Perkins+Will Awards $20,000 in Prizes to Architecture Students

Laura Wiedenhoever, second from left, poses with the jury who selected her as the winner of the Perkins+Will Prize.

Perkins+Will, an interdisciplinary, research-based architecture and design firm, sponsored a prize for the University of Florida Spring 2018 Architecture Design 6 studio. The total prize money given out was $20,000.

This contest was open to all approximately 90 students in the Design 6 studio. The top students chosen had their projects reviewed by a jury made up of architecture faculty and Perkins+Will employees.

The prizewinners were announced outside the DCP Gallery on April 25.

The first prize of $10,000 went to Laura Wiedenhoever. This prize will pay for her semester abroad at the school’s Vicenza Institute of Architecture in Italy.

There was a tie for second place between Paul Gruber and Hans Milian. Each student received $4,000. The third prize of $2,000 was awarded to Maria Garcia.

“We are proud to sponsor the 2018 Perkins+Will Prize, in collaboration with the UF College of Design, Construction and Planning, as we believe in encouraging and elevating the brightest and most innovative students in the field of architecture and design,” Mark Lutz, LEED AP, Perkins+Will Discipline Leader and Principal, stated. “These talented students are the future of our profession and we want to equip them with the resources necessary to advance our society.”

DCP Communications spoke with winning student Laura Wiedenhoever and she was gracious enough to answer some questions for us.

DCP Communications: Can you describe your winning entry?

Wiedenhoever: The “Swing Charleston Dance Institute” is a multi-functional construct that is situated in the city of Charleston at the intersection of Calhoun St. and Meeting St. Since the site chosen for this project is located in a very public part of Charleston – the central Marion Square Green space is right next door, it seemed ideal to keep the institute flexible, accessible and public. My idea was to elevate the functional spaces on thin pilotis and flood the site with water and light.

Historical research of the city of Charleston became a big part of my project. Figuring out what connection my site could have with the development of the city as a whole lead me to the idea with the water. Charleston was essentially a wetland, filled with creeks and streams, most of which today mark the city as streets. The building’s site is also rich in history. A large fortress from the revolutionary war used to mark its ground and around it was also a moat filled with water. It was with all this that I decided it was necessary to evoke the presence of water in my design.

The way natural light operates within is also an important feature. Three giant light tubes puncture through the flat roof and engage with the spaces underneath. The most important space is the auditorium. The idea was to redefine what a theater is, thus allowing for a more connected experience inside and out. The auditorium is kept transparent to one side in order to remain open to the park. As a result, visitors inside can view the city while visitors outside of the institute can be drawn in by seeing the light tubes from afar.
Since the building is predominately a dance institute, it had to read as one for its visitors. Analyzing the movements of the Swing Charleston, I concluded that the pilotis should “dance” the Charleston. There are five steps to the dance but within those steps, there are eight movements. My building demonstrates all eight.

DCP Communications: What does winning this prize mean to you?

Wiedenhoever: I am very grateful and happy to be awarded the inaugural Perkins+Will Studio Prize. This was a tough competition. There are so many talented and good designers in my design year. I am really honored to be selected as this year’s winner.

DCP Communications: Were you already planning on going to Vicenza? If not, how excited are you to be able to go now?

Wiedenhoever: Originally, I was not planning on going to Vicenza to study abroad. However since winning the competition, I am thrilled for the opportunities the prize opens for me and am so excited to travel with my colleagues around Europe. We will get to experience the cultures, arts and works of architecture we all learned about in our classes.

DCP Communications: What would you like to say to Perkins+Will for sponsoring this contest?

Wiedenhoever: Thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity. Studying architecture at the University of Florida is super competitive when working and learning among the best design students in the state. Winning the competition has been an eye-opening experience and I plan to make the very best of my trip to Vicenza, Italy next Spring.

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