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CMSD student-architects design 'shelters' (video)


Zombies arose and came forth in vicious waves of rotting flesh. A fearsome tsunami swelled up to destroy us all. Tornadoes touched down to finish the job. Millions were left homeless.

Big deal. Bring it on. That was the general reaction Thursday from about 50 students from the Cleveland School of Architecture and Design who took part Thursday in the annual "Give Me Shelter" challenge at Case Western Reserve University. They shrugged off threats, both real and imaginary, to design structures that would save us from destruction.

Sure, the buildings were made from pipe cleaners, construction paper and tape and fit easily on a conference room table in the ballroom of  the university's Thwing Center. But this was a case where it was the thoughts that counted most, said Monica Ponce DeLeon, a University of Michigan architecture professor who was also the keynote speaker Thursday night at a related event.
"All of you built models that actually stand up, that are substantial and which are really very complicated structures," Ponce de Leon said.  "All of you are already understanding the relationship between architecture and structure.
"But more importantly, you are finding that there are many ways you can do things, and the cool thing is that -- unlike math, where there is either right or wrong most of the time -- with architecture you only have degrees of good and great. Here you can really do what you believe in and what you think is best. "
For one group, that meant scrapping the tsunami shelter they had talked about for several weeks in favor of a tornado safety bunker they dreamed up, drew up and presented to the rest of the group in just over two hours Thursday morning. In short, the design was a drop-down escape hatch in the floor of a building and protective bunkers underneath.
"We just just changed our whole mind right now," said Carolina Collado. 
Deonte Wells agreed. "We had a burst of new ideas that were better," he said. "We came up with something totally different, and it would be expensive, but it could save a lot of lives, so it would be worth it."
The “Give Me Shelter” program is the brainchild of Cleveland architect Judson Kline, a retired partner at Herschman Architects Inc. and chairman of the Advisory Board at the School of Architecture and Design, one of three high schools housed at the John Hay Campus. Kline also runs his own project, the Community Image and Vision Implementation Through Architecture and Development (CIVITAD), which consults with communities on re-imagining their development projects.
Kline and other professional architects worked with the CMSD students for the last several weeks, teaching them some of the basics of design and prodding them to think about contemporary problems and possible answers.
The specifics of Kline's written challenge:  Based upon the students' determination of the circumstances and environment where the shelter would be needed, they would design a structure to house eight to 10 people from the elements. The structure had to be built of simple, readily available materials that could be purchased for not more than $50 and be assembled in a short timeframe.
Or more poetically:  "Since the beginning of human habitation on earth, people have endeavored to provide shelter for themselves, their families and communities. Their shelter has been simple: a cave, a tree, or a tent or complex: a house, apartment building, or skyscraper. The design of a creative shelter on a limited budget has significant potential for particular applications both positive and negative, from camping to natural disasters to human conflict and inhumane situations. In each of these circumstances, people seek protection from the elements. This challenge invites students to consider the built environment in developing and creating unique and functional shelters."
CMSD educator Nancy Murnyack said none of the students who participated has taken a architecture-specific course yet, but the project would "launch them right into it" for next semester.
"They will already be at this level when they start, and we'll be able to go much deeper into studies," she said. "This has been such a great program, and it fits right in with what we do at John Hay, where we are very involved with the community and we try to give real-world opportunities for the students to learn."