Charrette winner Linh Dan Do stands in front of her team's design. Not pictured is team member Sarah Simpson.
If you think design is for snobs, it’s time you took a visit to Workshop Houston. The site is on a street in the Third Ward, empty lots all around, but it is anything but a dead end for the children who participate. The Bike and Chopper Shops, the best known of the five “workshops,” are in a little house packed with shafts, shifters, stems, nuts, clamps, frames, and torches. Read in Cite 84 about how Pedro designed and fabricated a wicked chopper there. Set off the street, in an old tenement, are the other workshops—the Beat, Style, and Scholar Shops. In the afternoons, the rooms fill with children and the sweet smell of pre-adolescent sweat. Read in Cite 85 about how Arbay designed her BMG line of clothes there.
While the current facilities have a certain gritty credibility to them, Workshop Houston would like to expand the number of students it can serve and improve the quality of the experience through architecture. Rice Design Alliance held a charrette—an eight-hour design competition—with seven teams challenged to create a plan for Workshop Houston.
Recent Rice School of Architecture graduates Linh Dan Do and Sarah Simpson won “Best Overall” prize for their economically and environmentally sustainable and flexible design that efficiently addressed the campus needs of Workshop Houston. Team member Sarah Simpson says, “Inspiration was drawn from the buildings already on site and the surrounding neighborhood for the material palette, which consists of simple woods and metals, and additionally, we tried to tie in some exciting sustainable concepts, like rainwater collection, cooling plant screens; and vertical shading that doubles as signage on the sunniest eastern and western facades.” Judges also particularly liked the modularity of the design approach, as each building could be built singularly as funding allowed.