panama studio

Winter break hasn’t been all detective work in classic postwar skyscrapers and picking on  morally challenged partners at international design firms.  Iowa State’s annual CSI Prize Jury closed out a great studio semester by awarding Catie Mcclurg and Connor Yocum first place in this year’s competition.  They were in the interdisciplinary Panama Hospitality Studio that I taught with Interior Design Chair Lee Cagley, and deserved the recognition.  Our project, for an ecologically-oriented hotel along the entry to the Canal on the Amador Peninsula, was intentionally tough–how do you create a comfortable, international quality hotel that engages a rainforest reclamation project, is low embodied and life cycle energy, and makes a statement about urbanism in one of the fastest growing cities in the hemisphere?  Catie and Connor took all aspects of the challenge on board, starting with a section based on the varied flora and fauna in the rainforest canopy.  This idea came from our tours of Gamboa, the forest just outside the city, where towers give visitors access to the incredibly diversity that changes every few vertical feet.  This project oriented rooms and public areas according to the heights of various trees, including a restaurant and bar at treetop level, and upper stories that took advantage of views back to the main bulk of the city, to the north.

(Anastasia Sysoeva and Weicheng Chan)

Collaborative teams are one of the hallmarks of our approach to the NAAB Integrated Design requirement, and I jumped at the chance to expand on this by having Lee’s students join us.  Almost every team in our studio combined architecture and interior design students, and the results were impressive–we’re used to seeing architectural schemes that take structure, circulation, environmental response, and cladding seriously, but these dovetailed with space designs that focused on guests’ experiences and the fine-grained functionality of a complex program.  Any worries we might have had about adding too much range to the teams’ plates were pretty well dashed in the final review, where we saw projects that fluently pulled together all of these requirements.  Glad that the CSI Jury agreed…congrats to C+C, and to all of our students, for a great semester.  I’m hoping we’ll be able to do it again next Fall.  This time, I’ll know my way around the freeways well enough that we maybe won’t miss an exit and end up on the wrong continent…

(Britt Schenck, Melissa Brooks, Allie Shindoll)


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