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Architecture undergraduate wins top honor in statewide competition


BLACKSBURG, Va., April 9, 2008 – Marisa Brown, a third-year architecture student in Virginia Tech's School of Architecture + Design, in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, has won this year's Virginia Society American Institute of Architects Prize.

The annual competition invites students from architecture schools in Virginia to participate in a weekend-long design contest wherein they receive a challenge at 5 p.m. on Friday evening and -- after a weekend of intense work -- submit completed designs by 9 a.m. the following Monday. Brown received a certificate and $1,500 for her prize.

Fort Monroe was the site of the famous "contraband" decision during the Civil War, which determined that any escaped slaves reaching Union lines would not be returned. For this year's challenge, students were asked to design a temporary architectural installation utilizing the fortification's three distinct environments: the watery exterior, the voluminous interior of the massive wall, and the protected interior lawn of the fort. In the design the three spaces should work together to form an edifying experiential resource celebrating the cultural history of the site.

The jury said of Brown's untitled winning design: "It was an elegantly restrained concept. The lights leading the visitor through the process were an extremely strong metaphor."

Each school juried its students' submissions, forwarding up to eight winners per school to the Virginia Society American Institute of Architects for final judging. In addition to the Virginia Society American Institute of Architects prize, the organization also bestows best of school prizes for each participating school and up to three honorable mentions.

Best of school for the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, which is part of the School of Architecture + Design, was awarded to Lesley Golenor, a first-year graduate architecture student originally from Fairfax, Va. Golenor holds a bachelor’s of fine arts in painting and printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University. She also attended the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for two years as a "March 3" (a three-year master's degree for a student who has an unrelated undergraduate degree) student.

Honorable mention for graphic presentation was awarded to the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center's Jon Gabriel Gaines, a fourth-year architecture student from Portsmouth, Va.

The designs will be on display at schools around the state including Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center. They will also be on display through May 1 in the Surge Building on the Blacksburg campus.

The College of Architecture and Urban Studies is composed of four schools: the School of Architecture + Design, including architecture, industrial design, interior design and landscape architecture; the School of Public and International Affairs, including urban affairs and planning, public administration and policy and government and international affairs; the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, which includes building construction in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and construction engineering management in the College of Engineering; and the School of the Visual Arts, including programs in studio art, visual communication and art history.