This spring, third-year architecture students in a design lab taught by School of Architecture + Design faculty members Mario Cortes and Elizabeth Grant presented their conceptual designs for a middle school to architects, educators, and school administrators at the Virginia Educational Facility Planners conference held in Richmond, Va. 

The event showcased the outcome of a six-week design competition sponsored by the Virginia Educational Facility Planners, the state chapter of the Council of Educational Facility Planners, International.

The competition, which was judged by a jury of Virginia architects, school superintendents, and construction managers, was designed to engage students with the process of school design and was based on a middle school currently in development for Gloucester County, Va.

Scott Shorland of Gloucester County Public Schools, who presented the awards at the conference, said, “I am always enriched by everything the students bring to the competition:  their vision and ideas, their planning, and their passion. To observe them presenting their projects from seed through conceptual design creates a desire within me to take them and their ideas further — to tangible completed structures.”  

First-place winner Thomas Doorn of Cary, N.C., and second-place winner Rachel Montague of Beckley, W.Va., received cash awards as well as full attendance for the conference for themselves and their professors. While there, they made the most of the opportunity to participate in sessions geared toward the design of schools and to meet Virginia architects involved in these projects.

“The VEFP conference was a great experience. It was fascinating to see the depth of ideas and arguments going on with respect to the design of schools and to see how my own project related to these discussions. Having a chance to speak with construction, facilities, and design people was also helpful for my perspective on school design. I am glad that I was able to attend the conference and greatly appreciate having the opportunity,” said Doorn.

Doorn and Montague were joined by third-place winner Rachael Tomei of Beaver, Pa., and honorable mention recipients Andrew Wallace of Charlotte, N.C., and Alise Willis, of Raleigh, N.C., The students each gave five-minute expositions of their boards and the models they had brought from Blacksburg. Fellow students Hannah Utter of Concord, N.C., and Gregory Dalfonzo of Danbury, Conn., also had the opportunity to share their work, and all of the design lab’s boards were displayed to attendees at the conference.

This was the third year Cortes’ and Grant’s third-year lab has participated in VEFP's student design competition in the fall semester and subsequent presentation at the organization’s annual conference in the spring.