Eph architects make student design a reality

Anna Bruce

Architectural Design II built a structure between Hopkins and Schapiro designed by Novera Momo ’21. 

If you walked on the path between Hopkins and Schapiro last week, you probably heard the familiar buzz of construction that continually reverberates through campus. However, the noise wasn’t coming from just another College construction project. Last week, the sawing, hammering and drilling was echoing from the Architectural Design II class’ weeklong construction project. Taught by Ben Benedict, a senior lecturer in the art department, the class held a design competition in September where each of the eight students presented their design for the prompt “A Room with a View.” Inspired by E.M. Forster’s book of the same title, each student sought to create a room that would highlight a “view” on the site. After everyone presented various drawings and small models in class, students voted for their favorite design to be built as a life size model over the following week. Novera Momo ’21 won the competition.

Momo hopes her design will bring peace to the College’s busy campus. The final design was a culmination of abstract and geometric sketches. Momo aimed to make a room with a view that made sense spatially, but also had strong geometric qualities. When approaching the “Room with a View” from the south, contrasting white and natural wood colored parallelograms look as if they are sliding past each other. Community members can enter the structure and walk up four steps to find a window that situates the viewer above people walking on the path below. The rectangular window frames a beautiful view of the autumn leaves in front of Thompson Memorial Chapel. 

For Momo, the experience brought an appreciation for the hard work that architects, engineers and contractors put into structures for the public. “My happiest moments were when I saw people using the space for reading, phone calls and relaxing,” she said. “Some people have given it funny names like ‘Novera’s sky house’ and ‘that spaceship thing.’”

It was no small task to bring the design to life. Benedict, with help from local contractor Rick Kobik, brought tools and building materials to the site and worked nonstop throughout the week to ensure the project would be done on time. “There is no way the project would get done without Rick,” Benedict said. “We [started] early every morning cutting all the pieces for the students to assemble.”  

The architecture students and teaching assistant were expected to stop by the construction site during every free moment throughout the week to assist and learn about construction. Students helped in all aspects of the building process, from assembling the structure with screws, to squaring walls to checking measurements and painting. 

This is the third time Benedict has taken on a project of this kind with his architecture class, and he considers actually building a project a key part of the learning process for students. “Not only have I always loved to build things, [but] I find it grounds the design process,” he said. “Making a building buildable is part of the architect’s challenge, and there’s no better way to make that point than to personally construct your own solution to a design problem. It’s humbling, too.” From figuring out how to design an interesting plan that could be built in one week, to working with materials on the construction site, students definitely learned these lessons. 

Momo felt especially attached to the project. “I feel a stronger connection to the building than I thought I would, maybe because of the fact that I helped build it,” she said. “When I walk by it, I feel like a part of me is standing there.”