Winning Design Selected For Outdoor Classroom

January 30, 2003

Gregory Pejic, <i>Hullabaloo</i> Contributing Writer

Development of the outdoor classroom, which will serve as a memorial to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, moved one step closer to fruition last week. The winner of the competition, co-hosted by the School of Architecture and the Undergraduate Student Government , was announced Jan. 24.

The winning proposal was placed on display in the University Centers Pederson Lounge along with the other ten finalists. These designs were the result of a two-week-long Architecture competition in which students worked in groups of four or five to design unique project ideas for the contest.

Donald Gatzke, dean of the School of Architecture, said at the unveiling of the winner, "I am delighted to have the opportunity to do something for the community and to witness the tremendous amount of enthusiasm shown by the students. This really shows what the School of Architecture can do."

A faculty jury picked the 11 final teams from a total of 56 entries. Each entry group was made up of randomly selected students in the School of Architecture. Originally, there were only supposed to be ten finalists, but a group of thesis students decided to submit an entry, which made it to the final round. The winning group, team 43, was announced at noon on Friday to an audience that included each of the 11 final teams as well as various Tulane University students.

Team 43 was composed of Christopher Kitterman, Erin Rensink, Amber Mays and Stephen Ritten. Final plans call for the lecture area to be located between Richardson and the Civil Engineering buildings. A large, rectangular cement wall will be erected in front of the border separating Tulane from Loyola. There will be a series of rectangular gaps and lights within the wall that will emulate a series of benches and lights on the ground directly in front of the structure.

These benches will be marked with letters on their front sides, facing the academic quadrangle, that read, "R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R" when observed from a distance, but will appear scrambled and indecipherable up close. There will also be a network of pathways within this area that will be fabricated from a different variety of grass in order to distinguish it from the existing grass. Members of the final teams will work out these details and their physical implementation throughout the remainder of the semester in architecture studio.

While this space will primarily serve as a permanent reminder of the historical events of Sept. 11, organizers believe it will also benefit the physical environment of Tulanes campus by redefining the relationship between the academic quadrangle and the engineering quadrangle. The finished product will provide an environment for classes to be conducted with open discussion rather than the traditional hierarchical lecture format.

The goal is to construct a diverse space that can be used to serve a typical class of 30 to 40 students, a large annual event of over 200 people and to provide a location where individuals can reflect upon and remember the events of Sept. 11. This memorial will be unique in that it serves as both a place of memory and action. While it will essentially act as a space for reflection, it will also function as an unrestricted learning environment.

James White, USG vice-president of Student Life and Outdoor Lecture Area Committee chairman, has set an ambitious fundraising goal of $400,000. Now that a design has been selected, fundraising can begin in earnest. White plans to approach the board of trustees and other Tulane administrators for advice and guidance in achieving this target.

If fundraising goes as planned this semester, it will be possible to begin construction during the summer and hopefully will result in completion by the following Fall 2003 semester. White said he was "extraordinarily happy with the outcome" and even considered removing himself as one of the nine members from the competition jury since "each of the submissions was so good." In a speech at the unveiling, White said that Tulane University "can, will and must respond to the events of Sept. 11 with education, which is the single greatest weapon to fight evil."

White served on the committee with eight others that included Gatzke, Tulane President Scott Cowen and Sheryl Tucker de Vazques, associate Architecture professor, among others. In a letter to the student body, Cowen expressed his astonishment in the "creativity, professionalism and obvious care the students brought to bear on this project."

Cowen hopes that the outdoor classroom will "encourage and support active and informed debate" about issues discussed in a "community of higher education." Christopher Kitterman, member of team 43, said that he and his teammates were "excited to win the contest" and that they each considered it to be a great privilege.

Fellow teammate Erin Rensink, an architecture senior, said that the team "always focused on the project and not necessarily winning The team found it important to not get too competitive with the other teams since we would all be working together in the studio for the remainder of the semester."

Stephen Ritten, an architecture sophomore on team 43, said, "It is wonderful to be able to make such a strong positive statement out of such a negative event." First-year architecture student Tony Vanky, team 49, was impressed with the "wide range of ideas Some are really weird, but others I see actually being built. I think some make more sense as a memorial than as a classroom, but the ones that accomplish both are really outstanding."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000