Bouchard wins Steedman Fellowship for design of ’green’ cultural center

December 13, 2008

ITHACA — Nikole Bouchard is about to see the world. A lot of it. Fifteen countries on four continents in what promises to be 12 dizzying months, to be exact. Bouchard (B.Arch. ’06) is the winner of the 2008 Steedman Fellowship in Architecture International Design Competition. Her prize requires and funds research travel and a final report and presentation, which she’ll present in 2010, the next time the fellowship will be offered.

“The spirit of my trip is to research lo-tech approaches to sustainability in rural and dense urban conditions,” says Bouchard. “I’ll conduct an extensive investigation of various regions of our world that exemplify the reciprocal relationships between people, place, and space, and in particular, the way specific cultures utilize the landscape in a symbiotic manner. The majority of these spatial solutions incorporate some degree of sustainable methodology which has the potential to benefit modern day architecture by encouraging sustainability and cultural significance.”

Bouchard’s winning project, “In-Situ Sensibility: Seeding the Future Growth of St. Louis,” centered on an abandoned industrial area along the banks of the Mississippi River, north of downtown. Competing architects were asked to design “environmentally sensitive adaptive reuse strategies” for the site. In her design, Bouchard created a “cultural center with an agricultural or green twist on it.” Seizing on the lack of greenspace in the area — tarred parking lots surround the site — she looked to give a home to urban agriculture and the various people and local organizations involved with it. 

“I found that St. Louis already has a developed infrastructure for things like community gardening, composting programs in schools, and construction materials salvage,” says Bouchard. “The city is making an effort toward renewal and my design helps existing organizations boost reuse of the site by providing space for a farmers’ market, a lecture hall, and meeting space. It can be used throughout the year by all households and lifestyles.” 

Developing the project was an exercise in speed, energy, and focus for Bouchard. Interested competitors are given just 40 days notice about the site and theme for the contest. At the time, she was working for Steven Holl Architects so only had four the weekends to pull everything together. 

“Each weekend I had one focus. The first I researched the City of St. Louis; the second was a design charette via several sketches and study models; week three I refined the design and built the 3D model; and week four I produced the presentation boards,” says Bouchard.  

The biennial competition, sponsored by Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts and College of Architecture, is open to young architects from around the world and carries a $30,000 first-place award.

The jury chair for the Steedman Competition was Lawrence Scarpa, principal at Pugh+Scarpa Architecture. Jury members included Peter Davey, former editor of The Architectural Review; Hashim Sarkis, architect and planner; Nader Tehrani, partner, Office dA; Ken Yeang, principal, Hamzah & Yeang Architects; Wilfried Wang, Hoidn Wang Architects and professor of architecture at the University of Texas.  

During the fall semester, Bouchard has been a teaching associate in Vince Mulcahy and Alex Mergold’s first-year design studio and is teaching introduction to drawing to master of architecture students. After graduating in 2006, Bouchard took a job at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (commonly called SOM) where she worked on the longstanding Penn Station renovation project. She joined Steven Holl Architects where she worked on built projects in the U.S. and abroad.

By Aaron Goldweber

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