College of Architecture, Art and Construction

Clemson architecture students win SARA design awards


Clemson Master of Architecture students have been named among the Society of American Registered Architects (SARA) 2023 Student National Design Awards winners and in the Society of American Registered Architects New York (SARA NY) chapter’s Design Awards.

“Vertical Porosity,” a project by Caroline Woodard, Anna Rowell and Thomas Meacham, was selected for a Merit Award among the National Design Awards announced on October 28.

Countering gentrification with housing

“Vertical Porosity” aimed to tackle social, economic and environmental issues within the International District of Seattle, an area of the city that is seeing affordable housing dwindle and a rise of gentrification.

From left to right: Carolina Woodard, Anna Rowel, Thomas Meacham

According to Woodard, the International District is an area of significant diversity in Seattle, with around 72% of the residents belonging to minority ethnicities. Additionally, Woodard explained that 20% of this area’s population is 65 or older and 30% live below the poverty line.

The project was designed to not only counter gentrification with affordable housing for families and seniors but also focused on directly responding to the site’s environmental needs, ensuring a reduction in a concept called the “heat island effect.”

The proposed site incorporates rooftop and private garden spaces that provide evaporative cooling, family spaces that allow for open-air movement through the building floors, co-living areas for seniors and a white aluminum façade that, according to the project, reduces heat absorption. Additionally, the buildings would house over 550 residents and have 121 units, with an additional plan to add 66 more units as the community and site grow.

“In this day and age, new architecture needs to be designed in a way that is conscious of our changing climate,” explained Rowell. “In our project, we wanted to focus on not only giving the International District a community where they can thrive but also housing that will stand in this new world of design challenges.

“It is inspiring and exciting to see how far our project has progressed, developed and changed throughout its lifespan to a point where it can receive such an award,” explained Meacham. “The award indicates that the project had a great atmosphere of teamwork and mentorship at Clemson to healthily curate and develop it! For SARA to recognize and award us is definitely a motivation for future projects and a reminder of the addictive nature of wanting to start the architectural design process over again.”

SARA NY Design Awards

Earlier this year, three more groups of Master of Architecture students were named among the winners of the 2023 Design Awards | SARA NY, an annual design awards gala hosted by the New York chapter of SARA. “Above the Marsh,” “Rooted” and “The Craft, The Tradition, The Celebration” were honored among the winners.

Designing from the outside environment to the inside building

Named among this year’s winning Design Awards of Honor, “Above The Marsh” was designed and submitted by Clemson Master of Architecture students Lucas Schindler and Mia Walker. Schindler and Walker’s project introduces hostel live-work units to offer a flexible, economically viable option for travelers while supporting the community of Sunset Beach.

From left to right: Mia Walker, Lucas Schindler

“The objective of this project was to bring awareness to the effects of coastal tourism and to use architecture to formulate socially responsible, environmentally respectful and economically sustainable alternatives,” explained Walker. “This project is a proposal on how to operate on a larger urban infrastructural scale for a sustainable future.”

The project includes 18 hostel live-work units, a restaurant, a market space, an aquaculture center, an immersive greenhouse, and civic and public space. To combat the social and environmental issues caused by tourism, Walker and Schindler’s hostel live-work units were designed with living courters directly above the workspace to allow for complete immersion in the live-work lifestyle. Additionally, the units offered a flexible and economically viable option for travelers that directly support Sunset Beach’s community. The proposed market space provides opportunities for the community’s farmers and vendors to engage with the community due to the area’s limited grocery and fresh produce available to the locals. At the same time, the aquaculture center could sell goods harvested on-site to promote a more circular economy.

“While the design of the building was important, it almost became secondary to the marshland and creating a farming experience on the protected site. We wanted the focus to be on the environmental aspects and design from the outside environment to the inside of the building,” said Schindler.

According to Walker, this award has propelled her professional and academic career. “I hope that other students can look at this project and realize we can break the boundaries of design and use architecture as a catalyst for positive change,” Walker explained.

“When we were asked to submit to this competition, I did not expect the resources it would provide me as an Architecture student and young professional, shared Schindler. “Having our work recognized was a great honor and one that I could not do without Mia as a partner and the professors we had during the semester.”

Cooking, heating and hearth in the Gullah Geechee culture

Another one of this year’s winning Design Awards of Honor, “Rooted: De’ Gullah Geechee Heritage Compound,” a project by Clemson Master of Architecture students Cierra Davies and Andre Daniels, aimed to empower the Gullah Geechee community of St. Helena Island, SC and to highlight the rich culture of the Gullah Geechee in the Lowcountry.

From left to right: Andre Daniels, Cierra Davies
Davies photo shot by: Shamitha Nandi Clemson University Honors College ’25 B.A. Architecture

“Given the island’s history to the Gullah Geechee, we wanted our project to embrace their culture and offer space for them to preserve their culture,” shared Daniels.

The project proposed a live-work environment for some of the Gullah Geechee Residents of St. Helena Island while offering a host program where tourists could stay with locals and become immersed in the culture. The project included businesses owned and operated by the Gullah Geechee, living quarters, communal spaces such as an over-the-fire cooking area, storytelling spaces and rooftop gardens for residents to grow and sell their foods. Additionally, the project proposed the site offer advocacy to present a response to long-standing issues of heirs’ property laws in the area, as, according to the project, the laws negatively affect the Gullah Geechee in both St. Helena Island and the entire Gullah Geechee corridor.

“It is important for people from underrepresented groups to see professionals from whom they relate to be celebrated, supported and included,” explained Davies. “It is also important for them to see the unique issues they face within the built environment be acknowledged and addressed.”

According to Davies, this award has propelled her advocacy work as an emerging professional and brought more awareness to her advocacy and outreach initiatives at Clemson. At the beginning of the 2023 Fall semester, Davies was named the Graduate Assistant for Advocacy and Outreach for the School of Architecture and has attended events on campus and in the Upstate to bring greater awareness about School of Architecture programs and initiatives to underserved and underrepresented communities. Additionally, Davies has seen an increase in support for her grassroots initiatives in the School of Architecture, such as her mentorship to students in competition design studios and her support to women in architecture.

For Daniels, this award has been a boon to his academic and professional career due to the project’s use of rammed earth. “I am most excited about the notoriety that has come about from this project and the award. Our project has highlighted how architecture can (and sometimes should) be used to embrace, sustain, and preserve cultural heritage. 

Development, tourism and the disappearance of traditions

This year’s winning Design Award of Merit, “The Craft, The Tradition, The Celebration of Culture,” a project by Clemson Master of Architecture students Angela Kraus and Olivia Wideman, aimed to solve the disconnect between culture, place and estranged descendants through an immersive, hands-on learning center that celebrates the trades and traditions of the Gullah people through practice.

From left to right: Olivia Wideman, Angela Kraus

“This project challenged us to approach design holistically, purposefully, and with a strong sense of environmental responsibility,” explained Kraus. “The thoughtful interaction between the site, local ecology, community and culture was critical to the design. Through every iteration, critique, and milestone, our collaboration evolved, and so did our project, and we couldn’t be more grateful and excited to share this achievement.”

The proposed 12,670-square-foot school incorporates agriculture, cuisine, art and folklore as the four programmatic approaches to passing the trades and traditions of the Gullah people from locals to students of a seven-day heritage program. The proposal set the school on St. Helena Island as this location is one of the last South Carolina Sea Islands along the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor, where the Gullah still live and work.

“Being selected as one of the winning projects is a surreal accomplishment that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our professors, whose guidance influenced us to fully immerse ourselves in the intricacies of our design,” said Wideman. “This project was not about creating appealing aesthetics, but celebrating the beauty of the culture, which manifested into something more beautiful than I could’ve imagined.” 

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