January 22nd, 2016 Comments Off on CAAD to host career panel in conjunction with MSU Career Days
January 5th, 2016 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Community Design Studio one of several from MSU making a difference in storm aftermath
Storm Season: A decade after Katrina, continued research seeks to prevent devastation
Preparing to walk into her bridal shower in September 2005, Laura Buchtel McWhorter struggled to wipe the tears from her eyes and regain her composure.
A Metairie, Louisiana, native and 2003 graduate of Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast meteorology, she had evacuated her south Louisiana residence just days before Hurricane Katrina’s catastrophic landfall on the Gulf Coast.
As she arrived to her shower in Tupelo, she received on her cell phone the first images of her parents’ home sitting in more than a foot of water. Her grandparents’ home, she later learned, was in the same shape.
Her family members, thankfully, were fine. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for everyone.
More than 1,800 people on the Gulf coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi died after Hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, made landfall as a Category 3 storm on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm laid waste to entire communities on the Mississippi coast, while the storm surge caused levees to fail and flood New Orleans, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents.
McWhorter and her husband, Kelley, married on Oct. 8 that year at the Chapel of Memories on Mississippi State’s Starkville campus. Immediately after their honeymoon, she said they went to Metairie to help her family sift through the waterlogged rubble and start the process of getting them back on their feet.
“It was a happy time because of the wedding, but it was a trying time, too, because of the storm,” McWhorter said, recalling the upheaval. “It was definitely a crazy time.”
That December, McWhorter had the opportunity to fill in for the beleaguered chief meteorologist—who had worked months straight without a day off since Katrina—at WWLTV in New Orleans, a CBS affiliate where she had interned during her senior year at MSU. Her interim work led to a full-time meteorologist job at the station, where she’s worked ever since.
But when she and her husband moved to New Orleans in the spring of 2006, they faced a city still wounded from Katrina’s wrath and man’s failures.
“It didn’t even look like a city,” McWhorter said. “At night, it was so dark and the silence was deafening. Even in the day, everything was just so brown and gray. Nobody knew if New Orleans would come back. There was a period when we thought, ‘This is never going to be right again.’”
A REFUGE FROM THE LAST RESORT
More than 500 miles away, Michael McDaniel was appalled. He said it was the only word that came to mind when he saw the mess before him in early autumn 2005, and 10 years later, he still can’t think of a better one.
A graphic designer working in Austin, Texas, at the time, he saw firsthand what life was like for those living in Houston’s Astrodome after being moved from the Superdome in New Orleans—the original “refuge of last resort.”
He said he vividly remembers instances where desperate people, who had presumably lost most of their worldly possessions, wandered around the stadium holding up makeshift signs with names of family members they couldn’t locate scrawled across the front. The chaos there was “mind-boggling,” he said.
And so, that’s what he’s trying to do—using a disposable coffee cup as a template.
A Centreville native and 1999 Mississippi State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in art, McDaniel developed the idea for Exo, a portable emergency shelter. Reaction Housing, his Austin-based company, will soon begin full-scale production of the shelter, along with other emergency shelter products.
Built similar to a teepee using a lightweight, durable, proprietary material, McDaniel said the latest version of the Exo weighs about 375 pounds. The units can sleep two to four people, but there is also a model with desks and shelves that can be used as a mobile command center at a disaster-relief staging area.
All furniture and elements of an Exo fold flat, meaning four people can quickly set up, take down and carry the shelter without machinery. It doesn’t contain its own power source, but with 110-volt outlets, each unit can connect to an outside power source, such as a generator or a car battery with an inverter.
Exos use keycards, similar to those at hotels, but can also be accessed with a regular key. McDaniel explained Reaction uses a software system to control access to the units and track registered Exo users, which would allow people to more easily locate their loved ones if the product was employed during a disaster.
McDaniel started developing the Exo in 2007. He said he basically worked on the concept and design in his backyard at nights and on weekends for the first six years.
He started Reaction in 2013, after his product acquired its first angel investor. McDaniel said Reaction now has more than two months of orders to fill. Most of those are from commercial or individual customers who are willing to spend the roughly $12,000 per unit on recreation or other personal use.
While that might get the Exo noticed, McDaniel said he is still striving for his product to serve a greater purpose and create sales volume that will drive down the price. He said he hopes, in time, government agencies and private aid organizations will purchase Exos in advance of an emergency. That way, if a hurricane is headed for the Gulf Coast, for instance, the agency or organization could quickly stage a mass shelter area.
“We see this as becoming a tool for planning, rather than just a knee-jerk reaction,” McDaniel said. “A hurricane is the only disaster that you can see coming and plan for. And with these, people won’t be sleeping on Army cots in sports arenas. It’s a way to better keep the people and their belongings safe.”
MORE ACCURATE PREDICTIONS
Mississippi State University faculty and staff are also doing their part to improve disaster forecasting, response and recovery.
The university’s Geosystems Research Institute teamed up in 2014 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California-based Liquid Robotics to test the effectiveness of an unmanned ocean-surface vehicle in more accurately predicting the paths and intensities of hurricanes.
Associate research professor and meteorologist Pat Fitzpatrick, who is stationed among three GRI teams at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, said
institute researchers field-tested three Liquid Robotics-manufactured Wave Gliders last summer in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Wave Glider looks like it’s on a surfboard. Its main structure floats on the ocean’s surface tethered by a cable to underwater flaps that use waves for propulsion. The glider’s floating structure carries battery- and solar-powered instruments to measure wind, pressure, waves, currents, water temperature and more.
The data from the gliders is collected via satellite.
Weather buoys are the standard for reading environmental measurements of storms, but if a storm doesn’t cross over a buoy, storm path and intensity predictions can be inaccurate. With more study, Fitzpatrick said he hopes NOAA can one day deploy a fleet of gliders to fill in gaps where there are no buoys.
“All it takes is a little more information to completely change the predicted path of the storm,” he said. “NOAA was very pleased with our work last year, but I think this needs more study. We need to get one of these into an actual hurricane and see how it does.”
Mississippi State’s Social Science Research Center is developing technology using “human sensors” that could make future emergency response quicker and more effective.
Sponsored by a $150,000 grant from NOAA, SSRC researchers have accessed Twitter’s archives and sifted through almost 5 million tweets posted from the New York and New Jersey areas during Hurricane Sandy in 2008. The majority of the tweets deal with the storm, including hundreds of thousands of photos of flooding and other storm damage, and each is geocoded to within 5-10 feet of where it was posted.
The team, which includes Fitzpatrick, John Edwards and Somye Mohanty, also surveyed 20,000 residents of the Sandy-affected area, to find out how they received information about the storm and how they responded.
“This data is as useful, if not more useful, than traditional survey data,” said SSRC director Arthur Cosby. “People were using social media during Sandy to ask for help and offer help, while others were organizing aid efforts.”
Using what they’ve learned about how people use social media to request and offer assistance, the team is now developing software that emergency management services can use during disasters to see tweets from the affected area. This will help first responders use Twitter to directly contact those who need help and respond more quickly to issues.
Mohanty said it would also allow emergency managers to more easily convey accurate information to the public during weather events or other disasters.
“The more information you have, the better decisions you can make,” Mohanty said. “The better decisions you make, the more lives you can save.”
The Biloxi-based Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, a Mississippi State research center, has taken charge of making the post-Katrina Mississippi Gulf Coast better than it was before the storm.
Using a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as several regional partnerships and community volunteer hours, the studio’s professional staff has helped design and build more than 230 new homes and rehabilitate another 100 in Katrina-affected communities in Mississippi.
David Perkes, the design studio’s director, said the focus on resiliency rather than speed helped plot a better long-term vision for the coast. In other words, the studio doesn’t just want to build basic housing that would become rental property in five to 10 years, he said. Instead, the plan is to work with property owners to build homes that will stand the test of time and be passed down from generation to generation.
“An important lesson we learned through this rebuilding work was the value of involving community members in the design process,” Perkes said. “In doing that, we hope we will instill in them a stronger sense of ownership.”
Perkes’ team of designers and landscape architects have earned American Institute of Architecture recognition for their home designs. Most recently, the studio won an Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Guardian Award for restoring Bayou Auguste in east Biloxi, which Katrina devastated.
Through that project, the team removed debris and repaired the bayou’s wetland habitat by building a neighborhood wetland park. Mississippi State students and community volunteers also engaged in educational programs about improving the bayou’s functions of restoring and improving the nursery habitat for fish and shrimp, reducing pollution and debris entering the ocean through the integrated bayou and storm water system, and creating a marshland to contain floodwater from extreme storm events.
“Resiliency is not just about becoming better prepared for a disaster,” Perkes said. “It’s about improving the day-to-day quality of life in these communities. We’re wanting to take the awareness that comes from Katrina, and use it to build a sustainable, resilient community mindset.”
MOVING FORWARD AFTER THE STORM
Back in New Orleans, despite McWhorter’s fears and those of many who trudged through the early post-Katrina days, the city has bounced back.
Neighborhoods organized after the waters receded, she said, and people, all bound together by crisis, started helping one another. The storm and its aftermath, it seems, became part of the New Orleans DNA.
“There was such a sense of community because we were all going through the same thing,” McWhorter said. “We all have our Katrina story, and we’re all connected by that bond.”
That bond the storm created in New Orleans, however, also brought with it a sort of hangover for residents, especially in dealing with the threat of severe weather, she said. And it’s changed the expectations for meteorologists in the area.
During the run-up to Hurricane Gustav’s landfall in 2008, which fortunately fell short of its “Katrina-like” force projections, McWhorter said a sort of weather-related post-traumatic stress became evident.
She explained that Gulf Coast residents have learned the storm terminology and want to see all the hurricane models, but most of all, they want meteorologists’ advice on how to stay safe.
“I don’t think I was prepared to be part meteorologist, part psychologist when I got into this business,” she said. “Here, you don’t just tell people what the weather is like; you actually have to coach them through it.
“People here are gun-shy about any storm. They want all the information you can give them, even what you would consider to be the more scientific stuff. They expect it.”
In the decade since the storm, she said, the city built back little by little—rebuilding houses, businesses and infrastructure destroyed by Katrina’s wrath. With better levees, better evacuation plans and more accurate weather forecasting, McWhorter said New Orleans is much better prepared if another Katrina hit.
What guarantees the city’s survival more than anything else though, she added, is the same force that pulled it through the pain Katrina wrought – its people.
“The storm toughened us up, and it taught us just to live our lives day to day,” she said. “If another Katrina hits, there’s definitely going to be damage. When the inevitable happens and a bad storm comes, we’ll survive and rebuild. If we made it through Katrina, we can make it through anything.”
November 16th, 2015 Comments Off on Architecture alumnus Lance Davis staying busy with U.S. General Services Administration
Program Manager for Design Excellence Architecture+Sustainability for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), Lance Davis, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, and a 1995 graduate of the School of Architecture at Mississippi State, has been staying busy lately.
Davis was recently asked to be part of the plenary panel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference, Past Forward.
During the conference, Davis presented a power session, “ESPCs: Using Energy Efficiency Initiatives to Spark Reinvestment,” where he discussed the use of ESPCs for historic preservation.
This week, Davis will speak at the Embassy of Canada about his work for the sustainability of architecture for the U.S. Federal Government and how Canada can play a better role in this effort.
At the end of the week, he is also scheduled to speak at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Federal Summit in Washington, D.C., on GSA’s sustainability efforts and successes. His Nov. 20 G10 session is titled “Mending Mid-Century Modern.”
The USGBC’s magazine, USGBC+, recently featured the work of the Federal Government in an article titled “Monumental Green,” and Davis was interviewed for the piece.
November 10th, 2015 Comments Off on Marvin Windows, archimania host fifth-year architecture students
(Via Associate Professor and Jackson Center Director Jassen Callender)
For eleven straight years, Marvin Windows and Doors, a premier made-to-order wood and clad wood window and door manufacturer, has hosted the fifth-year School of Architectures students at their door manufacturing facility in Ripley, Tenn.
In addition to a day of guided tours on Oct. 22, Marvin Windows provided hotel accommodations, breakfast and lunch to the students.
Archimania, a Memphis firm led by MSU graduate Todd Walker, hosted the students a day earlier. Archimania employees and MSU alumni Kayce Williford and Will Randolph provided tours of several of the firm’s Memphis-area projects.
October 27th, 2015 Comments Off on School of Architecture Advisory Board meets
The Advisory Board for the School of Architecture met on Mon., Oct. 26 in the Shackouls Executive Board Room in the Hunter Henry Center on campus.
Members of the board came together to discuss issues affecting the school.
The group was introduced to Associate Dean Greg G. Hall, who presented an update on the College of Architecture, Art and Design.
Mississippi State University Provost and Executive Vice President Jerome A. “Jerry” Gilbert also presented an update on the university and entertained a question and answer session with the group.
Faculty joined the board for discussions during lunch, and fourth-year student Zach Henry presented a video showing work from the fall 2014 Collaborative Studio.
Following lunch, CAAD Director of Development P.K. Thomas discussed fundraising and gift opportunities.
When the meeting adjourned, the group was invited to visit with students in studio in Giles Hall.
October 27th, 2015 Comments Off on School of Architecture announces fall 2015 jury schedule
All are invited to the School of Architecture’s fall 2015 Jury Reviews.
NOTE: All times are subject to a bit of change (due to the nature of the review process) along with breaks for lunch. Please call to confirm and let us know you are coming. Giles: 662-325-2202; Jackson Center: 601-354-6480
Fifth-Year Final Jury Schedule (Jackson)
NOTE: Jury to be in the 5th-Year Jackson Center, 509 Capitol Street. Please call first to confirm times. 601-354-6480
- Thurs., Nov. 19 9-6 p.m. (w/ possible evening session)
“Stitching the Urban Fabric” | Jackson Center Director: Jassen Callender
Project #1: Constructing a Civic Artifact. (Teams of two) Students designed and construct full-scale sheet metal doors for an unprogrammed but significant civic building. Through this work, students were expected to formulate a response to the question, “how do individual things join into a larger, more meaningful, whole.”
Project #2: Conceiving a Patch. (Teams of four to five) Students conducted site analyses, documented the figure-ground relationships, and constructed a digital site model that accurately represents the area bounded by Amite Street (north), Adams Street (west), Pearl Street (south), and Roach Street (east). At the conclusion of the Theory of Urban Design intensive course, students worked to develop master plan proposals for this rail viaduct district. These proposals should address issues of program, form, and social justice.
Project #3: Stitching. (Individual) Each student will select a site within his or her team’s master plan for the design of an Archive for the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. This is not a destination for tourists. The facility is intended to serve local, national, and international scholars, provide community meeting spaces, and, of course, house the state’s most significant Civil Rights artifacts. The latter function as well as the building’s symbolic importance demands a robust response, both structurally and perceptually. These designs must incorporate the student’s sheet metal door, without modification, and serve as a test of his or her thesis statement on the role of architecture in the making of a city.
- Fri., Nov. 20 9-6 p.m. (w/ possible evening session)
“Stitching the Urban Fabric” (continued)
First through Fourth-Year Final Jury Schedule (Starkville)
NOTE: Jury to be in Giles Hall, Starkville (Giles Gallery and/or Fazio Jury Room) Please call first to confirm times. 662-325-2202
- Mon., Nov. 23, 9-6 p.m. (w/ possible evening session)
- Tues., Nov. 24, 9-6 p.m. (w/ possible evening session)
Third-Year Studio | Coordinator: Justin Taylor
Urban Chicago Medium Density Housing
The third-year studio’s final project is the design of a mixed-use, multi-family housing project on a site in Chicago, Ill. The project teaches students what’s involved in building housing in a metropolitan city.
- Mon., Nov. 30, 8-6 p.m. (w/ possible evening session)
Second-Year Studio | Coordinator: Hans Herrmann
Collaborative Studio ‘Build/Design’
The second-year Collaborative Tectonics Studio presents BUILD/DESIGN a full-scale study of wood frame materials and methods in service of heightened design education. This fall, 62 architecture and building construction science students participated in a detailed project planning, cost estimating, scheduling and construction exercise. The 11-week effort resulted in the construction of two unique structures on the MSU campus. The structures form part of a home garden demonstration site located adjacent to the Landscape Architecture buildings just off Bully Blvd. on the MSU main campus. Realized by students as a kit-of-parts which feature hand built Shou Sugi Ban cypress partitions and a gull wing kinetic folding wall system the project focused students foundational materials and methods issues.
The detailing and assembly logic learned in the BUILD portion of the semester will be presented by students in their DESIGN term-project, a Tea House. Students will present original Tea House designs based upon the recast kit of parts they previously deployed for the MSU Landscape Architecture BUILD project. Detailed assembly diagrams, materials estimates, and design models/renderings will be presented as evidence of the students newly forged knowledge of architectural tectonics.
- Tues., Dec. 1, 9-6 p.m. (w/ possible evening session)
Fourth-Studio (two studios)
Studio One: Timber Hi-Rise in NYC | Coordinator: Jacob Gines
“Scaffolding + Skin”
BACKGROUND – This studio will examine the role of heavy timber tectonics in contemporary architecture – primarily focusing on structure as scaffolding and façade as skin. Students will engage this topic from a historic perspective and research the significance and varied application of these tectonic manifestations through an introduction to some tectonic theory and precedent. The scholarly study of the tekton (carpenter or builder) and the discourse surrounding the notion of tectonics received much attention throughout the late 1800’s and continues to exist as a critical endeavor today. It can be argued that at the heart of tectonic inquiry is the idea and application of poesis, ‘to make’. This constructed attitude will motivate the students to express their research and design attitude through a series of iterative exercises which will be visualized using palimpsestic drawing and additive modeling.
Final proposals will be of a speculative building sited in Manhattan, NY at 104 West 57th Street.
SUSTAINABLE STRATEGY – Utilize heavy timber and/or engineered wood construction in innovative and experimental ways to develop a proposal for a tall wood building (15-20 stories) in Midtown Manhattan.
Benefits of using wood in tall wood buildings include…
• Renewable natural resource
• Reduction of carbon emissions
• Carbon sequestering / carbon sink
• Expedited erection schedules – 20%±
• Reduction of overall project costs – 4%±
• Innovative applications
Studio Two: Boys & Girls Club Educational Garden | Coordinator: Alexis Gregory
The School of Architecture, Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education, Horticulture Club, and Graphic Design have joined together with the Boys and Girls Club of Starkville to design and construct an Educational Garden. The hope in constructing the garden is to get the kids at the Boys and Girls Club excited about growing and cooking with homegrown foods. This project intends to educate children on how to grow multiple different foods appropriate for the Starkville climate. The phases in the project intend to lay out a full plan for the construction of the gardens as well as intentions for future building changes. The building changes set up an educational kitchen to teach the kids how to prepare the food they grow. This educational garden will be an example of a community garden that will hopefully grow through the city of Starkville.
October 16th, 2015 Comments Off on School of Architecture classes of 2004, 2005 hold reunion, give back
Approximately 30 alumni and their guests attended the events, which included a tour of Giles Hall and lunch at the School of Architecture Amphitheater catered by Little Dooey’s.
F.L. Crane Professor and Director of the School of Architecture Michael Berk gave an update on the progress and changes in the school over the past ten years. Current student leaders also joined the group.
“I think I speak for everyone when I say that I was very impressed by the current students that we met,” said Jenna Lingsch, event co-coordinator.
The Class of 2004/2005 is presenting the school with a gift of $1,000, which includes individual gifts and ticket sales from the reunion event. The funds will be used to support the grassroots, student-led effort to raise funds for new seating in studio and critique spaces in Giles Hall.
“It is always amazing to see the successes and accomplishments of former students and alums,” said Berk. “The fact they chose to ‘reunite’ here at the MSU School of Architecture in Giles Hall speaks volumes to their continued passion and connection with our program. Furthermore,” he added, “their interest and willingness to make a financial commitment to the students to enhance our studio environment is incredibly humbling.”
Anyone who would like to add to the “Class of 2004/2005 Donation Seed” can send a check directly to:
School of Architecture
Mississippi State University
Attention: Michael Berk
P.O. Box AQ
Mississippi State, MS 39762
Please make checks payable to: MSU School of Architecture Advancement fund, memo: Giles Studio Seating.
For more information about how to give to the School of Architecture, contact P.K. Thomas, director of development, at (662) 325-2542 or
October 7th, 2015 Comments Off on School of Architecture participates in career expo event
Students, faculty, staff and alumni from the Mississippi State University School of Architecture participated in “Imagine the Possibilities,” a career expo. for Northeast Mississippi 8th graders sponsored by Create’s Toyota Wellspring Education Fund.
The event was held Oct. 6-7 at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo, and MSU participated in the Architecture and Construction Pathway, one of 18 pathways at the event.
MSU projects included:
- Listen with Legos
Goal: To show the importance of teamwork and communication between architects and construction professionals
Task: One student served as the architect and had the directions and diagram. The other student served as the constructor and had to listen to the architect’s instructions to put together the set as quickly as possible.
- Giant Jenga
(A big hit!) Built by Building Construction Science students at Mississippi State University … because, why not?!
“It’s the classic block-stacking, stack-crashing game of JENGA! How will you stack up against the law of gravity? Stack the wooden blocks in a sturdy tower, then take turns pulling out blocks one by one until the whole stack crashes down. Is your hand steady enough to pull out the last block before the tower collapses? If it is, you’ll win at JENGA!”
- Pop-up Houses
Students were given a house “plan” and were tasked with putting together the house. They were sent home with the challenge of putting together a pop-up MSU Chapel of Memories designed by an architecture professor at MSU.
- Sharpen Your Sketchup Skills
Students were allowed to try their skills at Google Sketchup with some help from MSU volunteers.
See more about the event and photos at designbuildimagine.wordpress.com or on social media with the hashtag #itp2015.
October 5th, 2015 Comments Off on First female African American MSU architecture grad memorialized
A Nashville, Tenn., resident is honoring the memory of a family member who made history at Mississippi State.
Betsy Jackson, along with her siblings, recently established the Sheila Rene Jackson Memorial Endowed Scholarship in the university’s College of Architecture, Art and Design.
In 1984, Sheila Jackson became the first female African American receiving a bachelor’s degree from the School of Architecture. She went on to a professional design career with the city of Atlanta and Georgia Institute of Technology Research Institute, among other organizations.
“The School of Architecture is honored to be the recipient of this generous memorial scholarship,” said school director Michael Berk. “She was a pioneer in helping to break gender and racial barriers in the architectural profession and remains an incredible role model for us all.”
Berk, who also holds the school’s F.L. Crane Endowed Professorship, said the Jackson Scholarship will be awarded to a worthy student completing the final year of the school’s traditional five-year undergraduate program. Among other criteria, preference will be given to female African American majors, he added.
“My sister believed in helping others,” Betsy Jackson said. “My siblings and I wanted to do something that would not only honor Sheila’s legacy at MSU, but also would do what meant the most to her, help others.”
Established in 1973, MSU’s architecture school offers the only accredited professional degree of its kind in Mississippi. Housed in downtown Jackson, the senior-year study requirement was the nation’s first self-contained, fifth-year program in the major.
For information on creating scholarships through the College of Architecture, Art and Design, contact Perry K. “P.K.” Thomas, the college’s development director, at 662-325-2464 or email@example.com.
August 21st, 2015 Comments Off on School of Architecture alumnus to lead Natchez Democrat