California College of the Arts

California College of the Arts

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Two Architecture Students Nab Honorable Mention at CoARQ International Competition Awards

By Clay Walsh
Apr 12, '11 5:15 PM EST

Congratulations to fifth-year Architecture students Bret Walters and Duncan Young, who received an honorable mention in the Urban Design Category of the CoARQ Competition, the top-rated international competition for architecture students, for their Atomized Library project.

The CoARQ competition customarily awards a single first-place winner and three honorable mentions, yet the 2010 competition produced a tie, resulting in four honorable mentions total, including Walters and Young for their entry. (Of course one also can say there were four first-place recipients!)

Atomized Library: An Overview

The Atomized Library, which focuses on the digitizing of printed information and how it will affect the traditional library in terms of physical materials, "is not a proposal to remove the printed book, but rather to provide more access to its contents," asserts Young. "The library can thrive, but must expand and adapt to this new form of information."

Young goes on to explain: "The strategy of the atomized library is to develop organically, meeting the needs of the changing urban context. This organic development occurs over time through the use of an algorithm that calls on contextually specific information about population and infrastructure, developing a strategy about specific program types and quantities, along with moments of opportunity for their deployment."

More simplistically, the goal is to disseminate smaller information spaces throughout a city: buildings, kiosks, cafes, computer labs, public-access WiFi envelopes, media production centers, so-called teen spaces, public meeting rooms, and so forth. The investigation serves to ask what libraries might look like if information were no longer accessed through the traditional printed-book format.

According to the Atomized Library blog: "Think of it as a network of partially prefab, rapidly deployable, plug-in, bookless micro-libraries, with potential for global distribution."

Faculty Influence

More specifically, Young attributes much of the success of the CoARQ project to CCA Architecture faculty member and founder and principal of the Oakland-based firm envelope Architecture + Design Douglas Burnham, who was "the main point of influence and inspiration for the Atomized Library Project. His insight and advice guided our proposition through all stages. He inspired us to really question what the library would become in the digital age."

In keeping with sound collaboration, Walters also touts Burnham's influence on his work: "Many of my professors have had a profound impact on my studies, growth, and intellect over the last few years. I would have to say Douglas Burnham, in particular, inspired me. No matter what crazy tangent my mind took during the design process, Douglas would find something interesting in it and coax me into forming a cohesive statement or hypothesis. He never failed to be interested in my work and always offered encouragement."

"Never be afraid to ask professors a question," advises Young. "CCA fosters a unique environment in which we as students have the opportunity to learn daily from working architects who are at the top of the discipline. Not only are they astounding academics but also professionals who are dealing every day with the realities of practice."

Architecture Program: Inspired Learning

Young is quick to acknowledge the role the college has played in his promising career: "CCA has gone far beyond a generic college education and armed me with critical-thinking skills that allow an elevated level of learning and discourse. The Architecture Program does an excellent job of challenging convention and allowing students to explore and create.

"The interdisciplinary nature of the college also fosters a culture of communication and thought that encourages cross-pollination with other studies and arts. I feel that CCA has given me a tool set that will enable me to be successful in the professional world."

Walters, too, credits CCA's Architecture Program with inspiring his approach: "The program's focus on the analytical has provoked me . . . to look at design and how it can affect the world in a completely new way. . . . I’ve come to understand how profoundly we as designers can affect the lives of people, with or without intention. I have been taught responsibility for how my work can affect not only those lives but also the well-being of the planet." He adds, "Most important of all, I've learned to question every design decision I make, then to question it again, and again, and again."

Future Architecture Students

For any prospective student who is interested in CCA's Architecture Program, one need only listen to either of these aspiring architects: "Jump in," Walters advises. "It's a wonderful journey in which you will learn much about the world, design, and most importantly, yourself. You will find professors who are passionate about their disciplines, and peers who are passionate about learning. I can't think of a better place to spend five years!"


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Learn more about CCA's Architecture Program, including how to apply.