Raymond Russell Park projects honored with AIA award
(November 8, 2012) -- On November 2, the San Antonio chapter of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) honored outstanding architecture and design in the San Antonio region at their annual Awards Celebration. UTSA College of Architecture Senior Lecturer Diane Hays, FAIA, accepted an Honor Award, the highest designation awarded, for two College of Architecture design-build studio projects at Bexar County’s Raymond Russell Park. Hays accepted the award on behalf of the students who participated in the project.
Under Hays’ direction, student teams from UTSA’s College of Architecture collaborated with Bexar County to design and build two projects at the park, a 24-acre site located in north Bexar County. The 60-year-old park, which was ravaged by two severe floods, was in need of repair and upgrading of picnic and trail facilities. The projects complement the Park aesthetic using simple forms, recycled materials, and common detailing suitable for construction by volunteer student work crews with little construction experience.
Each year, AIA San Antonio celebrates the diversity and talent of its membership with the presentation of the Design Awards. The selection is made by a panel of three nationally recognized jurors, and recognition is given to outstanding projects in three categories: Citation, Merit, and Honor.
The College of Architecture students involved in the Raymond Russell Park projects gained significant real-world experience in both the design and construction processes. In the spring of 2005, Hays pitched the idea — letting students design and build a county-funded project — to Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson, which resulted in Phase 1 of the project. A second project was approved by and completed under County Commissioner Kevin Wolff.
The student teams in Hays’ studio met with county commissioners, engineering consultants, and legal staff from the entities involved to understand the complex reality of project delivery from conception to completion. After gaining approval for their design work, students developed construction documents and construction phasing schedules, cost estimates, materials lists, and participated in contractual negotiations between the county and the university before commencing construction activities. Phase 1: Renovations and Additions to Pavilion 1, and Phase 2: A 5-acre Nature Trail, were completed in 2007 and 2009, respectively.
Hays teaches in both the Architecture and Interior Design programs at UTSA and serves as the Program Coordinator for Interior Design. She was elevated to Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2010, and was the 2011 recipient of the Texas Society of Architects’ Award for Outstanding Educational Contributions in honor of Edward J. Romieniec, FAIA. The Romieniec Award is the highest honor given to an architectural educator in Texas.
Hays has pioneered the College of Architecture’s design-build program, following an educational model that has become increasingly popular at top architectural schools across the nation. Design-build studios provide real-world project opportunities without competing with local design firms by undertaking service learning projects that have no design budget. The program provides students the opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the development of their community while simultaneously gaining real-world experience and earning credit towards a degree.
Following are some of the comments on the Raymond Russell Park projects from the jurors of the 2012 AIA Design Awards:
1. “The project was a strong exploration of tectonic issues for a public client.”
2. “We were delighted that the project was done with students in an academic setting.”
3. “The materiality of the project, and the fact that students built much of it, was commendable for the jury.”