2013 Laskey Design Challenge

The 2013 Laskey Sophomore Design Challenge was held at Washington University in St. Louis from January 18-20, 2013. This was the second year in which the award competition took the form of a “Design Challenge” aimed at sophomore architecture and art students at the Sam Fox School. In keeping with Studio L’s mission of encouraging students of design to have learning opportunities outside the parameters of the curriculum, a visiting professor was selected to design and administer an intense weekend competition to help students explore new ways of thinking and seeing and, as a result, to uncover something that none of them could have imagined before the work started.

Mehrdad Hadighi, founder and principal of Studio for Architecture, as well as the Stuckeman Chair of Integrative Design and head of the Department of Architecture at the Pennsylvania State University, kicked off the event by delivering a special presentation to introduce his design challenge. Students worked in teams over the weekend. They began by slicing the coolant reservoir found in cars into two non symmetrical parts. From these parts they created a three dimensional sculpture capturing the reservoir’s “plastic moments”, as well as a two-dimensional collage documenting its linear and planar geometric qualities.

As explained by Professor Hadighi, this exercise was intended to promote exploration of the critical balance that underlies all creative design between freedom of thought and the more pragmatic influences on built form such as structure and technology.

Winners: 2013 Laskey Award Fellows
Casey Federbusch Art
Taylor Halamka Architecture
Eden Lewis Art

Book Awards:

Alexandra Chiu Art
Rebecca Curtis Architecture
Grace Davis Architecture
Shira Grosman Architecture
Isaac Howell Art
Patricia Kilbride Art
Wonjin Son Art
Maya Theus Art

An excerpt from Dean Bruce Lindsey’s commentary in the forthcoming book documenting the 2013 Laskey Design Challenge:

All perception is direct, sometimes surprisingly so. We experience things directly but when we make new things we perceive both the making and the thing. Sometimes new things help us develop new perceptions. We are very adept at extending perceptions through things. A hammer becomes an extension of our hand such that we don’t register that the hammer hits back until our hand hurts. A cane focuses a peripheral awareness that allows a blind person to see through touch. In the film “The Mystery of Picasso” by Henri-Georges Clouzot we see the artist through the glass plane of his painting as the painting unfolds before him. The glass surprisingly reveals that the painting allows us to share the perceptions of the painter and we are asked to respond in kind.

Take a car fluid reservoir; Mehrdad Hadighi Head of the Department of Architecture at Penn State asked 120 students to do exactly that. We were nervous. Mehrdad was not, and the local junk yard was accommodating. 36 hours later the student teams filled the Steinberg gallery with strange and wondrous new things made from previous things. We all had a lot to say about the process and the products. Awards were given for invention and discovery, rewards were accrued for making something new, and I was reminded of something Michael Focault had said, “Things go without saying.”

Bruce Lindsey
Dean & E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration
College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design
Washington University in St. Louis