Designing At The Speed Of Light (Rail)

Competing students in the School of Architecture and Community Design developed potential light rail stations.


By Jenna Withrow News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 8, 2010) – When students at the University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design say they’re pulling an all-nighter, they mean it.


Once a year, architecture students stay up at all hours of the night participating in the all-school charette design competition. During the competition, student groups are tasked to finish projects that would normally take a week to complete in just over two days. Students must develop a concept, design the space, sketch the area, build a model, create graphics, write a design statement, and photograph their work in just 60 short hours.


The annual competition is used as an ice-breaker to allow new students to prepare for the rigor of the upcoming semester, said Trent Green, associate professor of Architecture and Urban Design. Prior to the competition, groups are formed with new and returning students. As they work together, new students learn new techniques and skills from their experienced teammates.


“The new students are eager; they’re ready to jump in. The competition is good for them to begin to understand what architecture is about. They learn a lot about the different elements of the design decision-making process,” Green said.


Each year, the charette competition provides SACD students with opportunities to apply concepts they learned in the classroom to pressing situations in their community. In years past, students have designed bus transfer stations for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) authority, cost effective dual housing for the city of Lakeland and bat houses for Lowry Park Zoo.


This year, students faced another timely issue: light rail transit.


Students were asked to design light rail stops for various locations throughout Hillsborough County. Each group received a specific location along the proposed rail alignments: half worked along the proposed I-275 alignment and the other half worked on the proposed CSX alignment.


When designing their stations, students had to keep several key issues in mind. Students were required to incorporate a waiting area with benches; water fountains and pedestrian lighting; one sustainable feature; a public art display; a bike path and rack; and an information kiosk, among other things. The station design needed to blend in with surrounding buildings and reflect the area’s culture.


“This is a timely issue for our community. People don’t know what the light rail will look like and who it will serve. They want more information; they want to know if this is worth their investment. My hope is that the students’ work will provide another level of information for the community,” Green said.


A total of 16 projects were submitted by the students. On Thursday September 9, a jury including SACD professors, city of Tampa officials, a HART official for strategic planning, and a member of the Tampa Downtown Partnership will judge the submissions.


The winners will be announced Friday September 10 at 5 an awards ceremony on the third level of the Architecture building (HMS). All submissions will be on display and the event is free and open to the public.


Following the event, the student light rail schemes will be posted on the SACD website.


For more information on light rail, visit this special report page.


Jenna Withrow covers student activities and events at USF. She can be reached at 813-974-4014.