and Z directions will have no sticks to allow for spaces and doorways to form inside of the system.  Inside there is a museum for dental work and history while in the actual encased walls hidden inside of the grid, the dental research department is right above the museum.  Kuma based this design off of an old Japanese toy game called Cidori.  The game had several sticks that could fit together to make different joints and shapes.  This building system is almost identical to the game but on a much larger scale.  No glue, bolts or nails are keeping these pieces together.  That is the genius part of the system3.
Kuma explained the interiors as being in a forest where you can see the light piercing through the branches and leaves3.  This building represents how structures and walls can be built today without using machinery.  Each piece of cypress was placed by hand and did not require and special tool to lock them in place.  This has been one of many works of art that Kuma designs to show off the simplicity and elegance of using basic technologies from the older era of his time. 

1.      Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum / Kengo Kuma & Associates. 16 Feb 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 Jan 2014.
2.      Stan Wepundi. Chinese Dougong Structure. Accessed 30 Jan 2014.
3.       Stratos Bacalis. (May 27, 2012). Prostho Museum Research Centre by Kengo Kuma. The Sandman Chronicles. Viewed Jan 30, 2014.