Janet L. McCoy


AU Architecture Students Erect Shelters

AUBURN -- Auburn University architecture students are learning about the basics of design as well as the plight of refugees by building emergency shelters with little more than a tarp.

The 70-plus students worked in teams of two designing the emergency shelters and were given only a 12-by-24 tarp as their main building material. In addition, they could use only cardboard, duct tape, tent stakes and rope, said David Hinson, an associate professor in AU's School of Architecture, who is one of several faculty members teaching the class.

The students completed their work by noon Tuesday at the university's Bibb Graves Amphitheatre near Dudley Commons, home to AU's School of Architecture.

"Just like refugees are forced to scavenge for materials, we want these students to do the same and use their creativity to build their shelter," Hinson said.

The ultimate test of the project will be on Saturday, July 24, when the students travel to the school's two design studios -- the Urban Design Studio in Birmingham and then to the Rural Design Studio in Newbern, Ala., where the students will have to reassemble their shelters and spend the night inside them.

The students, who will be sophomores this fall, are taking the required one-quarter intensive design class this quarter, taught by several architecture faculty, including Hinson, Michael Robinson, John Pittari, Alan Cook, Doug Burleson and Behzad Nakhjavan.

Pittari says the students were challenged with this project. "We wanted them to think about many things, the design and the site," he said. "We wanted them to think about refugees and wanted them to incorporate the fact that because refugees are moving quite often, the shelter had to be moveable."

Todd Roy and Bert Mitchum said they looked at a number of issues before they started on their shelter. "We wanted to be able to stand up and move around, yet provide a shelter for sleeping," says Roy, who is from Montgomery.

The two only used three items -- cardboard, rope and the tarp -- to create their tent.

Ryan Hastings of Homewood says he and his teammate started on their design just after midnight to make sure they would beat the noon Tuesday deadline. "We've been up all night, and it basically looks like our design, although we made a few changes."

Hastings cut up the tarp to make his shelter, and used cardboard columns, rope and tent spikes to hold it together.

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CONTACT: Hinson, 334/844-5438; Pittari, 334/844-5424.